Author: millieepona

Planning for NaNoWriMo

Planning for NaNoWriMo

I have always wanted to complete NaNoWriMo, the challenge to write a whole novel in the month of November.

I’ve started several times, but sitting down at my computer and hoping that inspiration will strike every day haven’t worked. I’ve never actually managed to complete it.

Right now I am working on one novel which is proving an absolute joy. The setting and characters will be with me for many stories if I have my way but it’s still good to get a creative kickstart sometimes and that’s what I am looking for this year.

So, instead of sitting down and hoping for a brainwave, this year I am planning ahead for NaNoWriMo.

I’ve chosen historical fiction as my genre because I really enjoyed having a go at it during the NYC Midnight Short Story Competition earlier this year.

After lots of reading and research looking for my initial idea, I’ve now latched onto something that has enough interest to keep me occupied for a month.

I’ve made several pages of notes on plot points that will hopefully guide me through each day. This is very loose planning; I don’t want to completely stifle my creative instincts. I know that each day will bring with it new ideas, but this way I think I’m giving myself the best chance to actually complete a novel.

Have you completed NaNoWriMo? I’d love to hear your tips!

I’m a Finalist!

I’m a Finalist!

I’m very excited to share that after entering the Reading Room Project competition I am going to have a poem included in their anthology!

The theme is ‘Mad Like Us’ and the anthology brings together different works on mental health experiences. My piece is a poem that shares my experience of sleep paralysis.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the anthology and reading everyone’s work.

The Weekly Report

The Weekly Report

Watching  Season 5 of Episodes. It’s just such a good show!

Listening to I finished listening to Crushing It. I’ve also been listening to the Spice Girls a lot. I often wish it was still the ’90s.

Reading A murder mystery called Death at Blenheim Palace. It’s very enjoyable and has made me want to visit the palace again.

Writing I’m ghostwriting a self-help book and absolutely loving it! If you have an idea that you’d like to bring to like in a book, get in touch!

Eating Lots of healthy vegetables. I’m also focusing on trying to get more protein into my diet which is an interesting mission.

Drinking Lots of sparkling water with a slice of lemon.

Talking about Interior design (We’re finally trying to make our sitting room a great place to be), working hard, motivation, podcasts, cleaning, swimming.

The Weekly Report

The Weekly Report

Watching  This Homesense haul that made me go to Homsense and buy lots of things. Scrubs.

Listening to The new Gary Vee book, Crushing It.

Reading 

Writing Blog posts about cheese, a brand story, more of my novel.

Eating The best aubergine parmigiana I’ve ever made.

Drinking An incredible pornstar martini made at home. I’ve wanted to try making them for ages and it didn’t disappoint.

Talking about Business, skills, how to cook, puzzles, holiday plans (I’m going to Rotterdam next week), birthday plans and how to meet interesting people.

The Weekly Report

The Weekly Report

Watching  A lot of Christmassy YouTube videos, The Apprentice, some random business webinars, Master of None season 2 and Sex and the City. I got the box set on Black Friday and it’s so gloriously ’90s!

Listening to Christmas tunes, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the new Agatha Raisin book, The Witches’ Tree. 

Reading I finished Men without Women by Murakami this week. I had been reading it in the summer, but I didn’t want to take such a heavy book around America so I left it behind. It was such a joy to read and such an absorbing book that it kept me occupied during a solo dinner at one of my favourite restaurants.

The lovely Tabitha also wrote an excellent post about bookstagram.

Writing Product listings, my novel, and a drinks pairing for Storyland Cross Stitch.

Eating Too many mince pies! Lots of party food for a family birthday, a great Italian meal at Amalfi in Nailsworth, and the best cheese sandwich.

Drinking Lots of sparkling wine at a Majestic tasting. If you have a Majestic near you, I highly recommend their tastings. They’re super informative and you usually get a voucher to spend at the end of the evening. I also tried a delicious organic Merlot from Waitrose and I’ve been enjoying all of the teas from my Bluebird Tea Co advent calendar.

Talking about Wine, moving house, Christmas plans, what our values would have been if we were born in a different time, new websites, and stories from our trip to America.

The Weekly Report

The Weekly Report

Watching The Apprentice, Cuckoo, and a lovely afternoon episode of Come Dine With Me. I also watched a couple of episode of Zumbo’s Just Desserts on Netflix which is a pretty fun show to fill the GBBO void!

Listening to I finally started listening to Christmas tunes; namely Pentatonix. I also listened to Philip Pullman giving a talk at St. George’s Hall in Liverpool. It was so lovely to hear his voice in real life because I have listened to the audiobooks of His Dark Materials. It felt so warm and cozy to be in a room full of people listening to him. He was also very insightful about the books and his writing process.

Reading I started reading Autumn by Ali Smith. I was super keen to read this so I’m a little bit disappointed that I’ve found it difficult to get into so far. I’ll stick with it though.

Writing My first novel and several blog posts about cheese for one of my freelance clients.

Eating Delicious breakfasts at both Leaf and East Avenue Bakehouse, a fun dinner at Maray and incredible Indian food at Mowgli. I’m gearing up to eat some Christmassy food soon!

Drinking Probably a few too many cocktails at Mowgli, Maray and Berry and Rye. A particularly good Aperol Spritz at The Quarter. A London Fog at Leaf which was just brilliant, and their Turkish Apple Tea, which is a firm favourite of mine.  Mulled wine at Kazimier Gardens.

Talking about New jobs, style, dating, Disney lovers, Christmas, our new house, TV options, gin, cryptocurrencies, libraries, and how to plan well.

 

 

The Food Report: 12 Things to Eat in New York

The Food Report: 12 Things to Eat in New York

We ate at all sorts of places in New York and loads of them were awesome so I wanted to share them with you!

You can see some of them in my earlier posts about our first week and second week in New York but I wanted to share a last list of places that we thought were worth checking out if you’re planning a trip.

Num Pang – We actually stumbled upon Num Pang on our second day in the city and it turned out to be quite the institution. They do incredible Cambodian sandwiches but my favourite thing was the Seasonal Veg Rice Bowl with Jasmine Rice. The rice was slightly sticky and super flavourful, the veg deliciously roasted with lots of variety (the cauliflower, oh my gosh!) and everything topped with a chilli, yoghurt and chive lime vinaigrette. Ask for extra sauce for an extra awesome bowl and get a Cambodian Iced Coffee – you will not regret it!

Jams – I mentioned this one before, but it really is an excellent brunch! I recommend booking online to be sure that you can book a table. I booked only an hour in advance but when we arrived there were people waiting for tables so it was a good move!

BONMi – Awesome Vietnamese sandwiches and salad, with excellent iced coffee. We found this when we were looking for Vietnamese food that was a short walk from where we had been relaxing in Central Park.

City Kitchen – For our last few days we stayed at The Row on 8th Avenue and took full advantage of our proximity to City Kitchen. This is a fun, market-style eatery with lots of options to choose from. It’s fun because you can enjoy a meal together whilst eating different foods depending on your cravings – it has something for everyone. I would especially recommend the veggie burger from Whitmans, the tacos from Gabriela’s and the Lebanese Garden Salad at ilili Box. We also had an incredible doughnut from Dough. We didn’t actually try them until we got to Boston but the Lobster Roll from Luke’s is exceptional.

Pick a Bagel – Of course, there are hundreds of bagel shops in New York and I’m sure that New Yorkers have strong opinions about the best places to go! This bagel shop just happened to be one we found close to our hotel when we needed to fuel up before hitting the shops. The bagels were well filled and the fresh orange juice was an excellent morning refresher.

Dig Inn – We became a little bit obsessed with the veg bowl style of eating in New York because there were lots of places to try and it’s a great way to get some really healthy, delicious food. The Dig Inn we went to was a little confusing as there was no list of options/how to order, etc. but we went with it and ended up with delicious bowls. The tofu, roasted carrots, and chimichurri were particularly good.

Mulberry and Vine – Another great spot for veg bowls which we discovered through Uber Eats when we were in need of late night work sustenance. Get the tofu – it’s life-changing.

Haru Sushi – I’ve mentioned this before but get the Lobster Tacos, the Hell’s Kitchen roll and a bottle of Hitachino Nest White Ale – you won’t be disappointed! We also tried the veggie sushi which was fab because it included inari which is one of my favourite things.

Momofuku Milk Bar – Another one that I’ve mentioned before but do not miss out on this dessert heaven. Try the cereal milk ice cream or, even better, get the crack pie milkquake. Take your treats for a walk up 5th Avenue.

Il Picolo Bufalo – There is a lot of great pizza in New York, but this is in Little Italy, has amazing reviews and a super fun atmosphere. Get the “Doc” Margherita (one is enough to share) and a Peroni to wash it down.

The Peninsula – This one is a bit of a special mention because we were staying there, but the room service was great and we also ate in The Gotham Lounge which was really good. I had the Upstate Harvest Bowl which had incredible fermented cauliflower and Joseph had great things to say about the Steak Frites. We had a great bottle of Riesling but the wine list was extensive and well thought out. A special commendation for the Source sparkling water that is stocked at The Peninsula – it’s from a spring in Wales and is amazingly delicious!

Chickalicious – Dough’ssants, cookies, and great ice cream. Get the crème brûlée dough’ssant if they have it.

This is just a fraction of the culinary options in New York and honestly at no point were we disappointed with any of our meals. You can usually find what you’re craving just around the corner. We used Yelp a lot to help us find well-reviewed places that were close by.

I hope you find some of these helpful – let me know your top food destinations in New York in the comments!

The Travel Report: New York

The Travel Report: New York

After a first week of worklibraries and Sunday relaxation, our second week in New York was the time to see all the sights!

The first sight was the solar eclipse. When we realised a few months ago that we would be in the USA for the eclipse it was a pretty exciting moment. To witness it high above Fifth Avenue was really awesome. NYC didn’t have full totality but it was about 75% so when the clouds weren’t obscuring the sun there was quite a spectacle to be seen through our glasses.

On Monday night we moved to a hotel near Little Italy, so immediately our thoughts turned to pizza!

We headed to Il Picolo Bufalo and shared the “Doc” Margherita Pizza. This has a rich tomato sauce, perfectly stringy buffalo mozzarella, basil and a dusting of parmesan. It was one of the most delicious pizzas I have ever tasted (and I consider myself quite the pizza taster).

Little Italy has some beautiful little streets and some incredible bakeries with cannoli that I regret feeling too full to eat!

We headed to ABC Beer Co. to share some beer and New York chats.

We tried several of the beers but my personal favourites were the KCBC Straphanger Rice Lager and the ACB Easy Blonde.

The Rice Lager was super light with a tropical, citrusy feel. Extremely easy drinking and perfect for fun conversation. Book-wise I think you’d want this alongside a thriller to soothe your nerves without distracting you from the twists and turns.

The ACB Easy Blonde was really special. A brilliant, full caramel with just enough spritz – I was very sad that this was my last drink because I would have enjoyed this twice if I could!

We also loved ABC because of the way they labeled our bar tab!

There are a few places where we’ve got a bit of attention for being British but this was the first time we’d noticed it and it really made us giggle!

On Tuesday we did a fair amount of wandering and exploring before heading to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway in the evening.

This show has everything you would expect from a fabulous Broadway show – huge musical numbers, mind-blowing choreography and even the odd costume change – with some absolutely outrageous comedy thrown in for good measure. This is not one for the faint of heart. In some ways, I wish that we had seen a more traditional show, but this was still a really fun experience.

By now we had explored Times Square at night and in the day. I have to say this was my least favourite part of New York. The intensely touristy nature of it combined with the sheer volume of people, even late at night, made it all a bit much for me!

We finished off our evening with dinner at Haru Sushi. The sushi was brilliant – especially the Hell’s Kitchen roll – but the real star was the Lobster Tacos.

Perfectly sweet lobster, avocado and incredible slightly spicy, citrusy dressing encased in Haru’s own gyoza shells made this the most incredible starter. Our only regret was that we got these to share!

We spent one of our days heading to the really classic sights – The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Empire State building.

The Statue of Liberty really is an iconic sight and it really surprised me how moving I found it. One of the most fascinating things was reading about how the Statue was first assembled in Paris and displayed at the Paris World’s Fair in 1878. The pictures of the separate pieces of the statue were strange to look at but it was an incredible story. When they completed the fundraising 80% of the donors sent in less than one dollar!

We took the ferry to Liberty Island and then headed over to Ellis Island. This was really the surprise of the trip – it is steeped in such history and the museum there is fascinating. Standing in the Registry Room and imagining the 5,000 who would have travelled through every day hoping to find a new life and the American Dream was just astounding.

 The museum tells you all about the conditions that those immigrating experienced. Considering the amount of money they paid, the gruelling time at sea and then sometimes a wait full of uncertainty and confusion at Ellis Island, it is a true testament to human strength that so many people came in search of something new.

Just as a note in case you are thinking of visiting – the ferry is $18.50 to access both islands and overall I would say it is well worth it to see both of these sights. Allow yourself a good portion of the day if you want to see both islands properly. If you want to pay more you can go onto the pedestal or even climb into the crown of the Statue. Be sure to book well in advance if this is your desire as there are very limited tickets for this experience. My boyfriend and I both agreed that we didn’t feel the need to go in the statue and I don’t regret that choice at all.

My other top tip: get the lemonade! It’s pricey but worth it for the fun torch cup alone! (or is that just me?)

We then took a long, long walk up through Manhattan all the way to the Empire State Building, with a stop off to admire the Flatiron Building.

This is a good 1 and a half hour walk but we’re all about getting the steps (#fitbitlife) and just walking around is one of our favourite ways to see a city.

We booked tickets in advance for the Empire State Building which I highly recommend. They are $34 (cheaper than buying when you get there) and allow you to skip the ticket line. Tickets are valid for one year from purchase so you don’t have to cancel if the weather gets bad or you change your plans.

You’ll head through security and then into the line for the elevator. We arrived at around 7 pm and were very quickly at the top. The ESB website has a running update on how long the lines are so that you can make the best choice for your trip.

I have to admit that at first, I found the experience pretty stressful. When you see pictures from the Empire State Building you don’t see the absolute hoards of people vying for the view at the top. We thought we were very clever deciding to go at sunset so that we could see the daylight view and then see the lights of New York twinkling into view. Let me tell you – everyone else has had that idea too!

Once I had calmed down a little from the overwhelming crowd, it was still a pretty magical experience.

The only problem with the view from the Empire State is that of course, you can’t see the beautiful building that you’re standing on! We will definitely be heading to the Top of the Rock when we return, as then you get the view of the ESB as well.

We finished off our day with an incredible dessert tour of the East Village led by a friend who was determined to indulge even the sweetest tooth!

First, we headed to ChickaLicious to try the dough’ssant – their take on the infamous cronut.

I had the crème brûlée which was just incredible. The top had the perfect burnt sugar caramelisation, with the smoothest vanilla-flecked custard inside. It really did taste like a crème brûlée!

Next, we headed to La Newyorkina in Astor Place for a paleta – a Mexican style ice pop. I had the Lemon Verbena Raspberry and it was exactly what I needed. Tangy with the lemon, just the right amount of herby verbena coming through and whole raspberries bursting forth from the ice.

We then headed to il laboratorio del gelato where I had one scoop of pistachio ice cream and one of peach sorbet. The pistachio ice cream was good – it’s a favourite flavour of mine – with plenty of real nuttiness and the creamy texture that you expect from gelato. But the peach sorbet was great. I love, love, love peach flavour and it really smacked you in the face with this sorbet. Delightful.

Unfortunately, it seems that I was in too much of a sugar coma to take a photo of my ice cream, but I’m sure you can imagine it.

Our last stop was Oddfellows, where I had to bow out of proceedings for fear that I was about to cause myself some kind of cream-based illness.

Luckily, Joseph was prepared to soldier on so I got to try this incredible Miso Peanut Butter ice cream sandwich. It was intense.

On the subject of food, we ate a lot in New York. I’m going to write another quick blog post covering our other favourite places because there is too much to say here, so look out for that!

We spent a fun Friday night at a Yankees game. After my crash course in baseball rules in Central Park the week before, I actually had a pretty good understanding of the game.

We booked tickets through the Yankees website which takes you through to Ticketmaster. You get an e-ticket on your phone which gets scanned to allow you into the stadium. We found the easiest way to travel was to jump on the subway – there’s a station right next to the stadium.

I unintentionally booked tickets that were ‘cafe seating’ rather than in the main seating but this was actually pretty good. It meant we had a little table and could move about easily to get treats without disturbing others. It does have a slightly limited view when the ball goes up, so bear this in mind when booking!

Of course, we had some beer and I ate one of the most incredible mac and cheeses I have ever eaten. It was like a cup of saucy, smokey heaven! The atmosphere was really fun although we were pretty sad that the Yankees actually lost the game to the Seattle Mariners.

Our last tourist spot was visiting MoMA. I definitely want to head to the Met at some point but this was our choice for the time we had. You can buy tickets online but they are the same price at the museum. We visited when it wasn’t very busy but if you’re keen to avoid a queue booking online might be pertinent.

The Collection Galleries house some absolutely stunning works, with highlights including Starry Night by Van Gogh and Monet’s Water Lilies. The former was beautiful but the latter really took my breath away. I had no idea it was such a huge painting! Give yourself lots of time from MoMA – it is massive and there is so much to see. Aside from the Collection Galleries , e visited the Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive Exhibition, which is on until October 1st 2017. This was a fascinating insight into the Guggenheim architect’s work and also covers aspects of the archiving and restoration process taken to put together the exhibition. I highly recommend it if you are visiting.

We spent our last days shopping, eating more at milk, hanging out in Central Park with a friend unexpectedly in the city and packing to head to Boston.

Look out for my next posts on more food in NYC and Massachussetts.

For more on New York, read First Week in New YorkThe New York Public Library and Sundays in New York.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my adventures in New York. Have you been? Do you have questions? Leave them in the comments!

The Travel Report: Sundays in New York

The Travel Report: Sundays in New York

After our hectic first week in New York, we needed a Sunday of recovery.

We started with brunch at Jams, a really fun restaurant with plenty of sweet and savoury brunch options. Whilst my boyfriend opted for dark chocolate pancakes with syrup and a side of bacon, I went for eggs, sourdough toast and burrata. This was some of the creamiest, lightest burrata I have ever tasted; it was as good as in Italy!

I drank a peach bellini, which was really packed with fresh peach and still a fairly long drink for the morning.

From Jams, we walked into Central Park. We were really excited to visit such an iconic place and it didn’t disappoint. As soon as you step off the road you are struck by the greenery but also the quietness. It was astounding that we had just left the beeping and humming of the city and were now in this oasis.

We walked through the trees and found ourselves at the baseball fields. This was really cool – my boyfriend is a fan of baseball and I knew next to nothing about it so we were pretty keen to see a game up close. We watched a portion of a game and I got a crash course in the actual rules – it was so much fun!

We also relaxed on the grass for some time before deciding what to get for lunch.

We headed to BONMi for a sandwich – we got a bit addicted to these in NYC! I got even more addicted to Vietnamese Coffee and drank it at every possible opportunity. There’s nothing better on a hot day – sweet, creamy and a little caffeine kick!

After a swim and a nap (what else are Sundays for?), we weren’t quite in the mood for dinner but we were definitely in need of dessert. I hit up Yelp for recommendations and it became very quickly apparent that the only option for us was momofuku milk bar.

This has the most incredible selection of desserts; all of them a little outlandish! They’re ‘flagship’ product is a cereal milk ice cream. It really does taste like the milk left at the bottom of a bowl of cornflakes! We tried the crack pie – essentially a pie full of butter (we love butter) – and a crack pie milkquake, which is the pie blended up into a tub of cereal milk ice cream. It’s thick and creamy but as it melts it also becomes more like true milkshake. The pie is sweet and the ice cream is just a little salty, which for me was just the most heavenly combination!

I mentioned my love for Breakfast at Tiffany’s in my post about the New York Public Library. We were walking onto 5th Avenue eating our ice cream and I was just saying “Tiffany’s must be around here somewhere” when I realised I was looking across the road right at it!

We ate our desserts and looked at all the Tiffany’s windows. It was a pretty special little moment for me.

After our wander down 5th Avenue, we returned to our hotel, The Peninsula, and headed to the rooftop for a cocktail.

First I tried a Ning Sling – Hendrick’s gin, mint, lychee, and passionfruit. This really packed a passionfruit punch but wasn’t too sweet – the gin and mint came through wonderfully.

 Now we all know that mixing is a dangerous thing, so I stuck to my favourite – gin. This next cocktail was called The Liability (!!) and contained gin and watermelon juice, with a cucumber garnish. This garnish was really key to the whole experience of the cocktail. As you brought the glass up to drink, the smell of the cucumber would hit you and totally enhance the cucumber from the Hendrick’s gin. The overall result was fresh and sophisticated and generally fabulous!

The rooftop was the most wonderful way to end our Sunday. People watching, silly jokes, a cool breeze and the view of the city were just about everything we needed.