A little work trip to Ethiopia

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With my job, I’m lucky enough to visit places I may otherwise never get to visit. Last week I participated in a three day workshop in Addis.

An initial glance at the agenda showed a busy schedule with little time to explore outside of the hotel, also the workshop location.

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We were treated by the hosts to see some traditional dancing over dinner.

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However, with limited flight availability, there was most of a day available at the end. Others on the same flight organised a great trip outside the city. And it was amazing. Sunny, warm, open green expanses, horse & carts, drive through religion (our car was blessed in holy water), kids selling woven baskets, and the birds. A canyon visit was full of raptors.

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It is such a beautiful country. Hopefully I get to go back.

A weekend of eating well at home

After still recovering from the holidays, it was nice to spend a weekend eating in. Also, it was a great time to try out Lorraine Pascale’s cookbook.

Saturday night with not much time before running to see Inside Llewyn Davis (well worth watching folksy film), I made free range five spice baked pork ribs with a big rocket salad with lime dressing. They were really good. So easy too.

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Sunday evening after a full day of rain, I was in the mood for something hearty and British. Mini beef wellingtons were perfect, covered in a creamy mushroom sauce. A bit more fiddly, but still really simple and quick to make. It feels a lot more fancy than the effort involved.

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I’m becoming a big of Pascale. Can’t wait to try another new thing from her book.

Exploring South London: a trip to Peckham and Dulwich

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Spring seems to have arrived before winter has begun. It may be a result of global warming, but it is helping me to adjust to climes this far north. Without any rain forecast between midday and late-afternoon, it was a great opportunity to explore parts of London that I have never been. With Peckham being the new Hoxton (where I currently live), it seemed like a great place to start exploring South of the River.

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Peckham, known for its grittiness, was not what I expected at all. Starting at Peckham Rye Station (a breezy 20 minutes from Hoxton on the Overground), I ventured onto Rye Lane (pedestrians and buses only), but busy with everyone gathering produce from the numerous veggie stands. Whole dried fish hang from doorway markets as well as so many fresh vegetables that I have never even heard of. It was like stepping into another world, but in a good way. Such a vibrant market street. More so than Hoxton, which feels like it is on the way out with hipster cafes popping up recently. 

From there I wandered past the award winning Peckham Library (stunning building!), would have gone in, but there was a protest happening out front. Made me fall in love with the place even more. Next onto Bellenden Road packed with bakeries, cafes, bookstore, bike shops — a lovely relaxed feel. Then through the neighborhood, slightly elevated feel with much more open skies than in flat East London. Peckham Rye Common was a treat, wide open spaces leading into gardens with ponds, snowdrops and blossoming trees.

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From Peckham Rye Common, it was a lovely uphill stroll (then down) to Dulwich Park. One thing I love about English parks, is that they all have yummy cafes. Feeling cold and weary from wandering in the grey, stop in and have a coffee and cake anytime. It’s amazing. 

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Dulwich Village was a bit pretentious with chain store type restaurants. But, East Dulwich, particularly Lordship Lane, was spectacular. An independent butcher with a line around the block, tonnes of cafes, pubs, restaurants, a great goodwill shop, and everything you would need. It is only a five minute walk or so from Bellenden Road in Peckham. Easy to get to and I will be back!

The quickest way to the sea

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Sometimes you just have to get to the sea in a hurry. The water, open horizon, wind, waves, and salty air are things I really miss about living in London. Luckily, the sea is only a quick one hour train journey away to Brighton (also quite inexpensive to get to with a Network Rail Card).

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Get yourselves to London Bridge station, grab takeaway breakfast from adjacent Borough Market (Saturdays) and enjoy being speeded to the sea. From the steps of Brighton station, it is only a five to ten minute stroll to the beach promenade. From there you can wander as far as the eye can see. No matter rain or shine, it is beautiful. I almost prefer it in winter, when the clouds are racing and the sea breeze is strong. Be warned though, it is busy with lots of sea-loving types, at any time of year.

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New Years Eve lunch

I’m very excited about lunch today and the New Year, of course. But lunch is really exciting. It’s lamb shawarma. Marinated in a mix of herbs and spices and lemon juice overnight. Then it was roasted for three and a half hours.

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It is amazing served on chargrilled pitas with tomato and cucumber salad and a lemony garlic olive oil dressing. And don’t forget the harissa, spread on the insides of the pitas.

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Thank you, you know who, for the new Ottolenghi cookbook. It is making my New Year already awesome.

The best thing to do on Christmas Eve

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In between enjoying a large breakfast of pancakes and bacon with a side of toast with homemade loganberry jam, and grocery shopping for the big dinner tomorrow, I managed to get outside.

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Well, I did cycle to the supermarket too. But in the afternoon, the sun beckoned and I got outside again for a gentle jog (was still full from breakfast!) before the sunset at 4pm. Daylight is surprisingly longer down here in the south west.

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The lanes were flooded from yesterday’s storm and mud is beginning to get thick and sticky. Oh yes, the UK has real mud unlike anywhere else, even the Tararuas, which are notorious for their muddy tracks.

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Still it was a beautiful day with crisp sun. Even felt festive enough to wear Christmas coloured running kit.

Working in the country: last day of the year

Today was my last trip up to work North of London for the year. It has been eerily foggy lately and much warmer than usual.

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The next time I go up there, it could be covered in snow and hoar frost. Just like when I started last January.

I cannot believe it has been a year already. Lots of commuting, making new friends and learning about agricultural chemicals. It’s been a challenging year for work, but am glad I did it (despite the commute!).

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Looking forward to finishing my projects early next year and searching for new opportunities. Not sure where my career will take me, but I know I’ll be in the city, as much as I would love to pack up and live in a cottage near the sea and away from the hustle and bustle.
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I’m definitely going to miss my weekly respites out of the city, but with the commute cost savings I will be able to explore a lot more places on the weekends.