Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bucket List

When I was a teen, I spent my life making lists of things that I wanted to try or achieve. Some had dates by which I wished them fulfilled, some were whimsical ideas and others I look back on and cringe slightly (turns out Orlando Bloom didn't fall in love with me in real life). If you were following this little blog about a year ago, you may have read this list of things I wanted to do when I was rid of my crutches and could walk again. This blog was reborn when I filled my time documenting a positive thing a day to keep me focussed and appreciate the little things in life. Therefore the things on my list might seem a bit simple but they gave me nice little goals to aim for, and I completed most of them.

This is me when I accomplished one thing from that list - doing my vacation scheme!

When the lovely Annie tagged me in Money Supermarket's Bucket List competition, it reminded me of this list. The rules can be found here but the main idea is to talk about two things on your bucket list: one budget, and the other extravagant. 

Budget ambition: run a 5k 

From here
Back to my "When I can walk" to-do list! Before I got my blood clot I was trying to improve my running. I've never had the best relationship with running. Ball girl training when I was 15 involved running lap after lap of a hockey pitch for 9 months and I hated it! That along with the Cooper test and Cross Country in PE lessons had put me off for good, I thought. At university though I had a few friends who wanted to get into running so I decided to join them when they used to run on the common. Eventually I started to see what all the fuss was about and decided that I should probably try and improve, especially as I was also playing netball and knew that my fitness needed it! So I built things up and about 16 months ago, I was able to run more than I had ever been able to in the past. It was a lovely feeling! I decided that I would run Cancer Research UK's Race for Life that year. Then of course my winning streak was rained on by the horrible little blood clot which left my left leg out of action for a fair while. So Race for Life was realistically off the cards but I kid myself for a while that I would do it once I had mastered walking with crutches... This of course did not happen and again I thought I would be able to do it a year later ie. this summer. Unfortunately my fitness is not quite there yet as I have only been active for less than 6 months but is very much an ambition for next year. All this would cost is the registration fee and perhaps a new pair of running leggings. It would mean a great deal for me to be able to do this because I feel like it might give me some closure in a weird sort of way of the things that I've wanted to do in the last year or so, like travelling and exercising etc, but haven't been able to because of my health.

Extravagant ambition: see Iran

From here
From here
Lately I have been thinking about things that I would really like to do and questioned why I think that I have to do them in the future. What's wrong with now? Carpe diem and all that. Unfortunately money is often a barrier and until my job starts next year, a few ambitions like seeing different parts of the world will have to be put on hold. That and my still slightly dodgy leg that is. So once I have some money in my pocket, a healthier leg which won't freak out on long flights and perhaps a few of the country's issues have been ironed out, I would love to travel around Iran. I am Iranian but was born here so have only seen a limited amount of the country and in any case have only been back twice - neither time was in the last decade so I think it is high time I paid a visit to my extended family. Most of all I would love to see my grandparents. It is a strange thing growing up with all family bar immediate on the other side of the world, speaking on the phone in broken Farsi every so often but not knowing the people as well as you feel like you should. I have been to family gatherings of friends here which always make me miss my family and the relationships that I've never had with them. Some people don't know how lucky they are to be surrounded and in close proximity to people who love and care about them. It can be pretty lonely without. So yes, I would go and see all of my family and take some trips with them to the north (where Iranian families go on holiday) because I have fond memories of that when I was really little. Once my uncle drove us for hours on end to get to a villa with a swimming pool facing the mountains. It was one of the quietest and most beautiful places I have ever been to. Another time I remember being on the beach with my grandparents and got scared when a Jeep drove across but it was all okay as my grandparents and Mum scooped my sisters and I up so we felt safe. I would also love to explore the rest of the country as it is so beautiful - skiing in the mountains, swimming in the lakes, shopping in the bazaars, visiting mosques, seeing the places where my parents grew up and tell me all their stories about. I think that by doing this I might be able to fill the empty little bit of me which knows that something is missing. It is a pretty big place so I would need to spend at least three weeks but ideally much longer out there to be able to go to all the different towns and spend proper time with my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Once flights, internal transport and spending money (plus loss of earnings) have been tallied up, it would work out as a fairly extravagant expedition but one that I really hope to do in the not so distant future.

From here. This road (Chaloos) leads out of Tehran and towards the North. Like all windy paths, it will reach a good place eventually :)
From here

This competition ends very soon (2nd August) but I will tag Bella, Chloe and Bhavi anyway. Thanks to Annie for getting me involved in this. I would love to hear what is on all of your bucket lists in any case so feel free to tell me in a comment below :)
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Monday, July 29, 2013

The Elaphite Islands

Dubrovnik is a beautiful city and the perfect place to venture to other little wonders just off of the Dalmatian Coast. We booked a day trip to three of the seventeen Elaphite Islands. The ones we visited were the only inhabited islands of the lot. We were picked up early in the morning from our apartment, taken to Gruz where the boat lived and were taken out onto the blue for the whole day.

I'm not sure why this bridge tickled me in the way that it did, but I found it very amusing! From a distance, it looks like the angles are all wrong and as if the cars would just fall off the edge. Obviously it is in perfect functioning order!

Being at sea is so relaxing (until you start to feel queasy) and even though there were plenty of other boats/ships floating around too, it felt like we were a million miles away from anything else.

After about an hour, we reached Lopud. Croatia isn't known for its sandy beaches as most are rocky but Lopud had some lovely sand. The feeling that you get stepping on sand for the first time in a while is priceless :)

The people in the sea are doing an aqua aerobics class! A much more inspiring setting than the local leisure centre at home! The island has roughly 200 inhabitants and although we saw a lot of tourists who were staying at a hotel, we did spot a few locals just sitting by the sea, writing and reading. It is a stunning place to live and wonderfully quiet (as were all of the islands we visited) but I wonder how long it would be before I missed the city. I love the peace and quiet, but I am very much a city girl.

I don't know if this was a stray dog or if he belonged to somebody but he didn't have a collar and was very good at posing as you can see here!

We had three hours on this island so we did some exploring and ate lots of ice-cream.

This botanical garden was a welcome hideaway from the intense sunshine. Don't get me wrong, I loveeeee the sun but this was an enjoyable relief! There are species of plant from all over the world in these gardens because the sailors have brought back so many from their travels.

Lopud has sandy beaches on two sides, with golf-buggies carting visitors from one to the other. We had to be back at the boat in time for lunch so just stayed on one beach. I read my book (The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell - definitely worth a read) and paddled in the sea.

Three hours flew by and pretty soon it was time for lunch. The kind boatmen served us freshly caught fish with salad and drinks, including some local wine which was tasty but had to be abandoned after a few sips after realising that nothing could beat cold water in the heat!

We ate on the boat - probably the most picturesque lunch setting I have ever experienced. We all felt really lucky.

Our second stop was Koločep. There is apparently one little souvenir shop here which the shopkeeper will only open if you knock on the door and ask nicely I presume!

Isn't the water just amazing? I love how clear it is in Croatia. Made us want to jump in all the time :)

We didn't have as long on this island and didn't fancy trekking to its nudist beach so walked around the ruins and enjoyed more ice creams.

We wondered whether the old lady's shop was behind this door...but sadly nobody answered.

It wasn't long before we were back to our trusty boat and off to our final stop: Šipan

Here we stocked up on ketchup flavoured crisps and guzzled down bottles and bottles of cold water like there was no tomorrow.

I read some more of my book and had a little sleep before home time. (That's not me asleep in the photo above!) As we were leaving the island, we spotted a lady moving all her belongings in. She must have been moving house as she had a fridge with her! Interestingly, she didn't have too many boxes of stuff, just a lot of paintings. It made me wonder what my absolute essentials will be when I move out of home next year. What you need vs what you think you need are separated by a very fine line.

We were all exhausted by the end of the day, as if boats didn't exist and we had been swimming between each island. Isn't it funny how being on water can tire you out so much? 
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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dubrovnik, Croatia

A few weeks ago, a few of my closest school friends and I flew to Dubrovnik for a week of sunshine and exploring. This was my second visit to Croatia, having been to Zagreb (briefly) and Split during my Interrail trip a few summers ago, so I had very high hopes for the trip indeed!

We stayed just outside the Old Town which is a teeny trinket of historic wonderfulness, encased in mighty, protective walls. The streets are narrow, steep and maze-like. It doesn't take very long to walk from one side to the other so although we did some exploring each day, a week was a long time to spend here. Part of the reason Dubrovnik was so appealing was its blend of history, sightseeing, sea and potential to see other places. Look out for my post in a couple of days about our trip to the Elaphite Islands :)

The main street in Dubrovnik is called Stradun and it was amazing how busy this place was day and night. All the little maze-like alleyways will lead back to Stradun eventually so we spent a lot of time walking up and down here. There was the Dubrovnik Summer Festival on during our week there so some nights we were entertained by music in the main square you can see in the photo above. Another night we spent an hour or so at a lovely little outdoor jazz bar called Troubador where we listened to live jazz music (no way!). Even though there is so much going on around this place (especially as it is in the corner of a main square filled with other bars), it still felt like you were tucked away in a musical wonderland as the band were lovely. It made me really want to get back into music and since I have been home I have made a conscious effort to practise piano and teach myself the ukelele every couple of days or so.

The photo above makes me giggle. It was taken on our first night in Dubrovnik, when we went for a wander in the port. We had only arrived a couple of hours earlier but at some point between the start and the end of this photo being taken, Emma lost a flip-flop to the sea! We hadn't even realised until she went to put them on (she had taken them off because who doesn't love walking barefoot on holiday?!) and a passer-by pointed at the tide as it gobbled up her shoe! Before this photo, we had been lying on the pier in pitch black darkness, staring up at the stars and counting our blessings.

We spent an afternoon by these rocks, jumping into the water and swimming happily.

The water was so cold for about 20 seconds and then it was lovely and the perfect way to cool down in the Croatian sun.

There were hundreds of cats everywhere. I loved how they sat around looking like they owned the place. One night, however, we were walking back to our apartment which is situated at the top of a very long flight of very steep steps, only to be greeted by the screeches of a gang of cats. It looked like two of them had got into a fight as one had taken a clawful of fur off the other one! We were genuinely a bit worried about disturbing them as they were menacingly stood outside our front door, their eyes transfixed on one another. Now I don't know about you but I have no idea what the etiquette is in this sort of situation. Do you tap one on the shoulder and utter "Move along, lads"? We were hardly going to offer them a cup of tea and a chance to talk it out! Luckily, a couple of American girls staying in the villa opposite decided they wanted to document the terrifying situation (they were safe in the sanctuary of their balcony, I should add - unlike us, fully exposed to the feline drama and afraid for our lives) and as their camera flashed, the cats ran away. Phewwwww. It has made me look at cats in a very different way now. You forget that they aren't supposed to be domesticated.

We had our own kitchen in our accommodation so cooked most nights but the meal above is one we had at a restaurant we found in a travel guide. Eating out in Dubrovnik is generally fairly pricey but we felt it necessary to sample the local seafood. I tried grilled squid at this restaurant which was actually very good value. It is a shame that most places in the Old Town are overpriced but I suppose this is a corollary of it being so touristy. I hadn't actually realised how touristy Dubrovnik is. I had wrongly assumed and hoped that it would be like Split where a few years ago I had the pleasure of eating dinner with some friendly locals, sharing stories about the world and hearing about their experiences in the war.

This is Banje beach, the main beach accessible from the Old Town. Luckily for us it was only a 5-10 minute walk from where we were staying (downhill...definitely not on the way back up!) so we went there nearly every day to relax. There is a San Tropez style beach club there called EastWest which hires out sun-loungers, umbrellas and beds, and has a restaurant and bar, as well as a club in the evenings. We just used it for the parasols and toilets... There are lots of things that you can do on this beach, despite its small size. I had been eyeing up the parasailing trips all week and am determined to do this next time I get the chance to! What we did get to do, however, was sea kayaking!

This was probably my favourite thing that we did all week as it was just an incredible feeling being out in the middle of the water with stunning views of the Old Town, beach and Lokrum island. The island had magnificent caves with purple rocks which we paddled into in our kayaks. The island is really, really green and we were told that there are lots of peacocks and yet another nudist beach! It was certainly a surprise stumbling across that as we paddled around to the side of the island which faces towards nothingness.

Our guide told us a lot about the history of Dubrovnik. I find it fascinating that Croatia has only been Croatia for about 20 years. That's younger than me!

After circling Lokrum, we paddled to a little bay/cave which can only be accessed from the water, so we actually had the whole beach to ourselves. Here I tried snorkelling for the first time. I eventually got used to the breathing technique but can't say I loved hearing myself breathe underwater. I feel like breathing is the most natural of all actions so to be made aware of it in an unfamiliar surrounding panics me slightly. It was pretty cool to see the underwater world though. We had done a fair bit of swimming in the sea and had seen the odd fish here and there but up until the snorkelling I hadn't realised how many fish we had been swimming with the whole time! I felt bad that we took up so much space in their home.

Our kayaking trip lasted three hours and we were shattered by the end of it. This sunset was the perfect way to end the trip, however. It all happened so quickly! By the time I had got the camera out, the sun had pretty much melted away.

We loved, loved, lovvvvveeeeeedddddddd Croatia and hope it isn't too long before we can go back :)
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Friday, July 26, 2013

Super strawberry smoothie

I love fruit but sometimes prefer drinking them. Earlier this week, after an exercise class, I needed an energy boost so decided to make a smoothie. I found strawberries and bananas in the fridge - perfectttt!

To make this (x3-4):

You will need:

-150ml natural yoghurt (vanilla flavoured if you like!)
-300ml milk
-250g strawberries
-1 banana
-a handful of oats
-a dollop of honey
-a dash of vanilla extract
-some ice cubes if you need to cool down

It is super easy to make as you shall find out!

1. Peel the banana and roughly chop it.
2. Take the naughty little green bits off the strawberries
3. Place everything into a blender.
4. Switch blender on and let it whizz round doing its thing for about 30 seconds/until smooth
5. Serve in a (fancy) glass, drink from a straw and feel happy :)

Let me know if you try it with any different flavours. I'm pretty sure anything goes!
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

BBQ School

Pictures very often speak louder than words. This is one of those occasions. Enjoy!

My two sidekicks.

We learnt a lot about fire at BBQ school.

Sausage jenga was enforced.

I whipped up some tabbouleh earlier in the day. Mmmmmmm.

Presentation is key (they also teach you that at BBQ school).

Chicken was marinated with lemon, olive oil and a bit of spice. Yum yum yum.

One of my favourite blogs is Take Courage and I made this raspberry mint lemonade from its recipe :) It was really lovely and refreshing. Perfect for a day like today.

Board games in the sunshine are very necessary. I won Frustration yipppeeeeeeee. 

Bananagrams is my most favourite word game these days. If you've not played it before please pop over and play with me. You won't regret it :)

What's your favourite thing to do in the sunshine?

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