I Would Prefer Not To

My life motto.

I’m somewhat unavailable, it’s true.

I work 12 hour shifts which means getting up at 05:45am and getting home at 8pm sometimes two or three days in a row. It’s exhausting and on my much needed days off I’m sleeping, taking a bubble bath and catching up with chores.

I don’t like saying no to people but mentally I’m not capable of pleasing everyone and I’m done with feeling pressured and apologetic because I choose to spend my time in a certain way. In the past I wouldn’t dare to disappoint a friend and because of that mentality I wasn’t happy in myself. I started to feel hurt by the friends who didn’t realise the positions they were putting me in. I’m not sure when it happened but, at some point I decided enough was enough.

We’ve all dealt with uncomfortable situations where saying no hasn’t felt like an option I’m sure. Whether it’s agreeing to a work event that we weren’t really interested in attending or, agreeing to go out for dinner with your in-law, the feeling SUCKS but you continue saying yes to these sorts of things. You might have been tired after work but still decided to go to that shitty house party your friend invited you to when you really wanted to stay home. The FOMO is real and sometimes the thought can feel really unbearable yet, you probably regretted your decision the next day and realised that the hangover wasn’t worth it.

For a long time I would go to every party I was invited to, drink when I didn’t really want to, hang out with people I didn’t really care for and make extra effort for people who wouldn’t do the same for me. I don’t make the time for these sorts of things often any more and life is better as a result.

I’ll always try to be available for the close friends who respect how I manage my time and, who feel similarly to me in regard to personal time management. It’s not always easy to see each other often but, when we do find the time it’s all worth the wait.

When I do reach out and plan to meet a friend I always try to manage the time responsibly. I try to meet up with people around 11am or 12pm for brunch meaning that, I can have the lie in I want and take my time getting ready. It also means that when I get home in the early afternoon I still have time to do whatever chores need to get done and I’m still motivated instead of tired.

With certain friends, when I know I have a couple days off in a row we’ll meet at our favourite pub for dinner on my first day off, have a catch up for a couple hours and try to make sure I’m home at a reasonable hour. I’ll make sure that I don’t make plans for the following day, allowing myself a ‘me’ day to r e l a x.

I always try to remember that if I’m feeling overwhelmed on the day I have a plan that’s it’s fine to reschedule. I continue to feel guilty for saying no or canceling plans but sometimes it needs to be done. My brain often feels frazzled from work and the thought of being social can sometimes feel too stressful. I try to be honest about the reason I’m no longer available and that makes me feel a little better about things.

The thought of disappointing someone is awful I get it but, the thought of unnecessarily going out of your way to please someone else is much much worse.

If you don’t want to say yes to whatever is being asked of you that’s okay. Saying no doesn’t always have to be a negative thing, it’s just about addressing your wellbeing and respecting the needs of others too. The party will still go on, your friends will still have fun and you can do whatever it was you wanted to do with your time instead. Even if it means going home, getting into bed at 8pm and watching Netflix that’s fine too. It’s all about doing what makes you feel happy.

To help me feel better I try to remember the following…

  • Valuable friends and family won’t mind and will still support you.
  • If saying yes makes me feel stressed I’ve made a mistake.
  • Being available constantly isn’t always a good thing either.
  • It’s important to be honest and realistic about how I manage my time and it’s healthy to want some space.
  • Saying no doesn’t mean I won’t ever be available for that person/event in future.
  • I’m still growing. If I need time to recharge then that’s fine. It’s no one else’s business to decide how much time is too much.

The reality is, not everyone will want to or say yes to every invite you throw their way either, so it’s important to make the decisions that make you feel comfortable and fit in with your schedule.

Don’t forget, never ever put someone else before your own wellbeing. Do what’s right for you. Go or don’t go to that event, catch up with your friend or family member another time and enjoy whatever brings you peace.

My Food Journey

Whether I’m cooking at home or going out for a nice meal, nothing brings me more pleasure than eating with my loved ones. From a young age I remember always wanting to help my mum cook in the kitchen, and when she was working late shifts as a nurse me and my sister would cook together too. I think one of the first meals I learnt to cook was Ratatouille. I always wanted to chop the mushrooms, peal the veg and annoy my mum with my questions about food. I always fondly remember my mum cooking honey and mustard chicken, vegetable curries and her infamous roast dinners as well. She was the type of mum who would be serving up dinner the minute you entered the door from school, and I loved her so much for that! I will always remember walking home with my sister and trying to guess what would be for dinner that day.

With mums help, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be a chef but I was really scared about the training involved and the equipment, so I over-thought about it and instead, I stayed safe and chose to study Business. Although, I continued to grow my interest in cooking from the comfort of my own kitchen.

When I moved out for University I think one of the first things I made for my housemates was Fajitas, which I continued to live off of through my first year. Cooking whilst at University was always a bit of a struggle though. I enjoyed cooking but everything had to be on a tight budget. I mainly led a vegetarian diet and I ordered A LOT of pizza from our local takeaway.

It wasn’t until I moved in with my boyfriend during 2016 that things really changed and my confidence in the kitchen began to come to light, partly because I had more money in a new job, and also because I had someone who I was excited to cook for. Some of my favourite dishes to cook for us include Thai salmon curry, lasagne, carbonara and sausage & mash.

Unfortunately having someone to cook for and more expendable income to buy ingredients can impact our health negativity though, as it’s often difficult to find a good balance between eating rich food and living a healthy lifestyle, something I’ve been battling against for some time now. I always cook with lots of vegetables and eat a lot of fish but, me and my partner have a big sweet tooth and eat a lot of sugary treats too. I’m also a sucker for making big portions, which means my plates are usually overcrowded or we go back for second helpings. Also, I love sides! If I’m making a stir fry I almost always have to have some spring rolls and/or prawn crackers, and if I make anything Italian we need to have garlic bread too. Is this a dilemma in other households or is it just me being greedy??

Having said that, things are changing and I’m not sure how it will impact the way we eat long term. I’ve taken a new job which means I’m working 12 hour shifts and won’t be cooking dinner everyday like I used to. My plan is to cook meals in bulk  by utilising my slow cooker, meaning we can both have a home cooked dinner even on days when I’m working. This isn’t something I’ve managed to achieve yet but, I’m planning to start this Sunday with a big comforting cottage pie.

I should also note that, I’m already seeing positive changes in my cooking on the days I have off during the week. I’m able to take more time and care in the kitchen to rustle up our weekly favorites, and experiment with new dishes too. It’s nice having the time to do a big food shop without rushing around after work too, as I’ve been able to pick ingredients more carefully.

It’s just been so good to have more freedom. Long term I feel this change in routine will have such a positive impact on my happiness, my relationship, and my skills as a cook, which of course is amazing news! For an example, as we all know it was Valentines Day on the 14th, a great excuse for me to try out a new dish at home. I think I might have mentioned in my previous post reviewing Bill’s Diner that I wanted to try steak and really enjoyed theirs. So, I thought it was about time I tried to recreate my own version at home and to be honest, I think it might have been just as good, if not better!

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I cooked my version of healthy chips by cutting my potatoes in to thick wedges, par boiling them for 5 minutes before sticking them in the oven with a spray of fry light on each. I rotated them after 15 minutes and sprayed more fry light on the other sides. I think in total I baked them for 30/40 mins at 200 until golden brown.

For the steak, I was aiming to cook it to medium. I again used more fry light, I sprinkled a little pepper on each side, and cooked on each side for 3 minutes. I used the BBC Food guidlines to help me on how to cook the perfect steak. I ignored the recipe but half way down the page they note the following…

  • Blue: About 1½ mins each side
  • Rare: About 2¼ mins each side
  • Medium-rare: About 3¼ mins each side
  • Medium: About 4½ mins each side

I paired my steak and chips with fancy long stemmed broccoli and a peppercorn sauce. Unfortunately I didn’t cook the sauce myself, as I totally forgot to buy the ingredients but, I will definitely attempt to next time because there will be a next time! I know it’s an easy dish to some but I’d never made either of the main components before and I was so so pleased with the results, as was my boyfriend.

I also recently made a ricotta baked chocolate cheesecake. I glanced at a recipe whilst in the supermarket shopping for ingredients but didn’t really follow it when I got home. I remembered my mums amazing baked chocolate cheesecakes from when I was a teenager, and just went with my instincts from there. It was simple really. I literally just added three tubs of ricotta cheese into a bowl with two egg yolks, 100g of caster sugar and 275g of melted dark chocolate. For the base, I melted 50g of butter with half a packet of crushed digestive biscuits and pushed it all to the bottom of a cake tin, added the cheesecake mix and baked for an hour at 150.

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I feel like my food journey is only just beginning to grow and I’m incredibly excited about my future food ambitions. I’m hoping to master the art of the perfect yorkshire pudding, bake the perfect cake and figure out how the hell to make a poached egg amongst many other things! Feel free to read the full list on my 2018 goals post and I hope you all continue to read about my many cooking successes and failures to come.

Bill’s Bill’s Bill’s

Do you ever just walk into a restaurant and feel like you’re at home? Well, that’s how I feel about Bill’s Diner.

I had seen the restaurant being built on my route to work every morning, so I was really intrigued and looking forward to the day it opened. I wanted to see what all of the hype was about.

I’m all about supporting local businesses and I know, I know, that they’re a big chain restaurant across the UK but, to me that’s why I’m so impressed I suppose. From their well thought out breakfast, lunch and dinner menu’s to their great customer service and interior design, I’m in love. I feel comfortable, happy and invited every time I have visited the Plymouth branch (4 times so far to be precise), and I would forever recommend friends/family/anyone to visit their local.

They have been able to capture the art of an amazing laid-back approach to food and customer service, whilst being able to maintain a high quality. It’s simple really. Tasty food. Good pricing. Great staff. Warm atmosphere.

So let’s go through the food I’ve tried on my visits shall we?

My first trip to Bill’s was for my 25th birthday in November with my mum and sister. My sister had recently visited Bill’s for breakfast and encouraged us to make dinner reservations. I initially thought there was too much going on with the menu and that it seemed quite busy but, I quickly changed my mind when I found several things I wanted to eat right there and then.

So, I went for deep fried Halloumi sticks to share with my sister and the most amazing buttermilk chicken burger with apple slaw, sweet potato fries and Cajun mayo. I accompanied this with Bill’s own pink lemonade.

Overall, the burger was like something I had never tried before and it was really really delicious. Messy I might add though. You’ll most likely need a knife and fork for this one. Oh and, It was so good that I ordered it on my second visit to Bill’s too by the way.

I loved that the dish overall came with sweet potato fries and that you didn’t have to request them. I also loved the apple slaw. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but it was really refreshing and even though they did use mayo, it didn’t bog down the dish and make it heavy. Oh, and Cajun mayo on the side! Who doesn’t love that.

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In the background you might be able to see my mums dinner. She’s vegetarian so she ordered a Calliflower steak with toasted fregola, roasted tomatoes and veggie gravy. She was very very impressed to say the least.

We even ordered dessert too. My family has a big sweet tooth! We shared their Baked Alaska but unfortunately I was so excited I completely forgot to take any photographs to show you. Rest assured, it was heaven though. If you like all things sweet and are willing to share it’s the perfect treat.

My third visit to Bill’s was another kind of celebration. It was the 28th December and I’d just taken a big step with my work.

I handed in my notice to pursue a new career.

With progression and wellbeing playing on my mind a lot towards the end of 2017 I had definitely made the right choice. So, I arranged for me and two close work friends to go for dinner to talk, celebrate and commiserate me leaving work at the end of Jan.

On the thought of trying things new and making big decisions, I ordered steak and peppercorn sauce for the first time. I had always wanted to try steak but was always a little cautious. I love beef burgers, lasagna, cottage pie etc so I knew I’d enjoy it but, the price had always scared me. I wanted to make sure that when I ordered it that it was perfect and I wouldn’t regret it. I felt confident on that day and decided I trusted Bill’s.

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I was initially a bit confused because I hadn’t ordered a flat iron steak and I had envisioned something more juicy but, it did the trick and was really filling. Now I can say that I like medium steak and will definitely be ordering it again whenever I get the chance.

In addition to our mains, we also had a champagne cocktail or two to celebrate change in 2018. My favourite cocktail was Just Peachy Bellini and Aperol Spritz pictured below.

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ALSO, we ordered desserts and I took a photograph this time. I wanted something a little less chocolaty which is unusual for me, so I went for the apple crumble and my friend ordered the chocolate brownie. Both good choices that left us feeling comfortably full and satisfied.

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Yesterday, I visited Bill’s again but for breakfast this time. I had heard some great things about their breakfast menu and was really excited to take my boyfriend there spontaneously. There was so much choice and all I knew was that I wanted a poached egg with something. I almost ordered the Eggs Benedict but last minute swapped to the veggie breakfast (great choice) but without the pesto roasted tomatoes.

The dish included one slice of toast covered in Guacamole and the other with tomato hummus, topped with two poached eggs, mushrooms and basil. This breakfast took me to my happy place. It was delicious and paired with a strong cappuccino, I felt great.

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I’m not vegetarian but I love vegetables and never ate much meat until recently (hence my curiousness about steak). Honestly, this is probably the best vegetarian alternative to a fry up I have seen in any restaurant, independent or chain. Usually there’s lots of egg options and veggie fry ups but they aren’t always very creative. This one felt uplifting. I wasn’t missing out because I wasn’t eating meat.

My breakfast yesterday has inspired me I suppose. I’ve never been a breakfast person and was always a fussy child when it came to food. If/when I do eat breakfast it’s always so dull and boring. Basically toast or porridge. Until 2017 I barely knew how to make a fried egg. Still don’t, not really. But, I’m willing now. I have found a love for eggs and hummus both together and as separate meals and the combination together made me very happy. I need to be more adventurous with breakfast in 2018 and I need to learn to poach an egg, else I’ll be visiting Bill’s every weekend for this breakfast.

So, there you have it. That’s my review on Bill’s! Generally just feeling really pleased to see such a huge chain like Bill’s come to Plymouth. Everytime I’ve visited it’s been super busy and every table around me has loved their food. It’s great to see Plymouth growing and getting the attention it deserves from Nationwide restaurants and shops.

So go check out Bill’s if you haven’t already. You’ll probably find something you like and will leave feeling all sorts of satisfied.