2009: The Year That Was.

It's become a yearly tradition to recap the years gone by - this will be my fourth blogging recap since I started on Wordpress and eventually my own domain.

See 2006 here, 2007 here, and last year's recap here.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? Moved apartments, applied for a Highly Skilled Visa for the UK (and was successful), changed jobs at work & got a payrise... oh! And became a fiance!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I think my resolution last year was 'not to worry so much'. I think I did alright - I still worry a lot, but I'm more aware of myself this year. I tend to go well with resolutions for the first month and then falter. I've got one (the usual?) ready to go for 2010.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? In my general vicinity over here, no. No babies.

4. Did anyone close to you die? No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit? This year... let's see. I visited Belgium (Brussels/Bruges), Switzerland (Zurich & surrounds), the Czech Republic (Prague) and France (Paris). I also went back to Australia for nearly three months, waiting in Sydney for my Visa to be processed. Quite a busy year, of small trips.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? I'd like to have willpower. And the ability to stick to my resolutions to achieve a goal.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? August 8th, 2009 - the day we got engaged in Prague. I still can't believe it sometimes.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Getting a new job at work, having a bit more independence.

9. What was your biggest failure? Getting lazy, bodywise. I joined a gym in the last few months of the year, but I feel like I could have done more.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing major this year.

11. What was the best thing you bought? I actually don't think I bought all that much this year? Lots of small things, for sure. I suppose my iPod from last Christmas - I used that nearly every day of 2009!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? A few people this year. First up is Kirby. She's my best friend, my future maid of honour, and she's gone through some crap this year and is still smiling on the other side. Same goes for Julie. It's not easy keeping in touch with people when you live thousands of miles away, but whenever I see these girls, everything comes flooding back and it feels like I never left.

And of course, Jason. The boy is a machine. He works so hard over here as a contractor, never takes a day off, and all so that we can have some savings to take back home with us when we leave. He's amazing!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? A few people.

14. Where did most of your money go? Saving mostly. I also spent money on the usual things, like books, clothing & bit and pieces while travelling.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Our engagement! After nearly seven years of dating, I had basically willed myself to stop focussing on marriage and just enjoying things as they were. And wouldn't you know it, when I finally stopped whining? Jason pulled out a corker of a proposal, complete with a surprise birthday weekend to Prague AND a little blue box! I love my beautiful ring, and still find myself staring at it and looking forward to the future. Soppy, I know.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009? A couple, actually. Use Somebody - Kings of Leon. Lovegame - Lady Gaga. You Found Me - The Fray. Lover, You Should've Come Over - Jeff Buckley.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
(a) Happier or Sadder? Happier.
(b) Thinner or Fatter? About the same, unfortunately.
(c) Richer or Poorer? Richer.. but I intend on spending alot on travelling & wedding planning this next year, so I'm sure that next December I'll be poorer!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I'd taken a few more photographs. I also wish I'd seen more of England, but it's tricky a) without a car and b) having the cat to think about. It's hard to travel when you have a little one.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Being lazy.

20. How did you spend Christmas in 2009? Hibernating in our cute West London flat with Jason and Oscar. We cooked our own turkey and played on the Wii.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009? We stayed in love. He's my best friend.

22. How many one-night stands? Hold on, let me get my diary and check...

23. What was your favorite TV program? Grey's Anatomy (again!), True Blood and Coupling.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I don't hate anyone. Disappointed in a few people, but not hate.

25. What was the best book you read? Again - so many. These are the ones I can think of from this year: The Heretic's Daughter. The 19th Wife. The Cellist of Sarajevo. Wicked. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Not sure if I'd call it a discovery, but maybe a rediscovery? The Fray & Jeff Buckley.

27. What did you want and get? Bling! And also, my UK work Visa.

28. What did you want and not get? In touch with a few more friends.

29. What was your favorite film of this year? Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince. I also really liked Avatar and New Moon. (Hee.)

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 25 this year, and spent the day at work. The following weekend, Jason took me to Prague for the long weekend of a lifetime!

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Seeing more of England.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? Jeans, winter coat, flat shoes. I also got into the whole tunic/tights phase VERY late in the game.

33. What kept you sane? Jason, Oscar, Kirby.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? No-one really?

35. What political issue stirred you the most? Off the top of my head? I have no idea.

36. Who did you miss? The usual - everything about being at home. But then, when I was home, I missed everything about being in London. It's a conundrum.

37. Who was the best new person you met? A few more new starters at work. I'd love to meet some more new people though. Is it just me, or is it harder to make friends as you get older?

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009. Patience: it really is a virtue. And apparently nagging really doesn't pay off?

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.You know that I could use somebody - someone like you and all you know and how you speak..."

40. What are your resolutions for 2010? Ah, but that is a whole other post in itself.

I'll be working tomorrow (yuck!) and then hopefully meeting a beautiful blogging friend when she visits London, followed by NYE celebrations in Chinatown. Enjoy the last few days of 2009!

In My Place.

How did we once again end up on the other side of Christmas? It's all such a blur. The turkey is mostly gone, though I have a suspicion that there are still quite a few leftovers hiding in the fridge, the wrapping paper tidied up and thrown away - and our little flat looks back to normal now. We didn't put up decorations this year; last year Oscar demolished our tree in a matter of days and to be honest, I just didn't feel like it.

After feeling rubbish all day today, I decided to throw myself into a cleaning frenzy. I'm usually super organised, but I'll have the occasional day where nothing looks right, and all I want to do is clean.

I scrubbed the bathroom down (how does one tiny room get so dirty?), re-organised my bookshelves, sorted out my mail & paperwork, and with Jason's help, moved furniture around in the living room - it looks much more open now. Shame about the Wii accessories tossed around the room, but I really don't think there is an easy way to make that look neat, without putting them away completely. It's a work in progress.

The stangest thing about it all? Even though it looks much better now and everything is in its new place - it still doesn't feel like home. Don't get me wrong, it is home, but it isn't really ours. We live in it. We rent it. It's not ours.

Yesterday marked two years to the day since I arrived in London.

One of the hardest things about our adventure living abroad is that while you're away, life goes on without you. People get married, buy houses, have children. Friends stay in touch initially, drift away and eventually end up as just a number on Facebook. And all the while, you float in limbo, in your own little ex-pat bubble. Life is wonderful. London amazes me every day. We're doing this for the future! But still...

It's like that Sliding Doors movie. You have a perfectly happy existance, but there's this whole other life that could potentially have happened. Would we be settled somewhere and having a similar day like we are now - cleaning and rearranging our possessions? Would we both still be working - what would we be doing? Would we have any kids other than Oscar - human or of the furry kind? So many things to think about.

I'm not ungrateful for the things that we have been able to accomplish together so far. We're very blessed to be here. And as down and homesick as I can get sometimes (I'll blame the post-holiday season) I know that when we do eventually move back to Australia? I'll miss this gorgeous city.

It's just one of those days.

Christmas (by Oscar.)

I hope you're having lovely Christmas Eve/Day celebrations depending on where you're located on the globe. We're doing just fine here in cold, wintery London. We cooked our very first (huge!) turkey together, followed by chocolate puddings & hot custard, and will soon head to bed so that Santa Claws (oh ha!) can visit.

Oscar has been a real help with our dinner preparations this year. Here's how!

Step 1: Check the pantry and make sure everything is ready to go:

Step 2: Turkey defrosting? Check. Veggies cut? Check. Time to start cooking:

Step 3: Eat. Om Nom Nom. If the humans get in your way while trying to attack the roast dinner, try again at the dessert course and you may just succeed:

Step 4: Post-dinner siesta. It's a hard life, but someone's gotta do it:

Happy Holidays everyone! Love from Aly, Jase &
 of course our star, Oscar.

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time.

So, before I even start, can I just say how much I hate that Christmas song? Seriously. Hate. Who hates a Paul McCartney Christmas song? It doesn't seem right. But oy! The second I hear those horrid clashing sounds at the beginning of the song, I tense up and feel slightly cranky. It's such a horrible tune, and the radio station my work has on all day long, just loves to play it. Bah humbug.

Alas! I am no Scrooge - I love Christmas! We've had more snow over the past few days, but sadly it hasn't been sticking around very long. If you've seen the news, temperatures in Europe have been making the weather very unpredictable, so who knows? We may be lucky and get that snowy Christmas Day yet. I have work tomorrow, and then I'm off for a good few days until the New Year, and I am so looking forward to doing sweet, sweet nothing.

I was spoiled super early too, as this past weekend Jason gave me my Christmas present - a brand spanking new shiny iPhone! It took a lot of effort, including going back and forth across the city several times, but I managed to get the very last phone handset in London on the 12-month plan that I wanted. (That will end next Christmas... leading into other things very nicely.) My boy is way too good to me. I love him so. (iPhone or no iPhone, of course.)

Any technologically proficient bloggers feel up to walking me through all things iPhone? I really want to be able to send pictures & write blog posts directly to my little blog. It might just get me back in the swing of posting more regularly, which is something I'd really like to do. Oh, and apps? Any favourites or suggestions are welcomed!

Winter Wonderland!

It snowed today in Central London.

It wasn't a great deal of snow, and it didn't last for very long - but still, SNOW! The last time it snowed in London was when I was back home waiting for my Visa, which I was gutted over missing. Suffice it to say that I was chuffed to see this today.

The flakes didn't settle for long, but that didn't stop me from ducking out into Chancery Lane to take some pictures. (Yes, I was the token Australian girl in the street with a camera, who was too busy grinning to put her coat on.)

I'm hoping to go to bed tonight and wake up to a blanket of snow - it's hardly going to happen, as it's mostly cold and rainy right now, but a girl can hope!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Santa Baby

I'm a terribly sporadic blogger, I know. Things have been pretty mellow lately, and we've just been plodding along taking each week as it comes. The trees outside have gone from beautiful colours, to grey and bare, and the temperatures are slowly dropping... my second (or third, really) winter in London.

I love spending Christmas here. There's something so wonderful about enjoying the holiday in the opposite weather than what I'm used to. (I can't say I'm missing the 38-42o Celsius days back home.) I love the Christmas lights on Oxford Street and Regent Street. I love the toffee nut and eggnog lattes in Starbucks. I love the coats and the scarves and the boots. I love the ice skating rinks that pop up out of nowhere. I love the random winter fair in Leicester Square. I love the mulled wine.

I've had my Christmas shopping done for about a month now. It might sound super impressive, but keep in mind that I literally only have two people to buy for: Jason and Oscar. Yes, the cat. He's just as spoiled as Jason, if not more so. I won't go into what presents I've bought for Jason, but suffice it to say that a) they're awesome and b) I'm awesome and c) giving presents is awesome.

It's so expensive to send gifts through the post that I don't send family gifts - but I'll be home in April, so will be sure to take some goodies back with them then. They'll just have to settle for really awesome (word of the day!) Christmas cards instead.

It's funny how as I've got older, I really appreciate the thought and time that goes into gifting to other people - although I'll admit, I'm still a sucker for receiving them too. All in moderation! Unfortunately Jason, bless his cotton socks, always struggles with what to buy me. His reasoning is that if I want something, I tend to buy it for myself anyway, which is actually pretty true. I have the patience of a ladybird. Do ladybirds have patience? I do not know. I digress.

What I do know, is that Amazon? Socks, while they may be unexpected and certainly surprising, are not my idea of a gift from a loved one. I'm just saying.

Without further ado, here's what is on my Christmas wishlist this year.

Cluster Ring
It's so beautiful and sparkly. Hint: I'm a size O/P, Jason.

Ollie the USB Owl
I can't think of anything cuter to have on my desk.

Tan Shoulder Bag
One can never have too many handbags.

Paperchase Diary
It will match my cute new coin purse!

Digital Luggage Scale
How have I never seen these before?

Glass Pearl Drop Earrings
Simple and cute.

Body Shop - Strawberry Stuff
I can smell it already...

A New Watch
This one, with its dash of bling, will do nicely!

Vibrating Travel Cushion
Perfect for my upcoming long haul flight.

The Genie
And yes, Jason, you have to do it for me!

Ralph Perfume
I'm currently obsessed with Givenchy's 'The Secret' but this is a classic!

Any of them. Any kind. Even in vouchers - I'm not fussy.

RSPCA Sydney or the Guide Dogs would be my picks.

What are you wishing for this holiday season?

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