Navigating Winter Wonderland.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! To me, the build-up to Christmas is more magical than the day itself. Let’s be honest it takes a lot to reject the Christmas spirit when it’s practically slapping you in the face everywhere you go. Don’t take me for a Scrooge, though, I love it. I love the fairy lights, I love the smell of mulled wine, I love the Christmas music being played everywhere. London is especially dynamic with the holiday spirit, particularly with the iconic Winter Wonderland which sets itself up in Hyde Park every year. Market stalls, food and drink booths, ice skating, rides and entertainment occupy the space and attract tourists and locals alike. With so much to see and try, can be a little overwhelming, though, so see how I navigated below.IMG_3166.JPGDon’t go hungover. See this is where I went wrong. If you’re the kind of hungover person who can’t stand the smell of food,  the company of other people, or the motion of rides then you’re absolutely at the wrong place. If you want to get the most out of the experience, it’s probably best that you’re not threatening to be sick or cry every 15 minutes.

Don’t get intimidated by the queue at the entrance. it thins out once you get inside. A good sense of being able to weave and dodge will come in handy, though. Also don’t get intimidated at the queues for food – they move surprisingly quickly.

Bring pocket money – Entrance is free, so you can spend as much or as little as you like when you get there. Cash machines are hard to find, though, and it’s a pain to limit yourself. This one is more for your own convenience.

Wear something warm. Winter Wonderland – it’s all in the name! It gets cold. It gets especially cold at 4o’clock when the sun disappears. You won’t be having any fun when you can’t feel your fingers and toes. Also this will really affect  your mobility and agility if you’re one of those people who enjoy playing fairground games.

Wear comfortable shoes. Expect a lot of walking and standing around – this is no place for the ‘stand-up-sit-down’ beauties that you’re wanting to show off.

Go on an empty stomach – 75% of the importance of Wonderland is the many food stalls. I mean that’s my opinion, but I think many if not most would agree with me. Everyone will be satisfied because there is SO MUCH to choose from; you’ve got your sweets, meats and alcoholic treats (as well as everything in-between). My top tip? Get churros. The trip is incomplete without churros.
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Don’t overdo it. You’ll ruin the wonder of Wonderland if you force yourself to stay too long. It’s free – you can come and go as often as you please.

Keep in mind I did three of the above wrong, so I speak from experience! I think arguably the most important part of your Winter Wonderland experience is the people you bring with you (and trust me, I know the best people).
Bring good company.
Make good choices.
You’ll be fine.

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Waste not, want not.

I’ve never really liked contributing to waste – especially when it comes to food. Full disclosure: I’m usually pretty good at finishing off a plate, but when my gut fails me I have a sneaky habit of trying to palm off whatever I have left to anyone closest or willing. I get a sense of abandonment when I realise that I’ve let something sit in the back of the fridge, lonely and dejected, edging closer and closer to its doom.

So what do I do when I come home to find 6 bananas teetering on the brink of rejection? Throw together banana bread, of course! Now I’m not going to turn around and give a tutorial to some long-standing family recipe (yet), because there’s really not much to be said for my banana bread at all. Or perhaps to be more accurate; banana-flat-and-soggy-bread. Apparently I don’t yet have that baker’s measuring intuition. I’m taking the fact that it still tasted of banana at the end as a win.

I do, however, encourage experimentation. Don’t think of your sad and wilting food as done in. Think of it instead as an opportunity to get crazy in the kitchen.  Make a soup, a cake, a sauce… anything. Sure, occasionally that’s easier said than done, as with my little malfunction above. Then again, sometimes it’s the action of making rather than the result which is therapeutic. Also think of the empty calories you’re saving yourself if the project fails!

There’s more to this post than an empty little story of a baking expedition gone wrong. In the build up to the new year, many graduates like myself will probably be having a pretty tough time when it comes to landing a job. I keep having to remind myself (rather, others keep reminding me) that this likely has very little to do with my qualifications and a whole lot to do with the time of year. Although more opportunities will absolutely present themselves in 2015, there’s still a month worth of days left to fill before we can bid 2014 farewell. You can get frustrated because of not having anything to do, or you could create your own opportunities – however small. It’s up to you.

Don’t allow yourself a wasted day.

p.s. if anybody actually has a decent recipe for some banana bread, I’m all ears.

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