12 November 2014

Trusting Your Instincts

I think anyone who's ever moved away, took a risk, or dived head first into a new opportunity can relate to this inexplicable feeling that they need to do it. It's scary, because you don't know if it will be the best or worst thing to happen to you but somehow you know you have to try. You're pulled towards whatever it is, and you seem to go above and beyond to make it happen.
Then there's another feeling. One that nags at you when something doesn't feel right. When presented with an opportunity you're unmotivated to go for it, make excuses and are just plain lackadaisical about the whole thing, even though it's something you "should" be excited about.
I recently learned a valuable life lesson about this feeling and realised it's actually a very important part of life, despite the fact it can be mistaken for apathy at times. I took it for granted until I ignored it and went against my better judgment. Let me tell you a quick story.

I worked in a lovely shop here in Leicester. They hired me when I moved over from Canada and was getting overlooked continuously for jobs. I will always be grateful to them for saving me in the nick of time. I loved working there and had an absolute blast. But I needed more hours. It's just that simple.
I eventually came across a new opportunity. It ticked all the right boxes - full time, high hourly wages, chances to advance, and lovely people. I was hired in the interview and it was mixture of relief and panic. Relief because I now had full time hours, I could afford more things and I could even start saving properly again. Panic because I was scared of getting the job. Even from when I filled out the application form something felt off. I told myself it was just scared of change, even though I've never been scared of change before. Maybe it was because I was getting older and more settled? I decided to go for it anyway. Full time work is really hard to come by, who was I to say no?
I definitely knew something wasn't right when one day my co-worker from the job I was leaving asked "Are you excited to start your new job?" and I answered, "Actually, no." I had no idea where that answer came from. I usually love new things. New places, new people, new adventures. Even if they panic me a little. I get very excited when these things are laid out in front of me. The fact that I was anything but excited told volumes. I just didn't listen.
I muted out what my gut was telling me, assuring myself it was because of this and that, and prepared myself to take on whatever was thrown at me. I would work hard, climb the ladder, carve out a career for myself and..... I hated it. I mean, I really hated it. I was uncomfortable in the work, I was undertrained for where I was, I received minor injuries and and came close to big injuries multiple times. I became very anxious at the thought of stepping through the doors at the start of my shift. I didn't sleep. I barely ate. I became quite hard on myself, thinking that the reason I hated the job so much was because I was being stupidly lazy. It's just hard work, why was I taking it so badly?
Jim sat me down, talked to me and tried to convince me to quit. I felt it was selfish on my part as all the responsibilities would be thrown at him. Despite his support, my Mother's support and the fact that my insides were screaming at me to quit, I refused to leave. I trekked on, telling myself I was lucky to have this job, that I looked for so long to find a full time work and now that I have it I'm being stupid to hate it this much.
I slowly began to realise I should have listened to my gut from the beginning. All along it was telling me this wasn't right, I wouldn't like it. Why did I leave my other lovely job? Sure it was less money, but I was happy there. Why didn't I trust myself more? I'm usually good at figuring these things out and being able to cut certain aspects out of my life when they don't make me happy anymore. I started to see that this feeling has been behind a lot of big decisions all my life. That I've not only listened to the good parts that say "Yeay! Let's go for it!" but I've subconsciously been listening to the "Meh. It's not for me." too.

Thankfully, one evening I received an email from a job I had applied for months and months back asking me to attend an interview. Suddenly, all the excitement, the motivation, the scary-but-in-a-good-way butterflies, they all rushed back to me. This felt familiar, this felt right, this was that feeling I was lacking. I had to go. I HAD to. There was just one problem... I was scheduled to work during the interview. That sealed it for me. My instinct was telling me to go to this interview and for the first time in weeks I actually listened. So, I quit. I had no guarantee that I would get this job or even be presented with any other offers in the near future, but I still quit.
The difference was instant. I noticed I was practically skipping to the interviews, despite the fact I had no safety net if I was passed up, but I was so excited and pumped and loved being around these people, this atmosphere. It fit me.
If this was how happy I was during the interviews, can you imagine my excitement when I was told I got the job? I utterly love it there. I couldn't think of a place I would rather work. I'm incredibly happy.

I'm continuously grateful for the way things work out. I feel they always do, somehow. Even if the end result isn't the outcome I've wanted, they've worked out. I was never sure why this happened? I always put it down to sheer dumb luck and an ability to shrug my shoulders, adapt and just get on with it. This experience has made me think that maybe instinct has a bigger part to play too. Somehow, even when you've no idea which decision to make, you're already unknowingly guiding yourself. Your gut instinct knows what you want, though sometimes it's hard to read. It's obvious when it's very clear signs like getting excited about something, even though it's daunting and scary. It's much harder to read when it's telling you something is just not right for you because it can feel like you're just making excuses and being lazy about it. Of course, I do believe there is a fine line but, at the end of the day, if you're not feeling enthusiastic about something, doesn't that say a lot right there?

Aoife x

15 July 2014

My Leicester // Red Hot World Buffet

If there's one thing myself and Jim do best it's all you can eat buffets. It's a tradition of ours ever since Vancouver and we always get our money's worth. I genuinely believe we have a skill for putting food away. Usually we're both very health conscious at home and we frequent the gym quite a lot, but sometimes you just need a treat. A new world-buffet opened recently in Leicester and despite our busy schedules we decided to find time for a lunch date there.

The theme of the place is pretty much world traveler, which I really like. There's airport decor and signs throughout. Even the food stations have gate numbers with their destination's flag showing you which type of food is at each one.

Our first temptation was the sushi bar, of course! The chef at this station was so happy and friendly, he couldn't make us enough delicious rolls and really seemed to enjoy talking about the food he was preparing.

At each of the stations they have street scenes from where the food originates. It was really interesting to see as the photos were of market places where this type of food would mostly be served.

Their deco was really interesting. Below each dish they had a dried ingredient belonging to the dish or the region it originates. Mushrooms under the mushroom pizza, spices below the Indian dishes, lentils below the dal, even sweets displayed below the dessert sections.

The food was really, really good but I was limited. Having a dairy allergy can hinder the dishes you're allowed to try. Quite a lot of Indian is made with ghee, a clarified butter paste, and while they did have markings for gluten free and vegetarian on the cards, they didn't include any possible dairy ingredients. I had to feel my way around and avoid anything that may contain butter or cream, but there was still plenty to choose from.

The dessert station was so fun! It was beautifully decorated. It had an ice cream section (unfortunately, no sorbet), an assortment of amazing looking cakes and a chocolate fountain with fruit, marshmallows and other things to dip into the chocolaty goodness. 

Again, I couldn't have a lot of the stuff in the dessert section. But it's ok, I get quite a few servings of fruit when I'm at buffets. I prefer being around food this way, I like having control over what I'm eating without seeming fussy. Red Hot also has a lot of jellies and chewy sweets to use in the chocolate fountain so I could have as many of them as I wanted.

This is typically a dairy-free dessert for me at buffets (first plate of many). Not so bad, huh?

No trip to an all you can eat is complete until you get the ridiculously unflattering mid-bite photos.

I was eventually defeated. Thankfully, we went to the cinema right around the corner to watch How to Train Your Dragon 2 (which I loved!) so our stomachs could rest. Totally worth it!

It's a really cool place. If you're in the area I'd totally head in for a bite, or two, or three. The chefs are so smiley and are really, really proud of their dishes. You won't leave hungry, at all.

Aoife x

29 June 2014

Harry Potter 15th Anniversary Book Set

I will never forget the time I bought my first Harry Potter book. I was around 11 or 12 years old and visiting my Sister who lived in New York at the time. While waiting in line in a book store I noticed a stand full of these amazingly colourful books. I picked up one of the books, mesmerized. The picture on the front was of a boy flying through a sand coloured stone archway, almost throwing himself off his broom to catch what looked like a ball. Inside there were three stars at the top corners of each page and beautiful, detailed illustrations at the beginning of each chapter.
I read the blurb on the back which told me it was about a boy who attended a school for witchcraft and wizardry. My first thought jumped to 'The Worst Witch', a British made children's TV program about a barely magical, clumsy witch who went to a magical boarding school set in a castle. It was very popular in Ireland and something I really enjoyed watching. 
I had to buy this book.

I read the book continuously for the rest of the holiday and refused to put it down on the plane home. Once back in Ireland I dashed to Easons for the second book. I looked around for the beautiful, golden cover but couldn't find it anywhere. Then I found the words 'Harry Potter' and I was so disappointed. The covers were horrible! I picked it up and flicked through it. There were no illustrations at the start of any of the chapters and no stars in any of the corners. The artwork had been part of the magic for me and these were so lacklustre in comparison. Once I got into the story it was all forgotten about, but whenever I bought the next book in the series I always had a twinge of regret for being denied the pretty, American versions.

I decided recently to re-read through all the books. I'm settled into an apartment with a growing book collection, no housemates, no visa to expire soon and when we have kids in the future we will undoubtedly read Harry Potter to them, so what better time to buy a truly special set? I originally shopped for the American covers by Scholastic. The same ones I had loved when I first picked up the book. But then I came across this 15th anniversary set illustrated by Kazu Kibuishi and I immediately fell in love. Just like when I saw the first one all those years ago, I had to have these books.

When they arrived I couldn't have been happier. This set really is beautiful. The spines make up a wonderful scene of Hogwarts at sunset (please excuse the bulging sides, I've read through the books and the spines have bulked from being handled) and the sides of the box show students and staff attending a Hogsmeade visit in the winter snow.

The covers... oh, the covers! They are so amazing! My favourite is the first one with Harry and Hagrid in Diagon Alley. It's just so beautiful.
The backs are incredible too, they show Harry facing away from the viewer, looking to a moment in the story. On each of the books Harry remains in a similar stance, but grows. I absolutely love that.

And the best, best, best part? They all have the original illustrations at the start of the chapters that I missed so much. I was glad to see the publishers haven't changed them. I only ever got to experience the first book, so I always wondered what would have been captured from the stories in the chapter.
I'll probably offend a lot of die-hard movie fans here but, for me, Harry in the films has never been like Harry in the books. The illustrations below match up exactly with how I imagined Harry for years and years while reading, even though I've never seen most of these illustrations until this year.

Here are just a few of my favourites from the chapter heads...

I love the set that I bought. They're absolutely perfect! But they will be used. Taken care of, of course. But definitely used a lot. I don't plan to store them pristinely on a shelf. Their spines will get cracked, their corners will get worn and their pages will get fingerprints on them. They will look handled and read and loved... the way books should be. And when I read them to my kids someday I hope, like me, the pictures and illustrations will set their imagination alight.

Aoife x