Year in Review: 2013

Better late than never, as they say! My annual year in review for 2013 begins now. In summary, it’s been a very full and eventful year. Some of my friends left Hugo & Cat but I also have made new ones this year too. I got a new work visa to stay in the UK another three years, I achieved the next level of kickboxing belt, I went surfing in Spain and I dyed my hair red. I only hope 2014 is even better and just as eventful!

January

  • Sherrie and I attended possibly one of the most cheesy (but very fun) musicals in London, Viva Forever. Sherrie, you spice up my life!
  • London got snow – always seems to come in January! I hope it comes soon again this year.
  • Happy Birthday Miriam!
  • Booked flights home to Canada to sort out a new visa in the summer.

February

  • I started the great cake adventure of 2013, beginning with a red velvet cheesecake which won hearts and fans.
  • I won tickets to the Kensington Roof Gardens for a movie date with my girl Sherrie
  • In the midst of a very bitterly frigid winter, Mother Nature graced us with balmy double figure temperatures. The people of London rejoice.
  • More cake. This time a chocolate peanut butter layer cake. Mmmmmmmmm.
  • Anita took me to see Justin Timberlake at the Forum, where as he walks on stage I promptly reverted to my 15 year old self, squealing like all the teenage girls I despise at concerts. HOW DOES HE DO THAT?!
  • I fell into a massive girl crush for J-Law. F*cking amazing woman. See her awesomeness here.
  • Rich left Hugo & Cat, so I made a carrot cake for him. A carrot cake that still continues to be requested to this day.

March

  • Cake continues… with carrots.
  • I made a Chocolate Guinness Cake for the St. Patricks Day Hugo & Cat bake-off. Disaster ensued. I cried. Further detail of the incident here.
  •  My good friend James left Hugo & Cat, so I made him a carrot cake too. Gee, lots of cake in March eh?
  • Booked a trip to Edinburgh for May. HERE I COME SCOTLAND!

April

  • James’ annual pub crawl. Always a winner. I made it to all 24 pubs this year and by the end of the day was ready to collapse and just sleep on the sidewalk, from fatigue (not intoxication).
  • Oreo cheesecake!
  • I started assisting classes at Springhealth kickboxing and spending a ridiculous amount of time at the gym in general as I also started training towards my next belt.
  • Attempted another chocolate guinness cake. This one managed to stay off the pavement.
  • The weather finally starts to get better and Joelle and I get our annual picnic in Green Park.
  • Due to the warmer climate, we also begin our work lunches in the park.

May

  • I take a lovely first class train journey on a beautiful day up to Edinburgh. Lovely. I meet some awesome ladies at my hostel and proceed to spend most of time with them. Miss you Maria and Lara!
  • Johnny leaves Hugo & Cat, thus continuing the mass exodus of my work friends in 2013. 😦
  • I head back to Kensington Roof Gardens with the lovely Anita for some cocktails!

June

  • The Sound of Change at Twickenham Stadium brought Beyonce and friends to London. Then somebody decided to jump in front of train stopping transport back into central London which meant 3 miles walk, 3 train stations, 1 train, and a £55 cab ride home.
  • I spent a very painful £550 extra for my summer flights home to Canada, having to push the dates back to fit with my new work visa application.
  • I reached my one year anniversary for kickboxing, and I’m still hooked!
  • Went to the zoo for the very first time in my life. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! 😀
  • Went to my very first live filming of a television show, the Graham Norton Show. Guests were Sandra Bullock, Samuel L Jackson, and Nick Frost. It was quite the fun night with my ladies from kickboxing. 🙂

July

  • Business trip to Helsinki – always love these!
  • Nam visits from Vancouver on his way through London to a trip around Europe. We went to see Thriller Live!, which was quite fun.
  • My girl Sherrie and I brought sexy back at the Wireless Festival with Justin Timberlake. JT never disappoints! 😀
  • I graded and passed for my next kickboxing belt, Red 2. Pretty sure it was the hottest day of the year, but we did it!
  • Twenty-fifth birthday celebrations with friends in the beer gardens, whoop whoop!
  • Got my new Nokia Lumia 925 and I still absolutely love it! Wouldn’t go back to iPhone now.
  • I went home to Canada for a couple of weeks while I applied for a new work visa to stay in the UK. I’m now legally able to stay for another 3 years!
  • Got to see one of my best friends play Joseph in the local production of Joseph and the technicolor dreamcoat three times!

August

  • Hugo & Cat summer party! Good times are had as always.
  • Booked a trip to Spain for a surfing holiday with my lovely lady friends from kickboxing!
  • Explored Kew Gardens for the first time with my friend Keith on a lovely bank holiday weekend.

September

  • Went to a burlesque show with Sherrie – was so much fun and a really interesting experience!
  • My favourite season arrived and I commenced celebrate by making pumpkin pie, as per usual.
  • SURFING IN SPAIN with the ladies. I’d never been on a holiday with friends before, but this turned out to be absolutely epic. I faced a fear of open water, and learned a few things about surfing too.
  • My two year anniversary in London came and passed. It’s been a whirlwind so far and it only continues to get better as I expand my horizons. Thank you London and all of my new friends here for what you’ve given me so far.

October

  • The guys at work went to Hong Kong for another Nokia film shoot and brought me back some awesome gifts.
  • I decided to move for the first time since I arrived in London. So far this has been an excellent decision as I’m now so much closer to the gym and all my social activities. Transport has also become infinitely easier.
  • I made cake again, for the first time in a long time. It was easily the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made.
  • Work and kickboxing continue to fill all my empty minutes.

November

  • Two of my kickboxing instructors went to the world’s and brought back championship medals. So proud and privileged to be trained by them!
  • Back to Helsinki for a couple days again – always love this! Unfortunately the trips are always a bit too short for my liking.
  • Kat’s birthday and a great night out in Camden to see Nick’s band Shapes & Colours. Always fun.
  • For the first time in my life I coloured my hair. It was time for a change and a little adventure. Turns out I love myself as a redhead and so do a lot of other people. 😀
  • Moved into my new home in North London. Now I will have more time to sleep and get to my social events quicker – boom!

December

  • Kat and I geeked out and went to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour of the Making of Harry Potter where we squealed with delight over butterbeer, props, and sets.
  • I began a countdown for not only my holidays but also for Morgan’s arrival.
  • Hugo & Cat Christmas party whoop whoop!
  • Morgan arrives with a satchel full of gifts from home – thanks Mum!
  • Christmas with my second family in London was great – it consisted of doing barely anything all day and eating and playing xbox and watching TV. Perfect.
  • New Years Eve was spent in a quiet pub with friends and there was no fuss made – just how I like it. Didn’t have to worry about crowds or stupid people on underground transportation. Perfect.
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No such luck o’ the Irish

Yesterday was not a good day. Neither was Thursday evening for that matter. There was certainly no luck to be had for me, Irish or no.

A St. Patrick’s Day themed bake-off took place on Friday (yesterday) and so in advance I had done some research and found something I wanted to submit to the competition in a third attempt to win the crown, despite my hatred for weeknight baking. Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake. On my way home from the office on Thursday I picked up a few things I needed and then set off home to bake cake.

Since this cake is meant to resemble a pint of Guinness with a large black-ish base and a creamy white foam-style icing topping, I doubled the recipe so that I had lots of batter for the cake (which doesn’t have layers) and to make some cupcakes too. The problem was that somehow I managed to not double JUST ONE INGREDIENT. One of the most important ingredients too… Sugar. So half the amount of sugar was in the cake than was meant to be and it was too late to fix it.

After sulking around the house for a bit trying to decide what to do (I couldn’t possibly take a less-than-perfect cake to a bake-off, my reputation would be ruined!), I finally decided to head back to the (luckily) 24hr Tesco near my flat and pick up some more of the ingredients to make a second cake. I had to win, and I couldn’t go empty handed, even if it meant going to the store at 11pm and coming back to make another cake until 2am on a school night.

Then the next morning, I left the flat with a cake carrier in one hand and a tray of cupcakes in the other. Waiting for the bus, I set the cake carrier on the bus stop bench and put the cupcakes on top of it. Seeing the bus coming, I picked up the cupcakes in one hand and unfortunately the balance was all wrong on the cake, flipping it to the ground and covering the inside of the cake carrier with icing. NO! But I talked myself up the rest of the journey, thinking to myself “it’s okay… I can scrape the icing from the inside and re-ice the cake… do a bit of surgery and it’ll be fine!”.

Once off the train and walking to the office, I needed to stop and switch hands as both items were fairly heavy. So I stopped at a bench outside of Urban Outfitters on Commercial Street and set everything down so as to change my carrying method. Somehow, I don’t know why, one of the ONLY TWO clips on my carrier came open. I’m sure you’ve guessed now what happened. I picked up the carrier and the cake did a face-plant on the pavement.

Before and after the tragedy

Before and after the tragedy

After having made two cakes, staying up until after 2am, and already having the cake dropped once… my emotions gave way. I sat down on the bench, defeated, and did my best to hold back tears. I did so well until I got to the office. Sherrie immediately knew something was wrong, but when I tried to tell her what happened I burst into ridiculous sobs.

I did pick up the cake and put it back in the box and, after recovering from my ridiculous break down, I proceeded to try and salvage what I could. I cut off the top of the cake, which was the only part that had touched the ground, and tried to get as much icing as I could back onto the cake. There still wasn’t enough icing though, as it was still on the pavement outside Urban Outfitters, waiting for some lucky puppy to come along and lick it up. At lunch I went to the four nearest supermarkets in search of store-bought icing to at least make it presentable again, but had no luck. In the end I submitted my cupcakes and I still didn’t win, or even place, for a third time in a row. TOTAL BOLLOCKS.

ANYWAY, this doesn’t mean I’m done with baking – just weeknight baking so long as I can help it. My friend James has resigned from H&C and is leaving me to produce his much more exciting feature film, The Fitzroy – so I will make him a farewell cake this week but that is the last one, no more weeknight cakes after that.

My good friend Netra brought on a spark of genius though… and I’m considering making my own book (on Blurb maybe?) that I can give away at Christmas which will feature a selection of all my favourite cakes/goodies I make this year. I’m open to title ideas so let me know if you’ve got a brilliant one!

Three things you should know

London Winter
Definition: A supreme force that sucks all will to live from you.

I have never ever before hated Winter. I guess there’s a first time for everything. Maybe it’s that the days here are a bit shorter (since it’s a bit further North than Vancouver). Or that whether there is precipitation or not it is always cloudy and grey. Or maybe it’s that the wind chill makes you want to throw a temper tantrum at Mother Nature for being so bloody downright cruel all the time.

And then when the sun comes out and you get a high of 10 degrees you realise how complete and utterly depressed you were and you just couldn’t accept it because there was no real explanation other than the lack of good weather. I GET IT NOW ENGLAND. I UNDERSTAND YOU. Let’s blow this fascist popsicle stand and re-settle somewhere with better weather.

Other than my seemingly daily temper tantrums at Mother Nature, life has been good. Kickboxing continues as always, which fills most of my weeknights. The rest of my spare time I’ve put into several social events around London, sitting around at home (cause in this weather you don’t want to do anything usually), or BAKING.

Yes, that means cake. I’ve decided to start a new project in which I bake something new for the office every other week. Bekah’s Baking Bonanza truly began with a Red Velvet Cheesecake and then was today followed with a Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake. Every other week I will put a poll to the office of four things I can bake, and they will vote. Whichever gets the most votes I make for the following Monday and the runner up gets put in the next vote with three other new options. Sounds fun, right?

I’m hoping that baking (and plenty of wine consumption) will keep my mind off of travelling for a few months. Since my awesome employer has said they will sponsor me to stay here a bit longer, it means I need to save money to do so. The problem is the border agency likes to make it really difficult and expensive. Here’s my cost breakdown:

  • Visa application cost: £512
  • Maintenance funds: £900
  • Round-trip flight to Vancouver: £650

That means I need to spend £2062 just to continue being an exceptional resident and employee in Britain. Those maintenance funds are to prove I can support myself in the UK (even though I already have a job) since I don’t qualify for public funds assistance, and they have to be in my bank account for 90 consecutive days prior to my visa application. “But why the flight to Vancouver?” you ask. Well, you see, there’s this really stupid rule where I cannot directly switch into the Tier 2 General sponsorship visa from the current visa I’m on (Tier 5 Youth Mobility). My current visa is the only one you’re not allowed to switch directly from. Of course! So this means I must return to Canada to re-apply from my home country and I am at the mercy of Ottawa, passport-less, while they process my application for anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. Sounds fun, right?! No. Just….. NO.

The reason I put myself through this is because my current visa expires in August, and I feel like I’m not quite done with Europe yet (despite the shit weather in London). I need at least another couple of years to get in some more travelling and my career is going well. Perhaps I’ll be able to afford a short trip in the spring before I go back to Canada in June to handle my visa application – something close like Edinburgh or Barcelona maybe.

So what were those three things you should know?

  1. Winter in the UK sucks. Avoid it at all costs.
  2. I’m becoming a master baker. Laugh all you like –  you’ll be coming to me for advice and goodies soon my friends.
  3. I’m planning on staying in London for a bit longer.

I know there are people out there searching. Searching for baking tips, cool cake recipes, help with UK visa applications, and perhaps the meaning of life and why they’re here. I can help with all of these, except that last one – you’ll have to see my awesome LDS friends for that one. Feel free to get in touch if you need advice on any of the first three though.

Love always – BEKS