Campus during Winter Break

This will be my second Christmas far away from my family and friends.  Although not spending Christmas Break at home with the ones you love might seem scary at the beginning, it is not at all as daunting as it may sound. Looking back now, I can say that I really enjoyed spending last Christmas in Colchester, so I decided not to go home for Christmas this year.

If you are among the ones spending the winter holiday on campus remember that you have no reasons to feel lonely. There are many other students who choose to do the same, so why not take advantage of the opportunity to meet new people?

While spending the holiday on campus last year and seeing pictures from home I was slowly starting to regret my decision. However, while wondering around campus I met a surprisingly large number of students from my home country who were in a similar situation. We ended up having an amazing time, celebrating both Christmas and New Year’s together. I organized everything from the Christmas tree to traditional food in the same way I used to do every year with my family and for the first time being so far away from them I started to feel like home.

To make things better, Student’s Union organizes a wide variety of events throughout the Winter Break. There will be some Christmas Parties, movie screenings in Cine10 as well as board games and pool tournaments. Those who enjoy travelling and seeing new places were not forgotten either. SU organises day trips to Cardiff, Winder Wonderland, Oxford and Cambridge throughout this time.  And let’s not forget about what Colchester has to offer. Some coffee and hot chocolate always make things better!  There are many amazing coffee shops and restaurants out there which give a warm welcoming Christmas feeling.

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So explore Colchester, try new things, see new places and make the best out of this Christmas!

 

Winter Recipes

Here are some cheap and easy winter recipes for you to try over the Christmas holidays with your family. If they turn out well then you can even show your flatmates when you get back to uni!

Lasagne 

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

  • Olive oil
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 500g pack of lasagne sheets
  • 175g cheddar cheese
  • 400 ml creme fraiche

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and carrot. Fry until soft.
  2. Add in the garlic and fry for an extra 1 minute and then add in the mince whilst breaking it up. Cook until the mince is brown.
  3. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree.
  4. Mix the creme fraiche and cheddar cheese in a bowl with 2 tbsp of water to make a cheese sauce.
  5. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Spread the mince and sauce in the bottom of a roasting tin, followed by layers of lasagne sheets to fit across the whole of the tin and then the cheese sauce. Repeat this sequence until the tin is full, making sure that the last layer on the top is cheese sauce. Sprinkle the top with more cheese if you wish.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Serve.

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Cheese, leek and bacon pasta

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • Olive oil
  • 300g leek, finely sliced
  • 8 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
  • 400g pasta
  • 100g herb and garlic soft cheese

Method

  1. Heat the oil, add the leeks and 2 tbsp of water. Cook until the leeks are soft. Add the bacon and fry until cooked.
  2. Cook the pasta following the instructions on the pasta packet. When you drain the pasta keep some of the water aside in a mug.
  3. Add the cream cheese in to the leek and bacon mix, adding some of the saved pasta water.
  4. Over the heat stir in the cooked pasta and add more water if needed, until the pasta is covered.

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Sausages and mash

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 8 sausages
  • Bisto gravy granules
  • 900g potatoes
  • 50g butter
  • 100ml milk
  • Vegetables of your choice

Method

  1. Place the sausages in a roasting tin and cook to the temperature instructed to on the packaging. Keep turning them to make sure they are browning all around.
  2. Peel and then slice the potatoes. Put them in a pan of boiling water and boil until very soft, then drain.
  3. Put the butter and milk in a pan and heat until melted. Pour this over the potatoes and mash until smooth, using salt and pepper to season if you wish.
  4. Boil the vegetables of your choice until soft and then drain.
  5. Mix the gravy granules with boiling water and stir until smooth and to the consistency that you wish.
  6. Add everything to a plate, pour over the gravy and serve.

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Mince Pies

Ingredients (serves 18):

  • 225 diced cold butter
  • 350g plain flour
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 280g mincemeat
  • 1 small egg
  • Icing sugar to dust

Method

  1. Mix the butter, flour and caster sugar together to make the pastry and add in a pinch of salt. Create a ball and then knead it without adding any liquid. This can be used straight away or it can be chilled and saved to use later.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6/fan 180C and line 18 holes of the tins with pastry. If you do not have cutters to cut the pastry in to circles, you can roll it in to walnut sized balls and spread it out across the base of the tin hole.
  3. Spoon the mincemeat equally across the pies.
  4. Next, either use a smaller circle cutter or take smaller balls of pastry than before and spread it out in to a circle, large enough to cover the top of the pies as a lid. Make sure that the lid is on securely and is attached to the base of the pie.
  5. Beat the egg and brush the top of the pies. Then bake for 20 minutes until golden.
  6. Once cooked and cooled, then place on a wire rack and sprinkle with icing sugar.

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Undecided about studying abroad?

At the moment, my life consists of travelling across Oceania and Asia during the summer break on my year abroad.
In fact right now, I’m writing this blog post whilst waiting to fly to New Zealand!
It’s weird to think that this time last year I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to do a year abroad or not.
I signed up to have a year abroad included with my course all the way back when I did my UCAS, and to be honest it just sounded like a cool idea.
I didn’t really think too much of it, I just thought I would add it onto my course because it sounded exciting. Going away and living somewhere completely new for a year sounded perfect after growing up in a sleepy English village.

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However around this time last year, I had to decide whether I was actually going to do this or not.
In making my decision, what frustrated me the most is that you mainly only hear about the good side about doing a year abroad. It’s the stuff people want to shout about. Everyone tells you the best things but it’s often difficult to get the full picture.
But it’s a daunting choice to make no matter what way you look at it. There’s so much uncertainty and deliberation involved: it shouldn’t be a decision that is made lightly…

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I for one wasn’t 100% sure about doing a year abroad until around December in my second year. I had to choose between staying in my student house for another year or taking the plunge and commit to a year away.
A good thing which helped me with my decision was a pro and con list about doing a year abroad.
One of the main things I found from this was the people that I would be leaving behind. Apart from saying goodbye to my family and friends, I thought that if I did a year abroad then I would be returning without all of my graduating friends. I felt as if I needed to complete my university journey with the people I started it with.
However, I looked at the pro side and it was just too tempting to resist. I would never have such an easy opportunity to drop everything and just experience something completely insane.

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It’s a tough decision and it’s not something that you can just decide overnight. But consider the chances you’ll have to do something similar again.
If you can live with missing out on the chance, then go ahead and give it a miss.
But if you can’t resist a chance to see the world for yourself and take a risk then you better start researching!

Best Places to Eat in Colchester

Hello!

In this blog I am going to be writing about my top 3 places to eat in Colchester town. Sometimes it is nice to get off campus and have something different to Zest, The Kitchen, The Canteen or Happy Days! There is a wide variety of food in town and although it is a bit more expensive than on campus, I think the food is worth it!

Number 5 – Playhouse

This is a Wetherspoons and has a very large variety of food to choose from, from burgers, to curry, to pasta. They show their menu online, however they do not show prices, but I know that the food is cheap and they have some great deals! Inside they have it set out a bit like a theatre with characters from films set up as the audience, which makes it different and entertaining. It is on St. John’s Street, so it is easy to get to by bus or taxi.

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Number 4 – Rose and Crown

This is actually a pub situated in Wivenhoe. They serve things like burgers, burritos, baked potatoes, pies and even a roast dinner! They have something for everyone and it is in a great location on the river, so it’s a really pretty typical English pub.Even if you don’t want to go for food, it’s a nice place to go for drinks too.

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Number 3 – Middletons

This is located on North Hill and is one of the places I haven’t actually tried yet! However, I have heard really good reviews about it and would like to go soon. It specialises in burgers and steaks and it isn’t the cheapest restaurant in town, but I believe for the quality of food it is worth it! They also have a lunch specials menu, which is 1 Course £7.45 2 Courses £9.95 or 3 Courses £10.95 Monday-Saturday 12pm-3pm. It’s a great deal!

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Number 2 – Prezzo

Prezzo is an Italian chain restaurant on Culver Street in town. They serve mainly pizza and pasta for mains but have a couple of other options too. They accept student discount but usually have some great other deals on too. For example, at the moment they are offering 40% off main meals, so it really is worth checking their website before you go! The restaurant interior is modern, so it has a good atmosphere and the food is good too.

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And finally…

Number 1 – North Hill Noodle Bar

This is definitely my favourite place to eat in Colchester! It is not a chain restaurant, therefore it is something different. It is an Asian cuisine serving noodles, rice and soup and they have great desserts too! The Noodle Bar is probably my favourite Asian restaurant that I have eaten at. It is on North Hill in town and I would recommend booking before you go, as it is relatively small and sometimes gets packed!

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My First Thanksgiving in Los Angeles

Here in the US, there’s another holiday that’s celebrated just as much, if not more so, than Christmas: Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a commemoration of a particularly successful harvest season during the time of the Pilgrims in the 1600s. The Pilgrims held a three day long feast and invited so Native Americans. Today Americans mention what they’re thankful for and still enjoy a feast, although it doesn’t last three days!

My university over here gave us a few days off for Thanksgiving break, so me and some friends decided to head over to Los Angeles to see what the West Coast had to offer. We hired some cars and headed off on the 7 hour journey from Flagstaff to LA. I was one of the designated drivers for our trip and at first I was a bit nervous about driving in America but once I made sure to stay on the right side of the road, everything was fine!
thanksgiving-dinner A traditional Thanksgiving dinner but we were on a student budget! Source: http://images.latintimes.com/sites/latintimes.com/files/2015/11/24/thanksgiving-dinner.jpg

Although we left Flagstaff pretty early in the morning we didn’t arrive at our apartment in LA until the evening due to all the traffic LA is famous (or infamous) for. When we eventually reached our destination we headed off to the supermarket to buy our food for our Thanksgiving  dinner the next day. Although, like Christmas, Thanksgiving involves eating much more food than you really should, the food is quite different. Turkey is the main dish, just like Christmas, but there are various side dishes. Unfortunately, as we did our shopping quite last minute there was no turkey left in the shop, so we had to buy chicken instead! We did try to make the rest of our meal pretty authentic though. I was pretty happy when I found out one of my favourite comfort foods was on the menu: macaroni and cheese. We also had stuffing, mashed potatoes, some vegetables and some sweet potato mash. Sometimes the sweet potatoes are even served with marshmallows! Dessert is always the best part of the meal in my opinion and the Thanksgiving tradition is to have pumpkin pie, which we did. I have to say, I wasn’t a huge fan, but luckily we had some back up cheesecake and chocolate cake!
15268001_10207775343001842_8297387909497081762_n It’s Hogwarts!

Americans usually eat their Thanksgiving dinner in the afternoon but we ate ours quite a bit later as we went to Universal Studios Hollywood to enjoy our Thanksgiving Day. This was what I’d been looking forward to the most about our trip. I absolutely love Harry Potter and couldn’t wait to go on one of the rides at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They definitely lived up to my expectations even though I go stuck on one of them for a few minutes! I really felt like I was at Hogwarts and in Hogsmeade. The rest of the day was spent going on all the other rides at Universal, I also really enjoyed the Simpsons themed area. I am a bit of a wimp but I braved the Walking Dead experience ride and came out terrified at the other end.

15230603_10154723542166407_8802024443412332291_n.jpg You could sort of tell it was going to rain!

We wrapped up our time in Los Angeles with a trip to Santa Monica. We were hoping to have a nice time on the beach and on the pier but it just so happened that as soon as we’d had a paddle in the Pacific open it began to chuck it down! This didn’t put a dampener on our last day in LA though as when we were looking for some shelter we found a British food shop. This cheered us all up as we bought a lot of the things we’d been missing. And it meant plenty of treats for the long drive home. It’s the travelling and experiences with new friends that really make my study abroad memorable for me and I can’t wait for even more next term!

The best and the worst of 2016

It’s almost the end of the year, which means a whole year passed and we grew up but the speed and the intensity of some moments in 2016 have probably changed us for life. This  year has shaped our thinking, our environment and, in  our lives in the near future. I decided to create a list of good and bad moments in 2016 that I felt affected me the most.

I became a member of residence life

After one year spent at Essex I became really close to its sense of a family community, so I decided to get involved and help others. ResLife was a good start. I had the chance to develop my skills and make so many friends in such a warm environment. While I was a bit tense and pretty nervous at the beginning, I became friends with all my hall residents. We had lots of fun together and almost didn’t feel the past two months pass by.

Emotions

The most emotional moment and long awaited event in 2016, after “Me before you”, was Leonardo di Caprio winning the Oscar. To be honest, I think I would have given Leo the Oscar when he starred in Titanic. But I guess he realised that not even his death is enough to give him the prize! Eventually, he came back, as a revenant, and ‘of horse’ he had to win. Talent and hard work have been rewarded after such a long time when others would have lost their hope. This motivated me to work hard, despite any set backs.

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Politics

It’s terrible to bring up so many memories especially when they were not very pleasing. Politics disappointed us all. Whether we understand or not, this affected us. Two main events that not only made us concerned but also surprised us, were Brexit and Trump being elected president. Sounds and feels like a lot to take in. Some people were angry, some were pretending to be indifferent and, of course, some were pleased. Some say the end of the world is coming, others sit and like memes about it all. Brexit wasn’t serious until it happened, and Trump was funny until…well, until it wasn’t.

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Uni work.

The old saying ‘Deadlines are coming’ is used by a great deal of students.  Some students have 2 deadlines in a day and never enough time to finish. This is the time when Faser is not to be trusted for its speed, and the amount of unhealthy food, coffee and energy drinks are at dangerously high levels. But neither of these are your main problem. You calculated your study time to every second, including the time spent on toilet scrolling on 9gag.  If you study 10 days, 10 hours each day,  you could easily finish everything. Cut the sleep to get extra time. And guess what happens?! You start both of your assignments in sweat and tears, a day before the deadline. Guess what happens next? That morning you wake up with the worst flu you’ve had in 200 years. The pain is increasing and the struggle is real. You cry every time you look at your bed because you know you have to stay awake until you finish. Skipping this torture, you end up at 8 o’clock, two hours before deadline, with 2 masterpieces. Not really, but you still submit them. Now we are safe. The flu lasted for another 3 days. Luckily no upcoming deadlines. That was intense.

So here we are few weeks until Christmas and the term’s end is quickly approaching. Nothing to worry about. I mean…what other worse could happen in the remaining time of this year? Right?!

 

 

New Year, Healthier You

The new year is nearly here! So it probably means for the 5th year in a row you’re going to eat healthy and do lots of exercise and get that summer body you’ve always dreamed of right? Only to find by the 3rd week of January that bag of chocolate was far to tempting…and that’s the diet over with this year.

Being healthy and feeling better in yourself doesn’t mean going on a really strict diet and getting up and going for runs every morning. It just involves small life changes that can make you feel better in  yourself! Here are my hints and tips to get healthy this new year!

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Source: Giphy

Drink more water

Cut out the fizzy drinks and start drinking more water! 1 glass of fizzy usually have nearly 50% of the recommended daily sugar. Where as drinking water can relieve headaches, help weight loss and helps brain function!

Water can get boring and although plain water is best, flavoured water can add a bit more interest into your diet! Even better, flavour your water with fresh fruit such as strawberries and raspberries. You can buy bottles that will help you do this.

Healthy Pledge 1: Drink more water!

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Source: Giphy

Keeping active

Don’t worry, this isn’t the bit where I tell you you should be getting up at 6am and going for runs.. lets be realistic, no ones going to do that! It is recommended though, that we get 150 minutes of moderate activity &  spend 2 times a week doing strength workout. Here are my tips of how to get active this new year.

  • Join the gym: I know I said the dreaded ‘g word’! But joining the gym is good for keeping fit because there is access to a lot of equipment and resources you don’t have at home! From treadmills, to weight machines and daily classes, there is no excuse not to keep active with a gym membership!
  • Fitness Classes:  If you don’t have the money for a full gym membership there are plenty of fitness classes that you can pay for! There are so many out there such as Zumba, cycle fit, boxfit etc. Find out more about fitness classes on campus here.
  • Walk more: Taking a trip to Tesco?  Live 20 minutes away from campus? Don’t get the bus.. walk! Last year I lived 25 minutes away from campus and walked in every day. This always made me feel so much fitter.

Healthy Pledge 2: Get 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week in!

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Source: Giphy

5 a day

Getting in your 5 fruit and veg a day is very important. Do you even know what is included? Soups, dried fruit and sweet potato are all included in your 5 a day! Made yourself a bowl of sweet potato fries last night? Or had some baked beans on toast? Yeah, they count.Get more info here.

A a great way  to get your 5 a day is to make fruit salads with your lunch. I chop up 3 of my favourite fruits together and put in a bowl. So for example strawberry, raspberry and grapes or banana, watermelon and apple. I think this is a nicer way to eat fruit and I’ve already had 3 of my 5 a day for lunch! Each week I’ll buy a different variety of fruit to have for lunch!

Healthy Pledge 3: Eat your 5 a day

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Source: Popsugar

Pack a lunch

9am start? And again you didn’t get up early enough to pack a lunch, so guess its a store meal deal again.. or even some fries from happy days. But you should really make the effort to pack your own lunch every morning/evening before a long day at uni. Even if you think you’re being healthy by getting a meal deal over fries you’re not. Pre packed sandwiches have a lot of fat in that are not good for you. Not just that, but a loaf of bread is £1 from Tesco and can last you a week. Spending £3 on a meal deal every day is £15 a week. That is a lot of money to waste out of laziness.

Healthy Pledge 4: Take a packed lunch

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Source: HomemadeByYou

Making small lifestyle changes doesn’t take a lot of effort or money. All it takes is simple tips to live a healthier lifestyle. I hope this motivates you to be healthy this new year and get yourself that summer body!

Best and worst presents you can get this Christmas

Prepare yourselves! Christmas is coming!

Remember why we used to love Santa so much? Yep. You got it right: presents. Christmas is all about showing your loved ones how much you care and how much you treasure them. And it’s also that time of the year when it doesn’t have to be your birthday to receive a kickass present from your family (hmm, not that I would know. I keep getting Amazon vouchers as a Christmas present for the past 3 years. Thanks mum).

Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to buy anything I want for myself, but I think the classics are still the best option. Everyone complains about the classic Christmas jumpers from relatives; it seems that when you don’t know what to offer as a present, a woollen jumper is the solution! I seem have a habit of either getting or buying a Christmas jumper every year. By now I already have 7. I even have one with a reindeer on it where if you touch its nose Christmas music starts playing! I will let you decide on this one. Worst present or best present? Honestly, I would count it as the best worst present you can get.

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Source:http://www.tesco.com/direct/ff-light-up-reindeer-christmas-jumper/783-7707.prd

If you decide to stay on campus over Christmas, you will come to realise that one of the best presents you can get is food. Good food. A lot of food. I can’t make a detailed description of the cuisine, because honestly, anything is good. And if it’s homemade… well, that’s even better!

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On the other hand, no matter how willingly you accept every present without making any mean judgment, there are few things you simply can’t accept.  I mean, I would be pretty confused to get a book on Chinese culture written in Chinese or some freaking dental floss ( I brush my teeth, okay?). Until now I thought I’m really unlucky when it comes to Christmas presents, so I amused myself finding out that other people were more disappointed than me:

‘I once received a toilet seat.’

‘A bar of soap.’

‘A book titled 101 Wines Under $5.’

‘I got my own Christmas gift back the next year.’

So, next time when you receive a present make sure you appreciate its value and use. And if you don’t like it, don’t worry, you have an entire year to prepare your revenge. 😉

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Do’s and dont’s for when you go home this Christmas

After a few weeks of non stop assignments and long days in the library, the end of term is finally in sight!

4 weeks await of awkward family interaction and Christmas film watching! Sounds great right?! However it’ll all be over before you can finish the “falalala’s” in deck the halls.

So here are my do’s and don’ts to make the most of the Christmas break…

Do organise your work and don’t leave things to the last minute.

Whilst they officially call it a vacation, it’s extremely likely that you’ll have assignments to do and exams to revise for.

Therefore it’s a good idea to make a schedule before you do anything. If you’re not sure where to start then plan when you’re going to do all of your fun stuff and go from there!

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Do some paid work

Whilst ideally you actually do want some rest, see if you can get your old part time job back for a few weeks whilst you’re in the area. It might make next term’s budget a tad easier!

Don’t lock yourself in your room for a few weeks. Spend time with family and friends!

Probably the most important thing to do if you’re lucky enough to go home for the festive season is to see all of the people you don’t see at University. Whilst it may be annoying to be living under Mum’s rules again, having meals cooked for you and not paying bills is surely a massive plus!

Do the traditions you do every year

Whether it’s a Christmas day walk or a pre Christmas trip to town, make sure you do all of the traditions which make you feel Christmassy. If you don’t have any traditions then you could always start some this year!

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Do buy your presents early!

If you’re unorganised then you should really get this done soon. You’ve probably looked at gift ideas whilst procrastinating anyway, so it surely won’t take too long!

Do make some goals for the new year.

Although your resolutions from this year probably didn’t last beyond January 4th, try making some goals for the new year that you think you could actually achieve. Whether it’s joining a society, or going on holiday, it’s good to have an idea about what you want before the year begins.

Or if making goals isn’t your thing then make some predictions for 2017. Seal it in an envelope and put them in with your Christmas decorations so that this time next year, you can see how many of them you got right and how many you weren’t even close to achieving.

Have fun, do some studying and get in the festive spirit!

My Christmas Studying Abroad

Cold weather. Warming up with hot drinks by the fire place. Venturing out to pick a Christmas tree.

When you think of Christmas you often think of these seasonal traits.

But without the cold weather and excuse to wrap up warm, Christmas would be quite different.

Out here in Australia, the Christmas trees are now going up, shop windows are full of Christmas displays but it’s not “beginning to feel like Christmas” as per usual. With the 30 degree summer heat and different traditions, the festive season so far does seem a bit odd.

One of Brisbane’s attempts of “Christmas in the sun”: an oversized Christmas decoration
Normally in the UK, I would have already been playing Michael Bublé’s Christmas album on repeat for the past few weeks, but out here it just seems a bit odd… Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m not enjoying being in Australia, it’s just interesting seeing how different Christmas is down under.
As its currently the Summer break in Australia, I’m  currently doing a bit of travelling over the Christmas break so for the big day itself, I’ll actually be in Queenstown, New Zealand this year.
I haven’t got anything planned for the big day in particular yet but from the looks of it, a BBQ by the lake in the summer heat seems likely!

Whilst I know this Christmas won’t be the same as usual this year, it’ll be exciting and definitely one to remember.