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Farewell to The Maccabees

The Maccabes Farewell Tour - Last Ever Gig - 1st July 2017

The Maccabees Last Ever Show, Alexandra Palace, Saturday 1st July 2017.

I’ve been thinking about that gig for the last few days now. In the lead up to it, I knew seeing The Maccabees for the last time would be emotional, but I hadn’t anticipated it would have quite this effect. They’re like old friends. Standing next to fellow-fans on Saturday night who have seen them upwards of 50 times, I began to feel a little fraudulent, but this is a band that mean so, so much to me.

The Maccabees Farewell Show - Alexandra Palace 1st July 2017 The Maccabees Farewell Show - Alexandra Palace 1st July 2017

Trying to totter up how many times I’ve seen them myself, I reckon we’re at more than 10 but less than 20 but, that’s at least once a year since I first heard about them. I’m not quite as emotionally connected as some of the other fans I’ve seen who have had the band see them through heartache and upheaval – thankfully my life hasn’t had too much of that in recent years. That said, they have always been there. Some how two or three of their songs always manage to make it on to any new playlist, and they’re still my ‘most played’ on Last FM.

The Maccabees Farewell Show - Alexandra Palace 1st July 2017
The Maccabees Farewell Show - Alexandra Palace 1st July 2017

The Maccabees have always been good. Better than the record, and reliable. I’ve never seen them on bad form, and Saturday night was no exception. I just felt like I needed to note down these feelings that I’m feeling for prosperity. Despite it being the final show, it still didn’t feel like the end. Maybe they’ll all go on to do cool things that I’ll enjoy too, and it’s not like I’m now banned from adding their songs to my playlists – that would be cause for true heartbreak πŸ’”.

We were only kids then…

It feels like a chapter of my life is over, and whether it’s symbolically through this final concert, or because I’m turning 28 this year, that’s weird. They’ve been a constant, it’s not that my music tastes have changed much anyway but I felt like I really invested in them; buying t-shirts and EPs, following their obscure side projects – and hanging those projects up in my living room – not to mention the fluttering at a particular way a live vocal has been arranged and making sure I catch them live even if it’s just on TV and not actually live.

The Maccabees Farewell Show - Alexandra Palace 1st July 2017

I wasn’t the girl bursting any eardrums on Saturday night but I sung along as loud as I always have and got sweatier than I ever have done. It felt so bittersweet when it all finished and echos of ‘Something Like Happiness’ came in and out as we walked back to the car.

If you love them, go ahead and tell them…

I surprised myself, I cry at everything these days; cute old people, sad dogs, the weight of existence… So when no tears came during my favourite songs, as they have done a couple of times before, I thought I might have overcome this. Seeing them all well-up on stage after the final song though, I felt it. I wanted to know why they’re leaving when it makes them so sad… But then, all good things come to an end I suppose and it makes being there that night all the more special and allows my relationship with The Maccabees to continue to be as special as it always has been.

The Maccabees Farewell Show - Alexandra Palace 1st July 2017
The Maccabees Farewell Show - Alexandra Palace 1st July 2017
The Maccabees Farewell Show - Alexandra Palace 1st July 2017

They made 17 year old me’s dreams come true by bringing out Jamie T, because of course they did, because they’re the best! And Jack PeΓ±ate, of ‘best friend of Adele and for some reason a recluse’ fame. After seeing a snap of the previous night’s performance with Marcus Mumford on stage, I kind of just expected a repeat and kicked myself for allowing spoilers, but they surprised and they didn’t allow it to take away from it being their night.

It’s actually pretty difficult to put into words how it feels to be glad that you were somewhere. I’ve had those moments at Glastonbury and even other Maccabees gigs (Hey, 2009 rise of Mumford & Sons) but these songs, and these guys, they really, really mean something to me and I can’t quite put that part into words, but I’m still going to keep putting their stuff on my walls.

Plus, you know, I’ll be front-row-centre if they ever change their mind. πŸ’“

Saving Coin Without Trying πŸ’°

Spreadsheet on Macbook with Tulips

Mo’ money, mo’ money! πŸ’Έ

Saving money has been at the forefront of my mind a lot in the last year. Switching jobs around, and quitting one with not much of back up plan (good for mental health, bad for bank balance) has meant I’ve spent the last 9 months or so being a bit more careful.

 

Main monthly savings

I’ve managed to build myself up a little nest egg using the ‘Days of the Month’ method, which I saw floating around Pinterest a while ago; this is where I put away Β£100 a month plus an additional Β£1 for each day in the month, e.g. February was Β£128, January was Β£131 etc. In addition to the money I had put away before adding that element to it, it’s pretty satisfying to see it tick along and is definitely something I would recommend. I do have this on direct debit but it’s essentially saving an extra Β£1 a day, which is certainly do-able for me when put like that. It also means that at that current rate, I’ll have over Β£1,500 by January 2018, though I also plan on adding to it more once I’m a little more settled in this new job, which I only started last month.

 

Saving Spreadsheet on Macbook Pro

 

Spending/Savings Spreadsheet

I must admit, I have become a little obsessed with my ‘Outgoings’ spreadsheet and find myself tinkering with it a few times a week to ensure it’s accurate. In terms of bigger payments and making sure I know how much is going out, it’s been really useful to see everything all in one place. Knowing exactly how much I have leftover, even when it comes to one-off emergency or luxury payments has been key to keeping on top of my savings goals.

My inner nerd really, really enjoyed putting in the formulas that allow it to know what’s carried over and what to add up and take away. It’s a pretty simple spreadsheet but I’ve made a template that you can download here and have a play with if you’re that way inclined. Make sure to check out the formulas beforehand so that it all runs smoothly. πŸ˜‰

 

Saving in the background

I’ve seen a few personal finance apps floating around for a while now, in fact, around the same sort of time that I discovered Plum, I was browsing The Dainty Squid and saw Kaylah had posted about her saving experiences with Digit.

Plum is an automated savings chatbot that monitors your spending habits and adjusts your savings accordingly. Securely linked to your bank account, it learns as you spend and so far I couldn’t be happier with it. On top of all that, it’s also pretty cute in that it sends you Facebook messages when you reach certain milestones.

Since I started using it back in the middle of January, I’ve managed to squirrel away just over Β£30. Totally not a big deal but I kind of like that it’s taking extra money that I don’t have to think about. I guess I was a little sceptical at first but learning about their encryption policies and the fact I have access to that money any time I need to puts my mind at ease and makes me feel like it’s just a regular savings account – albeit a much more futuristic, talkative one.

I don’t think I’d be down for using every app like this going but Plum is a nice, gentle introduction and it’s really easy to get started right away. πŸ’°

 

Inspiration and Motivation πŸ™‡

As I said before, I don’t have a particular motivation for saving other than generally wanting to be a slightly more responsible grown up but, as with other lifestyle changes, the very beginning did feel like a bit of a slog. However, in this instance, I’ve felt that it’s nothing a quick browse of Refinery29’s Money Diaries can’t fix.

Comparing the spends of different ladies from a variety of industries in a range of pay brackets, it’s really interesting to see how people prioritise things and has allowed me to reflect on myself a bit. The most recent post from a Junior Doctor based in Stoke-on-Trent had me really thinking. So many of these girls seem to be spending almost Β£10 a day on lunch and lattes and then wonder why there’s little left in the pot, so I can’t say I wasn’t surprised at reading about someone who earns almost triple what I do who spends a fraction of the amount, and is saving for a house and who gives her fiancΓ© money for his petrol. What a smart cookie. πŸͺ

Silly Buzzfeed listicles like their 15 Charts For Anyone Trying to Be a Better Adult also help.

 

Like, honestly, spend your money on whatever you like, but as this is something that’s been on my mind and I had a spark of inspiration to write about it, I figured now was as good a time as any to share what’s been going on. I know money can be a bit of a funny subject but if you’re in a similar situation where you’d like to build up more of a rainy day fund, I hope these ideas might allow you to consider ways in which you can change your spending habits to achieve whatever goal you have in mind.

 

This post contains referral links relating to Plum’s ‘Refer a Friend’ scheme. All views are unrelated to this and my own.

Meat-Free January

Boston Tea Party, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Our Meat-Free January came to an end with a delicious date-night at Byron πŸ”, followed by a screening of the new Trainspotting film. And, just to be corny here, as T2 places itself firmly in 2017 as its prequel dates itself to 1996, I kind of also feel a bit like this marks a point in my life too.

I must admit, being vegetarian for January was never really about being vegetarian for good. It was more about breaking the habit of having meat for every meal, something that I know, having discussed with my friends over the course of this month, is something quite a few people feel like they should do.

Last year, we definitely changed up our diet a lot, as well as generally eating more balanced, healthy meals, we were also having more vegetarian meals. I guess the focus of January 2017 was to put that part of it to the extreme by cutting out meat entirely.

 

No Veganuary for us, we love eggs!

With the popularity of Veganuary, I feel like it’s been more accessible than before to read about the reasons behind being full-time veganism. We educated ourselves in diet with documentaries about clean eating and the vegan diet.

I do feel as though by not sticking with it, we’re being a bit selfish but from a realistic perspective, I don’t particularly feel like I need this extra guilt in my life. Denying myself meat forever when I enjoy it isn’t going to make a huge dent in the vast environmental impact that the meat industry has – and that definitely is a problem. However, if making a small change to my diet is achievable and enjoyable, then I don’t see why I can’t. I know that it isn’t necessarily the right view to take but I still see it as a step in the right direction.

 

Meat-Free January - Sweet Potato and rocket cous cous

 

Meat-Free January, start as I mean to go on…

With all of that said, I guess it could all sound rather negative but I’m certainly not continuing 2017 on the back foot. Up until the anticipation for Byron set in the previous weekend, I didn’t miss meat at all. Pretty much every meal we had was tasty, filling and left us without that unidentifiable sluggish feeling that you can’t quite put your finger on until it’s gone.

 

Meat-Free January - Broccoli and bean stir fry

 

Menu choices are smaller when you leave the house

I think the most limiting thing was probably going out to eat, and despite there being a much wider choice than I would have expected, there was far less choice than being able to eat everything.

We didn’t really have too much to worry about when it came to cooking meals for guests. Generally that was probably because we’re pretty good at cooking but also because, as I said before, we aren’t really friends with anyone who would turn their nose up just because the food features some kind of greenery. That said, Moon has sworn off chillis for a little while was they became a bit of a ‘go to’ for ease and flavour.

 

Meat-Free January - Vegetarian options at The Akeman Inn near Aylesbury

 

I think January and winter generally is a good time to take on this kind of ‘diet’ as it felt like much less of a shock to the system. We tended to still make the one-pot winter dishes we always have but with added beans or lentils and taking away the meat. Roasted corn soup was a firm favourite.

If it had been summer and we were suddenly eating just salad forever (I know it wouldn’t have been quite that extreme), I don’t think we would have been able to stick it out for the whole month.

 

Meat-Free January - Our famed bean chilli

 

I shared quite a few photos throughout January and was met with a lot of encouragement from friends and acquaintances for recipes and suggestions, which I think was another element of helping me stick to it. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it put pressure on me, but posting successes definitely made me feel good about the direction I was going in.

 

So, what’s next?

I’m entering February with some tasty new recipes in my repertoire, so reckon I’ll be cracking on, sans restriction. I did hear word of ‘Sugar-Free February’ but I think I’ve had enough of restricting myself for a little while – at least to the point where I’m cutting out entire food groups.

I know a month isn’t long but if the aim is to eat a bit less meat, I feel like that is definitely going to happen, and we’ve had a fair few vegetarian meals since the 1st February rolled around.

I was so looking forward to eating chicken again though and I’m so happy to have it back. πŸ”

 

Food Highlights: 😍

Food Lowlights: 😞

  • Nut Roast – Maybe it was the specific recipe (you let me down, Jamie) but if you told me that I wasn’t allowed to have it again, I’d probably be cool with it. For the length of time it took to prepare and cook, it wasn’t worth it.

Welcome to 2017.

Ruth Johnston

Happy New Year!

2017 was welcomed in much more elegantly than 2016 – which with the benefit of hindsight kind of summed up the cruddiness of 2016 – I vomited in my own hand and was up in my friend’s bathroom at the stroke of midnight, wonderful I know… πŸ’

“Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.”

I saw in this new year in the same friend’s home, only this time in their new house. It’s been a busy year, not without amazing things but I know Moon and I were certainly ready to start a-fresh. I’m so glad we all made the effort to come together to see in the New Year, I think it had been over 18 months since everyone had been in the same room – what with a couple of us living in Australia and the rest of us scattered far and wide across the South of the UK. I’m sure I get mushier and mushier as I get older but 2017 marks 10 years since most of us first met and that’s pretty special if you ask me.

New Year, New Me! (Not Really)

I gave up on the idea of resolutions a few years ago, but I’ve been feeling pretty goal-orientated for the last few months. I do find that winter is the worst season for keeping myself motivated so setting tasks that I know are pretty achievable helps quite a lot with making sure my mood doesn’t drop. I guess now is as good a time as any to share those New Year goals with you…

Eat more vegetarian meals

I set myself the challenge of going vegetarian for the whole of January. I would definitely say, with the exception of the Christmas period, my diet improved considerably in 2016. Moon and I have found ourselves having more vegetarian meals throughout the week anyway so figured it would be pretty easy to push that a little further. We both agreed that we probably wouldn’t have the stamina to do Veganuary, but on Day 5, it’s still pretty easy.

I guess I wanted to do it to do a little bit more to help the planet, I’m also pretty excited to see what kinds of meals we can prepare. The idea is that once January is over we will continue to eat more vegetarian meals during the week, hopefully more than half. The bonus of the whole change will be that it will ultimately make me a little healthier too. I do feel like a bit of a hypocrite for already saying I’ll go back to meat once the 31 days are over but I don’t want to deny myself meat forever because I do like it and feel like I should be allowed to have it if I want to. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Save, save, save

Another challenge I’ve set myself is to save Β£1 for the number of days in each month, plus at least Β£100. There’s not really any specific target in mind, it’s just something I started doing last year and then stopped when I quit my job. I’m 28 this year so it definitely feels like a proper nest egg, whether it’s for rainy days or fun things, is more necessary than ever.

Take more photos

Aside from my holidays – of which I recognise there were quite few in 2016 – Photography is something that was kind of neglected. I feel like the problem might be that I’m tied to my phone a lot of the time. In fact, my (now incomplete) Project 365 was based all on my phone so I didn’t really manage to remain as inspired as I had hoped so it’s definitely something I’d like to bring back to the forefront for this year.

Frame EVERYTHING!

This is a small and silly but time-consuming one. Despite it coming up to two years since we moved into our own home, we still have a whole box of prints and artwork that is yet to find a home. It’s been on our list for ages and it’s something we may as well get done – especially since painting will ~finally~ be over and done within the next few months – as I type Moon is spending the last day of his Christmas break painting our hallway, just the kitchen to go. I tell you, this homeowner thing is certainly a marathon not a sprint.

Have a revamp

Since migrating over to WordPress, I haven’t been completely happy with my theme in the same way it was easier to be with Blogger. I guess it comes down to neglecting this space of mine generally but I think a facelift by the end of the year is certainly achievable.


So, here’s the seeing a little more of each other… 🍸 🍾

New York, New York

New York, New York

New York via Toronto

I’ve been back from North America for almost two weeks now and am just starting to settle back into post-holiday life. I had an action-packed couple of weeks with my mum and sister. The relatives we stayed with were so good and ferried us around to see so many different sights around Ontario. As well as spending a lot of time in Toronto, my sister and I decided to squeeze in a trip to New York too. It looks pretty close on the map but it was 12 hours on a coach so quite intense. That said, the coach dropped us right in the middle of Chelsea so we were ~in the city~ as soon as we arrived, which was a bit more appealing than a 45 minute taxi ride from the airport.

New York
New York

New York is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for the longest time and finally getting to go conjured up so much romance taken from seeing it in films for so many years. It’s not like any other city I’ve visited. I thought there was a pretty high chance it would be like Hong Kong, but the skyscrapers is just about the only similarity I can think of.

New York
New York

So nice they named it twice!

I can definitely see myself going back and can see why so many people get the bug for it. So here are a few thoughts from New York that I took away from my trip. I’ll certainly be bearing them in mind for when I do make a return trip, even if it was with someone who was a first-timer.

New York
New York

Perfect for people watching.

New Yorkers are not as rude as everyone says but they do love to overshare on the phone or walking along in conversation, they are loud and it’s a great place for people watching.

New York
New York New York

My personal highlight was the lady who was munching on a packet of crisps willing her ‘lover’ to return to her.

New York is not the muggers paradise we were warned about either but it’s just all about being careful as with any city. Being two women, I did feel a little on edge compared to if I had been with Moon but there really wasn’t much to worry about and I relaxed pretty quickly.

New York
New York
New York

Top tourist spots!

New York’s skyscraper viewpoints are tourist spots for a reason, they do offer some incredible sights of the city. That said, I did enjoy just strolling around the city and taking it in from the ground, as well as obviously the less busy areas. The High Line was easily my favourite spot – the way the history has been taken into account alongside how sympathetic the gardeners have been to it so nice. The High Line also felt much less busy than other places we had been in the evenings, and as a result was much more chilled.

New York New York
New York
New York

By contrast, while also beautiful the Top of the Rock at sunset was way too crowded. We lucked out getting a great tour when we first arrived and it ended up lining up with being to go up at sunset. I’d ask for Pete if you can, he was great. Unfortunately even though we were only in a small group, the rest of New York’s tourists appeared to have the same fab idea to go up at this time, go figure. It was far too crowded, with queues for that famous view of the Empire State building being almost 10 people deep. It kind of ruined the experience for me but the view was still worth it.

New York
New York
New York

Walk, walk, walk…

Central Park is MASSIVE! Even seeing it from different aerial platforms it’s difficult to comprehend. From walking in at the American Museum of Natural History entrance we walked around the reservoir towards the Belvadere fountain before I made my way to Strawberry Fields and met my sister again by the carousel, in the end that took around 3 hours. New York generally does involve a lot of walking though and even though we used the subway, we covered over 12km on most days with our record being almost 20km.

New York
New York

Get ready to spend some dollar.

Tipping is a bit of a necessary evil but to be budgeted for. Thankfully, most restaurants make it easy for you and plonk the different variants at the bottom of the bill. We went for around $50-80 a day, which was fine but when you factor in each meal plus something fun, I feel like doubling or tripling that would have made the trip more comfortable and it’s definitely something I’m going to bear in mind for my next visit.

New York

There are quite a lot of fun, free things to see and do in New York but I do think that the CityPass is definitely worth it if you’re planning on doing at least two skyscrapers. The Top of the Rock with the tour ended up being $44 with the Empire State being $32. Add these to the $27 we spent at the Natural History Museum and you’re almost at the $116 for the CityPass, plus you get to skip queues and there are a couple of other museums and attractions you can get into that are included in that if you have more time than we did.

New YorkNew York
New York


The coach from Toronto to New York was well worth doing. We spent most of the time sleeping and for $60 each we were able to start our trip as soon as we arrived. There were two stops and even though it took longer and wasn’t quite as comfortable as a plane, I’d definitely say if you have booked a trip to either city and you have spare time, a weekend or couple of days to either is well worth it.