2016 was a tragic year for all, with the deaths of legends in the entertainment industry such as Victoria Wood, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Sir Terry Wogan, David Bowie (and the list goes on and on!) and we also cannot forget about the huge changes in the futures of the UK with Brexit and the USA with the election of Donald Trump as President. And whilst we cannot forget how bad the year has been for so many, I can’t help but think that on a personal level, the year of 2016 has been a positive year of change for me!
Obviously the biggest change of my 2016 is that I’ve now started my maths degree at Nottingham University, some 160 miles from my home back down in Essex. Starting this new chapter in my life was incredibly daunting; why wouldn’t I be scared at the prospect of sharing a flat with 4 other people whom I’d never met before and living and fending for myself! It wasn’t all fine and dandy, and neither did I expect it to be, but I didn’t expect the first drama about the washing up to happen in the first few weeks!
And maybe that’s my own fault. I’d created this utopian idea in my head of what university would be like and sharing a flat would be like; we’d all take turns taking the bins out, cleaning the kitchen and share a 6 pint bottle of milk and put ourselves on a rota of who bought the next 6 pints. And it was as far from this as possible.
I ended up doing the bins pretty much exclusively, I soon got pretty fed up of seeing the washing up pile up at the side of the sink day after day and our fridge wasn’t the right temperature – my Thermapen thermometer got to 11˚C; the normal temperature for refrigerators is between 0 – 5˚C, something I acknowledged in my complaint email!
My first month of university was fraught with hating my flat with its faulty fridges, a smelly hoover and a heater which smelt of burning whenever I turned it on. I sought solace in Facetiming my family back home each night after work and they were always on hand to offer advice, even on the most basic things like how to boil an egg! By this time too, I’d made a close knit group of friends in my flat, in my ‘halls’ and on my course. I honestly think that without them, I wouldn’t be enjoying university as much as I currently am, although having said that I should really be revising for my January exams right now!
The friends I’d made were all integral (well I might as well start doing some maths revision!) to making my first semester at Nottingham and if it wasn’t for them dragging me out on bar crawls and getting me tickets for clubs, I wouldn’t have had as much fun as I did in the last month of my first term. But of course it wasn’t without its drama and unfortunately some of the people I thought I was friends with turned out to think differently. Despite this, my real friends were all on hand to talk it through with me and if I ever did want to drop in on my friends in my accommodation, they were just a text and a 2 minute walk away.
Oh and they replaced our fridge, cleaned the hoover and the burning smell went away!
University has definitely changed who I am, even in the space of 3 months. I’ve gained an appreciation for the value of money and not that’s just because I am a student. Controlling my spending and budgeting has helped keep my weekly average spend down and perhaps the tight spend on money is just a small piece of the puzzle that has contributed to me losing 23lbs since the day I moved to Nottingham back in September, which puzzles me frankly because to lose 23lbs in the space of under 3 months is quite ridiculous but also offers perspective on how bad my diet was and just what little exercise I did; even the walk from campus back to my accommodation is a fraction under 2 miles and I’d walked that on so many occasions when the buses were full (curse the 903 hopper bus!).
During the first term, I also joined Blogsoc, the university’s blogging society. I walked in to my first workshop, expecting to learn so much about blogging but it was at this point that I realised how much I already knew having had the blog for 3 years and I was able to share my knowledge and experiences with fellow students, both new and well versed in blogging. I’m going to include some of their links at the end of this review of 2016 because I love reading their blogs!
My attitude to my blog changed this year. I think I said this last year but I definitely took blogging more seriously, creating my #fdbloggerfriends series which is still ongoing, and I blogged 13 recipes for the 12 Days of Christmas which went down a storm! With university, I have a lot more time to bake and blog then I did at home and that’s certainly resulted in putting more effort into the blog and posting more often than usual (even if that means my poor friends have to try more of my bakes). I also took the plunge to enter the UK Blog Awards 2016.
A quick peek at my blog stats and I see that I posted 118 new posts this year. Not all of them were recipes and not all of them were baking related but it’s still a huge achievement. The 5 most viewed new recipe posts of 2016 were as follows:
- Day 3 of 12: Lidl’s Favorina Spiced Biscuit Spread Review
- Romaine Lettuce Kimchi
- Trying the Technical: Coconut Viennese Whirls in 80 minutes
- Glazed Lemon Almond Cake
- Vanilla and Chocolate Marble Traybake
I feel safe in the knowledge my blog is growing and getting read since my most viewed new recipe post of 2016 was one which was posted a mere 3 and a half weeks ago. What’s more, it ranks 3rd in my 3 most viewed posts of 2016!
- Giant Ben’s Cookies
- Should cooking be compulsory for secondary school students under 18?
- Day 3 of 12: Lidl’s Favorina Spiced Biscuit Spread Review
And of course I have my personal favourite posts from this year.
I’d always wanted to make my own gingerbread house and after watching Biscuit Week of Bake Off and the showstopper challenge to create a 3D gingerbread biscuit story, I was lying in bed and suddenly had a brainwave to create an oven which was baking gingerbread out of gingerbread. And yes, I am that sort of person. I’ll agree that it’s not the most professional looking bake I’ve ever done (more on that in a bit) but it’s a personal baking milestone for me since I challenged myself to do something that I’ve never done before (I hadn’t even baked gingerbread biscuits before!) and it’s also the first time that I used a ruler in my baking!
Again I was inspired by Bake Off for this bake. Back in Patisserie Week of Series 7, the technical challenge was to make a savarin and I didn’t really fancy baking a large one so I fused together the concept of rum baba and savarin to invent my savarins. The dough has lemon zest in it and is soaked in a sticky citrus syrup and then drizzled with salted caramel and white chocolate. It’s rather gilding the lily to have 2 different drizzles however the flavours all worked together and it’s also one of the best looking bakes I think that I have ever done. Okay so maybe they were slightly underproved and maybe Paul Hollywood wouldn’t have liked my crumb structure but I am proud of these little savarins.
All 12 Days of Christmas
Okay maybe it’s a bit of a cheat to say that 13 posts are my favourite but my 12 Days of Christmas series was incredibly successful (I mean just look at how Day 3 did!) and apart from daily blogging in Hong Kong whilst on holiday, it’s the most extensive amount of recipe blogging and I managed to finish the series on schedule, which I think is an achievement considering the work I was also having to do.
I think my personal favourite of the 12 Days series has to be my Christmas Present Cake. It was my first time doing a fondant covered cake and I have to say that it seemed to go pretty well, with only a few minor cracks which I covered up with more fondant. And whilst I won’t be doing another fondant cake for a while, it’s something to add to my repertoire of techniques.
In 2017, I want to use Instagram more. I’ve been trying hard to get into Instagram and posting pictures on my page hasn’t yet become second nature to me however I’m gradually getting used to it. Growth on Instagram is also notoriously harder than on Twitter so reaching 500 followers by the end of 2017 is going to be my goal.
Talking of growth, I think my following on Twitter has plateaued and I certainly do not want to be one of those accounts who follows thousands of people only to unfollow them in the next week, so finding a way to increase my following will be the challenge!
Let me know in the comments which of my 118 new posts of 2016 was your favourite. Make sure to also check out my fellow Nottingham Blogsoc bloggers too!
- The Rose Beauty Files @ therosebeautyfiles.com
- Morwenna’s Nutrition @ morwennasnutrition.wordpress.com
- itsneecola @ itsneecola.com
- What Susan Read @ whatsusanread.blogspot.co.uk
- Katie L Clark @ katielclark.co.uk
- Alfraydo Chonny @ alfraydochonny.blogspot.co.uk
- Sciwitch @ sciwitch.com
- Cruelty Free Becky @ crueltyfreebecky.com