Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Where I am taking this blog in 2019

Diary and calendar planning

I can't believe we are already a week into January and I'm here writing my first post of the new year. Does this mean it isn't socially acceptable to still be having a cheeseboard, Lindt mint chocolate balls (best discovery of 2018) and salted caramel vodka most evenings? The tree is down, the flat is clean and tidy and it's got me thinking I need a bit of a blog 'tidy up' as well.

I'm not one for making too many long-term, set goals (read here why I don't have a 5 year plan any more). However, things are going to be changing a bit on this little old blog as we come up to the one-year anniversary of Melis Living!

Why I started the blog

To explain how I plan to shake things up it makes sense to talk through why I started my blog in the first place. As you will know if you read my posts regularly, last year I followed my dream to live abroad for an 8 month stint, exploring 10 countries in the process. I had wanted to do this for so long and knew it would change my life so wanted to record it in some way to make sure I remembered everything and had something to look back on.

I actually started on Instagram first. In March 2017 I was posting random, ancient, non-chronological travel pics and didn't really know where it would go from there. My name was 'Life's a coco' for a while... still makes me laugh thinking about that! Around a year later, in Feb 2018, I wrote my first blog post about why you should visit Chiang Mai, Thailand (still arguably one of the best cities in SE Asia) and I guess the rest is history...

Over the last 11 months my posts have been mainly travel guides with some more honest posts thrown in, mainly about expat life in Singapore. My most read post is about how I afford to travel so much and I have had some great feedback on it, which probably gives you a clue about what my main focus is going to be.

Living room sideboard with flowers and photos

Why I am making changes

To put it bluntly, my life just isn't that of a wander-lusting nomad any more. I still absolutely love nothing more than a trip abroad, preferably somewhere new and exotic, but I love my life at home in Newcastle as well. I don't know exactly what it is but something has completely changed and I am much more of a home bod than before - you can read my post here about my experience of moving home after a stint abroad.

This got me thinking that I would like to switch up my blog to focus on more than just travel. There are thousands of amazing travel blogs out there which are amazing in their own unique ways. Towards the end of last year, I started feeling like my fairly generic '48 hour guides' were just going to get lost in the huge number of similar (and bloody brilliant) posts already out there. Blogging at times felt like a chore rather than a fun hobby and it's not my full-time job so it needs to be enjoyable.

When we moved back to the UK I was absolutely dreading it, not gonna lie. I wasn't sure how long we'd be home for and whether I'd get itchy feet again and run off to a new country to live for a year. I loved writing about expat life - and you guys loved it too. Two of my most read posts from 2018 are the truth about expat life in Singapore and how to overcome common worries about moving abroad. As much as I loved writing these posts I want my content to be fresh and up-to-date so it's time to (sadly) leave the expat content behind.

Flatlay of diaries, flowers and a candle

I actually considered giving up my blog countless times in 2018. I am sure any fellow bloggers reading this can completely relate. What with Instagram alg*r*thms (I feel like that word is the new Voldemort) and people 'following to unfollow', as well as the sheer number of hours it takes to build any kind of blog readership, I have questioned if it is worth it so many times. To keep going I always come back to why I started. This piece of the internet is my own, it's great to have a hobby other than drinking salted caramel vodka... and I have made SO many lovely friends through doing this.

I have been thinking for a while that I really need a new 'niche'. I am not saying you must have a niche to be successful. I think it just kinda hit me when I heard that 37 million people will call themselves a blogger in 2019 on the Exciting Emails Podcast and I decided that I'd personally like to find a way to make all my posts tie in together and have a common theme to them.

What to expect in 2019

Going forward I still intend to write about UK travel and lifestyle as well as overseas travel. I will be focusing on the fact I live in the beautiful North East England, a place which I am really proud to come from. My new focus is going to be on affordable luxury travel and lifestyle for 30-somethings... yes I know it doesn't sound that niche-y, hear me out. 

The content you can expect to see from me going forward is a focus on how to make your hard-earned cash go further so you can do things like buy that dream home, save money for any big expenses, or just help your salary stretch further. I will be covering things like affordable luxury skincare as well as my usual travel and days out. This isn't about being too frugal, it's about being sensible and making your money go further so you can do more of the things you love!

Planning the blog for 2019

I feel like this suits both my love of adventures, and my bargain-hunting side (I am a chartered accountant after all)! I have always loved to save money on day-to-day spend (I'm addicted to Martin Lewis: Money Saving Expert) and I hope to bring much more of this out in my blog posts in 2019. I have a few collaborations already lined up which I am really excited to share with you, and look out for an affordable luxury Valentine's gift guide coming very soon!

That means you will see more lifestyle posts from me which I know might disappoint those who are all about the travel content. Travel will still regularly feature: I have a trip to Copenhagen in February which I am going to try and do on a reasonable budget so I can't wait to share that with you. I also have a couple of posts in drafts with my tips for saving money on booking the Maldives (it can be done!) and how to explore Singapore on a budget.

Photo of Melis Living exploring in 2019

Thanks for reading this little ramble. I want to take this opportunity to say thanks so much for reading my blog posts. I am excited to bring you more content this year and hope to publish once a week as I have been for the last quarter or so. Each and every comment left by a reader makes my day so I'd love to know what you think below. Here is to an exciting 2019!

Melis x

Monday, 31 December 2018

Why I ditched the 5 year plan

Why I ditched the 5 year plan

I have always had a 5 year plan in mind for my life and I’m sure if you are reading this you can relate. I was determined that I would be married with babies by around 27, and I’d definitely be in my dream career before 25. As I have got older, particularly in my 30's, I have started to realise that you really don't need to live your life to a certain timeline.

Something just clicked at 30

Whilst I don't have a family yet as I am currently in the midst of a career change, I am actually now the most satisfied with my life that I have ever been. Something just clicked at 30 and I stopped worrying about the next stage, or what could’ve happened, and I am trying to be mindful of the future without making some big bucket list or ‘40 things before I am 40’ list. Setting goals is brilliant and I'd encourage it, but you really don't have to tick big milestones off by a certain age. Ditch the 5 year plan if it's not making you happy!

I literally used to write myself a plan with certain career and life goals on it and could recite this confidently to anyone who asked. Do I have one now? Nah. I know what line of work I want to be in and I am studying to get there. I want to buy a second property, hopefully in 2019, but if we don't find the right house then that's okay. 

Looking back at my old self I just want to give her a shake. I put so much pressure on myself every year and as the new year rolled around I'd be worrying if I hadn't quite reached my goals. I never lived in the present and constantly thought about the next step after this one - once I have completed this 5 year plan, what will the next one look like? When I look back it is no wonder I was constantly feeling stressed and burnt out. 

Happier with no 5 year plan

The goals that actually matter

I realise more than ever now I am in my 30’s that the only things that should be on anyone’s 5 year plan are health, happiness and enough financial security to not stay up at night worrying about money. I no longer want that massive corporate highly paid job, I just want to earn a reasonable salary to be able to support my family and enjoy myself. 

I would like to travel more, and I do have certain places I’d love to see next year, but I'd like to go with the flow a bit as well. I think living abroad had a huge amount to do with this change in mindset. I've said it so many times, and I know travel is a privilege, but if you are able to live somewhere different for a while I couldn't recommend it any more.

I do think it's worth saying that not everyone has the means to travel or actually wants to. There is nothing wrong with being happy at home, and if you don't want to do certain things that someone else might see as really important, that doesn't matter. 

Happy in Haw Par Villa with no 5 year plan

In the digital age it is so difficult not to compare ourselves to everyone else and that's another reason why I think having a 5 year plan just sets us up to fail. Social media is a highlights reel. Have you ever found yourself thinking you need to visit a certain place, find a partner, or have a baby ASAP 'because everyone else is'. Yep, that's the danger of comparison. That person who has ticked off something you feel you've missed out on might actually want something you take for granted. Or they may have reached certain milestones but actually don't feel that happy outside of their Instagram photos...

I’m writing this in the hope that it might help someone who is like I used to be. Possibly in the wrong career but fighting their way to the top anyway because they have a strict 5 year plan to stick to and worry what people would think if they didn't reach the goals they had told everyone they were working towards.

That isn’t me now and I’m a hell of a lot more laid back for it! I do still have the odd dramatic meltdown about where my life is going but I think that is inevitable for any 20 or 30-something. Life isn't easy and the older I get, the more I realise how up and down everyone's life is. It's all about enjoying the ride - not having a 5 year plan that you have to follow!

Looking ahead to 2019

As we head into 2019 I am proud of who I am, I am proud that I’ve taken steps to reshape my life to what I want it to look like. I hope this time next year I can say that 2019 has been healthy and happy and that is all it will take to make it a successful year for me. If you want more inspiration, you can read about how I followed my dream to live abroad.

Opening a new door with no 5 year plan

Thank you for following my adventures in 2018. Wishing you all a happy 2019 and excited to see what the new year brings now I have ditched the 5 year plan!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Christmas Dining at Miller and Carter, Newcastle

Miller and Carter Newcastle at Christmas

My favourite thing about Christmas is how everyone has their own way of enjoying the festive buildup. I love hearing about other people's traditions! My favourite part of December has to be getting all dressed up to go out for a nice meal with my other half or friends, treating ourselves to three courses and a good range of drinks. 

Finding somewhere which is affordable but special to dine at during the Christmas period can be tricky. Miller and Carter Newcastle have a fantastic 3 course festive menu for £29.99 including a glass of fizz and we had such a nice meal there last year, we chose to dine there for the second year in a row. It's safe to say we will be back next year as it was epic, yet again!

Miller and Carter Newcastle: the atmosphere

I love the building which houses Miller and Carter on Collingwood Street. It has two floors and I would recommend sitting upstairs on the mezanine level for lovely views over the rest of the restaurant. The windows are so nice and it actually started snowing whilst we were dining so we had such lovely, festive views whilst feeling nice and cosy inside.

Miller and Carter, Newcastle upon Tyne

There is a nice bar on the right as you enter and we were invited to have a drink here as we were early. The cocktail menu is good and there are a number on offer for £4.95 daily before 7pm. This includes the mojito and french martini (one of my faves)! 

We were given a buzzer to let us know when our table was available and the wait was no more than ten minutes. It was lovely and festive with a tree and pretty fairy lights. It was slightly cold in the restaurant, or maybe it's because I was being a typical Northener with my bare legs in December...

Prosecco at Miller and Carter, Newcastle

The Miller and Carter Festive Menu

The menu has so many nice choices, so it was really hard to decide. I usually pick what I am having before I even get to the restaurant but this time I decided to wait as I knew it would all be good! I think everyone gets a bit bored of the usual prawn cocktail and turkey dinner at this time of year and this menu is a welcome change from that, but still has some classics like soup and turkey if you prefer to stick with tradition.

Miller and Carter Menu, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Starters

 It was easy for me to choose my starter as my partner doesn't like mushrooms so I will take them whenever I can get them! This starter was as delicious as it sounds: plenty of bread, cheesy garlicky sauce and loads of fresh mushrooms. I had to really concentrate to stop gobbling this up to fast in an attempt to be ladylike... it was perfectly moreish so this was a challenge.

Miller and Carter, Newcastle - Mushroom Starter

My other half had the 'Cluck and Duck' starter and it looked so amazing I couldn't help sneaking a couple of tasters. Wow! I think if this is on the menu again next time I might just have to go for it. The BBQ sauce was just perfect. They aren't as messy as you might expect wings to be so don't be put off, all you need is your lippie in your bag and you're sorted.

Miller and Carter, Newcastle upon Tyne - Cluck and Duck

The Miller and Carter Steak Experience

Although I toyed with the turkey as it sounded so beautifully presented, I had to get one of Miller and Carter's famous steaks. I was not disappointed. It was just SO good as you can tell from the picture below! I love how you get so many different sides with it to keep it interesting and unique. Restaurants can be hit and miss at Christmas but the food is absolutely top notch here even when it's really busy.

We both paid £4 to upgrade to sirloin, which I would recommend. The fries were plentiful and delicious and the onion loaf makes a lovely accompaniment. Don't worry about getting any extra sides, you will struggle to finish it all!

Miller and Carter steak experience


This was the only part of the meal which was slightly disappointing, but I am being picky as the desserts were still nice. We got the chocolate torte and caramel biscuit cheesecake to share as pictured below. 

The cheesecake was nice and light but it didn't taste freshly made so I'd perhaps skip this dessert next time. The torte was better so I'd probably pick this next time. To be fair by this point I was a few glasses of 'secco down as our waitress was so good at asking us for more drinks orders. I even thought we'd already ordered dessert when we hadn't so I was definitely getting into the festivities!

Miller and Carter Desserts

After dinner Cocktails

We were so pleased to see the gorgeous cocktail we had last year was back on the menu. The 'after eight thirty' is a delicious blend of creme de menthe and Baileys and the result is a creamy, minty, festive treat. I absolutely love this and will definitely call into the bar for one of these at some point again over the festive season. It is on the main cocktail menu so can be ordered all year round.

We also tried the festive special espresso martini with orange oil and it was very nice. It had such a strong coffee taste and there was plenty of it: sometimes I find an espresso martini is too small. I could easily have stayed here all night having more cocktails. Not once were we made to feel rushed or that they needed the table back even though we dined at 4.30 and didn't leave until after 6.30.

Miller and Carter, Newcastle upon Tyne Cocktails

The Miller and Carter Service

Our waitress was lovely and really explained the menu to us when we asked for help. All the staff seemed happy, friendly and helpful despite being so busy.

Hopefully this gives you a taster of how lovely Miller and Carter is. I cannot wait to go back and I think it is seriously my top restaurant in Newcastle at the moment. It seems to get that balance between affordable and luxury just right which isn't always easy.

Highly recommended if you are in the city, you can click here to check availability and book.

Cheers to Christmas traditions, I will definitely be dining here every year!

Miller and Carter, Newcastle upon Tyne Pin