My Move Into Garden Vlogging

It’s official! The weekly vlogging series is away.

With the arrival of 2018, a renewed sense of optimism and lots of exciting things to talk about on the allotment, I decided that it was high-time I started making more videos. Alongside regular articles and recipes on the blog, I’ll be covering everything from the whys and the hows of gardening to recipes, reviews and interviews on YouTube.

Whether you’re a gardening pro or a gardening newbie, my YouTube channel will have something for everyone. And, what’s more, I’ll be presenting the sowing, growing and cropping in a way that I hope is unique and refreshing.

There are lots of stereotypes about gardening and growing your own food. It’s time to cut those stigmas loose and open up gardening to a whole new generation.

As food prices continue to rise and food quality decreases, more and more people are actively learning and engaging with their food. Growing your own food is a powerful act. Through taking control over production, you’re helping the environment, yourself and – in some cases – your bank account too.

So, whether you’re new to the growing game or you’ve been gardening for years, join me for the ride. I want this to be a conversation though, so if you have ideas for content or suggestions for the channel, leave a comment below.

You can also find my first two videos below. Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to my channel for all of the latest updates.

Have a good week everyone!

3 Ways I’m Going To Be Better In 2018

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Yes, it’s that time of year! We’re on the verge of 2018 and everyone is keen to get their New Year’s resolutions out there.

Well, mine are fairly modest this year.

After a poor start to 2017, suffering from an anxiety disorder which caused me to fall behind on the allotment, I have spent the rest of the time cooking up a recipe (figuratively speaking) which will allow me to keep focussed on the plot next year. Hopefully, you will find this blog post useful too. Especially if, like myself, you struggle to keep yourself motivated in the garden. There are lots of ways in which you can manage a busy life and keep on top of the watering and weeding, and it all starts with your mind and body.

1 – Keeping myself fit

Keeping yourself active is top priority. Last year, I either walked, cycled or ran every day to beat my anxiety and increase my mood. Not only has it helped my mind focus on what is good in life, it’s also improved my memory, given me confidence and the allotment is starting to take shape nicely.

Now, combining this with my allotment makes the whole experience even better. The plot where my allotment is situated is the largest in Bristol and it’s a fantastic track to jog around. Furthermore, I’m out of the smoggy city so I’m breathing clearer air, I can practise mindfulness with the  birdsong and when I’m done, I take a big swig out of my flask and get to work on the plot.

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2 – Organising my time better

Whether it’s my mild dyspraxia or my regular day-dreaming, I can often be a little disorganised.

This extends to the allotment. Even as I write this, there are still a handful of jobs that I keep putting off. In fact, I will often look at other pictures of gardens and feel a little out of my depth – sometimes deciding to give up for the day.

What keeps me coming back however, is my dream of being self-sufficient. I remind myself that I’m lucky to have an allotment as big as the one I have. A plot that is filled with fantastic perennials and has the potential to supply me with food throughout the year. And the only way that I’m going to get to this point is by organising my time better.

This starts with keeping diaries, calendars, notes and spreadsheets with all of the planned projects and timeframes. It then moves into more regular jobs like weeding and grass-cutting. Here, my phone comes in really handy. I can set times for both jobs months in advance if I want to, and slowly but surely, I work my way into a solid rhythm. I then notice how much better my plot looks and how easy it is to do, and I keep up the pace.

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3 – Only eating homegrown or organic

Sure, I grow my own food. But I’m still a sucker for convenience shops too.

This year, the harvests have been patchy. Most days I’ve found myself picking up a tin of beans or a bag of vegetables to bulk out my supplies.

Instead, what I should be doing is going on a slightly longer walk to my local greengrocers. There are hundreds of organic, local and independent shops in cities and towns – and they’re actually pretty affordable too. I did an entire week’s shop of vegetables in my local recently for under £10 – and if you’re making an effort to keep fit and be healthy, shopping fresh and organic is a logical decision to make.

Of course, if you’re having to manage a family your options can be more limited. One thing that I will suggest, though, is that you write out a meal plan, buy and cook the vegetables that you need and then store them to whip out whenever you need to throughout the week. By doing this and shopping organically, you can do your little bit for the environment, whilst arguably saving money where you’re not impulse buying.

So there you have it. Three ways that I’m going to be better in 2018. Perfectly achieveable and affordable too. What resolutions have you made for 2018? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy New Year wherever you’re reading this and keep up to date with all of the latest by following me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

 

12 Meals of Christmas – Day 12 – Croissant and Apple Butter Pudding

To celebrate Christmas, I’ve launched a brand new blog series covering the twelve days of Christmas with the 12 Meals of Christmas. Each day you’ll be getting an exciting christmassy recipe to help you save money and your belly for the big day.

We’ve saved the best until last. The mighty croissant and apple butter pudding.

What separates this from a normal bread and butter pudding? The buttery croissants and apple pieces create a soft, sweet texture and flavour that will have you coming back for more. Additionally, this dessert can be enjoyed for breakfast throughout this festive weekend and it doesn’t cost the earth.

Before we get down to the recipe, I want to say a huge thank you to all of you who’ve read and supported the 12 Meals of Christmas. I have some ideas in the pipeline for 2018 that I think you’ll enjoy, but for now – grab yourself some croissants and have a go at making this beautiful dessert. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

Croissant, Apple and Butter Pudding (Serves 4)

Four croissants, cut in half

75g of raisins

Two apples, peeled cored and sliced

400ml of milk

200ml of water

Three eggs

70g of caster sugar

Three heaped tablespoons of cornflour

A teaspoon of vanilla essence

A teaspoon of cinnamon

A sprinkling of caster sugar

Turn the oven to Gas Mark 5/180C. Into a saucepan on a medium heat, pour in your milk and water. Crack in your eggs, then begin to whisk the ingredients together. As you do so, drop in your vanilla essence, caster sugar and the three tablespoons of cornflour. Whilst you whisk, make sure that the ingredients aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the custard begins to thicken to a consistency similar to single cream, remove it from the heat and start work on the croissants.

Taking an ovenproof dish, arrange your croissant pieces inside. Layer over your apple pieces, cinnamon and raisins before pouring over the custard. Finish this stage by scattering over a little caster sugar before popping in the pudding for the exciting part of the recipe.

Bake the pudding for around 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and the croissants have soaked up a good deal of the custard. Serve immediately with fresh cream for a delicious treat whatever the time of day. You can also keep a supply of pudding throughout the christmas period by storing it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

That’s a wrap for the 12 Meals of Christmas! If you enjoyed this recipe, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment below!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to look back at all of the recipes featured.

 

12 Meals of Christmas – Day 8 – Stuffed Peppers

To celebrate Christmas, I’ve launched a brand new blog series covering the twelve days of Christmas with the 12 Meals of Christmas. Each day you’ll be getting an exciting christmassy recipe to help you save money and your belly for the big day.

In my vegetarian Christmas dinner, stuffed peppers are often the main event. For those of you who have never had them, they don’t sound all that filling – yet, after you’ve devoured one pepper, you’ll soon realise just how deceptive this dish can be. The beauty of stuffing any vegetable is that you can change your filling from day to day. It’s also really easy to do, making stuffed peppers the perfect dish for a midweek meal. Make batch of these and you can enjoy them right up until Christmas, saving yourself some money and time too.

Here, I’ve created a mix of colours to add a touch of extravagance to your winter afternoon. I’ve used vegan cheese to top these peppers, but cheddar, parmesan and Stilton will all do the trick just fine. If you are using dairy cheeses, pop the peppers back into the oven once you’ve grated the cheese on top and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the cheese is properly melted.

Stuffed Peppers (Serves 2) VG (Without dairy cheese)

Three peppers, halved and de-seeded

Half of a courgette, chopped into small chunks

One onion, diced

A clove of garlic, crushed

Three florets of broccoli

A teaspoon of rosemary

A teaspoon of paprika

A couple of handfuls of vegan parmesan
or 25g of grated cheddar/crumbled Stilton

A couple of lugs of olive oil

Seasoning

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 5/180C. Taking your pepper halves, arrange on a baking tray and dash over your olive oil, seasoning and a teaspoon of rosemary. Pop the peppers into the oven once it’s hot enough and then start preparing your filling.

Pop another lug of olive oil into a saucepan and turn the hob onto a medium heat. Slide in your onion first, and then a couple of minutes later slide in your courgette. Fry the vegetables until they start to turn brown before removing from the heat.

Once the peppers have been cooking in the oven for around 20 minutes, take them out and start filling them with your onion and courgette and then the crushed garlic. Slide your baking tray back into the oven for a further 10 minutes, to give the onion and courgette a good colour. If you’re adding dairy cheese, grate your Stilton, parmesan or cheddar over the tops of the peppers once the 10 minutes are up, before returning the peppers to the oven until the cheese starts to brown.

If you’re doing this the vegan way, go straight to adding the grated broccoli. You want to put the florets through the smaller holes as this will create a beautiful, slightly crunchy topping. Finally, add your vegan parmesan. This combo works fantastically with the roasted peppers and flavoursome filling.

If you’re doing it the dairy way, slide your peppers out of the oven. Pop them onto a work surface and grate the broccoli over the top as a garnish.

Serve with a simple salad and dressing for the ultimate, healthy experience. You can also add fresh herby potato wedges if you want to be naughty.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more from the 12 Meals of Christmas. If you enjoyed this recipe, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment below!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with all of the meals featured.

12 Meals of Christmas – Day 2 – Leek and Kale Curry

Christmas and curry: two of our greatest inventions. So, it only makes sense to combine them. In fact, curry – with it’s colour, spicy flavours, warmth and wholesome goodness – could fit into the Christmas menu very well if you can part with your turkey. This applies to those vegetarians out there who might be stuck between two big meat-eaters (I feel for you).

To celebrate Christmas, I’ve launched a brand new blog series covering the twelve days of Christmas with the 12 Meals of Christmas. Each day you’ll be getting an exciting christmassy recipe to help you save money and your belly for the big day.

See the first festive recipe here.

Using two hardy wintry vegetables, kale and leeks, in this curry makes it the ideal comfort food – with the best bit being that you won’t pile on the pounds after two helpings (a very likely outcome once you get a taste of the first mouthful).

And below, you can follow my winter-warming recipe and make your very own fantastic leek and kale curry:

Leek and Kale Curry (Serves 3) Vg

One leek, chopped

Two handfuls of kale

One chilli, chopped and de-seeded

A teaspoon of cumin seeds

A teaspoon of paprika

A teaspoon of turmeric

A teaspoon of garam masala

25ml of soya or dairy yoghurt

Seasoning

 

You want to start by grabbing a saucepan and heating a dash of oil over a medium flame. Pop in your slices of leek and fry these for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. As the leek fries, slide in the cumin seeds, seasoning and turmeric. Follow this with a crushed clove of garlic, chopped chilli pepper, the paprika and the garam masala. Fry the dry ingredients until the leeks begin to brown, making sure that you continue to stir as you go, adding a little water as you go.

When the leeks are beginning to brown, pop in your kale leaves. Drop in a little extra water, turning the hob down to a low heat and placing a lid over the saucepan. Leave the kale for around 5 minutes to wilt.

In the meantime, set up your rice to boil. Using your hand to measure out a portion, drop into another saucepan as much rice as you might need – Pour over boiling water and turn the hob onto a high heat for around 5 minutes, or until the water is steaming. Once the water is bubbling, remove the rice from the heat and place a lid over the top, leaving the grains to soften up for around 10 minutes.

Remove the lid from your curry saucepan and taking your 25ml of yoghurt, pour this into the other ingredients. Follow this up with the additional garlic, give everything a good stir and place to one side until the rice is cooked through.

Once the rice has softened, drain and serve. Be generous with your curry as it really is something!

Stay tuned tomorrow for more from the 12 Meals of Christmas. If you enjoyed this recipe, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment below!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with all of the meals featured.

 

Macaroni Cheese with Butternut Squash Makes Squasharoni Cheese

Squasharoni Cheese. There it is, I’m coining it.

What more could you want from the winter than a dish of pure stodge? With the addition of butternut squash, onion, a nice bit of garlic and some herbs, you have a much healthier version of the popular classic though. And wait until you see just how orange and vibrant the squasharoni looks when it comes out of the oven!

I enjoyed this squasharoni cheese for dinner and for my work lunch the day after, saving me all that money on meal deals and expensive subs. Follow the recipe below to make your very own meal of cheesy indulgence:

Squasharoni Cheese (Serves 4)

Half a butternut squash

A couple of cupfuls of Macaroni

One onion, chopped

Five mushrooms, finely chopped

50ml of milk (soya or cow)

Bunch of fresh basil, chopped

Two cloves of garlic, crushed

Seasoning

Begin by turning your oven onto gas mark 6/ 200C. Taking the squash half, carefully remove the skin and de-seed. Chop into thin chunks and place these into the top of a steamer, or into a pan with boiling water. Into the bottom part of the steamer or into a separate pan, pour in your couple of handfuls of macaroni. Cover the pasta with water, place a lid over the top and turn the hob onto a medium heat. Leave the pasta and squash to simmer for around 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through and the squash is soft.

Into a large mixing bowl, drop in your cooked squash. Taking a blender, blitz the squash until smooth. Next up, add the sliced onion and mushroom, along with the basil, garlic and seasoning too. Stir in the 50g of milk then grating the cheese into the bowl. Finish by adding the macaroni pasta, and combining everything thoroughly.

Pour everything into an ovenproof dish, grating a little extra cheese over the top so that it’ll brown up nicely. Place into the oven to bake for 35 minutes or until golden on the top. Once this is done, serve up and tuck in.

I’ll be running the 12 Meals of Christmas to help you keep save money and that belly for Christmas. Make sure you follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date!

 

Broccoli and Stilton Burgers

You vote, I make. The new recipe from last week’s Twitter poll. Keep up to date by following me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and get the chance to vote in the next poll!

We all love broccoli and Stilton soup in the winter, right? Well, I’m taking the match-made-in-heaven to the next level in this latest recipe.

It’s time to stop buying supermarket burgers and have a go at making one yourself. And, with my own personal seal of approval, these burgers will not disappoint.

By adding a couple of other ingredients, you can make a very tasty burger which doesn’t require a lot of time, energy or washing up. Even better, make a bulk and keep them for work lunches or for effortless dinner the following day.

Broccoli and Stilton Burgers (Serves 2)

A handful of broccoli florets

50g of Stilton

A tin of peas

One onion, finely chopped

Four or Five mushrooms, finely chopped

A clove of garlic

A pinch of rosemary

Seasoning

Olive oil

Into a large mixing bowl, take a cheese grater and grate your broccoli florets. Once the florets are all grated up finely, add your onion, mushrooms, crushed garlic and your Stilton, broken down into smaller crumbs. Follow this with the tin of peas, rosemary and seasoning before mashing everything together. You want to make sure that the burgers stick together, so the peas need to be mashed thoroughly and the ingredients should be mixed in well.

Next, turn the hob onto a high heat, take a frying pan and heat up a little oil. Using your hands, scoop up the mixture and form it into patties, placing each onto the pan. After you’ve added all of your patties, cook them on one side for around 5 minutes before turning down the heat to medium and cooking on the other side. The patties may stick a little to the pan. If this does happen, as you turn them maintain their shape by pushing the sides together with the spatula.

When the burgers look cooked on both sides, serve up in delicious buns with a good dollop of mayo or tomato ketchup and a generous green salad for a healthy-but-beautiful dinner.

What did you think of this recipe? Do you have vegetarian recipes that you love to make?

 

Apple and Hazelnut Pastries

Thanks to everyone who voted over on Instagram! Here is the apple and hazelnut pastry as requested. I want to hear your thoughts – drop them in the comments below. Happy baking.

The best recipes are often accidents. In fact, over 50% of the food that I cook is improvised and, as such, doesn’t always turn out the way I wanted. Yet, in the case of these tarts, this was happy accident indeed.

Taking my spare puff pastry sheet I had in the fridge, I decided to slice up homegrown apples and arrange them on top. And what a result! These pastries are best enjoyed as a light snack, or why not eat them fresh and cover them in custard?

Apple and Hazelnut Tarts (Serves 12)

A sheet of ready-made puff pastry

Two tablespoons of caster sugar

Two apples, cored and peeled

A couple of handfuls of chopped hazelnuts

Cinnamon

An egg, beaten

Honey

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C. Next, grease a muffin tray ready for your tarts.

You want to slice your apples thinly lengthways to begin with. Set these aside and grab your ready-made pastry sheet. Before you begin cutting, take your two tablespoons of caster sugar and sprinkle them over the top of the pastry. Lightly, taking both palms, press the sugar into the top of the pastry. Using the bottom of a glass, cut out several circles and placing these into your tray, gently press them into each case.

You’ll find that you’ll have a little bit of pastry left over. Use this to line the tops of each case. Finish the pastry by glazing it with a brush and the egg yolk. Make sure that the whole tart is covered as this is what will give it that golden look later on!

Next, arrange your apple slices over the top of each tart. Scatter cinnamon, the chopped hazelnuts and the honey over the tarts before placing them into the oven for around 20-30 minutes or until golden.

Once the pastry has puffed up and the tarts look golden on the top, remove them from the oven. You can either serve them up immediately as a delicious dessert with fresh icecream or custard, or place them into an airtight container and store for up to 3 days.

 

Stay tuned for more chances to vote on the next recipes by following me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I hope you enjoy these tarts as much as I do!

 

How To Make A Banging Veggie Roast

Us vegetarians and vegans all know what it’s like when you first give up meat, especially on a Sunday. Whilst everyone else tucks into a big filling chicken or piece of beef, you’re often left tucking into the overcooked broccoli and carrots. During my time so far as a veggie, finding a good and inexpensive alternative to the meaty bit has been tough – but I’ve finally cracked it.

This meal is the ultimate meat-free experience. If you’re looking for a vegan alternative, replace the cheese with a cashew cheese or leave it out altogether and use couscous or rich roasted tomatoes instead. And, of course, don’t be liberal with the roast potatoes!

Roasted Squash Stuffed With Cheesy Vegetables (Serves 2)

Ingredients

A large squash chopped in half with seeds and fleshy centres scooped

One onion sliced

A whole head of broccoli chopped

A clove of garlic

75g of cheese, plus extra for topping

A dash of soya or cow’s milk

A large tablespoon of cornflour

Two carrots sliced

Eight or nine baby potatoes, halved

Seasoning

 

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C. Arrange your two squash halves onto a baking tray, drizzling over with olive oil, a spoonful of honey and seasoning. Place the tray into the oven and cook the squash for around 30-40 minutes.

Taking your baby potatoes, place these into a saucepan and fill with boiling water. Turn the hob onto a medium heat and keep the potatoes cooking until they begin to feel soft. Once they do, remove from the heat. Slide out the baking tray and arrange your potatoes onto one side, with the chopped carrots going on the other side. Drizzle these with olive oil, a dose of honey, breadcrumbs and seasoning before placing the tray back into roast.

When the squash is just about done, add a steamer to your saucepan and fill with the broccoli. You only want to steam the florets for 5 minutes maximum, just to get them to soften their crunch a little.

For the cheese sauce, heat up a large spoonful of butter. As the butter begins to melt, drop in a spoonful of cornflour and, at the same time, add soya or cow’s milk. Continue to stir as you add, making sure that the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat once the mixture starts to thicken and then add your grated cheese.

Once the broccoli is done, slide out your baking tray and fill the squash with the florets, crushed garlic and onion slices first, topping this with the cheese sauce and then finishing off by grating cheddar over the top and sprinkling a fine layer of pepper. Add this to the oven for a further 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Serve up on its own and be the envy of every meateater at the table, or add gravy for an even better Sunday roast. This recipe is perfect for big student roasts, family get-togethers and, with everything cooked on one tray, catering for vegetarian guests as part of a larger roast.

Want To Start Growing Your Own Food? Here Are 3 Things I’ve Learned

Winter is the perfect time to start getting your space ready for next year. Throughout the five years that I’ve been growing my own food I’ve picked up lots of advice. Here are 3 Things I’ve Learned Through My Growing Journey So Far:

1 – Only Grow Radish If You Love Eating It

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This is a really important first point. If you’re eager to start your growing journey, don’t grow everything that someone on a blog or in a book has, especially if you don’t like it.

Start small and start with your favourites.

Whilst homegrown food can make all veggies taste miles better, you’ll still end up wasting time, effort and produce because you really don’t like certain crops.

In my case, it’s celery and celeriac and all of the aniseed-flavoured vegetables. I’m still not a huge fan of radish either and can really take or leave Jerusalem artichokes. So I don’t set aside space for any of these things, instead focusing on my favourite food. Pumpkins and squash fill the plot, tomatoes and peppers grow nice and ripe in the greenhouse and the strawberries and raspberries surprise me year after year.

Every year I treat it like my first. I sit down and plan out what I want to grow depending on what I like to eat.

However, it’s also about what is going to reward you the most. As a vegetarian, I need lots of protein and iron from my food so I choose to grow leafy greens and peas and beans over broccoli. This is because I know I can get more meals out of a pot or plot of beans than I can from broccoli. The same often applies to potatoes, which take up huge amounts of space.

With Small Space Garden launching officially next year, I’ll be offering guides on some of the best crops that you can grow for nutrition as well as for quantity and ease.

2 – Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

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It can be easy, as I found out, to grow a ton of plants in the first year, yet when it comes to maintaining the plants, you’ll find yourself swamped. With only a couple of hours to spare you want to keep only a few really productive crops at first.

If you’re a single parent, work over 40 hours a week or you’re busy in other ways, most plants will cope very well with just one watering a week. Unless the weather is scorching, you can leave them in peace most of the time. With some tomatoes you’ll need to pinch the tips out and stake the stems to support and encourage fruit. I’ll be creating several handy guides for tomatoes next year, so watch this space!

3 – If You’ve Only Grown One Leek This Year, It’s Still An Achievement

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One of three leeks I managed to grow this year

Weather, slugs and poor seed stock can make growing your own a bit of a nightmare. Whilst slugs and the weather can be controlled to some extent, there is always something else around the corner. What is important to remember for any budding grower and gardener is that even the one tomato you’ve harvested from the ill-looking vine is a powerful thing.

Growing your own food isn’t just about the harvest – although that is very important. It’s also about the power and the independence. The connection with the earth and with nature, no matter how big or small. By nuturing a plant through to fruit, you have taken control of your food and you have engaged with the whole process. Trust me, the world looks like a very different place! After all, gardening is cool and growing food that you can eat and cook meals with is even cooler.

What have you learnt on your allotment, garden or balcony this year? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!