This year felt like the year I put my life on hold, it moved both at a snails pace and also in the blink of an eye. So I thought it was time to get my planning on for 2018, and since all the cool kids are writing bucket lists I thought I would jump on the bucket-wagon. Without further ado I give you my 2018 bucket list.

Classic red bucket

You can’t go past a classic. This is the bucket of my childhood, perfect for washing clothes on camping trips, throwing up in when sick and of course holding miscellaneous pegs. I was surprised you could still get these to be honest, I thought they would come with wifi now.

Harrods bucket

Sometimes I think we are all equal, then I find Harrods selling a £400 silver plated ice bucket. It’s not that I begrudge anyone a £400 silver plated ice bucket it’s just I can’t help but wonder what it feels like to be the person to receive it as a Christmas present. Surely it would have to be the main present (I question the world if it is a stocking stuffer), but what does it say when your friends/family get you a bucket for Christmas?

Galvanised Pail

This is the one that we think of as an ‘olden days’ bucket, you know the ones you see in the barn weddings on Pinterest. Although by the reviews maybe the olden days weren’t so good “No good whatsoever”, “BEWARE”, “I am annoyed that the bucket is not as described”.

Collapsible buckets

These are the buckets of the future, the buckets we could only dream of: a bucket that collapses! I can only imagine these are for that oft hoped for situation when the local gin distillery explodes and you have seconds to grab your collapsible bucket from your handbag and collect drops of ambrosia from the sky.

Skull ice bucket

If you are a goth being forced into a silver and white Christmas theme by your family then this is the solution you have been looking for. I vote for adding a couple of ice cubes made entirely of red food colouring, so that as it all starts to melt it looks like it’s bleeding. I’m totally normal I swear.

There are not many brands that I have an emotional connection with. I mean, my love for Excel knows no bounds, but aside from that my relationship with brands tends to be a lot more transactional. PANDORA however, PANDORA is the exception. You may know it as the Danish jewellery brand making memory filled charm bracelets, but for me it is what set me on my current career path years before I knew it.

Throughout university I worked at a jewellery store, three years of lectures in the morning and diamonds in the afternoon. It was a great introduction to working life …as working with customers often is. I learned that you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can always describe something hopelessly ugly as ‘unique’ when someone asks (and you don’t want to lose the sale) and most importantly that sapphires come in many colours but ‘ruby’ is the only sapphire to have its own name because it was prized in India.

About a year into my time selling jewellery we got PANDORA in the store. I think we were one of the first stores in NZ to be a reseller so it was a big deal. I loved selling it because you heard such incredible stories of love, achievement and hope as customers picked out their charms. My favourite was a guy who filled an entire bracelet for his wife of 50 years, with each charm representing an important milestone in their relationship. So many stories, so many tears.

So how did selling PANDORA predict my future career? For those who don’t know, after going down a few wrong paths I have ended up as a business analyst. It is the perfect job in my eyes; I deal with fixing processes, creatively expressing data and making businesses work more efficiently. I freakin love it.

The problem that we had back in the jewellery store was that PANDORA had literally hundreds of different charms, rings, earrings and bracelets. When we first got them we kept all the beads in little bags in a big plastic box. It was a nightmare to find the one specific charm full of meaning you were after in a sea of plastic bags. The situation was even more of a nightmare when it came to ordering the charms, there was no easy way of knowing what stock levels were like (we were all manual back in the day with handwritten receipts and everything, no computers to do the thinking for you).

Being the manager on a very quiet Sunday I took this and designed a stocktaking system. Looking back it is really adorable, laminated pages and whiteboard markers, but at the time it made life easier and we used it until the store got a computer system. This little system was my first taste at improving business processes, a job that I now own and love. PANDORA will always own a warm fuzzy place in my heart for giving me a taste of my future years before I understood the importance and joy of a VLOOKUP.

But why am I blogging about them now? PANDORA have just announced their collaboration with Disney, something that customers were asking for all those years ago in little old New Zealand. There is a new range of charms celebrating the castle, the carriage, the characters and the magic that is Disney. I am actually heading to Disneyworld next year, so this partnership is just all kinds of amazing. PANDORA invited me to a Beauty and the Beast themed afternoon tea to celebrate the launch, and I can’t say how grateful I am to be given this beautiful walk down memory lane.

I really like reading behind the scenes from small business ventures so I thought it might be interesting to give you a little Zeal & Heart update. It’s now been four months since I decided to take the risk and import an engraving machine, and thankfully I still think it’s a good idea. I mean I’m slightly sick of having a heart attack every time I look at my bank account, but I am glad I went ahead with Zeal & Heart.

One of the biggest learnings was around photography. Turns out I have chosen to manufacture the hardest product to photograph imaginable. Seriously, the pendants are tiny and reflective why did no one warn me? After three photo shoots with mixed results (I liked the overall composition but it was impossible to see the pendants) I did some investigating and found a somewhat affordable lens for my Olympus Pen camera. There are two lenses for the Pen if you want to shoot Macro the 60mm which is £429 and the brand new 30mm which is £249. I think the 60mm is better if you want to photograph actual bugs, but it was way out of my price range (and I have mixed feelings about bugs). The new 30mm however turns out to be perfect for my Zeal & Heart needs, and since I found a 25% off code on Twitter (there are a few floating around) I got it down to £188. It took my bank balance into an even more unfriendly place, but the improvement in product photos I think is worth it.

The second big change around these parts is around the social media. Notice a marked improvement in the last couple of weeks? Yeah, that has nothing to do with me. Over Easter I went out for brunch with Jacintha and she told me about the ‘4 hour work week’ book by Timothy Ferriss, it sounded interesting so right there at the brunch table in New Zealand I ordered it on Amazon. That book is still sitting on my shelf looking at me, I haven’t even cracked the spine. But the concept got me thinking enough about the bits of business I am good at and the bits that I’m not, and thinking about the parts of Zeal & Heart that I enjoy (I seriously need to read the book). The social media side of business I find really interesting from a dork point of view, but I could not think of anything worse than actually scheduling the posts or having a content strategy. Enter Emma stage left. Around the same time as I started Zeal & Heart Emma started her own Social Media consultancy business, and let me tell you in two weeks she has done a better job across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook than I could have done in a lifetime. If you have a small business and suck at the social media give Emma a shout.

The last thing I have done was get a consulting session with Jasmine to talk about my Etsy strategy. I had no idea that Etsy was essentially a giant search engine, and without optimising the dreaded SEO I wasn’t going to get far. I think my biggest lesson with this business game is that I don’t know it all and reaching out to far more knowledgeable friends will hopefully kick it in the ass. Jasmine thankfully got me drunk before even broaching the topic of SEO, and even then lead into it gently with small words and big pictures. That girl knows her shit and knows how to simplify it all down to my level.

Last but not least I have a big announcement! I get the absolute privilege of letting you know about the first Zeal & Heart collaboration is with the one and only Laura Jane Williams from Superlatively Rude. Laura is a twice published author, former Grazia columnist and the ultimate in Instagram Stories entertainment. Laura is joining Zeal & Heart for a limited edition ‘Zeal & Heart ft Laura Jane Williams’ pendant featuring the epic phrase “none of us is fucking up like we think we are”. As always the design is limited edition and only 250 will be made, they go on sale at 6pm tonight so get in quick.

Shoot me any Z&H questions you have, I will give you another update shortly.

Before I came to the UK the one thing I wanted Mum to teach me to make was her gingerbread loaf. It is the stuff of dreams, not just because of the sweet ginger flavour but also because it lasts for up to a week without going weird AND it can be frozen. This gingerbread loaf is a total fixture in my mind when I think of my childhood (although Mum isn’t convinced she made it that often), those doorstop thick slabs covered in butter are the answer to almost any problem.

But even though I marched the streets of London with recipe in hand I have never successfully made it. Once a year Mum gets an enraged Skype from me about how I have failed yet again at the fail safe recipe. To be honest the numerous gingerbread loaf disasters were part me and part the UK. I always thought I knew better than the trusty recipe, changing the proportions or on one shocking occasion trying to substitute the milk/vinegar combo for buttermilk (learn from me kids, don’t do it). The UK does have a part to play in this ongoing saga however because the golden syrup over here sucks ass. It is weak watery rubbish that has as much flavour as licking the side of a London telephone box after an autumn shower.

Enter SANZA stage left. Antipodean expats in the UK will all know of SANZA, the website that has all of those treats from home that solve homesickness time and time again (INCLUDING ORIGINAL FLAVOUR BBQ SHAPES!!!!!!!!!!). SANZA offered to send me a box of goodies and to say I leapt at the opportunity was a slight understatement. They might have been slightly surprised at the first thing in my basket, because it wasn’t the Shrewsbury biscuits the Twisties or the Whittakers…it was Chelsea Golden Syrup – time for me to finally conquer the gingerbread loaf.

175 g butter                         
2 tsp baking soda
¾ C sugar                             
2 eggs
1 C golden syrup                  
1 C milk
1 T ground ginger                 
1 T vinegar
2½ C flour                                   
½ tsp cinnamon

  1. Add the vinegar to the milk & let stand to sour.
  2. Cream butter & sugar, add the syrup and beat well. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  3. Sift the flour, baking soda and spices into the mixing bowl.
  4. Gradually beat in the milk & vinegar.
  5. Pour the mixture into 2 lined loaf tins or 1 x 20cm square tin.
  6. Bake at 170°C – loaf tins for approx 50 mins, large tin for approx 1 hr 20 mins.

I was primed and ready. In preparation I put on Dave Dobbyn and ate an entire packet of BBQ Shapes, it was time for me and gingerbread loaf to become friends. This time, I had the right ingredients and I was going to follow the recipe to the letter. No exam had ever been so stressful, no relationship as high risk; but step by (totally easy why the hell had I failed before) step I went through the gingerbread loaf recipe sent over from Mum. And do you know what? I only went and bloody well did it.

My gingerbread loaf was perfect. I feasted off it for the next week and froze two mini-versions to have at a later celebration. Turns out, with SANZA to the rescue and if I actually follow the recipe, all is right in the world.

Oh and since I was on a roll I did something that I had never attempted before, I made lolly cake. I was worried that after 29 years without making it, the NZ Embassy was going to revoke my Kiwi card. Lets just say that it was a tasty few days in the Runawaykiwi house.