How much does it cost to travel Mexico for 10 months?

“How much does it cost to travel Mexico for nearly a year?” is a question I have never been asked…. Ever!

But I am not going to let that stop me sharing this hopefully useful information to fellow travels, who may not have known that they need to know this. Makes sense? Good. We shall begin.

cost-hire-car On the road – Hiring a car in Mexico

So, how much does it cost to travel Mexico for 10 months?

The total cost: £9,347.54 or $13.783 US.

Our average cost per day per person – £16 or 24 USD

This is the cost for a couple. It includes one way flights to Mexico and 12 months travel insurance.

2 one way Flights London Gatwick – Cancun: £600 (Here’s how we found cheap flights)
12 months True Traveller Insurance – for Rob: £482.23 (I like doing more dangerous stuff)
12 months Flexicover Insurance – for Kellie: £240.00

Leaving in country spends of: £8,024.31 or $11,832 US

It sounds even better when I say per person we only spent £4000!

Here’s the figures (Included in the costs are a Visa run to Belize, as EU citizens are only allowed to stay in Mexico for 6 months. Full details and costs here)

cost-of-living-mexico-budget-color-1

cost-one-year-mexico-chart

We think in country spends of £8024.31 is pretty low figure, for nearly a years worth of travel, considering we didn’t really try and budget.

Why are the costs so low?

If you cannot be bothered reading the rest of this cost breakdown, we basically saved money by doing lots of house sitting.

However, if you are interested, here are a few more reasons why our costs are so low and few examples of costs:

Accommodation – £1045 total

I don’t feel accommodation is particular cheap in Mexico as compared to places like Thailand. We usually paid a minimum of £20 a night for hotels or Airbnb places when on the road. These were on the whole, nothing fancy.

We didn’t stay in hostels, this is because I get tired of enforced social situations rather quickly. I guess if you are less picky than me, you can search for cheap hostels, but I’m not going to lie I never even bothered looking.

The biggest saving – We cut our costs mainly by becoming house sitter extraordinaires. We spent 7.5 months house sitting.

House sitting fits us perfectly as we prefer to travel slowly, then mix it up with fast travel in-between assignments.

We use Housecarers.com and Trustedhousesitters.com to find our house sits.

Transport – £782.70

Obviously we travelled slowly so weren’t tearing around the country, but I think Mexico is a pretty cheap place to travel by bus.

Local transport costs are extremely cheap – 10 pesos for collectivos (minibuses) which take you to local destinations and usually about 35 pesos for in town taxis.

Long distance – Whenever we travelled to new places, it was by coach. The coaches are extremely comfortable, and there are so many different companies in different areas it would be hard to name them all. This means that Mexico is an extremely easy country to navigate without a car.

ADO is a great budget option to get you started.

Food costs

Groceries £1984

We love to cook, so saved lots of money by eating in, and visiting the markets to pick cheap, local ingredients. Also Kellie has been ill with parasites for so long, it became a bit of a nightmare eating out, there was rarely anything on the menu she could stomach. The cost also includes toiletries and other household supplies.

Food out – £1474

In Mexico if you want to eat cheap you can easily.

£1.30 to £2.60 (30-60 pesos) – Tacos, empanadas etc. But I eat a lot, so would have to buy shed loads to keep me full.

£8 to £12 (200-300 pesos) – around this for an evening meal or dinner for two people. We don’t drink much alcohol, so this would usually include a can of fizzy pop or bottled water.

£18+ (400+ pesos) for a fancy meal, for two people. The most we payed was £50 for a fancy meal at the Leaky Palapa whilst we lived in the middle of nowhere, it was amazing! If you ever happen to be in Xcalak you have to go!

It’s also worth mentioning that we lived off the grid for 3 months, so there were very few eating out options except for over priced rubbish.

Entertainment Costs – £876.50

Our entertainment costs could be much higher, but we are not tour or museum fans. If we went to see ruins in Mexico, I would position myself near tour groups to listen to few facts before the inevitable boredom hit and I wondered off to explore, or more likely ended up in a cafe. Cheeky, but cost effective.

There are lots of museums, ruins and such like, if you want to waste your money on them (joke).

This figure does include amongst other things :

  • car hire – roughly £25 a day
  • horse riding tour with food – £57 (1300 pesos)
  • yoga classes – £5 (110 peso per person, per class)
  • cinema –  £2.50 (50 pesos)
  • cooking course in Oaxaca, for two people – £80 (1800 pesos)
  • Entry to ruins
  • and the odd night out.

Medical – £517.50

I have never seen a budget breakdown with medical costs before but thought it was worth having it’s own category, Kel has been pretty unlucky with parasite infestations.

Without it our in country costs would have been brought down to around £7,500, for 10 months! We did claim most of it back on Kellie’s insurance thankfully… I definitely advise getting insurance despite the pain of the fact I never used mine. The companies we use allow you to renew whilst on the road. Not all do.True Traveller Insurance and Flexicover Insurance.

Here’s a few idea of costs:

  • Blood test – £11 (250 pesos)
  • Xray – £14 (320 pesos)
  • Medication (antibiotics) – £6 to £8(140 to 200 pesos)
  • Doctors/consultations – £22 (500 pesos)

Misc – £1,344.61

This is basically the everything else category. from laundry to toilet entry, which are just a few pesos.

£500 of it was for 4 weeks of Spanish lesson, for two people in San Miguel De Allende (of which I can remember nothing). I was going to put it in the entertainment costs, then realised this would be a lie. Kellie was much better at it than me and found it extremely valuable. I just drew willys in my notebook and looked up swear words.

It also included our house sitting memberships (Housecarers.com and Trustedhousesitters.com), phone credit, FMM border fee… I shall bore you no longer.

In summary, Mexico is cheap as chips if you travel like we do.

I track all my spends with a pen and paper.

Do you want to chat about budgets and discuss the cost of things with us in our comments below? No. Thought not. Thanks for stopping by anyway. 

Please share to spread the word of cheap travel.

Life on the farm – Latest house sit

All is well in our new farm life.

Apart from the other day when Kellie burst into the kitchen and shouted, “THERE’S TROUBLE ON THE FARM!!”

She pegged it back outside before I could discover what terrible event was occurring.

It was Marjorie. The chicken. She’d escaped from her pen!!

farm-Chickens

The next ten minutes involved a lot of distressed flapping, and a bumbling bearded bloke trying to chase down a surprisingly agile hen. Kellie was of course on hand to help, by belly laughing somewhere in the background.

It was more drama then you’d get in an episode of The Archers.

(For all you non-UK folks, The Archers is a radio drama so twee, that such a thing could only exist in the UK. It’s a long running work of fiction broadcast by BBC national radio, based on the highs and lows of a farming community. I’m not making it up honestly!!)

The crisis was averted and Marjorie rejoined the other 19 Marjories. They all look the same, so it’s easier to give them the same name (chicken racism?).

They keep us happily supplied with fresh eggs. All we have to do is let them out in the morning, put them to bed at night, and occasionally catch the Steve McQueen of the hen world, if one makes a break for freedom.

It’s also our first house sit with horses. Surprisingly tending to these two has been really simple. Muck out and feed 3x a day, which gets us out of bed in the morning and only takes us ten minutes each time.

farm-montage

I’m sure there is much more to it long term, but in the short term it’s actually much easier than walking a dog twice a day. On top of that I am pleased to report that horse poo smells much less than dogs. I’m sure you were wondering.

Then we have this snuggle monster, Juniper:

farm-juniper

Juniper is like the best parts of a dog and cat combined. Not a weird genetic mutation. She is nicely independent, but also loves cuddles. This is a novelty. All cats we have experienced either claw us for no reason, or look at us with contempt until their owners return.

Feeling settled on the farm

So the farm…

Well it’s actually five acres of land, surrounded by thick forests, rather than a farm. But it’s pretty farm like to us.

We are on the outskirts of Qualicum Beach, a seaside town on Vancouver Island.

The home has got a real cosy feel to it. A wood burning stove heats the entire house, which is perfect to curl up in front of on a rainy day and or for Kellie whilst she is in recovery mode.

farm-cosy

The living room is TV-less, which is fantastic. TV nowadays only makes me angry and shouty, especially during American/Canadian ad breaks, which are every 5 seconds and mainly focus on selling you drugs for depression, weight loss, medical ailments etc.

The side effects of the drugs are longer than the rest of the advert and may cause such things as:

Anal bleeding,
suicidal thoughts,
heart failure,
paralaysis.

Good grief! The list goes on and on, but I should stop now, before I start an uncontrolled rant at marketing by drugs companies.

This is a real advert, although it seems like a parody… At least it’s honest I guess!

[weaver_youtube http://youtu.be/taXGAPZwuCo sd=0 percent=100 center=1 rel=0 https=0 privacy=0]

Back to the point… We have become more productive without a TV. Kellie is using Duolingo to learn French for our upcoming cycling adventure in Europe.

We got the owners bikes and panniers out the other day, as kind of test run to see if our two-wheeled exploration wasn’t totally crazy for a couple of people who hardly ever cycle. After a successful and only slightly wobbly mission into town to do the weekly food shop, we are still on course for a tandem ride around Europe.

The house has a piano, so I am trying to learn a new skill. This is in turn teaching Kellie to be more patient, as she is forced to listen to me clumsily repeating the opening bars of ‘Hey Jude’ over and over again, whilst I busily chew my bottom lip to death. It’s my concentration face.

farm-Englishman-river-fallsExploring Englishman River Falls

Ideas for the future

The owners are pretty handy, building most of the house from scratch. They also use the land to grow their own fruit and veg, and are currently about 80% sustainable.

We dream of buying some land in Scotland and building a tiny house. It would come complete with a donkey, chickens and maybe a lama for comedy value. In the dream we’d be near the coast, growing our own veggies and living a simple but productive life.

This ‘farm’ house is giving us a mini taster of that life, and we like it A LOT!

Plus this place also comes with an outdoor Jacuzzi and a wood fired pizza oven, which definitely warms the cockles on a cold winter evening.

It’s safe to say all this productivity, dream building and the plentiful supply of delicious pizza, means we are a little bit in love with our month long Qualicum house sit.

We use Housecarers.com and Trustedhousesitters.com to find our house sits.

farm-pizza

5 year anniversary, sleepless nights and new plans!

Me and the husband - old

Last night it was our 5 year anniversary.

I couldn’t sleep.

Hours of non-stop ceiling staring.

Turn one way. Adjust the pillow. Sigh.

Turn the other way. Re-fluff the pillow.

Sigh more heavily and hope Kellie is also awake to share my insomnia. Then we can sit up and watch crap Netflix films into the early hours.

She’s not.

I feel a little bit of irrational hatred towards her, all smug in a blissful deep sleep.

Repeat hundreds of times and add in lots of feet fidgeting.

But for once I didn’t mind the insomnia too much.

I’m excited, we have new plans!

For a while we have been a bit meh about our travels.

I wasn’t entirely sure why. We’ve had some wonderful house sits, met lovely people, and have an exciting 3 month adventure planned for South America.

What the hell is wrong with us?

I know we are extremely fortunate. But nothing has made us giddy with excitement for a while. We have become nonchalant.

Then yesterday everything changed. We regained our travel bug and now I can no longer sleep at night…

It was the day of our 5th Anniversary.

5 years since we first met. I’m not going to write a soppy post about how much I love this stupid face…

stupid-face-anniversary

For that you can read last year’s post on our 4-year anniversary.

Instead Kellie surprised me with an idea.

I’m not sure what makes me happier. The cool idea, or the fact that after she can still surprise me after all this time.

Before I reveal the ‘Big Idea’ First I need to explain something (don’t go skipping to the end it will only spoil it).

The truth

Over the last 13 months Kel has been ill.

Yep, I know she has mentioned it in several posts, but if anything she has underplayed it.

She knows there will always be others who have it much worse than her so doesn’t want to moan. So instead I will moan for her.

It’s not a life threatening illness; basically the parasites she picked up in Mexico have wrecked her guts and made her digestive system a haven to any bugs or parasites looking for a new home.

It’s a bit like having a really bad hangover for an entire year.

After every meal she feels sick. She wakes up she feels sick. She has a drink of water she feels sick. She wakes up in the middle of the night feeling sick. You get the picture.

Then there are the side effects from bad digestion, which I am sure you can imagine without the need for a diagram.

Her diet has changed dramatically. I think the name Hungry Escapades gives it away; we both love our food and would try practically anything at least once.

Now, the list of restriction dietary restrictions for Kellie is almost endless. We slowly discovered what worked and what didn’t for her gut, after many MANY months.

Even with this strict diet the sickness would still come.

It’s an extremely healthy diet granted, but when you are travelling the world you want to sample all the local food and not worry about what’s in it.

anniversary-raw-vegan-foodOne positive – we discovered how delicious raw vegan food can be – Raw chilli

Plus all this healthy food can be quite hard to source in some countries, unless you are happy eating veggies, rice and porridge every single day.

Put simply, though not deadly, it’s a struggle. It starts to weigh you down mentally as much as it does physically.

After nearly 13 months of this, going from doctor to doctor, paying hundreds of pounds for them to test, prescribe and ‘cure’ her. Nothing worked.

She continued to lose weight and was quickly evaporating.

Although all Kellie’s last medical test were clear of bugs, it was obvious something still wasn’t right.

Healing

Finally in December we got time to settle in Canada and she went to see a Naturopath, who listened to her problems and had personal experience with parasites.

If I ever meet this Naturopath, I would make her feel extremely awkward by repeatedly kissing her face and hugging the shit out of her.

It would all be non-sexual affection, but this lady should know she is changing Kellie’s life for the better.

After one month, the drugs and potions she prescribed have meant she can now… wait for it….

EAT A F****ING EGG!!!!

This is not a joke. You will not believe how adding an egg to your diet can revolutionise your life.

The egg symbolises so much more than increased recipe options, it also means Kellie’s insides are starting to heal.

The queasy feeling still makes an appearance, but less frequently.

She ate steak yesterday for our anniversary meal, and although her stomach sounded like an angry bear, she was fine.

This is all good news and a step in the right direction, but we are not fooling ourselves that her blighted immune system is now fully healed.

There is still a long way to go

Creeping ever closer on the horizon was our trip to South America.

In two months time we should be heading to Colombia and starting a 3-month trip around its surrounding countries.

Originally this would have been a dream trip, but at this stage in Kellie’s recovery it fills us with trepidation. Looking back, this was the major source of our ‘meh’ feeling.

Now I agree fear should not prevent you following your dreams, but also it would be ridiculous jeopardising Kellie’s health for this type of adventure. The Naturopath also advised her not to go in the near future.

Her belly just isn’t strong enough to cope with the potential bugs, plus we have so much more planned in the future which requires Kellie having good health.

We thought about taking our own cooking gear so we can make sure everything cooked is clean and bug free, but it’s just not practical for 3 months.

When you are planning on heading to the Amazon or taking a guided 5 day hike in Patagonia, you can’t just pop to the shops to get your groceries and make sure everything is sanitised to Kel’s standards.

You can’t just get your cooking gear out on an 18hr bus journey and whip up a healthy culinary delight. A day of fasting would not be healthy, especially as she would have to watch me stuff my face with all the local food, which would be napalm for her innards.

So finally we let the dream go… for now anyway…

Surprisingly it was relief once we made the decision. Most of the meh lifted.

We can’t say we aren’t a little bit disappointed. We were due to meet some good friends. Together we would have backpacked our way through beautiful countries and shared some amazing experiences.

But in my previous post ‘Project Life’ – which you should go read now rather then repeat myself – helped me see this decision as now, rather than forever.

One day we will go to South America and enjoy all it offers, but now is not the time.

Making new plans

The void of our non-South America adventure had to be filled. We floated ideas of continuing house sitting in New Zealand or France maybe.

All fine, but too similar to our current escapade.

We needed something different, something to raise the pulse and challenge us in a new way.

Then yesterday, as we drove through the heavy rain to our new house sit on Vancouver Island, came this whopper from The Jones (Kellie for all you newcomers).

“I know!!! Why don’t we cycle Europe???!!” she said just as we sped past a cyclist…

“F*** yes,” was my instant reply.

So that’s it, just like that we are about 90% certain we are off to explore our home continent on two wheels.

It excites us.

cycle-tour-anniversary

We are not hardcore cyclists. We will do it in our own way. Cycle as much or as little as we feel. Catch the train. Stay in hotels, tree houses or camp. Cook our own food. Maybe even house sit.

If Kellie’s immune system continues to heal we will challenge ourselves physically, whilst eating our way through Europe. If not, we will take it slowly and I will gorge myself on cheese, wine and bread.

Although we aren’t kidding ourselves it will always be easy, the romantic dreams rarely match reality, it just feels right.

The challenging things in life usually bring you the most memories and satisfaction.

In my head, travelling through a country on bike, rather than a bus or car, brings you much closer to the land and people. This hopefully will give us many more encounters with local folk and allow us to discover things we would normally have passed by.

The plan is vague. Let’s start in Holland. It’s nice and flat…

And then where?

This is the fun part. Let the planning commence!!

This is now a meh free zone.

Escaping an Ecovillage

Recently we decided to volunteer at and Ecovillage in Canada. We’ve been pretty comfortable house sitting our way around Mexico, the USA and most recently Canada, but sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. We’ve wanted to get involved in the community a bit more and add some purpose to our day.

With this in mind we looked into doing some volunteering through Workaway.

ecovillageThis is what we imagined

Having recently become all consumed by the idea of building a tiny house, we’ve binge watched George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, sought out documentaries and I’ve got a rather impressive Pinterest board going on. Heading somewhere to learn some new skills sounded like a fun idea.

After scouring through a long list, we applied for a place on an Ecovillage. Learning how to become more socially, ecologically and economically sustainable, sounded right up our street.

I imagined learning how to build sustainably and finding out more about sustainable food production.

Upon arrival my romantic dreams were shattered…it looked like a run of the mill housing estate in the suburbs. This was not quite what I had in mind.

I can be pretty quick at jumping to conclusions, so as we arrived at 10pm at night, I thought I should maybe reserve judgment until the light of day.  Sometimes things do look worse at night.

The warning signs kept coming.

We were shown to our room, it was ice cold. At -4°C outside a bit of heat might have been nice.

I went to the bathroom; there was no toilet roll or towel to dry our hands on.

We got into bed and it smelt like cheesy feet.

To me these are just the basics of making someone feel welcome in your home. Clean sheets, a bit of heat and some toilet roll don’t seem like too much to ask…do they?

In the past I may have started moaning about this to Rob, but over the last year I’ve learnt lots of things and one of them is sometimes I just have to shut up and get on with it. I do enjoy a good moan but it doesn’t really solve anything and can just make an already bad situation even more negative.

I said nothing.

We woke in the morning. It was still cold. I could see my breath as I lay there in bed; this is never a good thing. I had to prepare myself mentally for the step from the bed onto the freezing tiled floor and did a cold dance as I got dressed in record time.

I still said nothing.

After breakfast we were shown around the whole Ecovillage.

ecovillage-realityA smaller version of this was closer to the reality

My initial impression of a housing estate was correct. In fact, the community aspect of the Ecovillage was that they houses were built close together so that everyone on your street could see into your kitchen. Apparently this was to promote community cohesion.

In our walk around the estate I didn’t see a single other person. People live there, but seem to go off to work during the day coming back in the evening to go home cook a meal and watch TV.

Ecovillage jobs

Moving stones, raking leaves and painting.

Not quite the skills I was hoping to pick up. I’ve haven’t spent any dedicated time learning to rake leaves, but I’m pretty sure I’d be ok it if I just gave it a go.

Having still not said anything to Rob, we layered up and headed out into the sub zero temperatures to rake leaves.

After about an hour Rob walked over to me.

“It’s shit, I don’t want to stay.” Was all he said and hugged me.

I was pleased for 2 reasons, firstly he was feeling the same as me and secondly he said it first.

“Me either!” I replied, although my facial muscles were now completely frozen, so it was probably more like a Chewbacca noise.

Rob pretty much has the attitude of ‘Just get on with it’. He isn’t usually a moaner, when he is ill he just gets on with it, when he has a problem he solves it, no moaning required. I knew it must have been bad for him to break first.

Decision made, we then had to find a way to leave.

Rob set off along the road to enquire about public transport to make our escape.

He returned 20 minutes later with the news that there was in fact no public transport for several towns around.

We might be stuck. The more we searched for a way out, the less likely it seemed. I’m sure the owners would have given us a lift, but the conversation of, “We don’t like it here. Can you help us leave,” would have been an awkward one.

The escape route

On this journey we’ve been lucky enough to meet some truly wonderful people. None more so than Lynn and Chris, the last homeowners we sat for in Vancouver. Before we left they’d said, “If you don’t like it (at the Ecovillage), just come back here.”

I fired off an email to them asking if we could indeed return. Immediately Lynn replied with, “Yes of course”.

Relieved but still stuck, and busy tearing our hair out whilst looking for any form of transportation out of our predicament, our mobile started to ring.

It was Chris our saviour! Offering to come and pick us up after he finished work, driving 2 hours out of his way and refusing to accept any petrol money.

We only spent a few days with Chris and Lynn, but they feel like old friends we have known for years. We can’t thank them enough!

Escape route planned, a sense of calm was once again restored.

What did we learn from this?

We were incredibly naive. We have some experience of sustainable living and ecovillages, which were part of the inspiration for us doing this.

We should have asked more questions, found out more about the Ecovillage and what we’d be doing there. Not just assumed they are all the same. The place wasn’t awful, the people we were staying with were friendly.

We could have stayed, hated our entire week and moaned the whole time. Ultimately life is too short to do this, so we chose not to.

Being fair to the folks there, they have a vision to create a community in a society where you often don’t know your own neighbours. Throughout the year they reap and sew organic fruit and veggies from their land and have building projects which we would have loved to get involved with. It just wasn’t the right time of year or the right place for us.

It won’t stop us looking for similar opportunities, we’d just do MUCH more research next time.

The silver lining

Instead we headed over to Vancouver Island and spent a wonderful few days in the very beautiful Ucluelet. We found an amazing space to call home for 4 days. It was cold, windy and raining when we got there, but we were taken in by its instant charm. The coastline reminded us of our beloved Scotland.

Our time there consisted of walking along the dramatic driftwood covered beaches, in amongst the beautiful forests and eating delicious food in cozy pubs by the sea.

ecovillage-ferryThe ferry trip over to Vancouver Island is pretty special on a sunny day, apparently you occasionally see pods of orcas and other sea life!

ecovillage-bedroom

ecovillage-escape

ecovillage-food-cozy

ecovillage-long-beach-driftwood

ecovillage-long-beachWe stayed in a lovely cosy self-catering place via airBnB in Ucluelet, explored Long Beach Tofino and ate delicious food at Shelter restaurant. Definitely all worth checking out!

We spent less than one day doing something we didn’t like. It may have improved and maybe it’s a little harsh to judge something on such a short space of time. But first impressions go a long way and boy did it make us appreciate our unexpected adventure on Vancouver Island so much more.

Every cloud and all that….

Welcome to Project Life – Travel is Not Enough

Welcome to Project Life

Travel is not enough.

There, I have said it!

The blessing and curse of travel is that it gives you time to think. Analyse. Tear your self apart. Build yourself back up again.

In these times of self-analysis, I have discovered that travelling is fun, but it’s not the answer to everything and definitely not the purpose of my life.

What is my purpose?

Maybe I should start with a brief history of adult me…
Project-life-final

Seemingly I leapt from one thing to another with no obvious purpose, jealous of those who had a grand plan.

Being a shape shifter

Then about a year ago I met a man who described my ‘life floatiness’ as ‘shape shifting’. I’m going to call him The Dude.

According to The Dude, a shape shifter has the ability to adapt and change to whatever they need in life, at a particular time.

What a wonderful way to see it!

The term shape shifter has stuck with me. I like it. It gives me confidence. Plus it makes me sound like one of the frickin X-Men…

I now reject my old self-perceived flaky attitude to life. No longer do I float aimlessly.

In actual fact I had set myself mini life projects and achieved them one by one, before moving onto the next.

Project Life

Without realising it, I have also set myself mini life projects on this trip:

“I want to make house sitting the world a reality.” Check.

“I want to teach myself web design and make pretty websites.” I got my first paid job the other week! Check.

On the outside it appears everything is going great. Can’t complain. The weird thing is though, until recently I still had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something is not quite right.

The potential to travel indefinitely is there, but do I want it?

At the moment the truthful answer is no.

Travel is great and opens up so many opportunities, but looking at it as a life plan leaves me empty.

It just feels just too self involved, going from one place to the next seeing new things and meeting people, but rarely inputting anything useful or meaningful into the world.

The next challenge

I look at many long-term travel bloggers and they also seem to struggle with merely just travelling. They set themselves bigger, crazier goals to keep life interesting.

Once you achieve something, you don’t just sit back and pat yourself on the back and think well done.

You move onto the next challenge. The more you extend yourself, the more you realise you are capable of. You stop putting limits on things.

And so my attention has changed to Project Life:

Instead of focusing on what I need to do for the rest of my life and freaking out about an overall plan, I am looking at mini projects to keep me on track and motivated:

Project volunteer – To make our travels more fulfilling we plan to volunteer on various projects in Canada and South America. Obviously this is still not 100% altruistic as volunteering makes you feel good, but there is nothing wrong with doing things that also bring you happiness.

Project return to the UK and build a tiny house – we have become obsessed in the last few weeks with the tiny house movement.

The idea of paying a mortgage for the rest of my life gives me heart palpations.

On the other hand I crave having a place to call my own. One built with my own two hands even more so.

The tiny house means we can do this. It’s literally a small version of a house, usually on wheels. People may call us crazy, but I now see this as a compliment.

It means if we get bored or need to leave, it doesn’t matter, we won’t be tethered to debt. It can also combine our desire for a more sustainable life and reduce needless consumption.

project-tiny-house

I am not spiritual and don’t believe in fate, but sometimes this world throws up coincidences I can’t explain. Just as we immersed our lives in all things travel when planning our trip, we have done the same with tiny houses.

Reading blogs, watching videos etc… Then we arrive at our Airbnb stay in Portland and one of the homeowners has just finished filming a documentary about the Tiny House Movement and injects us with a whole heap of fresh inspiration and belief.

Little coincidences like this keep you going on a new path.

Project start a family – this one obviously depends on our bits working (and may not be just a mini project), but we cannot escape our huge desire to create a little person and impart our (lack of) wisdom and show them an alternate lifestyle.

Life enhancing

I guess, like travel I am still looking for experiences that enhance my life, but to me they just connect more deeply with my beliefs and needs.

I am lucky to travel. We enjoy and it will hopefully be a part of our lives in the future, but it’s no longer our sole focus.

Project Life sees our short existence in the world as an experiment. Some things may not work, but others will. Each mistake is learned from. Nothing is forever. We can shape shift as much as we like and not feel guilty about it. Each project has the power to open up new opportunities.

Perhaps we are all shape shifters and don’t even realise it. We set ourselves impossible lifelong plans and get stressed, depressed and worn out trying to achieve them.

It’s cool if you do have a grand plan and it makes you happy, but I can’t imagine asking my 18 year self make decisions about my life now. It would be ridiculous, he was a tool. We change constantly, so it’s ok to adapt our lives to the new us. We should embrace it rather than fear it.

In the last few weeks whilst travelling America I have met so many people who are making their own path in life. Stepping away from the expected career and looking for a fulfilling alternative.

It gives me great hope for my very own Project Life.

But for now, my mini life project is telling me to focus on more immediate matters and make some delicious cheese on toast…

project-soulThought I should end with a super soulful shot so you can imagine me pondering life whilst you read this, innit – Deep man, deep…

It’s time for a challenge – Marcothon

The Challenge

photo (2)

A few years ago I received a message from my good friend Spam. That isn’t her real name, but a lovely nickname I gave her over 10 years ago.

After you hear what that message contained you’ll be amazed to discover that she is still my friend.

It went something like this.

“Have you heard of Marcothon? It’s a challenge where you run everyday in December, including Christmas day. You just have to do 25 minutes or 3 miles. I’m doing it. You in?”

Of course my first reaction was…

No way!!

But the thought kept niggling away at me.

Could I do it?

Should I do it?

Will my body implode?

I do like a challenge though….

Then finally, why not?

I knew that if we were both doing it and supporting each other, we’d be more likely to succeed.

So I took a deep breath and said yes!

Challenge accepted, I waited for 1st December.

I would like to point out that at the time I lived in North East Scotland and December is winter. It’s COLD!

Like snowy, icy, windy rain and sleet in your face cold.

challenge-marcothon-weatherJust some of the Scottish weather I faced on the challenge

That first day was horrible.

Besides a couple of futile attempts on a treadmill, I’d NEVER EVER RAN in my life before, let alone for 25 minutes, or for 3 miles, 31 days in a row.

I was always one of those girls at school who turned up to P.E. with a note excusing my participation in all sport.

“Yes Sir, it’s my ovaries again,” was the only excuse ever needed.

So I had no idea how I was ever going to keep up the Marcothon challenge every single day.

I did most of my runs after work in the dark, because winter in Scotland means darkness at 3pm.

You have to plan it into your life and will yourself on, even when you would rather sit indoors, eat chocolate and binge watch Netflix.

One day I knew I’d be home late, too late to go out. So I had to head off early morning…. In the dark and cold yet again… Unsurprisingly winter in Scotland doesn’t get light until 9am.

At the time I would have enjoyed pulling out every fingernail one by one, more than facing the cold in my lycra joggers. But I did it!

Support and Success

Everyday Spam and I would text each other, “Run completed” along with photos of our efforts and happy smiley messages.

As difficult as it was for me, Spam was much more of a trooper. She is a paramedic and works shifts. Some days she’d work a 12-hour shift get home 14 hours later, and then have to run for 25 minutes.

Other days she’d smugly text me at 3pm to say she’d been out. Making me dread the run I’d have to do later, as I looked at the rain lashing down outside.

To cut a long story short, I did it.

I ran every day.

I even ran on Christmas day and then cooked Christmas dinner with Rob for his family.

One day I ran around the house in my underpants for 25 minutes. We were staying in a cottage above the snow line, it was so icy outside it was impossible to walk, let alone run. I didn’t want to give up on day 29, so I had to improvise.

I ran on days I didn’t want to.

I got faster.

I ran further.

Felt happier.

In 31 days I could run 5k without stopping in 30 minutes.

I ate all the delicious Christmas food and still lost weight.

Why am I telling you this?

Well… I’m going to do it again. This December I’m challenging myself to run everyday, for 25 minutes or 3 miles.

If I tell you, then I have to do it.

Join me in Marcothon!

Now I challenge you to join me in this craziness!

It would be nice to have some ‘virtual’ company. We can support each other and get through it together!

I can’t promise you will love every second of it, but what’s the point in a challenge if it’s easy?

If a complete novice runner like me can do it, so can you!

So who is up for the challenge?

Let me know, and for all you none commentors you can message me on Facebook or Twitter and get involved.

I would love to hear from you!

Anyone….? *sits nervously waiting, hoping the silence will be broken*

challenge-marcothon

The Official Marcothon Rules:marcothon rules

God bless America

God bless America!

The land of big stuff. Big mountains. Big trees. Big personalities and big choice. Yes indeed, it is epic.

After taking slow travel to the extreme by spending 10 months in Mexico, we arrived here in America with plans galore and excited faces. Two weeks of exploring in sunny California!

We are loving this country already. It’s people, it’s diverse landscape and it’s abundance of healthy food.

Yeah I said healthy food and USA in the same sentence. It’s true; if you want to eat fast food you can until your heart gives out. But this is the land of opportunity after all and the amount of organic, non GMO is astounding.

My love affair started when I landed in LA airport and found a healthy food bar, with seemingly thousands of options. I let my taste buds settle for a quinoa salad. See healthy food!

America freak out

Poor Rob had a mini freak out, all this choice was a bit much for him. Whilst I was busy munching on my salad, he was wandering confused between different food stalls. He came back empty handed, looking panicked and sweaty.

“What do I do?!” was all he said.

I reminded him that we our now in America. They speak English, “Just ask”.

A revelation! He ran off and returned a few moments later smiling, with a mountain of food. Content.

America-plane-food

We spent a whirlwind couple of weeks exploring California. First up we did normal stuff in San Francisco.

How wonderful to do normal stuff. Are you like me, when you go on holiday? Do you miss certain, often bizarre, things? Maltesers, lemons, BBC Radio 4, the ability to drink straight from a tap.

We continued embracing the food choices, interspersing eating with shopping for new clothes. My radical Mexican salmonella diet meant I now have trousers straight from the weight watchers adverts, where they hold them out proudly to show how much weight they have lost. Time for a new wardrobe.

Yosemite escape

Then it was onwards to adventure. We picked up our beast of a campervan, from Lost Campers, and set off to Yosemite National Park.

We did what we love. Escaped from the computer and hiked our little legs off to see some staggering views. I hadn’t realised how much I’d been missing exploring the great outdoors, and also how much I needed it!

It reset the batteries.

There is in an incredible fresh clean feel here. Camping in between huge pine trees, watching the squirrels bounce amongst us whilst cooking dinner on a mini stove. It feels so refreshing to be right in the heart of nature.

america-yosemite

america-hungry-escapadesThen just as we were beginning to tire of living without showers and having to walk a million miles to have a pee, we were back on the road.

Solar Living Institute

Next destination was the Solar Living Institute, to catch up with an old friend.

laura-america

When on the road for 10 months as a couple, with barely any other company and conversation other than our own, it is amazing, actually no, ESSENTIAL to catch up with good friends.

Our mate Laura has been here for the 6 months, educating the masses on sustainable living, making cob straw houses, harvesting grapes, making a huge veg patch and generally living a good healthy life. Hard work indeed, but inspirational stuff.

It’s weird to feel a pang of jealousy when on your own big adventure, but we did.

Me and Rob have a dream that sometime in the future we will build our own house, live off the land and bring up a happy home of children.

It may never happen, but it’s good to have dreams.

We also got our first glimpse of the astonishing giant redwoods. They tower above you like something out of Lord of The Rings, and these wise old trees can live for over 2000 years! Living history.

america-solar-living-institute

San Francisco

Our rural adventure ended and we continued the whirlwind journey back to the city.

Our social skills continued to be tested and (hopefully) came out on top as we met up with Sam, a fellow blogger from livetoexplorelife.com

Not only did Sam provide us with accommodation, but also took time off work to show us around her adopted home town. We got the insiders knowledge!

america-sam

San Francisco didn’t disappoint. It’s nice to spend time in a chilled out place, where you can sample city life, and in twenty minutes escape to be by the coast, looking at pretty things.

Sam’s idea of fun happily matched our own. We explored the Ferry Building Marketplace, where Rob bought a pie and went on record as saying it was the best pie he had ever tasted (Golden Gate Meat Company). Strong words from a Yorkshireman.

We obviously headed to the Golden Gate Bridge, worthy of the hype, after a peaceful stroll along the coast at Land’s End. A beautiful spot away from the tourist crowds, which we ‘d never have thought to explore without our local guide.

San-Fran-americaUnicorns, vampires, rainbows (in the Castro district, big LGBT community) AND the Golden Gate bridge. America has everything!

america-san-franciscoSunset at the Cliff House bistro – a cup of tea and a sunset. Perfick!

Knackered but happy, our two week adventure came to an end. We retreated to the peace of our new Colorado House sit.

America has so much to offer we were left wondering why we hadn’t come sooner. Then we checked our bank balance and realised the expensive reason!

Colorado Mountains – New house sit

Welcome to our latest house sit in Boulder, Colorado…

colorado-house

When I first mentioned to people we were thinking of travelling around the world by living in other people’s houses, more often than not the initial reaction was a raise of the eyebrows and a look of confusion. Roughly translated as, ‘You’re a bit of a mental’.

Then when I explained we weren’t taking squatting to extremes and it is basically a free holiday, people’s eyebrows raised even more and the the question turned to, “You can do that?”.

Some still thought we were a bit mental, but that’s cool. It means less competition for us when applying for house sits.

I probably shouldn’t try and sell you on house sitting for this very reason. It’s ultra competitive, but once you land your first gig it seems to snowball.

It has taken us off the grid, with our own private beach and the Mexican jungle as our backyard, to a gringo Mecca in San Miguel, and the less well travelled Patzcuaro. In the future we will be heading to Canada to enjoy a winter after 10 months of summer in Mexico.

3 weeks in Colorado

For the next 3 weeks, whilst the home owners trek Nepal, we are here in the mountains of Colorado. You step outside and the smell of pine instantly hits your senses. A bit like a massive car air freshener, but without the artificial (headache inducing) scent.

The weather is crazy. When we arrived from hot hot California (more to come on this adventure in our next post) and made our way to our house sit, the rain was pouring so heavily we couldn’t even see the road, let alone the car in front.

Marisa, the homeowner, assured us that they get 300 days of sunshine here in Colorado and somewhere in the distance were rolling mountains covered in pine trees and yellow aspens, but the big black clouds refused to let us see them.

colorado-seasons

Since then we have had to pull out the thermals, as the snow covered the trees and made our daily dog walking sessions a bit brrrrr…. Today it’s speedos weather and the autumn trees glow in the warm afternoon sunlight. Thanks for the variety Colorado!

Living in America!

We are embracing everything America has to offer, including it’s pumpkin patches. For those who don’t know, this is basically a big field with unimaginable quantities of pumpkins, tractor rides, mazes and goats. I’ve never struggled so much to chose my desired squash! No flat pumpkins please, I need nice curvature…

colorado-pumpkin-patch
Sweet baby Jesus America! I love your variety of food. All we hear about in the UK is fast food USA. Why did you keep your delicious organic food a secret? Whole supermarkets dedicated to good food.

whole-foods-coloradoKel loves Whole Foods – It would be quite easy to blow our travel fund here in about two weeks!

However, I am slightly disturbed by the need for you to write this on many of your products…

hormones-colorado

Mmmm growth hormones, nutritious and delicious!

The bottom line is Kellie can now eat more than her Mexico diet of rice and potatoes, without fear of getting ill again! A fed Kel = a happy Kel

In fact we are both walking around with huge beaming grins. Is this really our life?

Sure we have ups and downs on the road, but that’s life. What kind of freaks would we be if we were always happy (and also very irritating to other humans).

Discontent leads to change. We were a bit flat emotionally at the end of our Mexico adventure, which propelled us to the land of opportunity.

Now here we are in Colorado, feeling much lighter, enjoying the fresh mountain air and researching hiking trails to explore. I can’t wait to take these dudes on our adventures for the next few weeks….

colorado-dogs

Laid back Sequoia and excitable scamp Coda – Best mates for 6 years, they stop for each other on walks to make sure each other are ok. LOVE THEM ALREADY!

Now it’s time to look through my keyhole…

If you still think we are crazy for living in other people’s home, check out our house in the woods. It even has a mini gym to dispel the travel belly I have started to accumulate…

view-form-balconyView from our living room balcony

colorado-open-living-spaceHuge bright and open living area – cosy sofas, a luxury after much of Mexico! Plus you can see the view outside

hungry-kitchen-coloradoMaybe we will expand on the Hungry recipes

gym-coloradoTime to work on the guns?

walkies-colorado

 We use Housecarers.com and Trustedhousesitters.com to find our house sits.

15 weird and wonderful things Mexico has taught me

mexico_flagMexico is brilliant. We wouldn’t have stayed here for 10 months if we didn’t like it. Initially I was going to write a post about the top things I love here. Then I read a similar post by another blogger and was so bored by number three on the list that I wanted to scratch my eyes out with a spoon.

Yes Mexico is wonderful, the people friendly, the beaches spectacular, the food delicious blah blah blah. All essential ingredients for fun and excitement when exploring a new land, but so generic you could apply it to many other countries on this fine planet.

It’s the unusual that interests me and sticks with me long after I have left. I love the amusing, bemusing and sometimes annoying things you encounter when living in another culture.

So without further a do here are 15 weird, wonderful and embarrassing things Mexico has taught me:

1.Do you have any testicles?

For many months I entered the local grocery shop and asked the frail old lady behind the counter “Do you have any balls?

It wasn’t deliberate. I wasn’t being rude. It’s a case of lost in translation.

The word for egg is ‘huevo’, so I assumed the plural would be ‘huevos’. Not so. I discovered far too late in the day from my Spanish teacher that you don’t pluralise it.

For some reason ‘Tiene heuvos?’ is actually a testosterone filled challenge to another male, where you question their masculinity. Oops!

2. Dogs belong on roof tops.

This one makes me a little sad. As you walk down the streets in Mexico you get barked at. Not from down below like you’d normally expect. The dogs are up high on the roof top peering down at you. They are always there; they never leave their roof top spot. I guess at least they aren’t homeless and get fed. Which leads onto the next point…

mexico-roof-dog

3. There are thousands of homeless dogs here. I have named and made friends with them all.

I love dogs! That is all…

mexico-i-love-dogs

4. Mexicans are immune to noise.

Ever been sat in a restaurant enjoying a nice quiet meal when two fellas rock up next to your table with a giant xylophone and amplifier? Probably not… They then proceed to shatter the peace with their lovely but loud tune and ask you for a tip at the end as if you had requested the impromptu performance. For me this was bizarre and put me right off my fajita. Nobody else batted an eyelid, like it’s a normal everyday occurrence in Mexico. Here’s the video…

[embedplusvideo height=”400″ width=”600″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1s3UywV” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/acOkaBe1KW4?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=acOkaBe1KW4&width=600&height=400&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep6803″ /]

There’s more! Firecrackers, dogs barking, church bells, eighteen different stereos in one street simultaneously blasting out anything from Venga Boys to traditional mariachi bands, karaoke at four in the morning on a Wednesday, trucks delivering gas with their repetitive musical melody (a bit like an ice cream van), marching bands (Mexico is obsessed with marching and bands!), street sellers, hammering, drilling, … I could go on, but will spare you.

If you don’t like noise, bring some earmuffs or stay at home. It’s deafening and in Britain you would be classed as a neighbour from hell, but this is not polite old Blighty, and LOUD NOISES are part and parcel of life in this vibrant country.

5. Trees shouldn’t be cut down.

In Mexico they make holes in walls for them, or build roads around them. But never ever cut down a tree! Brilliant!

tree-road-mexico

6. Casio Keyboards are cutting edge music technology.

For me a Casio keyboard takes me back to school music lessons, where I used to press the demo button and pretend to be playing the piano. My teacher wasn’t fooled, but seemed to have lost all enthusiasm for teaching and probably life in general, so I stayed musically illiterate for many years.

In Mexico though I could have been employed as a talented Musician. Or at least plied my trade in restaurants and town squares across the country where Casio keyboard melodies ring out as backing tracks to distinctly average singers.

Here’s the keyboard video evidence. I blame my dancing on the strong margaritas.
[embedplusvideo height=”400″ width=”600″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1s3SG7t” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/9BaQ1M-RRM4?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=9BaQ1M-RRM4&width=600&height=400&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep3138″ /]

7. It’s ok to bring your baby or small child to the cinema no matter what rating the movie is.

Aren’t babies and kids great at sitting quiet and still for over 2 hours? NO! Crying and tantrums all add to the entertainment of the show.

8. Too much about my girlfriend’s bowel movements.

I’ll spare you a photo for this one. It’s old news that Kellie has been sick for much of the time we have been here in Mexico. In fact it’s eight of the ten months. Her gut just isn’t built to cope with the bacteria in the food.

Her constant ill health meant the daily question of “Did you have a good poo today?” A bit like a parent potty training their small child. I could usually tell by her ghost like face when the answer was no.

What can I say? Travel breaks down all barriers between couples and you get to know each other a little more intimately than you’d like.

9. All public transport needs to be claustrophobically full.

Usual a firm handshake is as close as I get to a person on the first meeting. Forget this stuffy attitude in Mexico. I am not ashamed to admit I have had many an armpit in my face on over crowded buses in the last ten months. Let’s share body fluids (sweat obviously).

10. God loves bling.

I was surprised too! But he obviously does, going by the gold plated churches on every other street here in Mexico. Apparently The Big G and JC love a bit of ‘Pimp My Church’. They come complete with bells that ring every 15-30 minutes and a Priest that likes to set off fireworks at 5am on a Sunday to wake the congregation.

The last bit amuses me the most. In my head I imagine the kind hearted and quiet Priest, from my Catholic school days, waking up at the crack of dawn just to set off bangers. Very bizarre.

bling-church-mexico

11. 90% of the time you are never more than 50 yards from a corner shop.

Like 60% of all statistics I’ve made up the numbers, but every third house in Mexico seems to be a corner shop. It must be some kind of world record. At least you never run out of milk.

12. I am sexually excited to see my parents.

Yet another embarrassing moment from my Spanish class. For homework I had to prepare a paragraph of what I was doing in the coming week. My parents were visiting. I was excited. I hadn’t seen them in 6 months!

I told my teacher this. After she stopped laughing she told me that I had announced that I was aroused that my parents were visiting. Yup, in my haste to complete my homework I had chosen the wrong form of excited from good old Google translate.

13. It’s ok for a man to poke your chicken.

This happened to me twice. I ordered chicken and was brought something that had been quickly shown to the grill, but was definitely nearer alive than cooked. I showed the waiter the raw chicken, which he then poked with his finger. He quickly whisked it away before I had time to look in my phrase book for, “I say old chap, please don’t poke my chicken.” He returned with it minutes later fully cooked, and I ate the poked chicken.

The exact same thing happened a second time, but this time as he fingered my cold chicken I said ‘no gracias’ and left the establishment.

mexico-poked-chicken

14. It’s impossible to get the bill at the end of a meal.

In Mexico eating in a restaurant is seen as the same as eating someone’s home. They never want to make you feel uncomfortable or pushed out, so they only bring the bill when requested.

The problem is they seem so reluctant to force you out that they stop looking at you when you have finished your meal, no amount of gesticulating seems to attract the waiter’s attention. Often I just end up bellowing ‘LA CUENTA POR FAVOR’ to a startled waiter.

15. The west coast sunsets are the best!

Ok I know I wasn’t going for the predictable, but my gosh the sunsets are amazing! Plus the rainy season brings huge black clouds, dramatic lightening storms and thunder crackles straight from the soundtrack of a horror film. Unforgettable!

sunset-mexico-west-coast

We have been in this crazy land for ten months and it’s all the welcoming people, self imposed embarrassments, discoveries, noise and quirks that make Mexico such a memorable experience. I shall miss it very much. We leave two weeks today for the USA!!

Chicken and leek pie with parmesan pastry

A big fat pie!!

Make-pie-eat-pie-love-pie

God I missed pie.

Like I actually felt a little inner sadness after not consuming one for many months… Mexicans make some tasty dishes, but I have to say delicious pie doesn’t spring to mind when I think of Mexico.

I’m a Yorkshire lad, and in that part of England pie is an essential part of life, right up there with oxygen and a strong cup of tea (In my book, tea has to be the same colour as David Dickinson’s face).

Now that we are settled into our latest house sit in Patzcuaro, it is time to stop the sadness and satisfy my craving.

King of all comfort foods

This chicken and leek pie, with parmesan pastry, is the king of all comfort foods, especially when served with a dollop of buttery mash.

Recently I have been supporting Kellie in her healthy eating (almost) vegan lifestyle . This was inflicted on her by persistent stomach bug infestations, which have blighted much of her time in Mexico.

The good news is she is fixing up nicely and seems a little more spritely every moment. She even ate a chocolate bar the other day! But still no meat or dairy has passed her lips.

Seeing as though she is on the road to recovery I decided it was a good time to make and consume a big fat pie in front of her face without feeling too much guilt.

I admire folks who chose to be vegan for ethical reasons, but it’s not within me to do this. Mainly I can’t imagine a life without cheese. I know there are plenty of substitutes which you can use nowadays, but these haven’t as yet reached Mexico. I also know that people’s reasons and beliefs go way beyond a lack of cheese, so I am clearly not cut out to be vegan if this is a major stumbling block for me.

So, on with the pie…

It started so well. Then this happened…

sliced-thumb-pie

Those sharp kitchen knives that I had joyously talked about in my last post, came back to haunt me. Whilst chopping the sage I sliced off the top of my thumb. I shall spare you the gory photo, but it’s safe to say my thumb was leaking profusely with claret.

I was now left in pie limbo. There is no way I could complete the pie on my own. The pastry dough made and the pie filling cooked up, but sadly not assembled.

Please dear reader do not despair! This is when I discovered the true meaning of love.

Kellie stepped forth and offered to complete the pie for me, despite not being able to eat it herself. To see and touch a pie, but not be allowed to taste it’s flaky pastry and succulent filling, for me is the worst form of torture. I’m sure this method has been used to break an undercover spy at some point in time.

And here it is in all its glory, the symbolic pie of love…

Chicken and leek pie with parmesan pastry

mixing-piepie-doughrolling-pieopen-pieunbaked-pieWhole-piesliced-pieServes 4-5

Pie Filling

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 40g butter
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts, chopped
  • 2  leeks, sliced (I used a large onion due to a lack of leeks in Mexico)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage
  • ¼ cup (35g) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 2 cups (500ml) whole milk
  • Chicken stock cube or powder
  • salt and black pepper

Shortcrust parmesan pastry

  • 2 cups (300g) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 cup (80g) finely grated parmesan
  • 150g cold butter, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cold milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

To make the shortcrust parmesan pastry.

– Sift the flour into a bowl then add the parmesan cheese, butter and salt. Using a mixer blend for 1–2 minutes or until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. You can do this by hand but it takes a bit longer.
– Add the egg and milk and mix for 2 minutes or until a smooth dough forms.
– Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To make the pie filling

– Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook, in batches, for 4–5 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan, set aside and keep warm. (I cheated slightly by buying a delicious pre cooked chicken from the local Mexican market and skipped this first step).
– Add the butter, leeks, garlic and thyme to the pan and cook for 7–8 minutes or until softened.
– Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes.
– Add the milk and cook for a further 3 minutes or until thickened. I added a teaspoon of stock peder here, but you can add more or less depending on your taste buds.
– Add a pinch of salt an pepper to taste.
– Return the chicken to the sauce and refrigerate until cooled completely.

Assembling the pie

– Roll half the pastry out between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to 3mm-thick.
– Line a 31cm-round lightly greased pie tin with the pastry. Fill with the chicken mixture.
– Roll the remaining pastry out between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to 3mm-thick.
– Place on top of the pie and trim the excess pastry. Brush with milk and bake in a preheated oven at 180ºC (350ºF) for 35–40 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

P.S. Kellie makes GOOD pie!