A change of scene

You may have noticed a period of quiet, perhaps some tumbleweed blowing through my little slice of the internet. Its been far from intentional, I still enjoy cooking and finding new spots of food, but I find lately my quest for a full stomach is not as all consuming. When I first started this blog, I was almost a different person. Almost a shadow of who I am now, having just moved to a new place, starting to make friends and not really wanting to admit that my university relationship was nearly over. Not as confident to pursue hobbies and ambitions and to be honest not really knowing what I wanted.

Anyway, time heals many things and having some stability at home (thanks boyfriend! thanks parents!) and more disposable income (thank you work!) made it easier to pursue more interests. But I found I was posting less on here and I don’t want to neglect what was perhaps my first adult passion. Blogging and writing in general. I do still love writing about food, writing new recipes and taking restaurant recommendations. In some ways I actually prefer writing about food now; I feel like I found my rhythm as a writer, quick and (usually) healthy recipes for people pushed for time, with the occasional longer recipe to enjoy over a weekend. Crowd pleasing recipes when you have larger groups to entertain. Stuff I as a woman approaching 30 would want to read myself.

However, life is so much more than food. I want to wax lyrical about the books I read, about the raw elegance of music on vinyl, why you should consider taking part in a Park Run, fashion preferences. Life through the eyes of a food lover, rather than a life led entirely by food.

D and I have discussed remastering some of the older favourites and starting some sort of youtube channel based on this blog. Simple recipes to appeal to cooks of all abilities. So the food writing and learning how to cook with more skill and precision won’t really be going anywhere, I just want this venture to keep growing and developing the same way I have over the years.

Plus, you know, food always did taste better when life was lived enough to work up an appetite.

Why you should consider joining Bone Marrow Register

This is one of those posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while but I could never quite articulate my feelings on it. Even now its a struggle. But I know there are even now people fighting blood cancers and lymphatic cancers who are desperately hoping for a tissue match and realistically the more people who are eligible to join the register that do drastically improves both the quality of life and survival of patients.

I consider myself extremely fortunate, neither myself or anyone I have been close to in real life has been so poorly to require a bone marrow transplant. However, D has, and when he was interviewing Andrew McMahon in 2014 (of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate) it made me fully appreciate how important it is to get involved when you can. Here was a man who had nearly 10 years previously received a stem cell transplant from his sister following treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and was in great health and had just become a parent. As there was somebody at the gig from the Dear Jack Foundation we both joined the register that evening.

Considering I actually did my Masters in Cancer Biology and Therapy, I am as squeamish as a lot of people can be when discussing medical treatments, needles etc. One of the questions I got asked around the time I spoke to my friends and work colleagues about this was “won’t it hurt a lot if you have to actually make a donation”. The answer is yes and no, if you have to make a peripheral donation (which is most common) it will be similar to a blood donation. The actual bone marrow transplant is done under general anaesthetic and donors typically do experience bruising and side effects. However, I think its worth rationalising by remembering I’ve probably injured myself more when I’ve been drunk and fallen off bar stools. Also, that chemotherapy itself is pretty gruelling both physically and emotionally for the patient and their families; so if it helps someone out for the rest of their life, I can probably cope with some bruises (possibly with some moaning, I might be happy to donate but I’m not a saint).

Its worth noting that whether you join the Bone Marrow Regiaster through the Dear Jack Foundation or the Anthony Nolan Trust you end up on the same register so you don’t have to do it through both charities. Its your choice who you support or whether you wish to support another charity entirely).

I know this is more serious than most of my blog posts, but this is something I feel is important and I have been thinking about how to phrase this for a while. But the bottom line you will potentially be doing something wonderful and saving a life – basically the best gift you can ever give.

Information on who is eligible to join the register.

More on why your should join

Oh and in case I was a bit too serious, here is Andrew McMahon’s new single.

 

An ode to moving to a new place

I felt like given that it is around the time when a lot of my younger audiences are contemplating moving to a new university town and some of you might be in that horrible place between graduating and finding a job. Whether you find yourself moving to a town 10 miles up the road, or to the other side of the globe, relocating somewhere new can be daunting, especially on your own.

I am naturally shy and even as a little girl I was never one for going to something on my own. Whether it was hiding behind my parents and especially my older brother or being scared to go to a new activity; I have to admit I was pretty bad when it came to meeting new people. The first few weeks of university I was horribly homesick for my friends and family and it took me weeks to get the courage to actually get to know people. (I feel compelled to mention that the people I know from university were on the whole, wonderful, I was just scared to come out of my shell.)

However, this couldn’t continue and upon graduating from my MSc the recession actually, possibly helped. I mean, finding a decent job in my industry was pretty stressful and my confidence was pretty low because of this but in terms of lifelong confidence it helped. Between September 2010 and February 2012 I had 5 different temporary jobs in a variety of shops, offices and a research post. I also volunteered for my local hospice doing a phone based job. It was tough but the combination of having 5 different first days in a new working environment, meeting a lot of new colleagues and encountering customers forced me to talk to so many new people. Talking to people on the phone about a charity I felt strongly about stopped me being so afraid of asking for things. Then the last interview I went to in a scientific role before I gave up forever came up and I got the job and it was too far away to stay living with my (lovely) parents.

So I ended up moving to Harrogate, while its not massive I knew approximately 3 people, my Uncle, Aunt and my then 16 year old cousin. So in some ways I had a little support system already in place who fed me Sunday dinners and helped me out a lot when I didn’t know anyone else. It was still scary though the prospect of making friends. Luckily my friend ED and I started the same job in the same department on the same day and even today we are close friends. Then DC and Miss S started working and we formed a little friendship group which gradually got slightly bigger as we all got to know more people.

(This post has snowballed into a life story but bear with me). Times did get hard and it wasn’t all rosy. I spent a lot of time watching tv in my room feeling pretty lonely. I had housemates who were untidy, ones who had scary boyfriends and finally 2 girls who were plain lovely and I was very sad to leave. A long term relationship crumbled but while it was the most painful few months of my life I think it actually benefited us both in the longer term. Holding onto something that isn’t working any more, even when you still care deeply about somebody is emotionally draining, exhausting and everyone ends up hurt. The best advice I should have taken long ago from my parents was not to live in 2 places at once.

Pretty often I find myself now in situations where I think, “how did I end up having fun with you here? 2 years ago I didn’t even know you exist.” Its pretty amazing to think that if I hadn’t moved I wouldn’t have started blogging ergo wouldn’t have bonded with D over writing, I would never have had our pets or met all the people I did through D. I would never have had the opportunity to see so many bands, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start doing theatre stuff again after so many years and I certainly wouldn’t have hugged as many famous musicians.

I suppose what I’m trying to get across is that sometimes the most wonderful parts of life come from the scariest feelings of the unknown. I was lonely that first night in my first house here, I was so terrified of going on a date with D that I required a pep talk from my housemate and my poor parents got multiple tearful phone calls about people using my toothpaste, ex boyfriends and finding the initial stages of adult life difficult.

I think the best advice I can give to anybody who finds themselves in a similar position to me is to start saying yes to people. In the earliest stages of friendship go along to everything you get invited to, keep in touch with old friends, be the event planner of your friendship group from time to time. Please don’t let nerves be the reason you don’t join in with a new activity. I wholeheartedly speak from experience when I say somebody will make an effort to make you feel welcome.

Although I miss my family and friends from home a lot at times relationships with people who really matter won’t change if you take a new opportunity. If you do move for work university I think throwing yourself into somewhere new, even if you feel sick with fear makes your life so much more than just a job, or a course.

Confidence

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As I write this post I have the first line of Parklife going round my head. I’ve just eating a bowl of ice cream and I’m curled up on the sofa with a hot water bottle with cramps. Such is life.

I’m not one of those people who gets inundated with people asking how I get so confident; but I’m also not one of those people who is worried about talking to new people or obsesses and over thinks everything either. However, a few things this week have reminded me of how far I’ve coming in terms of feeling confident and self assured so I was hoping people could relate.

In addition, I think when you are close to rock bottom in terms of confidence one of the worst things you can be told is that “nobody will love you until you learn to love yourself.” The less said about the person that told me that one the better. Anyway; before I start my actual list I will say this is completely not true. You are worthy of love in your darkest hour. You might look in the mirror and see a monster that you aren’t, or be racked with self loathing and you will still be loved. You’ll still be wonderful, worthy of adoration and interesting to talk to. It just might take you a bit of time to like yourself and that’s ok too. Be kinder to yourself and it’ll creep in.

Anyway, here are some things that helped me with confidence in all aspects of my life:

  1. Break out of your comfort zone. Start small, go along with friends to an activity you’d think twice about, talk to someone new at a party (try not to get distracted talking to the host’s cats or dogs like I often do). But keep chipping away at it, keep the momentum of trying new things. The first time I met D in the flesh I was shaking with nerves when I was waiting for him and I often have to force myself to talk in situations where I feel uncomfortable; however in pretty much every scenario where I’ve been dreading something I feel amazing afterwards.
  2. Get moving. Find exercise you like, try new things. One of the most fun Saturday nights I have had recently was going to a trampoline park with my friend and jumping for a good 60 minutes. Anything that puts you moving and puts your heart rate up will give you a nice dose of endorphins.
  3. Give yourself some downtime. Light a few candles, bake, put on comfy clothes or watch films with your significant other (sounds so adult), with friends or on your lonesome. Anything that gives your mind a chance to relax. As I have mentioned before I am a particular fan of sofa nests.
  4. Give other people genuine compliments. This puts me in such a happy mood making people smile and it made me realise when people were saying nice things to me, they genuinely meant it. Just maybe don’t give the same people compliments every hour of every day or you’ll look like a creep (hahaha).
  5. Fake it until you make it. This one actually comes partially from my mother (Happy Mothers Day). Dress in clothes that make you happy and things that suit you, do your hair and make-up how you like, make yourself walk taller and smile. I can’t remember when I stopped doing it because it felt like the most sensible thing and it just became my life.

Obviously if you have major issues with self confidence and self esteem it is always worth talking to somebody about it and taking steps to seeking help. Nobody should have to suffer alone. But hopefully this will help somebody who is having a bad day and my experience might help someone else.

If you’re lucky and I remember I will write a sister post to this one (because I am in fact my brother’s favourite sister) in a few days about body confidence and how I found mine a bit more in my mid 20s. Thank goodness for instagram filters and boyfriends with decent fashion sense.

Anyway, in all seriousness I hope this post has cheered somebody up. I feel I have come a long way since I was the girl with shattered confidence in 2013 and I cannot thank certain people enough for giving me pep talks and encouraging me to like myself again.

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Christmas – the people who have made it better (soppy post)

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Initially last week I planned to write a post about how to cope with the festive season when you’re really not feeling great. It can sometimes be so hard to put a brave face on when everyone wants you to be happy and to enjoy festivities. However, this time last week I got struck down with a kidney infection. I can only describe this as one of the most painful episodes of my life. It hurt to walk, it hurt to sit down. My lower back felt like someone was digging a screwdriver in at exactly the point where my kidneys apparently sit. Anyway I am feeling a tonne better and I thought I would instead post about some of the lovely people who cheered me up.

As a side note, if you do feel rubbish this week, the best thing you can really do is to talk to someone about it. Your family and friends really do only want you to be happy all the year round and will always be there with a listening ear and a cuddle; even if they can’t provide a solution to your problems. Sometimes you don’t need to even talk, just sitting together watching a favourite film, or taking a boxing day walk will help. Comfort can be found in the smallest things even just taking yourself off for a long bath or snuggling up with a good book.

Anyway instead of a gift guide this is a nice little list of the people who cheered me up and actually made me feel all festive:

  1. The nice NHS direct lady, who kept me calm and sorted me out with an out of hours doctors appointment with no hassle.
  2. The out of hours doctor who went out of his way to make sure I was prescribed the most effective antibiotics, making life way easier than having to trail backwards and forwards.
  3. The friends who kept contacting me to make sure I was feeling better, offered to go to the shops, tagged me in funny videos on Facebook, made me up a missing out on going to see Star Wars present and understood me barely showing up to one of their birthday parties. You are all very sweet and I miss those of you I don’t see as often any more.
  4. My Mum and Dad; who cooked me my favourite tea, consoled me over the phone and generally looked after me. You are both wonderful.
  5. My brother; thank you for making me laugh a lot with your new cat and cheering me up by being so happy in your home.
  6. D’s mum for also contacting me to make sure I was feeling better and for always making me feel so welcome in their family.
  7. D; thank you for it all. Driving me around, keeping an eye on me, bringing water and making me smile even when I didn’t have the energy to really get out of bed. Also thanks for the massive card that came in a box. I don’t think I have ever received a boxed card and I’m so excited to be spending Christmas with you.

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Obviously I’m feeling much better now after rest, antibiotics and lots of water and I feel very loved.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and I hope you enjoy spending time with your loved ones.

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Maybe in a few days?

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Cocktail Night

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Sweeping generalisation but most girls love cocktails; now I know there are many men who can sup even the pinkest drink adorned with the biggest umbrella and I applaud them wholeheartedly; however most of my attempts to make homemade cocktails have been with my girl friends. (Occasionally D and I will make noises about making them at home but we rarely get beyond gin and tonic or bourbon and coke). Anyway, this post is to sing praises of spending time with your friends, male and female. It’s so easy to neglect yourself and not spend quality time with your friends when your free time is limited. Your friends are the ones who are there through the highs and lows, the breakups, the weddings and that time you had one too many on your Christmas night out and threw up on your shoes.

Anyway, my friend KL the great organiser has kindly provided me with the cocktail recipes we used when we attended a cocktail night at her flat. I must admit now I was horrendously lazy with my efforts, but I feel I made up for that in enthusiasm.

First up was DC’s efforts; the milky way martini (serves 4-5)

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240ml vanilla vodka

240ml ounces chocolate liqueur

120ml ounces Irish Cream

Curly wurly chocolate (to garnish)

Grated chocolate (to garnish)

Ice

Ice your cocktail shaker until cool. Remove the ice and then combine the liquid ingredients in the shaker and shake. Split this between the martini glasses, then garnish with the chocolatey treatsas desired. (Don’t forget these are pretty strong so don’t drink them too quickly).

 

Next was KL’s winning efforts, the Bellini

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To make as many as you fancy you will need

Peach puree

Prosecco

Raspberry (to garnish)

Pour a small amount of peach puree into the bottom of a fluted glass. Then top with prosecco (pour it over a spoon to get a layered look. Garnish with a raspberry.

Miss S made her version of a daiquiri, since she mostly winged it this recipe is purely from Google, but you get the idea (I scaled this BBC Good Food one up to serve 4)

IMG_045716 fresh strawberries plus ½ strawberry per serving to garnish

8 tsp white sugar

140ml white rum

4 tbsp strawberry liqueur

100ml lime juice

Place the strawberries, sugar, rum, strawberry liqueur and lime juice into the base of a cocktail shaker and mash (muddle) with the end of a clean rolling pin.

Place the lid onto the cocktail shaker and shake well.

Strain the mixture into a Martini glass and garnish with half a strawberry.

 

Mini (my younger namesake) made mojitos

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Serves

4 limes, cut into wedges

fresh mint leaves

6 tsp sugar

Crushed ice

260ml white rum

soda water (add to taste)

Split the limes, mint and sugar between 4 sturdy glasses and mash with the end of something blunt, to bruise the mint and release the lime juice.

Add the ice and pour over the rum.

Add soda water to taste and stir well. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve.

 

And finally my offering “the Prosecco sloth” for the lazy cocktail connoisseur

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Makes as many of these as you have ice lollies.

You will need

Prosecco

Skinny ice lollies (eg. ice pops)

Place the ice lollies into fluted glasses. Pour over the prosecco and allow the ice lollies to cool the drinks.

 

After all that Friday night boozing we had to take a silly selfie (Miss S is the queen of this at this, but at least we all got our faces in!)

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5 ways to make yourself a bit happier this Spring

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I must admit I am feeling decidedly unsparkly tonight. I have the sort of cold that has exhausted me and left me with a comically squeaky voice to boot. However, I had a lovely weekend in which D and I spontaneously went to Country to Country (a country music festival) in London. Which got me thinking, while watching literally thousands of people having a whale of a time, of small things to consider doing to boost your happiness over the next few weeks.

1. Sing. There has been much research into the impact of singing on your mental health and happiness. I started doing musical theatre again a couple of nights a week and my mum has joined a community choir in my home town. More than once we have discussed how singing is relaxing and makes you think of something beyond the stresses of work and daily life. So sing your heart out, even if it’s just you when you’re home alone in the living room dancing to Taylor Swift.

2. Go to some form of live entertainment. Whether it’s a gig in the back room of a pup, a festival, theatre show or whatever; look into going. If you see your favourite musical touring, or that your favourite band is playing, bite the bullet and book tickets. It gives you something to look forward to and once you’re there the atmosphere is wonderful. There’s something wonderful about hearing something you love live on a stage. So get it organised, rather than wishing you were going.

3. Take up a new form of exercise. Release those endorphins and make yourself feel great. There’s something so great about how fantastic you can feel after a great workout. If you’re feeling daunted about going to a new class or joining the gym, try to remember that everyone in the class has been the new person at the class once. As a lazy participant of several exercise classes I have never once observed people eyeballing a new person.

4. Invite your friends to your home. Going out with friends is nice, but there is something lovely and cosy about sitting on the sofa (or in the garden on a nice day) drinking a glass of wine and having a great catch up.

5. Make the most of where you live. Go on walks in the local countryside, go to the beach or just go to the local beer festival or food festival. It’ll make you feel fortunate to live where you do and you’re likely to randomly bump into people you know while doing it.