Let’s just say…

The weekend has not been great.

Not that I want to sit and moan-type it all out, more that it is important to acknowledge that things aren’t going the way you planned, or wanted, and that sometimes it is just simply out of your control.

So the last couple of days have been pretty stressful and chaotic, but the week ahead is shaping up to be a busy and eventful time. I have two hospital placements coming up, one of which will be in the A&E department, as well as a learning forum event that -while I may usually sprint away from social events – I will make myself go to. And not just because they threaten to fine you if you don’t turn up, but it will be a valuable experience. The topic should focus on Parkinson’s Disease and as this is an important condition to understand for my future career, why not grab the opportunity with both hands and head to the event.

University projects are getting pretty heavy lately, and the revision is piling up around me (literally, my table is covered in books and notes so high its like a wall). So when I am not attending these events and placements, I should be hard at work studying. Hopefully it will all pay off some day.

 

So, just a brief update, but when I get more work done I will look to do more things and write them out.

 

 

Return to River Cottage

At the start of September, I returned to one of my favourite places: River Cottage.

This time round, my sister and I were there for the River Cottage 10th Anniversary Bash and Book Launch – Phew! What a long name, but what a fantastic day. This particular event at River Cottage HQ was to celebrate 10 brilliant years of River Cottage, and to launch the latest cook book that brings together all those years of hard work and culinary expertise.

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One of the greatest draws to this event had to have been the attendance of the fabulous man himself, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. After an hour or so of exploring the Cottage, nibbling on tasty treats and nursing an almost palpable excitement, he appeared.

It was fantastic to watch and listen as he introduced each member of the team who had also contributed to the production of the enormous River Cottage A-Z Guide. He spoke about the book, their hard work and continual efforts.

While we waited for our chance to speak to the team directly, we explored the grounds and tasted the treats. Everywhere we went, we were shown such beauty from the West Country.

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Admiring the freshly picked flowers.

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The Cottage cat, snoozing amidst the excitement.

I was ecstatic to see my jam-making idol again, Pam “The Jam” Corbin. And to meet the gentlemanly head chef, Gill Meller, was also a treat. It was a fantastic opportunity to pick up tips, share excitement and celebrate the years of River Cottage.

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Meeting my culinary idol, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

 

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My sister and I nabbing a quick selfie with Gill Meller.

We had so much delicious and freshly cooked foods to eat, of course. As we continued to explore the Cottage grounds, stations were set up in different corners and enticed you in with such heavenly smells. The chefs themselves stood and prepared a feast before your eyes!

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Divine foods.

Staying until the very last moments, we caught the tractor back up and out of River Cottage. With us in the tractor sat John, Pam and Hugh – I was so nervous with excitement I could barely remember how to form a serious sentence. Everyone was so lovely, so welcoming and I was very sad but content to watch the lights of River Cottage fade away.

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Taking with me my signed copies of their books, and renewed enthusiasm for exploring recipes, I knew I would absolutely be returning again next year.

 

xxx

Embracing the ‘fro

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Okay, so I usually kind of hate selfies – don’t get me wrong, I take hundreds of them. But they always seem so…vain, unimportant and just plain ridiculous. But here I am, posting a picture of my face! The reason is: new make up and new hair(style).

Firstly, the make up. I’m trying out a contouring technique with my mum’s new makeup. Its a Beverly Hills contouring kit and has so far taken me a couple of days to get used to all the blending. I find that the brushes are most important for creating the effect – a small brush is needed for the areas around the eyes, while a couple of larger brushes for the cheeks and forehead. It certainly takes a long time to get it looking slightly more natural, rather than having dark dirty smudges across my face. With more practice I hope it will get easier.

Secondly, my hair! Okay, so I have always had afro hair, but the big difference here is that I didn’t really know how to care for it properly until a couple of months ago. Of course,  I should have just Googled it. But I wasn’t quite sure what to look for and to be honest, I’d never truly accepted my appearance until recently. Now its time for the fun to start!

I wash my hair weekly, and apply products to it daily (sometimes twice a day). The products I am using currently are mostly all from the Shea Moisture range – the curl enhancing smoothie, the conditioners and lots and LOTS of oil. I also have gotten into the habit of wearing a sleeping bonnet. It makes me feel ridiculous, but the outcome in the morning is definitely worth it. It stops the fabric of the pillows from stealing my moisture!

I’m on the look out now for more products and ideas 😙

Marathon Training: Trying not to trip up

Two consecutive injuries can ruin any training plan. After two weeks devoid of proper running I am extremely worried about the race in under  seven weeks time. Adding to my fears is the car journey I took yesterday afternoon. Let’s just say that 26.2 miles is a VERY long distance.

I may have reached a peak of 10.5miles before my first injury but I am now back down the same level I was at the start of training.

Is there any way I can run a marathon in October?

River Cottage Summer Fair

At this time one week ago, I was packing up a tiny tent in Charmouth, Dorset, with my sister and preparing to travel 200miles back home. It has taken me all this time to get over the post-holiday blues and write down here some of the best parts.

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The trek to Dorset began with too much luggage. A 60L rucksack bursting with clothes and food, a huge hold-all of tent gear and sleeping bags, an extra rucksack with a camping cooker and gas cannisters… add onto that what my sister was carrying and we were like two Buckaroos! When we reached Waterloo station we grabbed two free (but tiny) cans of Coke from a stall in the station centre and just made it in time for to catch our train.
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Unfortunately, we did not have seats for long. As we approached Salisbury the train divided. Georgia, I and about 50 other passengers were crammed together into three small carriages. Yaay for the smell of urine and sweat!

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However unpleasant it was to sit outside the toilets, we did befriend a cute 6 year old girl called Rosy with her father. Feeding her a bag of Magic Stars and playing hide and seek made the journey pass quickly!

Many hours later, we arrived in Axminster and took the bus to the Newlands Holiday Park in Charmouth. The views there are STUNNING.

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We found out very soon that our decision to pitch a tent beneath a tree was very bad. Do earwigs have nests? When the next morning came, we found a few dozen wriggling earwigs poking around our bags. Eek!

But nothing could have dampened down spirits. We were off to visit River Cottage HQ…

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This beautiful pocket of the Dorset countryside is even more beautiful than you can witness on the TV. The purifying taste of the air, the glorious heat of the sun, the sound of sheep and cows from the fields… gorgeous, beyond compare.

We took a tractor ride down to River Cottage, gratefully climbing into the open windowed tractor with outward facing benches.

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It brought us to the sounds of a banjo and the rumble of chatter. Large white tents were scattered across the festival field and were filled with representatives of businesses, farmers, individuals with interesting crafts and foods, stalls for fresh orchard cider, homebaked pastries, handpainted crockery – many exciting and fascinating people to meet. One of whom happened to Tim himself, who kindly signed the book I bought ( Nooo, of course I didn’t just buy the book to talk to him! That would be silly…).

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In the middle of the day we were delighted to have a foraging tour with John Wright. One if the highlights here being the finding of meadowsweet – as a studying pharmacist this coumarin containing plant was fascinating.

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Our lunch was purchased from a stall wafting the delicious aroma of slow roasting pork and apples. It was only after wolfing down the food that we discovered the winner of Masterchef 2014,  Ping Coombes, had cooked it.

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With full bellies and huge smiles my sister and I enrolled on a pickling masterclass -with Pam the Jam! Pam Corbin is an elegant, intelligent lady with a warm aura. She inspired me to learn more about preserves and to begin making jams myself. We made some delicous cucumber pickle and each kept our own, meaning three jars each.

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Our day came to an end, watching the sun set over River Cottage HQ whilst listening to the strange music of Tankus the Henge. There were so many fantastic opportunities, so much we took with us, we will absolutely return there next year.

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Marathon Training: Facing the Sun

I learnt an important lesson yesterday about when it is sensible to train – that is, NOT in this heat!

The temperatures have soared recently, reaching a humid 31C at one particular measurement. Whilst this has made for some excellent beach weather, it is absolutely awful for any form of training or exercise. The sun was beating down relentlessly, my eyes scrunched up behind my glasses, feet slowly cooking in my trainers.

Usually I like to take Dexter with me as I run around the park. But on this day, he was laying panting in the cool shade.

“It’s far too hot to make you run, Dexter.”

Dexter - hot and bothered!

Dexter – hot and bothered!

Now, I should have thought then that if it were too hot for Dexter to be outside, then surely it would be too hot for me also. Unfortunately this did not occur to me at the time.

I set off for a long jog under the baking sun, through the beautiful park. One lap around – roughly 3 miles – and I found myself extremely thirsty, sweaty, tired, nauseous and struggling to breath.

I stopped and sat beneath a tree, trying to push away the dizziness. As a pharmacy student, I recognised the symptoms of heat exhaustion and after sitting and cooling down for 10 minutes I slowly walked back home to drink a few pints of water.

It was stupid. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious but can be sensibly avoided. From this point onward, all of my training sessions throughout the summer will take place in the early hours of the morning or in the cool late evening. This includes the additional strength building exercises and interval training. There’s a time and place to push yourself, and it is not in the sun!

Push ups, anyone?

Push ups, anyone?

Dinner time!

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Preparing a quick, tasty meal of vegetarian bolognaise. For this meal I used the following ingredients:

1 pack of Quorn mince
2 peppers (green and red)
1 can of tomatoes
6 medium chestnut mushrooms
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 fresh tomato (vine ripened for its fragrant aroma)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 pinch of smoked paprika
-served with boiled spaghetti

As I was quite tired, I chose this recipe as it is very quick and easy to make.

1. When all of the vegetables have been chopped, they are all added to the pan to slowly cook amongst the garlic cloves.

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2. The tinned tomatoes are then added and the sauce is left to simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Pour around 2 thirds of the sauce into a separate, deep bowl – careful! Its very hot! – and then blended. The sauce can be as smooth as you prefer.

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4. Pour the blended sauce back into the pot, and then add the Quorn mince. Cook for around 12 minutes.

5. Serve with spaghetti.

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This dish is quick, healthy and delicious. I particularly love a good homemade spaghetti bolognaise shared with my family.

Cook Me Quick: Spicy Prawn Curry

Ingredients:
500g Cooked Prawns – marinate for an hour or more in lemon juice and a little chopped chilli
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 green pepper, sliced into squares
1 red chilli, finely chopped – with seeds if you like it extra hot!
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon tamarind paste (optional)
3cm root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons sweetcorn
400g canned tomatoes
200ml coconut milk

1. In a large, nonstick frying pan heat up the oil and fry on a low heat the chopped onions. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and cook until the onion is nearly see through.

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2. Add the tumeric to the onions, stiring them thoroughly. Then add the tamarind paste – this provides a sweet and tangy flavour to the onions.

3. To the pan, add the chopped green peppers and allow to cook at a medium heat for roughly 5 minutes.

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4. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, sweet corn and then add the curry powder. Simmer for 10 minutes before adding coconut milk.

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5. Add the prawns and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. If the sauce is too thin, sprinkle in a little cornflour whilst rapidly stirring.

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Cooked prawns marinating in lemon juice and chilli

6. Serve with freshly boiled rice or warm naan bread.

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Timing : 10mins preparation, 25mins cooking

Marathon Training

Day 1

Although I have on occasion tried running, a lap around the park or maybe a quick jog up the road, I had never considered that I would one day begin training to run a marathon. Even 1 mile seemed too far in my mind, let alone over 26! But just a short while ago I stood on a station platform, my train delayed, and I was distracted by a new advertisement – the Chelmsford Marathon 2015. I don’t live in Chelmsford. I don’t play sports. Running? Blurgh.

And yet…

The idea planted itself firmly in my thoughts. For the entire train journey, throughout my jobs of the day, and when I returned home much later, I wondered. The date of the marathon would mark a year on from when I had been very ill in hospital. I realised then how health, indeed life, should not be taken for granted. They can both so easily be shattered without warning, reason or fairness. I had thought these things before but I hadn’t really known the feeling. That was when I decided to go for it. The marathon would be a strange anniversary of an epiphany.

I downloaded the training plan they sent for beginners and started with the first run. The personal trainer’s online advice was to be able to run for 30 continuous minutes, rather than focus on any distance. I’m quite competitive with myself and decided I would push myself as far as I could go, which turned out to be 4.4miles in 40 minutes.

It may not sound much, but it was VERY difficult. My side was in a stitch for most of the run and my lungs felt like they were bleeding. The hardest part wasn’t the physical challenge, but the psychological walls I had to break down. Or at least, start to break down some of them.

After my first real run today, I feel tired and just a little bit proud. I am ready for the challenge.