Monday, 9 January 2017

The Recipe Post #8: Meatballs with Feta

Recently, I've been getting into cooking again and have been trying to test out new recipes regularly. So it seems only right that some of these recipe posts return to the blog!

Last week I took inspiration from Joe Wicks' first 'Lean in 15' cookbook, planning to make the 'Turkey Meatballs with Feta'.

Joe's recipe, I suppose for speed, called for ready made turkey meatballs, of which there were none in the supermarkets near home, so I adapted the recipe with beef meatballs.

After (mostly) cooking the meatballs - beef of course needed more cooking time than the turkey meatballs would have done - I chopped red onion, yellow pepper, green pepper and courgette. 

Into the pan they went, and were joined by the beef brisket meatballs.

Once the veggies were beginning to get to tender, I added a tin of chopped tomatoes and let it all simmer.

We actually made some sweet potato fries to accompany the meal, as it was to stretch between three of us (I doubled the recipe, which serves one, and we still had plenty!)

Once served in bowls, I topped with the feta and fresh parsley and we were done.

It took longer than 15 minutes of course, because of the beef meatballs needing to be cooked for about 20 minutes first, but there's no denying this meal was incredibly easy to make, and the feta was a great addition I probably wouldn't have thought of when making this kind of meal.

I'll definitely be making it again, thanks Joe!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Kitty and Max's 21st: Photo diary

Last night, my baby sister and her boyfriend had a joint 21st birthday party.

I thought I'd share a few photos of what came together to be an amazing night.

They had uni friends, friends from home and family, and it turns out multiple, simultaneous games of beer pong is the way to unite the age groups. Who knew?!

After drinks and speeches in the hall, there was a main meal of Thai Green Curry or Terriyaki Beef, and then the marquee was equipped with beer pong tables and a dancefloor.

Kitty, Max and both sets of parents pulled off a great night, and they all seemed pretty happy about it!

Happy birthday, you crazy pair, I hope you're not feeling too bad today ;)

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Re-reading and watching Harry Potter

J. K. Rowling. I wonder if she ever realised what a phenomenon that little boy with the lightening scar and his stories would become. 

The first book came out when I was about 6 or 7, so I’m of the generation who well and truly grew up with the Harry Potter books and then the films.

But what is it about the wizarding world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter that still keeps us so captivated?

I don’t have the answer, but I felt the need to put down here just how much I love the books and (although to a lesser extent) the films.

They formed such a huge part of my fictional world as I grew up, and the anticipation for each new book was huge.

I have all the books sitting on a shelf back at my parents’ house, the final few particularly special due to the little birthday messages from my lovely grandad in the front who always used to encourage my love of reading.

I guess the point of this post was that I realised over the last few months that none of my love for the Harry Potter series has dwindled. Now in my early twenties and years after enjoying the stories for the first time, the series still holds a special place in my heart.

After years of wanting to visit, I finally headed to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford, and it was miles better than I had even hoped.

The magic, the beauty and the spectacle of this incredibly crafted world was being displayed and celebrated, and I of course couldn’t help myself from leaving with a Hermione wand – what girl my age didn’t want to be Hermione?!

The studio tour visit reminded me how special the books had been to me, and I spent the next two weeks of commuting re-reading the entire series back to back. I followed that by re-watching every film, back to back.

And it’s a world that just keeps on giving – the possibilities really are endless. The new series of films - kicked off by Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - looks set to be brilliant, and I don't want to wait for the second installment.

When the tickets for The Cursed Child were released, I didn’t care that the first dates I could get were in April 2017 (about 18 months ago at the time) – there was no doubt in my mind I needed to secure those tickets and be a part of the audience.

I’ve got to say, I’m getting more and more excited now more and more people have seen the shows, and now we're only a couple of months away. It will be hard to resist reading the script which is sitting on my bookshelf, but I think I’m going to save it and wait to experience it for the first time in April.

Were you a part of the ‘Harry Potter generation’? Do you prefer the books or the films? And will you be heading to see The Cursed Child?

I can’t wait!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Dreams and Nightmares


I’ve been thinking more about them since an episode of The Odd Pear podcast a good few months ago (listen if you don’t, it always leaves me in a good mood!)

They were chatting about the point of dreams, the meaning of dreams and the fact they’d love to understand more.

Dreams regularly leave me completely baffled and maybe I should start recording them… although I think I’d start reading too much into them.

I only remember my dreams for a short time after I’ve woken up, but in that time they're all I think about.

Nightmares are the worst.

I don’t remember having them too often when I was little, apart from a recurring one where I was having a picnic with my pet rabbit in a forest and a fox appeared (don’t ask!)

However, in the last few years I’ve had them much more regularly.

I guess you could put it down to pressure and stress, probably in some ways related to my anxiety and just being busy.

The very worst are the teeth nightmares. I’m not going to describe them but they’re truly horrific, and apparently a very common indicator of anxiety. If I have them, I wake up terrified and shaking.

I’ve also had some really stressful dreams in general, where I’m trapped in very awkward or embarrassing situations, and wake up unable to shake that feeling of unease.

The nightmares stick with me longer.

They pop back into my head during the day, whereas the nice dream float away.

Why is that?

And why do nightmares have such power over us?

A couple of years ago, when I lived in my flat not far from the town I grew up in, my sister called me in the middle of the night after a terrifying nightmare, convinced there was someone in the house (she was home alone).

Nothing could calm her down, and she ended up driving to my flat in the middle of the night to stay with me instead.

Why can we not shake nightmares even once we wake up and realise they weren’t real?

I don’t have any answers, but I really want to know.

Can anyone recommend anything I could read to learn more?

Thursday, 5 January 2017

I Don't Drink: An Update

I wrote a post almost four years ago about the fact I don’t drink.

I think it’s less unusual now than it was then.

Times are changing in the world of health, food and drink, and I’m no longer greeted with the same level of shock when I say I don’t drink alcohol.

I think a part of it is also because I’m no longer at university, a bubble where such a big part of the culture is nights out.

I’ve never drunk, and I don’t plan on changing that.

I still go out. I still enjoy myself, I’m happy being around others who are drinking. I’m just not interested myself.

There are so many reasons why I don’t drink, or maybe why I didn’t start when I was younger.

Now, at 24, the reason is simply that I never have, and I don’t regret that.

I can see the appeal of a glass of wine with a meal, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out.

I should make it clear that I’m in no way an adventurous person when it comes to drinks in general.

I drink water most of the time, occasionally apple juice, orange juice, cranberry juice or to push the boat out a Apple and Raspberry J2O.

That’s it.

No fizz. No tea. No coffee. No hot chocolate.

Call me fussy, call me crazy.

I’m happy with what I do drink, and to be fair it saves me money and calories to spend elsewhere!

What I don’t miss about being at university was how many people would ask me why I don’t drink.

In what way does it affect anyone else?

People make personal choices about all sorts of things, all the time, and this was one of mine.

I still socialised, I thought no less of anyone who did drink, so why did it matter?

To be fair, no one ever really pressured me or tried to make me drink myself, but I just found it odd how brazenly people would question me and look at me with such shock.

Now the reaction is more often ‘I wish I could do that’ or ‘Good on you’, and then the conversation moves on.

It’s so refreshing to feel like I’ve reached a point where I’m allowed to be my own person without explaining myself.

There will always be some people who believe they deserve to know everything, but they will never change.

What does change is your confidence in yourself.

I no longer feel embarrassed to say that actually no, I don’t drink.

I don’t get embarrassed only asking for orange juice on an evening out.

You do you, I’ll do me.

It’s a really nice place to be.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Reading List #42

It's been a while, but here we are with a fresh reading list post!

I can’t believe this is Reading List #42 – there are so many mini-reviews up on here now. The latest four reviews cover fiction and non-fiction, and each of them really impressed me.

Elephant Song, Wilbur Smith

In Chiwewe National Park, Zimbabwe, TV naturalist Dr Daniel Armstrong films the slaughter of an elephant herd. In London, anthropologist Kelly Kinnear is caught up in confrontation with a powerful conglomerate warning them of imminent danger in Zimbabwe. Armstrong and Kinnear form an alliance in an attempt to fight greed and corruption.

This was beautiful. The characters’ passion for the land and the cause was clear, and the way both the beauty and the terror of the country are described in juxtaposition with one another is fantastic. I found myself totally immersed in their world, and the plot itself was fast-paced.

Stop Thinking, Start Living, Richard Carlson

This was recommended to me by my GP when I very fist spoke to him about my anxiety, as he knew I love to read, and find reading a really helpful way to process things. It’s packed with case studies, very simple, and speaks directly to you, the reader.  Carlson discusses life as being like a pendulum, and all thoughts affect your feelings. Once you realise your thoughts are what are sustaining your low mood, or whatever mood it is you’re experiencing, the thought is that it will become easier to find balance. Something that resonated with me was that for healthy psychological functioning it helps to realise that happiness is our default state. It’s a constant part of you, which has been covered up by negative, habitual thoughts you take seriously. Low moods can always happen, but they don’t last forever. This was a short book, and didn’t give me all the answers as anxiety and psychology in general are so complex and multi-faceted, but it gave me a boost, and was an uplifting read whilst waiting for my next appointment.

Beloved, Toni Morrison

In Kentucky, in the mid-1800s, slavery has come under attack. Sethe lost Beloved in violence and has returned to the scene for retribution.

I had been told to read this novel so many times, and when I finally did I could see why it gets spoken about with such awe. The horror of the context and of the scenes of infanticide is blended with the beauty of myth, and the transient nature of time. This is brilliantly crafted and one I think I will return to.

Butterfly, Sonya Hartnett

Fourteen year-old Plum is awkward and angry, and hates what she sees in the mirror. When she meets her sophisticated neighbour, she begins to change, but her family still won’t treat her any differently. Plum’s relationship with her new mentor then has unexpected consequences.

Hartnett totally gets inside the head of a confused fourteen year-old, here. It’s s coming of age tale that flows well, and I read in one sitting. I wasn’t too sure about certain elements of the plot, but overall the tone was spot on.

Any ideas what  should move onto next?

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Doing something that scares me

Today I'm doing something I'm really scared about.

Making appointments for something I'm really scared about.

This year will be the year I truly get on top of my anxiety.

I've written about it to some extent on here, and those around me know it's been having an impact on my life for far too long now.

At the moment I'm spending time making decisions that are all about looking after myself and taking those positive steps.

Will these calls today solve everything I've been going through?

Of course not.

But they're a step in helping to work through something I've been finding really tough.

The little steps all matter.

Come on 2017, we're in this together.
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