01. This feels weird

This feels weird. But I am just going to rattle off all of the things that I have been loving this week (and let’s face it, because this is the first time that I’m writing, loads of previous weeks).

Currently I am on my first week of surgical placement EVER and basically decided that this is the path for me. MAMA I’M GONNA BE A SURGEON! Who would have thought that a mastectomy could bring on such a revelation?!

I don’t enjoy writing prose (maybe I would if there was someone actually listening) so after those two sentences-disguised-as-paragraphs let’s start summarising all of the great things that I have been consuming this week.

  • Frannerd’s blog and patreon and youtube. Oh gosh I just love her life and her aesthetic and her voice and her illustrations. Might be part of the reason why I wanted to do this.

 

  • Hayley sent me a link to a website where you can see “what animal you even lift“. Currently benching a baby zebra with authority. Need to up my squatting game from cheetah to grey wolf ASAP but I just hate them so much I think I may cry (squats not wolves).

 

  • It’s difficult to think of this as a “favourite” but an ode to a premature baby boy who was taken from this year too early was heartbreaking and raw.

 

  • Teenagers that are cooler than I could ever hope to be.

 

  • While I aspire to be a budding surgeon the NHS is crumbling around us but good people are taking the hit.

 

  • Ahhh there was always going to be something in here about food or fitness or body image or social media (and in particular the evilness of instagram), but I think that this piece captured my thoughts fairlyyyyyy alright.

 

TTFN.

2017. Goals and Plans.

I am excited for 2017. Not in a “New Year, new me!” kind of way. But I do want to continue to do the things I did well in 2016, to take a moment to reflect on what things I shouldn’t be doing, and come up with brand new projects or markers of progress! I’ve also go a couple of really exciting things coming my way (let me hear you say LA (!!!) Let me hear you say Aussssss (!!!) ) in the summer.

So without further ado, my 2017 goals:

Things I want to continue doing

  • I want to keep on reading. This year I managed to read wayyyy more books than in previous years. Really there is no reason why I can’t reach the level of book-worminess that I did when I was 12 and obsessed with The Roman Mysteries. It’s all about making it a priority. Just over one book a month is 15 books in the year- shouldn’t be too hard at all really.
  • I want to continue running. Every now and then I would get outside and realise how INVIGORATING it is to have the cold air on my face and feel free and listen to a great podcast too. If I keep on top of my physio calf exercises then maybe this’ll be the year that I manage 15k.
  • Stretching everyday. Remember when you were so flexible you could do the splits? And some yoga. Adriene does some really accessible and fun routines so I really want to set aside time to do this.
  • I’m currently on a 5 day Duolingo streak. By the end of this year I WILL be indistinguishable from a Parisienne.
  • Tennis. Whenever I can, wherever I can.
  • Wake up early in the morning and work out. It saves time and just makes my day so goooooood.
  • To eat ethically and consciously. If that means exploring the corners of the internet and reading hundreds of books, or becoming mostly plant-based or vegetarian, or spending more money on fine-quality cuts of meat, then so be it. You’ve come to so many realisations in the past year so stand your ground, even when people ridicule you. It’s your life, so if you want to eat less meat, buy quinoa and chia seeds, ask questions about where things came from, don’t be embarrassed or back down. But at the same time if you slip up then that’s fine. And don’t label yourself: life is short, needs to be enjoyed, and you’re not going to change the world.

Things I want to stop doing

  • For the love of all that is good stop twiddling your hair.
  • Food is great. Food is wonderful. But something to stop completely if you ever catch yourself at it is binging and gorging yourself on cupboard food (I’m looking at you nut butter and biscoff). And on that note, stop eating when you are full. You are not a dustbin.
  • I want to spend less time on my phone and just procrastinating in general on the internet. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even go to the *toilet* without snapchat. Okay well, I suppose it’s harmless then, but I’ve realised that I spend less time with ACTUAL friends because I spend time with online people. Not to mention on studies.

Things I want to add

  • Doing this blog. I’ve realised recently that sharing and recording my thoughts and experiences is really cathartic (if I can use that term?) and fulfilling for me, even if the only person reading it is me. I need to get better at writing and somehow express my thoughts and feelings about topics like ethical and sustainable living so that I can understand my own position. Plus, my writing is in need of some improvement.
  • Talk to God more and read your Bible and pray your rosary.
  • Be more minimalistic. You’ve always know that “mess makes you dizzy” but really I think that STUFF and clutter and junk makes you dizzy!!
  • Art and drawing. It used to be such a big part of my life and I really do have a talent (yes that’s right I just backed myself). Drawing can be a way to tell a story so by the end of this year I want to be able to tell stories in cartoons like Frannerd and others do and commit to drawing almost every day. And learn how to paint in watercolour. And so some PROPER BIG Paintings.
  • I want to give more of my time to others: family and friends and strangers. At least every fortnight I want to force myself to organise a coffee date with someone, or cook for them, or phone them (even though I hate phone conversations) and spread the love around.

Things I want to achieve

  • My DSLR camera has been in auto mode for embarrassingly long. Last year I got a taste of just how rewarding it can be to play around with the buttons. But photography is a skill, so it takes time to master and I need to put the work in. Once i’m starting to get the hang of that I really want to learn how to use editing software and make the images really POP. And after that to be able to make and edit some really awesome videos of my trips to Australia and LA (remember to buy memory cards though).
  • To feel really confident approaching and talking to patients and doctors at clinical school. It really feels like I’ve been thrown in at the deep end, but so has everyone else so I have no excuse.
  • In the gym (oh gosh how I love the gym) this will be the year that I become comfortable with squats and easily carry 50kg on my back, that I can do 5 unassisted pull-ups in a row (last year I got to 3 and then became lazy. WHY MONIKA WHY?), and bench press 40kg.
  • To live on £3 a day or less is a reality for so many people in this world. Challenging myself to do the same for the entirety of Lent will challenging, fulfilling, and will save me some money!

Weekend Reading 14-08-16

Happy Sunday Friends. I hope that this blog post finds you well.

I’m very well thank you, and turned the big twenty-one a few days ago. It was a quiet affair, spent with my twin sister, and a couple of my closest friends.

We spent a day at the the spa, ate cake, watched movies, walked around our local hills. And it was delightful. I’m not a person who enjoys big parties (read “introvert”) and so throwing an expensive birthday bash with drunk people stumbling around in my garden while I have to host was not how I wanted to spend a day that is for me. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to show all of my many groups of friends from all my different walks of life that I appreciate and love them; everyone loves an invite.

RECIPES


 

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One of the gifts I received was Ella Mills’ Deliciously Ella Every day and needless to say, I have become obsessed. I was going to earmark some of the pages and then realised that I wanted to make every single frikin’ recipe and follow all of her tips and tricks for food prep and storage (many of which I was already doing but now I will be even more of an expert). A big (humungous) batch of her version of coleslaw, dressed with a sauce made of cashews and olive oil, did not last long in our house. Next month I start my first year of clinical medical studies and Sunday will be the day to batch prepare EVERYTHING that will make up all my on-the-go lunches. I can’t wait!

Another recipe that I uncovered was in a semi-forgotten Italian cookbook. The plan was to make aubergine caponata but I was missing half of the ingredients and improvised, substituting raisins for olives, and balsamic for red vinegar. The result was sour, sweet, chewy, delicious, and as soon as I have perfected (and photographed) the recipe I plan on uploading it on here. She says.

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Lauren and John’s recipe for these cauliflower buffalo wings coated in BBQ sauce make my carnivorous father utter “when vegetables are cooked like this, it makes you realise that we don’t even need meat!”. If that’s not a good advertisement I don’t know what is.

READS


Between playing tennis, and celebrating birthdays, and lying on the sofa and serial watching the olympics I haven’t had much time to read this week.

The first thing I’d like to draw attention to is this poem by Mike Hood.

I had the honour of hearing it first hand from the author’s mouth a few months ago and though it did have an impact on me I had completely forgotten about it till it’s publication online.

love him like the one who loved you every morning
before you ever thought to love him back,

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Second is this worrying article that my sister shoved in my face. It first appeared in the guardian about the pernicious implications of the growing avocado trade in Mexico. Fuelled by it’s status as a “hipster superfood” in the Western World demand has skyrocketed and apparently illegal deforestation to plant new avocado trees is damaging environmentally because of the amounts of water needed to grow even a couple of fruit and because of the amount of pesticides that the farms are doused with. More worrying is the exploitation of workers on avocado farms in Mexico, many of which are owned and run by a notorious drug cartel.

As a conscious consumer – and I’m sure most instagram foodies are – we need to be made aware of these types of issues. The problem with the problem is that it is not obvious. Who would have guessed that these delicious toast-toppers could cause such trouble? The author suggests that the conscious consumer should buy from fair trade labels like “Pragor” but unfortunately after a little internet scouring I cannot find any UK stockists.I don’t plan on completely stopping my consumption of avocados any time soon, but I will certainly try and reduce my avocado appetite and look instead towards the less appealing but locally grown kale, a supervegetable that seems to have no disturbing backstory.

The popularity of kale, for instance, makes all-round sense. It’s democratically cheap, its nutritional benefits and locavore credentials are impeccable, and it’s cultivated easily in the UK.

06670b407527668a3bc8a8108f0410f2Next, this pithy piece by Lifehack outlined just how I view the world as an introvert. Specifically, how one can be extroverted too and be chatty and talkative and charming:

People can be surprised when we show a less introverted side to ourselves, but in essence no one is 100% introverted. As humans, we are all unique and most of us have a mix of introversion and extroversion within us. Sometimes, our extroversion comes through when the mood takes us, so we should never be labelled as just an “introvert.” Most people are around half and half, with true introverts being around 60-70%.

But at the same time is reluctant to go to bars, parties, gatherings, and is often the first to leave. It’s not that I don’t have a good time, it’s just that I feel as though I’ve done my bit and hope that no one will miss me if I slip away quietly to bed.

We do like to interact with people but, after a certain point, we need to retreat because it can be quite mentally tiring for us. This doesn’t mean we don’t like the people around us, but taking a break is necessary for us to recuperate so we’re ready for our much-needed next social interaction.

080609_r17468_p646-1200-1200-03180838And lastly, Haruko Murakami, a novelist whose books are ubiquitous on my “to read” list, talks about his relationship and history with running. It’s a story about how he came to be a writer and live his best and most beautiful life.

In my new, simple, regular life, I got up before 5 a.m. and went to bed before 10p.m. Different people are at their best at different times of day, but I’m definitely a morning person. That’s when I can focus. Afterward, I work out or do errands that don’t take much concentration. At the end of the day, I relax, read, or listen to music. Thanks to this pattern, I’ve been able to work efficiently now for twenty-seven years. It’s a pattern, though, that doesn’t allow for much of a night life, and sometimes this makes relationships with other people problematic. People are offended when you repeatedly turn down their invitations. But, at that point, I felt that the indispensable relationship I should build in my life was not with a specific person but with an unspecified number of readers. My readers would welcome whatever life style I chose, as long as I made sure that each new work was an improvement over the last. And shouldn’t that be my duty—and my top priority—as a novelist? I don’t see my readers’ faces, so in a sense my relationship with them is a conceptual one, but I’ve consistently considered it the most important thing in my life.

In other words, you can’t please everybody.

That’s all for this week. Keep safe and well.

xo

Weekend Reading. 07-08-16

This week I returned home after the craziness of World Youth Day in Krakow. This is where over 3 million young Catholics (different sources quote different numbers but I’m taking the largest one because I have never felt so claustrophobic in my life) from all over the World gathered in Krakow for a week of Pilgrimages, Masses, Catecheses, a Papal visit, and rowdy chanting crowds. Spare a thought for the poor residents of Krakow who didn’t get out while they could.

I never thought that something like this could bring me so much closer to God, but by Jove it did. My eyes have been opened to His incredible mercy and goodness and to the dedication and holiness of young people in the world today. And they say that “young people aren’t interested in religion”. Pffft.

I needed a good 3 days in bed once it was all over, which allowed me to catch up on some of life’s subtler pleasures: YouTube, Pinterest, and Bloglovin’. I’ve also begun reading The Master and Margherita by Bulgakhov which has further solidified my love for Russian literature and literary craftmanship, something that I first realised when I read Pale Fire by Nabokov earlier this year. But I digress; here’s a roundup of internet highlights that you should check out:

RECIPES


13232708454_92e06680ee_zBeing home for the holidays means that I have unlimited access to the heavy duty food processor, and storage room for industrial bags of nuts ordered from Amazon. I’ve become addicted to making nut butters from scratch and have been experimenting with flavours; honey & cashew; raisin, cinnamon & almond; salted peanut. Currently in the pantry is boring and plain almond butter but it is amazing how much more marzipan-y it is compared with the store-bought jars. If you feel like following suit then this article with tell you everything you need to know about making your own nut butters.

1354434b_Black-bean-saald.xxxlarge_2xThe weather has been heating up in England and this salad with fresh coriander capitalised on that. I always forget that salads son’t necessarily need to have leaves.

dsc_0859Believe me when I say that this cauliflower dahl curry was absolute perfection. It was so well received that I made it for dinner two days on the trot. And I would do it again.

bb2361555f51e0b012fd03843f697c61I have earmarked this creamy miso pasta over and over, so fingers crossed that I’ll make it next week. Wherever there is a recipe that includes caramelised brussel sprouts you know it’s going to be a winner, and I am so keen to try a dish that uses soaked cashews as a base as it seems to be everywhere right now.

Simple-Polish-gingerbread-cookies-7564Of course, after a trip to Poland I need to have a Polish-inspired recipe. Yes these gingerbread biscuits that we call pierniki” are slightly Christmassy but why should we limit ourselves? For a variation on the very traditional sugar coating, melt both dark and white chocolate to dip these beauties into.

READS


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Even if you’re not one of those people who turns to science to improve their lives, this is something worth reading.

Coffee is a culture. Many people claim that they can’t function without a steaming americano in the morning, and while it’s true that caffeine stimulates the central nervous system by antagonising inhibitory adenosine receptors located on neurones the article makes a good observation about when its action will be most effective.

With health professionals, dentists, and health gurus alike telling us to cut down on our caffeine intake the answer isn’t to eliminate coffee and tea from our diets completely, but to limit consumption to the time of day when we naturally need a boost, there is no need to feel guilty about an afternoon cappuccino and cake.

090119_r18125_p646-690x678-1463417912Quite a touching and sentiment-provoking article in The New Yorker revisited Michelle and Barack Obama leaning towards an uncertain future in politics. At the brink of Obama’s exit from the White House, the figurehead of The Land of Opportunity, it is easy not to recognise that this man is human. Like his policies or not, this man put himself into the public sphere with the intention of changing the world for the better.

But what really strikes me is Barack and Michelle’s partnership. I read a quote from the latter a couple of weeks ago:

“Marriage is hard work. Even the best of marriages require a lot of work — even if you’re married to your soulmate.”

The pair are human – in their private as well as public life – but Obama agrees that they are soulmates, and his eloquence in expressing how that feels is beautiful:

I’m extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways. And there are times when we are lying in bed and I look over and sort of have a start. Because I realize here is this other person who is separate and different and has different memories and backgrounds and thoughts and feelings. It’s that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because, even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person.

Darling-in-Trinidad-Tobago6-1811This visual diary that appeared in Darling magazine gave me such a longing to travel the world and to immerse myself in a culture, to get lost in streets, and to eat food whose ingredients are unfamiliar. I’m currently collecting ideas for a place to spend my Medical Elective placement in a few years and maybe Trinibago is now near the top of the list?

JelaniPomell_MagnifyFinally, a critical but insightful look at the biblical writings of St. Paul attempts to address the apparent sexism with which he approached the roles of the man vs. the woman. As a Catholic, less emphasis is placed in bible study compared to many other denominations, but that does not mean that we have no interest in scripture. We can only improve.

So reading this article from Magnify, the Christian Women’s Magazine, it was interesting not only to read the much quoted explanation: St. Paul was writing in the cultural context of his time and was therefore quite progressive, but also the claim that he was addressing very specific complaints voiced against women who did not – as was the norm – have an education.

“…when he says women should be silent, he is writing a letter to the Corinthians and is actually addressing a particular complaint that had been made about certain women interrupting the preaching. Elsewhere in his writings, women are encouraged to speak and are praised for their active role within the church. Since women were at this point far less educated than men, he did not want them to speak in ignorance, but instead receive the same teaching as men in order to engage with them as equals.”

While I feel that this theory has not much empirical evidence, I am in no doubt that scripture can always be interpreted according to it’s author. Since God did not dictate scripture, but instead gave the writer special grace to aid him in his work, it means that the voice of the bible is affected by each man’s background, cultural environment, education. Yosola’s piece is a great comfort to me and many others who have been angered, upset, or disturbed by passages of The Bible.

On that note, friends, I’ll finish. This blog post has taken the best part of five hours to write but hopefully next week, a greater familiarity with my computer and with writing will allow me to give all my recommendations in 4 hours.

xo

Home

Hey there!

Welcome to my little slice of internet. At the moment it’s rugged and sloppy and imperfect – testament to too many things to do, too little time to do them, and a penchant for procrastination. I started this blog around 2 years ago (gosh, that makes me feel bad), initially to share recipes and food. And while that is still a big part of my life, I have failed to keep up with it, have failed to produce content. I guess that I was viewing this platform as a space where I could sell my thoughts to other people – a place where I could appease other people. Anyone who has read Creatives’ blogs or aesthetic magazines has heard the mantra “create things for you, not for your audience”. The audience may follow. Or not.

And now is the time to listen to that. To grow and to hone my skills. I’ve never been much of a writer – no doubt you will have noticed – but what’s to stop me becoming one? My head has been bursting with thoughts and I’m too human to hold on to all of them at once or to store them away and pull them out exactly the way they once were. By trying to find words, or even creating imagery, perhaps I can make baby steps towards emulating the kind of voices that I read on paper or online, professional writer or otherwise, young or old, whose mother tongue might not even be English, which send shivers down my spine, make me giggle uncontrollably, echo experiences and musings.

To practise the things which don’t come easily to us is perhaps the most difficult thing to do. Because in doing so we unconsciously admit that we are imperfect and fail.

My parents bought me a DSLR camera for my 16th birthday when I begged for it. It has taken till a couple of weeks ago (ie. 4 years later) for me to turn the dial a quarter face clockwise, off automatic mode and onto a screen where there are numbers and letters that I don’t understand. I hope you’ll join me as I attempt to learn how to use it, which right now is a lot of random scrolling up through ISO settings and squatting in bushes to keep the camera still, and manual focussing for so long that I forget what I was even looking at. As a perfectionist the blurry, unnatural or downright ugly photos that occur make me feel like crying. But by documenting them here, in my little corner of the internet, I hope to build a story. A story that not only shows the time and place where I was standing when all of these ridiculous buttons were pressed, but might illustrate a (hopefully) improving skill.

Home is the comfortable backdrop from which I share my first foray into the world of photography and I’m embarrassed to say that even at home, in the house that I have been living for 16 years, there were images and places that I had never been before.

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MAMA’S GREEN FINGERS


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Today was the hottest day of the year in England. I have a desire to go outside, there is a realisation that the temperature is way too high and is unpleasant, I try to find activities to distract myself completely from the perspiration that has become sticky and salty on my body (hello blogging).

To not go on a 7km walk in the surrounding hills on such a day would be a waste, and so the intrepid explorers – moi, sister, tata, dog – did an entire circle. The dog very nearly collapsed due to the heat.

OUR OWN COUNTRYSIDE


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While walking we stumbled across some of the most beautiful cottages but I was good and only photographed one: there was nimbleness in both hand and foot so that the owners were sure not to spot me.

A FRONT GATE TO BE PROUD OF


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We are probably in the possession of the most unphotogenic dog. While there is no question that she is the most beautiful creature to have ever graced this planet (no, don’t try show me a picture of your dog), the big black box I hold in my hands makes her turn around and waggle her tush at me without fail. No one wants thirty images of a pooch’s behind. Luckily on this occasion she became so bored and exasperated at my sitting on the floor and clicking that she lay in the grass still enough for me to creep up behind her and click the black box a little closer to her face.

MIKA


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This site may undergo a complete transformation. I may delete everything I ever made and try and redo it. But for now I’m content to keep banging on the keyboard, clicking my camera, erasing pencil marks, turning up the stove, running, breathing hard, reading long novels, and just hoping that something appears which I am happy to have made.

Coconut Lentil Curry “Student Style”

Yes, I am aware that I have been AWOL for the last 6 months.

Wait one moment; 6 months?! That is just embarrassing. I’m mortified. Apologies.

Going through the toughest University year of your earthly life does take it’s toll but hopefully you’ll be happy to know that I managed to come out the other side (relatively) unscathed. Now there are  zero excuses not to be posting recipes on this site. They’ve been whizzing round my procrastinating head all year so prepare yourselves for some easy exam comfort food. It only takes 35 minutes to bash together so won’t distract from your incredibly demanding textbooks.

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Ingredients (Serves 2)

1/3 cup dried green lentils

2 cups water

2 medium carrot, cut into small chunks

6 pieces frozen spinach

10 tbs canned coconut milk

1 courgette, cut down the middle and then sliced into half moon shapes

1 1/2 tsp ginger

2/3 tsp cumin

1 tsp gram masala

Couple of pinches of salt

Instructions

1. Put the lentils, water and salt in a small/medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

2. At this point add the carrots and coconut milk to the pan and keep simmering on a low heat. Make sure throughout that the pan doesn’t go dry. If it does then add a couple of splashes of water.

3. Let the pot simmer for another 5 minutes and then add the spinach, courgette and spices.

4. Simmer for 2 more minutes, mixing everything together.

5. Serve with brown rice and enjoy!

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