Monday, 24 November 2014

November Playlist

St Andrews, Scotland

I listen to music pretty much constantly, whether that be when walking to class, cooking dinner or studying at the library. I've had a week of deadlines and these songs have been my saviours. 

In Dreams \ Ben Howard
Limits Lie \ Jamie T
You are the Sun \ Hurricane Love
English House \ Fleet Foxes
Bad Blood \ Bear's Den 
I Wanna Get Better \ Bleachers
Never Gonna Give You Up \ The Black Keys
Out of the Blue \ Prides
Torn Apart \ Bastille
Cherry Wine \ Hozier

If you're looking for some new music I recommend Hozier, he's amazing.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Freshers Week Advice

I moved into halls exactly a week ago which means freshers week is nearly over. If you don't know what freshers week is... it's basically a week for all new students to get very drunk and make mistakes, and of course make new friends, get used to university life and start doing things for themselves. 

Don't be nervous or anxious.
Everyone is in the same boat as you, they might just be better at hiding it. I was quite lucky in the fact that I'd already spent a time away from home fending for myself, but most people haven't. Of course it's natural to be scared, it's a huge thing to do! I'm living in halls with 500+ people and for an only child who grew up in a small town its a situation I've never been in before. Be brave and head out!

Be friendly.
I know this is easier said than done but putting on a smile and introducing yourself to people really does make the world of difference. At least say hello to the people in your corridor/flat because you're going to be living with them and they'll be the people you see the most. Introduce yourself to everyone you meet, you never know they might become your best friend! The worst thing you can do is shut yourself away in your room and not talk to anyone.

Be Healthy
Without sounding like your mother, try and stay healthy at university, and especially in freshers week to fend off the dreaded freshers flu. Eating healthily and drinking enough water makes those hangovers end more quickly and mean you're ready to tackle anything life throws at you. I recommend buying loads of vegetables, they're cheaper and tastier than ready meals!, and making a batch of soup or sauce that can be heated up quickly. I made a huge batch of Tomato and Quinoa Soup, which will last me for at least five meals. If you can't cook then learn asap!, or ask a willing cook to make you some healthy meals that can be frozen. All I'm going to say about drinking is know your limits. If you can drink someone under the table then go on but if you know yourself that one drink goes straight to your head then maybe don't do those tequila shots. The most important thing is watch your drink getting made and don't leave it unattended, I have had my drink spiked before and it was not a nice experience and could have ended very badly.

Say yes
In the past week I have avoided many people asking me to join their society, but I have also said yes (what the hell!) and put my name down for things I never even thought of. The Russian society, why the hell not? Attend a beach barbecue even though the tide is coming in, again why the hell not? Saying yes or attending an event doesn't mean you have to join or are under any pressure to go again. You'll meet loads of new interesting people and have fun! Most universities will have a fayre of some sort where you can discover all the weird and wonderful societies. I will most likely join the ones to do with my degree but I also intend on volunteering and doing some charity work so who knows? Go to events as well, if they're anything like the ones I've been to they wont be amazing but who cares? I still had a great time and bonded with my flatmates about how bad they were! 

Enjoy yourself!
The whole point of freshers week is to enjoy yourself before classes start and you have to remember why you're at university. You'll probably have to do a few boring official things during the week to make sure you're enrolled and actually down for the right subjects but after they're done have fun! Go and explore your new home town, battle through the crowds to get all the free stuff and make sure to call your mum to let her know you're still alive. 

Your life is just beginning and you're gonna be great!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Tomato and Quinoa Soup

I love adding quinoa, aka the super high in protein wonder grain, to my boring cans of tomato soup but today I decided I was going to go one step further and make my own tomato soup! The soup takes around twenty minutes to make, meaning it's a quick, easy and healthy dinner.

(serves two people)
50g of quinoa
10 decent sized tomatoes
canned tomatoes
garlic puree

olive oil

You will also need a blender or food processor. 

Before putting the quinoa to cook I recommend you soak it in water for at least five minutes to get rid of the dirt taste and soften it. Then place in a pan with boiling water, put the heat on medium and leave to cook for fifteen minutes.

In a saucepan heat up the olive oil, I use a garlic infused oil to add more flavour, vegetable or sunflower oil can be used as a substitute. 

Whilst the oil is heating up chop the tomatoes into small chunks and add to the saucepan. After a few minutes add the canned tomatoes. Bring it to the boil and then simmer.

Once the tomatoes have boiled blend them so there are no big chunks of tomato and then return to the saucepan. Then add the garlic puree and seasonings. I used chilli powder, basil, oregano and a pinch of salt, but you can use any ones you like. Heat until it is a desirable temperature, I like mine 'scald your tongue' hot. 

The quinoa should be ready by now; drain and add to the tomatoes. I recommend using a fine sieve and putting a sheet of kitchen roll over the bottom before you drain the quinoa as it is very small and likely to fall straight into your sink! 

Stir the quinoa and tomatoes together and then serve. I served mine with garlic toast and a salad. 

I'll definitely be making this in the future and using the leftovers for lunch in the coming days. I'm also going to use quinoa in another soup recipe in the coming weeks so keep your eyes out for it!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Triple Chocolate Cookies

A more accurate name for these cookies would be 'death by diabetes' but don't let that put you off, these cookies are delicious and everyone will love them.

150g softened unsalted butter or margarine
150g soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten 
1 tsp vanilla essence
250g self-raising flour
2 tbsps cocoa powder
50g milk chocolate, chopped into small chunks
50g white chocolate, same as above
50g smarties (or similar, I used M&Ms)

Featuring 2lbs of homegrown strawberries.
 Preheat the oven to 180*c or Gas 5

Cream the butter and sugar together, I prefer to mix by hand but you can use an electric whisk to save time.

Add the egg, vanilla essence, cocoa powder and half the flour, mix until it is smooth.

Stir in both kinds of chocolate chips and the smarties.

Mix in the remaining flour until the mixture is thicker and almost dough like.

Divide the dough into two and then again from this into six small balls.

Flatten each ball and place on a greased baking tray making sure they are evenly spaced, if not you will end up with one massive cookie, which isn't a bad thing but not what we are aiming for!

Bake in the centre of your preheated oven for 10 - 12 minutes or until the edges are crisping.
This recipe makes roughly 12 -14 cookies. 

I am taking this batch into work to enjoy on what will most likely be a very busy day that requires cookies.

Monday, 16 June 2014

My Summer Playlist

I go through stages of listening to the same album on repeat for weeks until I move onto the next one. Here are the songs I've been loving in May and June. 

Border Line// King Krule

Nothing Stays the Same// Luke Sital-Singh 

The Death of Queen Jane// Oscar Issac

Sweet Life// Frank Ocean

Oats in the Water// Ben Howard

avf// Stromae

Partition// Iggy Azalea+Beyonce

Cheer Up//Miles Fisher

My commute to work is around forty minutes all together which means I get to listen to one whole album before and after work. My album of the month is most definitely Racine Carrée by Stromae, it has the perfect mix of upbeat and slower songs.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Tips for learning a new language

Come September 2014 I'll be studying Spanish and German at university, so I know all the little tips and tricks to learning a language and actually remembering it! From firsthand experience I know how difficult it can be learning a language, these tips definitely helped me! In our modern society its becoming increasingly more important and relevant knowing more than one language. Although being bilingual can help your career prospects and even your grasp of English, I think the biggest and best benefits are in how it opens your world. There really is no better feeling than speaking to someone in a native language and seeing their world through your own eyes!

Start with the basics
Whether you've learnt the language before or are a complete novice, starting with the basics is the best way to ease yourself in. Although jumping in the deep end with conjunctive verbs may have the best payoff it's not the most sensible thing to do. If you've studied the language before then going over the basics is a good refresher and if you're learning from scratch then the basics are the sensible place to start! If you're only wanting to learn a few vital phrases for your holiday such as '¡una cerveza, por favor!' then you probably won't want to learn about the verbs and how to conjugate sentences. I'd recommend goggling said phrases and getting a guidebook with some basics included, most guidebooks nowadays have this. 

Use technology
We are fortunate, or unfortunate if you see it like that, to live in a world where everything and anything is at our fingertips. I recently discovered the Duolingo app, which has turned into an everyday app of mine. It has a great feature that tracks how much time you've spent on each language and you can set yourself a goal to do a certain amount each day. There are also tonnes of other apps that you can download to help you along the way. This also means that you don't have to go out and buy a lot of supplies, such as a dictionary or grammar books because both services are easily accessible online.

Listen to the language
Watching things or listening to things in the language is a great way to integrate it into your daily life whilst also learning how to pronounce certain sounds correctly. I am a big fan of foreign cinema with Amélie being one of my favourite films, even though I know only a few words of French. Listening to non-English music is also a great way to get used to hearing the language. A few of my favourite artists sing in French and German, Stromae and Max Prosa

Don't do it alone 
It's a lot easier to give up on something if there is no-one there to motivate and push you. I was lucky that I had the opportunity to learn my languages at high school in a small class setting. Having someone to answer to and go to for advice is vital in knowing where you're going wrong and how you can improve. Most community centres and schools will offer beginners language classes which are reasonably priced and provide the books you'll need. 

Make it fun
You're not going to continue learning a new language if it's boring and feels like a chore. Like I stated before watching films/tv and listening to music is a great way to learn a language and it's fun. Set yourself goals and when you achieve them reward yourself! Go to a tapas restaurant and order in Spanish, there you go!, you just spoke Spanish and you have a margarita! Your goals don't have to be big or complicated. By setting small achievable goals you're encouraging yourself to develop skills and gain confidence in the language. Learning something new is meant to be exciting and interesting, try to enjoy the journey!

Without sounding like your teacher, practice does make perfect! If you want to become good at anything you have to put in the graft and the effort. Something that I do a lot is think in another language or think how to say certain things whilst I'm doing them. For example, I will mentally count in Spanish in my head instead of English and, without sounding completely crazy, I sometimes speak to my cats in Spanish! I find it so helpful to speak out loud and hear yourself speaking the language. 

I hope this tips were helpful and someone is inspired to pick up a new language or even one they did at school.
Get out there and learn a new language, what's the worst thing that could happen?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Oatmeal Cookies

In an attempt to make healthier choices but being unable to avoid sweet treats I thought I would make some healthier options of my own. These cookies are perfect paired with a warm drink or even warmed up with ice cream for dessert. 

Just a word of warning, the amounts listed make more than twenty cookies, depending on how small or large you want them. If you want to make around a dozen I would recommend halving all the amounts. 
Can you spot the flour on my top? Wear an apron!

230g butter or margarine
200g caster sugar
220g brown sugar
250g self-raising flour
250g oats 
2 large eggs, beaten
vanilla extract
pinch of salt
baking powder
Preheat oven to 190*

Mix together the butter and both sugars. Gradually add in the egg and then add one teaspoon of the vanilla essence. 

Mix the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder together. Then mix and make sure that all the flour is mixed in. Finally add in the oats. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rest.

If you want you can add fruit, nuts or anything really to the mixture. I split mine in half and added raisins to one half and more cinnamon to the other.

After half an hour the mixture is ready to cook. Grease an oven tray and use a teaspoon to create small balls of the mixture. Place, well spaced apart, on the tray and push down slightly on the top with a fork dipped in milk

I kept mine on for around nine minutes and they are the perfect mixture of chewy and crunch. If you're looking for super chewy, melt in your mouth cookies then leave them in for eight minutes and for eleven if you're wanting crunchy ones. 

As I said before this recipe makes a lot of cookies! I plan on giving some to friends and colleagues, and if there's any left having them as a tasty snack. I'm giving up chocolate and sweets for lent and fully intended to last the full forty days!