A Very Merry Christmas

‘Scuse the radio silence for the past week, like kind of got taken over by this little thing called Christmas and a rather long essay… Let’s just say I’ll be very happy when 19th January rolls around and I’ll be out of essay season for a little while.

Now, let’s get to the good bit. Aka CHRISTMAS!! The best time of the year. I always find there’s something rather magical about the build up to Christmas, the weather getting colder… the nights drawing in… indoors seeming super cosy and homely… and simply the fact that everyone seems happier, there is a sense of anticipation and excitement in the air. And then you get to spend the day itself with your slightly dysfunctional family, which you can only laugh about!

I gave in my last essay (of 2014) in on my final day in London so decided to host a dinner party for some of my (old) uni friends. A festive dinner party at that…

Santa chimney hat

I was rather pleased that I sneakily managed to feed my friends and entirely paleo meal and a gluten free dessert (complete with hidden veggies) and nobody noticed. In fact, they still don’t know. Victory!

banana cakeBefore I poured sticky sauce all over the top… Yum.

The next day I then proceeded to travel home complete with one giant rucksack of clothes, one wheelie suitcase of textbooks and running shoes (priorities) and my mini rucksack with my laptop. Elegant it was not.

rucksacks

To continue on the photos of me looking like an idiot theme, when I got home I rediscovered my epic Christmas jumper from last year (second prize at the work Christmas party last year thank you very much). How do I look?

christmas jumper

Having completed the Christmas shop in said jumper (I ditched the baubles and fairy lights…) it was time to get baking!! It was so nice to have a bit of an escape from studying and get back to my favourite form of therapy. Each year I make Nigella Lawson’s chocolate log and this year was no different. It’s SO good.

chocolate log

And I even made paleo mince pies complete with homemade mincemeat! These were so stressful (darn pastry) but I must say I was pretty chuffed with the result. (I used this recipe)

paleo mince pies

Combine that with our beaut of a Christmas tree and I was feeling pretty festive come Christmas Day!

christmas day

Each year I go for a Christmas Day run, and each year I try to drag my dad along, this time to success! We went for the run/jog/walk option and it was such a beautiful day, I felt so lucky to run with my dad especially since I figured I can run by myself any day of the week but running with my dad? That is rare. Trust me.

christmas day run

christmas day run 2

It’s been so lovely to be so relaxed about the Christmas festivities this year. Not once have I stressed about what I’ve eaten, how much I’m exercising or what my body looks like (well, only very briefly on that one). Instead, I’ve just been able to enjoy time with family and catching up with old friends. This is the first time that I can remember being so calm over such things this time of year which is a huge deal for me! And what’s more, because I’ve been so calm about things I haven’t crazily eaten all the things and I’ve been able to keep up exercising when I want to, and sleeping when I need to. Finally!

Even with the mountain of work, it’s been a very merry Christmas indeed. Plus, getting up early to study isn’t quite so bad when you’ve got this beautiful sunrise to watch…

sunrise herefordshire

How was your Christmas? Have you still been busy over the festive season or did you manage to get some time off?

{Self Care Sunday #2} A British Girl in Paris

This week my dad and I escaped to Paris for two and a half glorious days of de-stressing. I can’t tell you how much it was needed, essays and life has really been getting to me lately and I’ve found myself feeling more and more run down – the trip couldn’t have come at a better time. I handed in an essay at uni on Monday and then walked over to Kings Cross in the beautiful London sunshine to meet dad for a spot of lunch before hopping on the Eurostar… (Be prepared to be bombarded with photos in this post)

We arrived in Paris about 6pm and after bumbling about in the rain for a while we eventually found our hotel, pretty much back where we started… Oops. We stayed at the Hotel du Mont Blanc, simple, good location – did the trick.

hotel du mont blanc parisA pretty awesome view from my window…

After sorting our bags and a quick change we headed out in search of dinner. Something that I particularly love about Paris is how everything extends onto the street – shops, restaurants and cafés, even something the kitchens themselves…

fish paris

We found a beautiful restaurant that annoyingly I didn’t look at the name of. It was full of old beams, traditional wooden furniture and lots of chandeliers…

restaurant paris

Of course champagne was necessary. When is champagne ever a bad idea?

champagne paris

It was rather a meaty meal for me which, admittedly, is my ideal. I started with a platter of hams, salamis, etc. and followed this with some honey duck which was pretty bloody awesome. Then we ambled back to the hotel and promptly fell asleep. I think I slept for 10 hours?!

meat platter paris

duck paris

The next day was just amazing. We walked everywhere as we were in no rush… We wandered through the Latin Quarter where the shops spill out onto the pavement, full of smelly French cheeses, meats, fresh handmade pasta and lots and lots of oranges…

cheese paris

meat paris

fresh pasta paris

oranges paris

We ended up at the Notre Dame for which I was pretty excited as I’d never been in or up it (the last time I was in Paris I was dog sitting and I don’t believe it’s acceptable to take dogs up Cathedrals..). Inside it was absolutely stunning, it truly is HUGE. And it was obviously looking its best getting ready for Christmas time. There’s something pretty magical being in such a huge space, so full of people yet it being almost silent…

Notre Dame

Inside Notre Dame

Notre Dame window

Then I made us queue to go to the top (the queue was wayy smaller than when I’ve seen it in summer, just a tip for you!). It was 100% worth it…

Notre Dame view

Notre Dame view 2

Notre Dame view 3

Notre Dame view 4

Our wandering then led us along the river to the Champs Élysées where we found the biggest Christmas market I think I’ve ever seen… Complete with Santa’s sleigh ready and waiting on his zip wire for a night time show. Totally normal.

Champs Élysées Christmas Market

Most of the market stalls were pretty commercial but there was a lovely Artisanal section with people selling goods that they had made, or even making them right in front of you…

Champs Élysées Christmas Market 2

Then, as the sun was setting we crossed the river and walked back through the narrow streets of the Left Bank peering into shop windows full of stunning antiques and furniture that I definitely couldn’t afford…

Paris sunset

Next came dinner. This dinner was epic. Like seriously epic. Dad decided that we should have a treat Christmas dinner whilst in Paris and I certainly wasn’t one to object. We headed to Germain, very much a different style to where we had eaten the night before with a modern art/design theme. Yet, it still somehow felt lovely and cosy. I seemed to go for a tartare theme for my meal… I started with a salmon tartare which was lovely and the my first ever beef tartare which they grilled very lightly. The beef tartare was just wow. WOW. WOW. Yeah, it was good. All washed down with some red wine, when in Rome Paris.

Salmon tartare Germain

Beef tartare Germain

Matchstick chips GermainWith a side of ‘matchstick fries’, I barely made a dent in these I was too busy falling in love with my beef…

Steak GermainDad didn’t want to be left out so he took a picture of his steak too 🙂

After dinner I had the excellent idea of going to one of the many crêperies further down the street for pudding. Holy moly. I think I got a bit over excited with my ordering…

crêpe

Good job I had dad with me to help me out, poor guy ended up eating his crêpe, half of mine and finishing my drink that I didn’t like. Sorry dad…

Then all of a sudden it was our final day. We started with a perfect Parisian breakfast at La salle a manger, again in the Latin Quarter not too far from our hotel. Fresh French breads, croissant, a variety of different spreads and unlimited tea/coffee. Oh yes. (Yes, I did eat gluten on this trip, no my body didn’t like me much for it but my soul bloody loved me.)

la salle a manger

la salle a manger 2

The rest of the day was very much a shopping day, although in hindsight I don’t think we actually bought that much! My favourite places were this huge vintage shop (who knew vintage clothing was so much cheaper in Paris?) and of course Galleries Lafayette, which was full of festive Christmas decorations…

vintage shop paris

Galleries Lafayette

Such festive and happy trip 🙂 it may not be possible to run away to Paris every time you need a break (bummer) but taking time out to look after yourself and your soul is 100% necessary. Head on over to Ange’s blog for some more self care this Sunday, and have a wonderful weekend!

Have you been to Paris? What’s your favourite way to take time out?

The stigmatisation of silence…

There’s such a tendency in this world that whenever you have a problem you just keep quiet and get on with it. Far less hassle right? There’s little discussion of the painful, the unknown, the awkward. Yet where does this really get us? We’re aren’t progressing at all.

Last night I was watching a Russell Brand documentary about the war on drugs and it really hit me just how stigmatising and damaging such a silence can be. Yes, I realise that he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and whilst I may not agree with everything he says, he certainly raises some good points, in my opinion.

So let’s take a look… In school I remember learning about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and safe sex. But that was pretty much it. There was no talk, to my memory, about why people get caught up in drugs and alcohol abuse… how self-harm is not attention seeking… the importance of sexual consent… what is a healthy relationship, romantic or otherwise… self-esteem… self-worth… how binge eating isn’t just someone ‘being greedy’… no mention of anorexia… you get the gist. These issues just weren’t discussed, and so I haven’t really discussed them since.

Yet, this silence is stigmatising. These issues need to be talked about, they need to be acknowledged. In keeping them in the quiet we are making them even worse than they already are. It is incredibly difficult for someone to come forward and say that they are experiencing issues related to binge eating, let’s say. Let alone when so few people talk about binge eating – it gives the impression that it just isn’t an issue. So it is so much harder to talk about something when you feel that you are the only one experiencing it.

Silence can give a stigma to issues that they are ‘weird’, that they should remain in the quiet. These problems sure aren’t glamorous, so why bother?

(Source)

Let’s start, as a community, to break out of that silence, break down the wall. Speak out about your experiences, your problems, and start the conversation. It doesn’t have to be in such a public arena as on a blog, just start with your friends. It is so refreshing to be discussing something with a friend and for them to say “oh, I went through that too”; or to read a blog post from someone speaking out about issues that you have experienced too. Speak out from the silence, and let others know that they are not alone. It is okay.

Thoughts…

My Travel Essentials

I am writing this on Monday morning, an hour and a half before I need to leave to go and hand in my essay before heading to Kings Cross St Pancras to catch a train to Paris (with my dad I hasten to add)… And I am sat in my pjs, on my bed, having packed a grand total of…nothing. Yet I feel totally calm. Having spent much of my life travelling around and moving from one place to another the packing thing no longer phases me, and yes I always do it last minute. I figure, if I’ve got the essentials what more do I really need?

  • I’m all for trying new food when travelling and letting go a little, there’s no point (in my opinion) of being in a beautiful place and avoiding all exciting foods just because they might not fit into your usual diet pattern. Life is for living after all, and food is a beautiful part of that. I do, however, always try and bring some snacks with me as being stuck somewhere with no access to food is not fun when hunger kicks in! Plus, snacks are awesome and exploring needs some sort of fuel.
  • Those who know me well can vouch that I am never without my water bottle. Staying hydrated is so important to me – and I hope it is to you too! I recently bought this Bobble bottle which filters water as you go – great if you’re in areas where the tap water perhaps isn’t so drinkable.

(Source)

  • My iPhone is an essential travel component for me… I know, I know. It’s just so practical! My phone, photos, music, and the whole of google all in the palm of my hand, perfect for finding a restaurant for dinner or checking up on your flights.
  • Saying that, I am not one to travel without a copy of Lonely Planet. I love those books, I still have my ‘gap year map’ pinned up on my wall at home from when I was 18, with stamps on all the countries I’ve visited… And I fully plan on continuing to add to it. There’s something so lovely about having a travel books you can hold and scribble in.
  • My running shoes. I do have a new pair on my Christmas list but I love my running shoes and all the places they’ve taken me. You can’t beat the magic of going somewhere new, lacing up your shoes and heading out to explore. It’s such a different way to see the sights and forces you off the beaten tourist paths (far too many people!) or out into the early morning.

(Source)

  • A credit card! No, not for a shopping spree. I always figure if I’ve got a bank card and my passport when I leave the house I can pretty much go anywhere in the world and it’ll be okay, no matter what I’ve forgotten.
  • Finally, a bit of local knowledge goes a long way. Last time my dad and I went away together we hired a car to go roadtripping through Northern Argentina. Whilst this was the most incredible adventure it definitely would’ve run a little more smoothly had our car been a bit more up to the job – as I’ve mentioned before, a Renault Clio is less than ideal for driving along dirt tracks at high altitude when all the locals have 4x4s… Hindsight is a wonderful thing! RelayRides is a great peer to peer car rental service meaning that you can actually hire locals’ cars, avoiding any of this confusion! What better way to make sure that your hire car is up to scratch? So much more practical than your typical airport rental service who (as I’ve found) will rent you pretty much anything, which is not always a good idea…

car rentalNot the best car for altitude driving, especially when it stops halfway up a hill…

What are some of your travel essentials? Have you had a particularly successful/disastrous hire car experience?! Disclaimer: I’m linking up with RelayRides for this post but all thoughts and opinions are of course my own.

Self-Care Sunday

Ever thought, “oh I’m going to have a glass of wine, I’ve worked really hard this week and I deserve it”? I’m pretty sure we all have, or at least with our treat of choice. There appears to be such a tendency in our busy world to feel that we have to earn our rewards…

Something that I’ve struggled with greatly is feeling I am worth it. Am I worth the rest, the night on the sofa doing nothing, drinks with my friends, half an hour doing yoga before bed so that I sleep better? Or should I be working harder, longer hours so that I achieve more and make myself ‘better’? Far too often it’s the latter and that shouldn’t be so. We are all worth it. 100%. Whatever ‘it’ may be, you don’t have to earn it. If it’s going to help you relax and let go then do it. There’s no reason not to.

Even when you think you don’t have enough time to look after yourself. Since when did “I don’t have enough time for breakfast” become a sign of achievement? Taking that little bit of extra time out from your week will not only give you a bit of breathing space but it will also mean that when you do go back to work, or training, you are that much more productive. You will get more done.

you are enough

During this first term of my Masters I’ve made a conscious effort to take a bit more time out to look after myself. During my undergraduate degree I was, quite frankly, an unhealthy mess. This time round I’ve learnt from my mistakes. At 9pm each night I turn off my work and try to dial down my (over)thinking ready for sleep. I’ve been working on saying “no” to more things. Yes, this can get bloody boring sometimes but it means that I’m not a hopeless exhausted mess whilst trying to write a zillion essays. It honestly works, and I feel so much better for it.

Sometimes it just takes a bit of escapism for the world to be okay again. This might be from a long candlelit bath, a (large) glass of wine, your favourite meal, an extra workout for a bit of you time, skipping a workout for a bit of you time, an early night, a late night out with friends or just because that Netflix marathon ran away with you… anything that helps you to look after yourself a bit better.

So this Sunday, and over the busy holiday period, do something for you. Nobody else, just you. You don’t have to earn it, you don’t need to worry whether you’ve got the time. However small ‘it’ may be, you’re worth it.

Pop on over to Ange’s blog for some more self-care this Sunday..

{Recipe} Classic Green Creamy Protein Smoothie

I don’t know about you but after a good workout the last thing I want to do is eat anything, particularly not straight away. However, I know it’s good for my recover to fuel back up with some good old protein and carbs soon afterwards. This is where the smoothie comes in!

Creamy, green (naturally, ha), cold, refreshing and packed full of protein, this simple smoothie is so quick and easy to make after a workout. Or just for a snack. Or when waiting for your supermarket delivery after CrossFit late on a Monday night, like me yesterday… Winter? What’s that?

photo 1 (38)

  • 1 frozen banana chopped into chunks
  • A handful of spinach (I used frozen)
  • 1.5 tbsp hemp protein powder
  • 3 dates (pitted)
  • 1 tsp almond butter
  • Almond milk

Just pop all in ingredients into your blender and add enough almond milk (or you could use water) to get it moving. Blend on a high speed until smooth.

What’s your go to to refuel after a workout?

A Christmas Tree, Old Friends & Songs on Repeat

With deadlines looming ever closer (I had my first one yesterday, phewph) I’m finding myself appreciating my down time so much more. I’m working on turning off my laptop at 9pm each night to give my brain some ‘switch off’ time before heading off to sleep… And sadly I’ve also been saying no to social events way too much lately – I’m hoping to be more fun next year! But it does mean that my stress levels are lower and I’m able to work more efficiently, and right now that’s my priority.

As a consequence of all this, I am loving seeing my friends when I do get the chance! After all, with no social time we’d all go a little crazy wouldn’t we?

catch-up

This weekend a couple of old schoolfriends and my housemate’s sister came to stay (on separate nights, our flat’s not that big…) and it was a blast. Cue a huge catch-up on Friday night over dinner and a rather glorious glass of Malbec… And then working like hell on Saturday so that I could do fun stuff in the evening like decorate our Christmas tree… (No, it is not too early.)

Christmas Tree

Fuelled by mulled wine of course. Did you know Sainsbury’s does ready made mulled wine?! Admittedly it is rather sweet but go half and half with some normal wine and there’s some lazy girl perfection.

Mulled wineOkay I admit, I hadn’t finished working at this point…

Other things that have been picking me up this week include my (rather limited) study soundtrack. Let’s just say I’ve preeeetty much had this song on repeat the last few weeks… It just seems to make me so happy!

Speaking of happy (smooth transition right there), on Saturday night Pharrell’s Happy came on and it reminded me of this sweet little video of Buenos Aires… It just makes the city look so good and captures it all pretty well I think. Plus parts of it were filmed pretty near to where I used to live.

What’s been making you happy lately? Have you put up your Christmas Tree yet?