Monday, 28 September 2015

An Evening at the Rugby - Bath vs Gloucester

Rugby match at Bath Rec

With it being Rugby World Cup time, my friends and I were inspired to do something different this weekend.

We might not have got hold of any RWC2015 tickets, but after spending hours watching the games on TV, we decided it would be fun to go and watch a live game.

So the previous weekend (over tea and scones), we did a quick search for local games and found that Bath would be playing Gloucester in the West Country Challenge Cup. Tickets were £25 and there was plenty of availability, so we ordered some immediately.

Rugby match tickets

I loved having something exciting to look forward to at the end of the week - I think it kept us all going through long days of hospital placement!

We decided to make a day of it - with a 5.45pm kick-off, we had plenty of time for lunch and a wander around Bath in the sunshine. I meant to get a few pictures of Bath, but got rather distracted by all the shoe shops we visited...

Lunch was a delicious butternut squash and sultana burger at All Bar One, polished off with brownies and churros shared between the three of us. I've discovered a new tactic in dessert eating - a accompaniment of peppermint tea! Feeling nice and full, we headed across the river to BathRec.

Crowds watching rugby on big screen

Hot air balloon over Bath Recreation Ground

We caught the end of the Red Bull University 7's tournament, and a little of the South Africa vs Samoa game on the big screen before finding our seats.

I've been to a number of live rugby games before, but it's been quite a long time since the last one. I forget how different it is to be by the pitch, watching the action right in front of you. It also feels like things go a lot faster when there aren't video replays all the time! We were also sat right opposite the setting sun, which was beautiful once it had got past the blinding stage!

Sun setting over rugby match

Bath rugby pitch

Bath Rugby Ground

Bath vs Gloucester Rugby Match

Rugby match at Bath

It was an excellent game, with two well matched sides and some exciting tries - and a 30-21 win for the home team. After the excitement of the afternoon, it was something of a disappointment to get back in time to watch England lose in the second half of their World Cup game against Wales!

Rugby match Bath vs Gloucester

Bath vs gloucester rugby match

We had a lovely day out, the perfect way to focus on something not-medical and to enjoy a game of live rugby. Highly recommended!

Have you been lucky enough to see any of the World Cup games? 


Friday, 25 September 2015

Re-invention of the Colouring Book

Colouring books with coloured pencils and flowers

Until recently, if you'd asked me to describe a colouring book, I'd probably have imagined something along the lines of simple pictures for children, on that scratchy grey-ish paper, with big thick black lines - and probably a few ugly scribbles where some other kid had gotten hold of it.

Well that's all changed now.

Frog and bird colouring book pages coloured

Animal Kingdom and Colour Me Mindful Tropical

The adult colouring book market seems to be ever expanding as we try to move away from screens and back towards more traditional downtime hobbies. Besides simply being an enjoyable way to pass the time, these books have the benefits of being calming, stress relieving and boosting creativity. In an increasingly digital world, it's lovely to just step back, gather your crayons and lose yourself in the lines.

Colouring in octupus with red pencil

Admittedly, I was dubious at first.

I love being creative and arty, but for me much of the pleasure comes from starting with a completely blank page and building up the pencil strokes to create something of my own. Using someone else's black and white pictures felt a little bit like cheating...

Colouring in snake with purple pencil

Coloured colouring book pages and pencils

However, drawing from scratch takes time I don't always feel I can allow myself during my busy university life. I find sketching the outlines takes a lot of preparation and precision and this puts me off - which is a shame because I love getting out my colouring pencils! 

Using these colouring books gives me that 'head start' to finding time to be creative during the week, and they have become one of my favourite ways to wind down in the evening, or spend a Sunday afternoon. 

Blank colouring book pages

The images are beautiful, the books of excellent quality and the details mean that these books will last me a long time. In fact, they're probably going to outlive my well-loved colouring pencils that have seen me through GCSE art, personal drawings and beyond!

Spectrum of colouring pencils

Have you tried out any of the many adult colouring books out there?




Sunday, 20 September 2015

Sunday Blogging and Catching Up

Pink purple and yellow flowers in vase

Sunny, Sunday morning.

Now more than ever I'm learning to really appreciate having a bit of free time to simply relax and just slow down for a while.

Final year has well and truly begun and it's felt like a pretty hectic week with lots of early starts getting to the hospital for morning ward rounds, and busy evenings of staying on top of work with final exams approaching before the end of the year.

It might be a busy few months, but I'm determined not to neglect this online space during this time. Writing a blog is a perfect escape from medicine, so I'll be doing my best to find time for it. But if it all goes a bit quiet over here, I hope you'll understand why!

It's not all been intense medicine this week though... I've also taken the time to explore the new area I'm living in, and the route to the hospital I'm placed at. I've discovered shopping I've never really considered before, with a selection of fabulous greengrocers and stores selling flours, grains, spices and pulses by weight - and all so cheap. This might revolutionise my shopping this year! (As well as start an addiction to chocolate covered raisins).

We've also spent time this weekend adjusting the flat and making it even more homely with pictures on the walls, fairy lights round the window looking over the city, and some very mathematical bunting hanging.

And then of course, the Rugby World Cup has begun. And Downton starts tonight. The TV choices are looking rather good currently.

It's just been so lovely to slow down for a couple of days, enjoy not setting an alarm and just catch up on the world around me.

So this is really just a short post to say hello again, and hope you've all had a lovely week.



Wednesday, 16 September 2015

#GBBO Inspired #5 - Peach and Raspberry Frangipane

Just as the Bake Off starts to really step up and move towards the final stages, I head back to university and have to adapt my inspired bakes each week to work with a smaller kitchen, fewer baking accessories and busy days. 

So I'm going to be honest right from the beginning. I used shop bought pastry this week... definitely a bit of a cheat in pastry week! Ordinarily I'd have been up for making my own short crust pastry, but I was baking after lectures with not much time between leaving the lecture hall and friends arriving at the flat. 

I chose to bake a classic frangipane this week, using this Mary Berry recipe. I don't think I've ever eaten a frangipane tart before, let alone baked one, so I was playing it safe by sticking to a simple recipe rather than playing around with new flavours. And actually, I'm glad I did because this simple recipe was delicious! I love almonds and almond based bakes, so frangipane is a perfect treat and certainly something I'd try again.

I also love how stunning you can make a frangipane look simply with the apricot jam glaze - the shininess over the fruit makes it look incredibly tempting.

I served this frangipane when a few friends came round for a evening of catching up this week, alongside a delicious marbled cheesecake brownie made by my flatmate. Food, tea and chatting - perfect way to spend a midweek evening!


Monday, 14 September 2015

Top Ten Bizzare Sims Creations

I've never tried to work out how many hours of my life have been spent playing The Sims, but I'm sure it would be a shockingly big number! I still remember the very first time I ever played it - at a friend's house during a holiday to Australia, and we were so engrossed in drowning our Sim people in the swimming pool that we turned down a visit to the zoo (although I had actually already been that week). 

Once back from Aus, I got my hands on a copy of The Sims: Deluxe Edition and played it regularly for years and years. I'm a committed fan of the original Sims and just cannot get my head around Sims 2, let alone any further versions! I liked the simplicity and limits of the original game, and find the more recent versions overwhelming.

I'm sure most of you will have played The Sims at some point - I expect we all have many shared memories of 'rosebud;;;;;', setting fire to our least favourite sim, and leaving a bathing sim suspended in mid-air all pixelated. Most 'Sims Memories' lists I've read seem to suggest that everyone made themselves, their friends and their dream partner, but I liked being original with my Sim-creations and storylines and spent my time setting up all number of weird and wonderful scenarios - my sister still teases me about them now. So here are my Top Ten Bizzare Sim Creations:

(I'm only sorry that I don't have pictures to go with these! The Sims has long since been unistalled on the family computer... *sad face*)

1. The Big Brother House
Now I haven't watched Big Brother in a very, very, very long time, so this makes me feel rather old. But I remember building a huge house with all the brightest decor and furniture, a swimming pool, hot tub and, of course, a fancy 'Diary Room'. I created fictional contestants (all with actual backstories as well... far too much time on my hands), performed some cheat to set them to maximum autonomy so they would act by themselves, and sat back and watched. Sim Big Brother probably beats the real thing for entertainment every time... 

2. The Rubbish Dump
I have absolutely no idea how I ever thought of this. But I did. It was a single concrete wall, and then all kinds of 'rubbish' - discarded ovens, beds, sofas... I had a 'family' of four tramps living there who were all set to minimum cleanliness and they would leave rubbish all over the place so that plenty of flies accumulated. Wasn't I a lovely person? I'm also pretty sure I killed half of them off in a freak fire starting in the, err, abandoned fireplaces section...

3. Ancient Greek Houses (multiple)
Admittedly, I can be a massive geek when I want to be. I studied Classical Civilizations for GCSE and loved learning about life in Ancient Greece. So much so, I created an entire neighbourhood of replica Greek homes. Small ones with minimal furniture, and huge fancy ones complete with gynaekons filled with spinning wheels, the men's andron and even a sacrifice altar. Maybe this is why I still remember so much of my Classics knowledge...

4. Emmerdale
Embarrassing, but too good to leave off this list. One of my friends from school had been watching Emmerdale religiously for years and I just didn't really get it. Until he challenged me to start watching every episode (honestly, waking up early on a Tuesday morning to catch up on Monday night's episode missed while at a Ranger's meeting is a low point of my teenage life...). Clearly I was hooked, and built a neighbourhood based loosely on the soap's families and locations. (FYI, I don't actually watch it anymore...)

5. Interior Design Magazine Feature
You know how I said I could be a bit of a geek? Yeah, well I remember an English project in about year seven or eight where we had to work in groups to produce a newspaper. As a dedicated over-achiever, I set about also creating the free magazine to go with it. Including a double page spread of 'how to make a small room feel bigger' with multiple screen shots of 'before and after photos' from a sims house.

6. Grand Designs
I bet there must be loads of people out there who secretly played Grand Designs on The Sims. As if just building a simple house isn't enough, I took great pleasure in building castle ruins and old barns, and 'converting' them to modern masterpieces. 

7. Animal Rescue Centre
It was a good day when I got the Unleashed expansion pack. But not content with just giving my Sim families a puppy or kitten each, I had to go and build a whole rescue centre. Which was actually just one woman, seven dogs/cats and all the hamsters/parrots etc. I could fit into a lot. Oh and blue tiles everywhere. Oh, and I even used the outfit designing software to make her a tunic with a logo and everything.

8. The Tribal Village
The lots might have been small, and family sizes limited to just eight - but this didn't curb my imagination! I remember creating a lot filled with simply furnished huts, a strange little toilet shed and rows and rows of vegetables to tend to. And a 'foreign student' joining for the experience just for good measure.

9. A Hospital
Classic medic (although this would have been years before I actually became a medical student). I don't really remember playing on this one very much, it can't have been one of my better ones, but I know I made a doctor, a nurse and some patients. It probably wasn't a hospital I'd ever have wanted to be treated at though, seeing as it had zero medical facilities and was actually just a load of bedrooms...

10. The Fat, Lazy, Pizza Eater
Not one of my more elaborate scenarios, but memorable all the same. I had a 'family' consisting of a single man, dressed in the slobbiest outfit the original Sims offered, who had basically no personality points. He was nasty, lazy, untidy... I have no idea how I got so much entertainment from making him repeatedly order pizzas and ignore the newspaper jobs section. But everything must eventually come to an end, and he had an unfortunate accident in the swimming pool when the steps mysteriously vanished... (guess he used up his nine lives being repeated electrocuted unskillfully repairing his broken TV)

So those are some of the weirdest ways I used The Sims... I did also create some normal families who had good jobs, nice kids and a maid and butler, sometimes never using a single cheat, but where's the fun in those?! 

Given the opportunity again, there are still more things I'd create on the game - I think I'd start with Downton Abbey and then somehow fashion a Great British Bake Off tent - but unless I get to grips with the endless choices and vertigo-inducing spinning and zooming of the latest Sims games (what are they on, four, five?!) these will remain in my imagination only...

What weird things did you make on The Sims?! 



Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Medical School | Fifth Year Begins...

Back to University Bag and Noteback

Somehow it's happened. I've actually made it to the fifth and final year of my medical degree and I'm trying not to focus too much on the fact that it's now less than a year until I begin work as a junior doctor...

Despite the terror of finals and the fact that this year is all about preparing to be actual real life responsible doctors, I was looking forward to coming back and getting started. In some ways, this year has the potential to be the best one so far. This is meant to be the year that we start doing what we've been training for over the last few years. We're the nearest we've ever been to becoming doctors and will be working closely with the healthcare staff to deliver care to patients, learning and practising the skills necessary for the coming years. 

Oh also, this is everyone's last year in Bristol and I've got a huge list of things to see/ experience/ eat/ visit with my time left here. So hopefully there's going to be some fun fitted around the exams!

I arrived back to my flat on Sunday afternoon - fitting in a mini-shopping trip and the obligatory 'back-to-uni' supermarket stock up. Mum rather generously supplied me with plenty of delicious M&S goodies! 

Marks and Spencers bottled sparkling juices and biscuits

We'd had some work done at the flat over the summer and our wonderful landlady popped round with a beautiful bunch of flowers and a card to say thanks for putting up with the work and having all our things moved about! (It was really no trouble at all being about a hundred miles away!) I then spent Sunday evening watching hot air balloons drifting past my window while summarising fairy tales with my primary school teacher friend. If only every evening could be so simple...

Orchids in vase on table
Coming home to fresh flowers is the best! These will hopefully look even more beautiful once they open

Five hot air balloons in sky
With these passing so regularly at the moment, I need to invest in a decent camera!

First day back involved a leisurely 9.15am start - it's usually been somewhere between 8.00 and 8.30 in previous years, so they seem to be treating us final years well so far! After a morning of introductory lectures and post-summer catch up conversations, I headed to Bills for lunch with a couple of friends. We took advantage of the £9.95 two course lunch deal and I enjoyed a delicious crunchy kale salad with quinoa and avocado, and an indulgent warm chocolate brownie.

Bills Restaurant crunchy green kale salad

We then got straight into the year with an afternoon of palliative care lectures, an important topic that will be the theme of this week. I then spent the evening sorting out various admin (like TV licences and council tax exemptions... joy) and cooking dinner with my flatmate.

As much as I loved the freedom and relaxation of the long summer holiday, it's really not so bad to return. I'm already back beside my window watching the evening sun go down over the city while more hot air balloons slowly meander across the sky. Bristol, it's good to be back. Bring it on, fifth year...


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

GBBO Inspired #4 - Cardamom and Honeycomb Creme Brûlée

Cardamom and Honeycomb Creme brulee recipe

After something of a bread based disaster last week, I was happy to be back in my relative comfort zone of desserts this week! (Although my actual dessert comfort zone would be a nice restaurant with an extensive pudding menu).

I was pretty tempted by the Spanische Windetorte, but seeing as the recipe serves twelve and not everyone in my family is quite so dessert obsessed as myself, I thought it might end up being a waste of my hard work (and the bazillion eggs required). 

And I love cheesecake, but I like a little variation in life, and working my way through three cheesecakes takes a level of dedication I just don't possess. So I opted for the creme brûlées - easy to do a small batch, plenty of opportunity for experimenting with flavour, and not something I eat all that often. (Plus we have a massive collection of ramekins from various shop bought desserts and it seemed a good way of getting some use out of the hoard).

I've made white chocolate and cardamom mousses a few times and I love the flavour so I decided to work from this to come up with an idea for a twist on a classic creme brûlée. I did away with the chocolate, and thought I'd try and work in some honeycomb instead.

I had forgotten how easy honeycomb is to make - although I do remember making it in science in secondary school (and being the third person in the lesson to slink off to medical minus a loose tooth). 

This time, we didn't have any golden syrup in so I switched it for honey. It worked, and gave the honeycomb a nice honey flavour (quelle surprise), although I would probably always prefer to use golden syrup. I also made far too much honeycomb - it didn't occur to me to reduce the recipe, but I have done so below!

Homemade honeycomb for creme brulee recipe
A very satisfying smooth block of honeycomb!

As for the cardamom... delicious! It's honestly one of my favourite flavours and works perfectly for creamy desserts such as this.

Now there was much contention over how to "brûler" the creme brûlées - to blowtorch or grill?? I grilled the first one just to be GBBO authentic, but it wasn't very successful - it melted my dessert back to custard - and thereafter I just (asked someone else) to blowtorch them for me.

To make four cardamom and honeycomb creme brûlées:
250ml double cream
75ml full fat milk
Seeds from 5 cardamom pods
4 eggs yolks
3tbsp caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
4tbsp demarara sugar for the topping

Butter for greasing
50g caster sugar
5tbsp honey or golden syrup
2tsp bicarbonate of soda

Based on this creme brûlée recipe and this honeycomb recipe

1. Begin by making your honeycomb. Grease a small tin with the butter. Put the caster sugar and syrup/ honey into a deep pan over a gentle heat and stir until the sugar has melted. Turn up the heat and simmer until a darker amber caramel forms. Quickly turn off the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda and beat with a wooden spoon until foamy. Pour into the tin. Leave for about an hour to harden.

2. Turn the oven on to 120°c (fan). Prepare a bain marie by putting hot water into a deep tin such as a roasting dish.

3. Put the cream, milk and cardamom into a saucepan and heat until boiling. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes to let the cardamom infuse. 

4. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until thickened and pale in a large bowl. Add the vanilla extract.

5. Pour the boiling cream mixture into the eggs and sugar, slowly to avoid scrambling the eggs. 

6. Tip the honeycomb out onto a board and break into small pieces. Add these to the cream mixture. Stir well, then pour into four ramekins.

7. Place the ramekins in the bain marie and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes - or until desired level of wobble! Leave to cool.

8. When ready to eat, sprinkle each with a layer of demarara sugar. Caramelise under the grill or with a blowtorch until the top is golden and crackling. Enjoy!

Homemade cardamom infused cream for creme brulee recipe

Homemade honeycomb for creme brulee

How to make creme brulee

How to grill creme brûlée

Cardamom and Honeycomb creme brûlée pot
Scraped clean!
Cardamom and Honeycomb Creme Brulée Recipe - How to make creme brulee

Did you watch the Great British Bake Off this week? 


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