Sunday, 31 January 2016

Little Things I've Loved This Week #18

A not-so-little thing that I loved this week was finding out that I passed my finals! Aside from that, I've had yet another busy week of travelling between Bristol and my placement in Somerset. Here are some of the little things that have added to the results happiness over the past seven days...

Helping with medical school interviews. I did this last year too and I really enjoy taking part. The process is still going so I can't reveal too much, but I did get to spend the morning role playing to test candidates' communication skills and the afternoon assessing them at another station. It's almost exactly five years since my Bristol interview and it feels good to look back.

Homemade fresh bread. I've had major cravings for good bread since watching Victorian Bakers, and as I had a day off this week I decided to make a loaf. I got Ruby Tandoh's book, Crumb, for Christmas and used her basic bread recipe. The smell of fresh bread in the flat was amazing, and we devoured the entire loaf between two of us in 24 hours...

Walking round the Blaise Castle Estate. We took a revision break on (the exams just never end it seems in medicine) this weekend to spend an hour traipsing through the mud. It was far better than it sounds - the sun was out, the air was fresh and there were so many cute dogs!

Coffee and cake. Having worked up an appetite walking in the cold, we stopped off at a favourite cafe for lattes and cakes. I had a delicious toffee sponge cake and my friend a warm treacle tart with cream... ideal Saturday afternoon food.

Eggs & avocado brunch. Pretty sure this was on my list last week too - but this time I made it at home and loved it just as much!

Beautiful views of Bristol in the morning. I was up eating breakfast just as the sun rose over the city one morning this week and managed to get some photos of the changing sky. There's something very peaceful about watching a city come to life.

Pink sky sunrise over city

Next week I have plenty to look forward to, including a trip home and my 23rd birthday! I hope you've all had a lovely week - what little things have you enjoyed?


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

I passed my finals!!!

Exam pass celebration champagne

After four and a half years of medical school, I'm finally starting to feel like I'm on the home straight now. A slightly terrifying prospect, but also really exciting.

And I found out this afternoon that I passed my finals - three written exams I took just before Christmas. While I've always believed I can do it, it was a relief to get that email saying 'congratulations, you've passed'!

I knew results would be coming out after 1pm today - luckily I was busily distracted assisting with the medical school admissions interviews. There was something nicely 'full-circle' about finding out I'd passed my finals while assessing the potential next intake of medical students. It's nearly five years since I was on the other side of the table, being selected to join the medical school - and now I'm nearly done!

There are still a couple more assessments left to complete, but I feel like the hardest bits are behind me now.

For now, it's time to celebrate!



Sunday, 24 January 2016

Little Things I've Loved This Week #17

This has been another busy, but enjoyable week. It was my second week of GP placement - and also my final time in general practice as a medical student! I've loved it and I'm certainly still considering it as a career, so hopefully it won't be too long before I'm back in that setting if I can do a training job in general practice. Here are the little things I've especially enjoyed this week:

Bristol Clifton Suspension Bridge Winter Morning

Home visits and lovely patients. I've always really enjoyed accompanying doctors on home visits. I find it fascinating to go into other people's homes and get a sense of what their life is like outside of the doctor's office. I also find it remarkable that people welcome me in, despite having never met me before, simply in order to help me with my training.

Cute dogs. Following on from the previous point, I've also met lots of four-legged lovelies this week! An 'unofficial' medical student duty on home visits is often to distract the pets while the doctor talks to and examines the patient - something I'm only too happy to do.

Brunch in Clifton Village. Bristol has some of the best brunch locations and I joined some friends at Saffron, a fairly new cafe in one of my favourite parts of the city. I had avocado and poached eggs on toasted sourdough bread - simple, but delicious.

Realising I've upped my running pace. I'm still keeping up with my half marathon training plan despite busy days. I track each run on my Nike Running app, and as well as running increasing distances, I'm also speeding up without even really noticing. 

Getting great feedback on consultations. During my time at the GP's, I've been seeing the patients who come in, while the doctor watches. We get assessed on some of these, and my assessed one this week was consulting with a patient who was presenting with a recurrence of depression. It can be a tricky subject, but actually these are the consultations I enjoy the most. The GP was impressed with how I dealt with the patient, and I was told later that the patient had also been very complimentary when the doctor phoned them to get feedback that evening. 

Getting to help with the minor operations list. I won't go into detail here, I try to keep the blog as un-gory as possible, but I spent Monday morning with a GP doing minor surgical procedures. I know I've said previously that I'm always grateful for the wonderful patients who let me talk to them and examine them, but I think even greater thanks has to go to the ones who don't mind at all me coming at them with a needle and scalpel!

Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt. My housemate produced a bar of this on Friday evening. I don't usually like salt - but with either chocolate or caramel, I like the savoury kick. An excellent choice to accompany a quiet night in.


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Little Things I've Loved This Week #16

This week I've been settling into my placement - getting to know the area I'm in and making my new bedroom more comfortable. I've also spent the first week at a GP surgery which has been very enjoyable. I forget how much I like general practice until I'm actually there, and the doctors and patients are lovely - I'll be sad to leave at the end of next week! Here are some of the things I've loved this week...

Spending less time online. This sort of came out of necessity - the internet provision in my accommodation isn't very good, not surprising in a house of 24! Rather than get frustrated with it though, I've simply found other ways to use my time. I've read far more than I would normally (also helpful is the fact I'm no longer studying every evening!!), and have used any good internet periods to download programmes to watch and sync audiobooks to my iPad. 

Laptop with two books and orchid plant

Not being the worst at bowling. I don't even know why I think I'm so awful at bowling, because actually this happens every time I go! In my mind, everyone else is super-skilled and will laugh at my total inability to bowl straight... turns out though that all my 'training' on Wii Sports pays off, and actually everyone else is about the same level as me anyway!

Spending my Waterstones voucher. I got one for Christmas and very much enjoyed browsing the shelves, picking out some new books to read now that I've got all this time! I like using my Kindle, but there's still something nice about having a proper book to hold too.

Three paperback books

New boots. I consider brown riding boots to be a bit of a shoe staple. Maybe it's all the years of horse riding, or maybe it's just the fact that they go with pretty much all my outfits. My last pair were looking a bit scruffy, with a dent in the toe, bleach stains and fraying material. I then managed somehow to break the zip on one of them, so decided it was definitely time to treat myself to a new pair! I chose these dark brown leather ones from Dune.

Dark brown leather long boots in Dune shoebox

Dark brown leather ladies riding boots in box

Scenic runs. Half marathon training is requiring some longer runs now. The upside of this is that it gives me the chance to get away from just running along the roads. I ran through a really lovely park, spotting plenty of deer among the scenery. 

Hot, sweet tea. January might traditionally be the 'healthy' month, and I'm all for herbal teas when I'm in the mood - but sometimes you can't beat a proper milky tea with a good spoonful of sugar! Just the thing to pick me up after running in the cold. 

Milky tea in chocolate brownie mug

Admiring the snow... from a distance. Snow is nice to look at and to ski on. Other than that, I'm not really much of a fan. So I've enjoyed seeing all the pretty photos of it, while still being able to get on with life completely unaffected by it!

And finally...
Being inspiring. Fellow blogger and medical student, Kate, mentioned me as the inspiration behind her post 'Things I have loved this week'. It's nice looking back over my week and picking out all the best bits, so I was really pleased to see that Kate had chosen to do the same! So for an extra dose of positivity today, make sure to go and read what she's enjoyed this week.

This feels like quite a long list... it's obviously been a happy week for me! What have you enjoyed this week?



Monday, 11 January 2016

"Was this half marathon thingy really a good idea?!"

 running clothes Half marathon training

This was the thought going through my head the other morning.

It was 7.45am and the sun hadn't quite come up yet.

I didn't actually need to be in hospital until 11am, so could quite easily have had a lie-in until 10am had I so desired. But no, there I was, voluntarily out in the semi-darkness running.

I've just begun a new placement, out in Somerset, and had moved into the provided accommodation only about 36 hours ago. I didn't know the area, so was running somewhere unfamiliar.

I'd planned out a route that should ensure I didn't get lost, i.e. involving minimal corners and simply running the length of straight roads. What I hadn't factored in, was the fact that I have no idea whether these roads are flat or not.

So shortly after having begun my run, I found myself now running uphill, in a new place, in the dark, in the early morning.

Up until now, I've been reasonably lucky with the weather on my runs - dodging all the rain. So of course, this would be the day that I get caught in cold, heavy rain.

Now I'm five minutes into a planned 40 minute run, running into the wind, cold rain making my clothes stick to me, going up a long hill, in the dark, early in the morning, not knowing the area. I very seriously considered turning round and giving up.

The fact is though, this half marathon isn't going to run itself. And I'm not going to be able to run it if I don't train. So giving up isn't really an option. I had to keep going.

Then, as I finally made it to the top of the hill, I realised the rain had stopped. The sun was coming up. The roads were no longer empty - there was life (in the form of the school run it seems)! My planned route would now take me downhill, with the wind behind me to help propel me along. I was well warmed up and into my stride now, so even just the running itself was easier. 

I reckon it'll be moments like this that I'm grateful for when I run the half marathon in March. All those times I could have given up, but didn't in order to keep training, keep improving my fitness and stamina and just generally make it possible to complete the race. 

Running trainers and ipod

I'll continue to post a few updates about how the training is going - blogging being another motivation to keep it up! I'm also running the half marathon in aid of Alzheimer's Society, so if you would like to sponsor me, you can find my fundraising page here.

If you've got any more tips on staying motivated and running in less-than-ideal conditions, do share!

(As I was running, I was also using the promise of a nice hot shower as yet more motivation. Unfortunately I arrived back and found that our shower was completely cold and I didn't actually know where any of the other showers in the house even were. So sadly this little running tale ends with me taking a cold shower... luckily I have since located a few more showers in the accommodation for future reference).



Sunday, 10 January 2016

Little Things I've Loved This Week #15

First week back at university is over already - I can tell that these final few months are going to fly by! Luckily, this is all the more reason to keep a note of the little things that have made me smile each week. Here are the little things I've loved over the past seven days:

A relaxing afternoon before starting term again. I arrived back to Bristol on Monday and had a beautifully chilled afternoon and evening reading magazines, catching up with blogs and just generally getting prepared for university to start again.

Relaxing with tea, magazines and laptop

Free falafel dinner on Monday night. What I didn't love so much about this is that it was due to being in evening lectures to prepare for an exam on Friday... but free, tasty food is always a win!

Watching Victorian Bakers on BBC. It did make me really crave some nice bread, but it was interesting viewing, seeing how bread was made in rural Britain in the 1800's.

An M&S vegetable sushi lunch on the train home, post-exam. I usually get the bus to the train station from opposite M&S, so if I'm travelling at lunchtime, I treat myself to something tasty. I love vegetable sushi, but it's actually really tricky to find a lot of the time! Fortunately this branch of M&S is normally well stocked with vegetable sushi.

Marks and Spencer vegetable sushi prepacked

Reading on the train. This was clearly a very enjoyable train journey! The quiet coach was actually quiet for once and it was lovely to relax and get into my book as a way of winding down after the exam.

Open book by train window

How have your weeks been?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Book Review: The Girl Who Just Appeared

The Girl Who Just Appeared by Jonathan Harvey

One of my goals last year was to try and get more use from my Kindle. It seems I'm going to be keeping that up for the mean time - thanks to various Amazon vouchers and credits from my Amazon Prime trial period.

I think it was thanks to these credits and vouchers that I downloaded The Girl Who Just Appeared by Jonathan Harvey.

This book follows Holly, a young woman who was adopted as a baby. Following the death of her adoptive parents, she decides to try and find out where she came from. With nothing more than the address of her birthplace - 32B Gambier Terrace, Liverpool - she sets about uncovering her past.

When the flat becomes available to rent, she ups sticks, leaving her London life behind and travels to Liverpool to try and find some new clues. Once there, she finds a biscuit tin stashed beneath the floorboards, containing old papers - papers that are the clue to solving the mystery surrounding her past...

The book also goes back to 1981 Liverpool, telling the story of Darren, a teenage boy and the struggles he faces growing up with a younger brother and his erratic mother. He must make huge decisions with lifelong consequences and find ways to carry his secrets.

Holly and Darren's stories come together to reveal all...

The story is wonderfully told, with hints and clues dropped all the way and coming together very satisfyingly at the end. It is by no means predictable though, and there are big twists and reveals that had me wanting to turn back the pages to see if I had had missed any little giveaways. It goes off along themes I hadn't expected and kept me enthralled.

It begins with Holly working as PA to a past-it film star, and at first I didn't have high hopes for the book - it felt a bit chick-lit and just another one of those books that would feature bland characters and vague descriptions of Hollywood-style caricatures. But persevere through the first chapter or two (and it is really only the beginning that needs perseverance), and you are rewarded with a much grittier, darker and tangible story. 

I enjoy books like this, cleverly interweaving narratives and tying everything together only at the conclusion, yet leaving no questions unanswered. This is an easier read than the psychological thrillers I've been reading recently, but certainly holds its own on my (virtual) bookshelf. Definitely worth a read.

Have you read this book, or any of Jonathan Harvey's other novels?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Bath Half Marathon and Alzheimer's Society

Vitality Bath Half Marathon title picture

In a moment of FOMO-induced madness in November, I entered myself into the Vitality Bath Half Marathon.

Who fears missing out on running 13.1 miles?! Me.

Many of my friends entered last year and I thought about doing it then, but with very minimal running experience didn't think it would be for me. Then they all did it and basically made it out to be the best thing ever and I was kind of jealous. So when entries opened last year, I signed up before I could change my mind.

Luckily I do actually enjoy running, and have slowly started to get into doing it more regularly. Having a race to aim for and a training plan to stick to is really helping with this.

However, the last time I ran in any kind of organised thing was a school cross country competition way back in year nine. I sort of accidentally got onto the team because the day we did cross country in PE that year, all the best runners were off school. Therefore, my memories of my last long distance race are of having next to no training (and probably about three days' notice), running through muddy fields with no idea of how far I had to go, and then rather unceremoniously having to return to my maths lesson... 

Anyway, this time around I plan to do things a bit more properly.

My main aim is really to just to prove to myself that I can do it. Hopefully I'll be able to enjoy the atmosphere and the sense of achievement.

I've also decided that this is a good opportunity to raise some money for a worthwhile cause. I understand that many people have their own charities to support, so please do not feel in any way obliged to sponsor me - any messages of support and good luck are just as equally appreciated! However, I have chosen to try and raise some money for Alzheimer's Society, a charity who support people with dementia, their relatives and carers, and also to fund vital research into understanding, treating and preventing this disease.

Dementia is something I see frequently in my time as a medical student, but also something affecting my own family. I see the difficulties and heart break it brings and is something I would never wish on anyone or their relatives. 

850,000 people in the UK currently have dementia, and this is set to rise. Any work that can be done to slow this seems invaluable and this is why I have chosen to support Alzheimer's Society.

If you do want to donate, you can find my fundraising page here.

I'll probably post some updates about how training is going and of the day itself (providing all goes well and I don't incur some terrible pre-race injury!!).


Monday, 4 January 2016

RECIPE: Mini Bakewell Tarts

Mini Bakewell Tarts Recipe - How to bake mini bakewells

I enjoy experimenting with new tastes - adding a little exotic twist here and there to a cake, combining flavours I'd never have tried before to create all manner of interesting bakes.

But there's something to be said for sticking to old classics. The kind that taste exactly as you remember they should. The kind of bakes that are a constant through the times, holding their place among the newer creations inspired by such shows as The Great British Bake Off.

And who better to turn to for a baking classic, than Mary Berry herself?

I received two lovely recipe books this Christmas, Ruby Tandoh's 'Crumb' (which I very much look forward to trying out), and Mary Berry's 'Absolute Favourites'.

Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites Recipe Book - Mini Bakewell Tarts

With the spare time that those days between Christmas and New Year leave, I decided to test out a recipe and went for Mary's Mini Bakewell Tarts.

I've discovered I love pretty much anything almond based, and have tried a fair few recipes calling for almonds.

These Bakewell tarts are simple to make and go down a treat. It's a bit of balancing act, baking at home. Some of the bakes are devoured within twenty-four hours, others hang around for days until I'm sick of eating them just because I feel I ought to. Happily, these tarts fall into the former category. 

Mini Bakewell Tart with glacé cherry

Tasting exactly as Bakewell tarts should (and I'd know. I've had a Bakewell tart from Bakewell before!), they're sweet but not sickly. The almond mixture, icing, raspberry jam and pastry all work together in perfect unison to make a delicious tea time/ elevenses/ after dinner/ pre-lunch/ post-breakfast/ quarter-past-three/ midnight/ bedtime etc. snack.

I topped half with the traditional glacé cherry and the other half with roughly piped milk chocolate. Ideally I'd have found the right equipment to pipe neat lines... but they didn't last long enough to bother me anyway!

Plate of mini bakewell tarts recipe

Recipe from Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites

To make 12 tarts you will need:

A 12-hole bun tin and an 8cm pastry cutter

150g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
75g butter (plus extra for greasing)
35g icing sugar
1 small egg

100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
100g ground almonds
1/2tsp almond extract
60g raspberry jam (I used roughly a teaspoon per tart)

100g icing sugar
About 3tsp water
6 glacé cherries (halved)
100g chocolate

1. Begin by greasing the bun tin. Then chop the butter for the pastry into small cubes.

2. Measure the flour and butter into a mixing bowl and rub together with your fingertips to form breadcrumbs (alternatively, this can be done in a food processor). Beat the egg, then add it and the icing sugar to the mixing bowl and mix everything together to form a dough.

3. Dust a clean work surface and rolling pin with flour, then tip the dough out and roll until about 3mm thickness. Use the pastry cutter to cut out the pastry cases and put into the bun tin. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

4. While the pastry chills, you can pre-heat the oven to 200°c (180°c fan), place a baking tray in to heat up and wash up! This should still leave plenty of time to make the filling before the chill time is up.

5. For the filling, add the butter and sugar to a mixing bowl. Use an electric whisk or food processor to whizz until creamy. Add the eggs, ground almonds and almond extract and combine everything together.

6. Once chilled, take the bun tin from the fridge, remove the clingfilm and prick the base of each pastry case with a fork. Add a little jam to the centre of each case, then add the almond mixture to each one and spread evenly.

7. Put the bun tin on the hot baking tray in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, looking for the pastry to be baked and the tops of the almond mixture to be golden. 

8. Remove the tarts from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, make the glacé icing by slowly adding water to the sugar and stirring until smooth but stiff rather than too runny (you may need less than the 3 teaspoons of water). Spoon the icing onto the tarts and add a half cherry to each one. If adding chocolate, melt the chocolate before making the icing, and have in a piping bag ready. Once the tarts are iced, pipe thin lines of chocolate across, and use a cocktail stick or skewer to drag along the top to create the pattern. Leave the tarts to set, then eat!

Mini Bakewell Tarts

I'll certainly be trying these out again, and perhaps creating a single, large Bakewell tart too. Let me know if you try these out!

What's your favourite classic bake?

Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites, Mary Berry 2015, BBC Books

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Little Things I've Loved This Week #14

It feels a bit funny to be summing up a week already... I think the fact that we're in a new year but the same week is confusing me far more than it ought to! I hope you all have been enjoying yourselves. Here are some of the things I've enjoyed over the past seven days:

Getting back into blogging. While I didn't exactly go silent over December, I certainly felt like I'd stepped back from the blog for a bit - allowing myself to concentrate on exams, and then enjoying some downtime afterwards. I came back after Christmas feeling refreshed and managed to schedule four posts... I haven't been that organised in ages!

Visiting a friend's new flat. It's been so exciting seeing what my school friends have been getting up the past few of years - graduations, new jobs and moving to their own places. It makes me look forward to finally finishing university myself! This week I caught up with a friend for a good long chat about everyone and everything, and the obligatory tour of her new flat.

Reading everyone's 2016 goals posts. It would be easy to dismiss 'New Years Resolutions' as a pack of clichés - lose weight, eat better, etc., but in fact, it's been incredibly uplifting and inspiring finding out what everyone hopes to do this year. Goals and resolutions may be a bit of a cliché, but can't we just appreciate what a positive time of year this is? Everyone is enthusiastic, driven and hopeful about the coming twelve months - so good luck to everyone who has set themselves a goal this year!

Baking. I received new recipe books for Christmas and enjoyed spending some time between Christmas and New Year trying out a new recipe. The Bakewell Tarts were so tasty I had to make them all over again the next day. I'll be sharing the recipe next week, so keep an eye out.

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday, 2 January 2016

Les Misérables

Les Misérables Programme

 I'd been wanting to see Les Misérables for years.

It began with a friend singing the songs in the sixth form common room, then playing me the Youtube videos of the 25th Anniversary Concert.

By the time the film came out in 2012, I knew most of the songs and had a rough idea of the story, thanks to Wikipedia.

And shortly after watching the film (I'm talking the time it took to get a taxi back from the cinema and open up my iTunes account), I'd downloaded the 10th Anniversary Concert soundtrack to my iPod. It still makes up the majority of my 'most played' tracks...

This Christmas my sister and I were treated to a pair of tickets for the Boxing Day performance... and it did not disappoint. It was so good all I wanted to do was sing along (if I could actually sing, anyway).

Stage of Les Misérables Queen's Theatre

There is almost no let up as scene after scene is sung by incredible performers to beautiful live music. 

The costumes, scenery, everything just comes together and draws you into the story. At one point I found myself willing the interval to come just so that it wouldn't be over too soon! I don't have the greatest concentration span in the world (which is why you can name nearly any film and I won't have seen it), but I desperately didn't want this show to come to an end.

The musical has also given me a new-found respect for the film. I expected the cinema version to pale in comparison to the live stage performance, but actually the film conveys all the same passion and emotion as the musical. The biggest difference between the two for me, is how I felt about some of the characters.

I was never much of a fan of Fantine when she was played by Anne Hathaway, by on stage played by Rachelle Ann Go I found her a lot more likeable. 

On the other hand, I preferred the film version of Cosette (played by Amanda Seigfried) than the one in the stage performance (Zoe Doano). Not necessarily because of the acting, but I think the cinema version allows the audience closer to Cosette than the stage version. 

Overall, I'm so pleased that I finally made it to see Les Mis and wouldn't hesitate to go again! 

Have you seen Les Misérables? Any other recommendations for me?

Les Misérables plays at the Queen's Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year! 2016 on Ginevrella

Well, Happy New Year!

However you saw in 2016, I hope you enjoyed yourself and are able to look positively towards the coming twelve months.

I deliberately let things go a little quiet here on Ginevrella over December. After weeks and weeks of finals revision, the last thing I wanted to be doing was sitting at a computer and so I took the time to just enjoy my post-exams freedom. 

This mini-break means I'm back to full blogging enthusiasm now and I hope you'll be sticking around, because I have a feeling this could be a good year!

There will be plenty of the usual posts - baking, book reviews, Saffy and general lifestyle updates. But this year there's even more to look forward to...
  • I've entered a half marathon in March, so (if all goes well) I'll try to post some updates on training.
  • I'm off to South Africa in April! I'll be spending two months on a medical elective placement, so I'm hoping to put together some posts about my adventures over there.
  • I finally graduate in July. Sometimes it feels like my time at medical school has flown by, but five years is a long time at university - how my friends who've done six, seven or even more do it, I don't know!
  • I'll start my first job as a doctor in August. If this blog has survived that long, hopefully I'll be able to write some updates about life as a junior doctor.
So as long as I'm not completely overwhelmed by all the activity, there should be some interesting things going over here - don't go anywhere!

What are you looking forward to this year?
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