Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Late Summer Blackberry and Pear Crumble

Blackberry and pear crumble

This week I've had many a conversation about blackberries. 

And unusually, I'm talking about the fruity kind and not the ancient mobile phones my last hospital used to dish out our on call jobs, or that the naughty orthopaedic/ general surgical teams would hoard in their respective offices. (Really annoying when I was on medicine. Totally and utterly legit when I was on T&O and surgical jobs).

My new walk to work takes me up a hill past hedgerows heavy with blackberries, all waiting to be picked and turned into something tasty. And once you start looking, these fruity freebies are everywhere! 

Saturday afternoon, I set off into the sunshine, tupperware box in hand and went in search of the tastiest haul of blackberries I could find. It's a wonderful way to explore somewhere new, although I do also rather miss blackberrying at home where I knew all the best places to look!

Fields in summer

But what to do with my box of blackberries? A fruit crumble seemed an obvious choice - although I have plenty of berries to use up on other recipes too.

It may be August, but we've had some pretty chilly evenings recently - the perfect time for a crumble hot out the oven, cooled down with a good scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

I made individual crumbles in some mini pie dishes I bought last year, but you could easily combine everything into a single dish for one large crumble to serve from.

To make four small crumbles:

For the filling:

2 pears - diced
200g blackberries
1/2tsp vanilla essence
1/2tsp cinnamon

For the crumble:

50g oats
70g butter (softened)
50g flour
30g demerara sugar
30g flaked almonds

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°c
  2. Gently mix the fruit with the cinnamon and vanilla and spoon into the bottom of oven-safe dishes. Put these into the oven for 20 minutes while you prepare the crumble.
  3. Rub the flour and oats into the butter, then stir in the sugar and almonds until everything is evenly combined.
  4. Take the dishes out of the oven and top the fruit with the crumble mixture, making sure to cover them evenly and avoid having any fruit exposed. 
  5. Put the crumbles into the oven (just before serving) for 25-35 minutes, until golden on top. 
  6. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or with custard or cream
Have you been picking blackberries recently? How will you be using them?

Fresh blackberries

Homemade blackberry and pear crumble

Crumble with ice cream

Pear and Blackberry Crumble Recipe


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Let's Catch Up!

Cup of tea

Goodness, it's been a while, hasn't it?!

I let this blog take a bit of a back seat over the past couple of months. It was a busy time, with moving house, finishing up one job and moving on to the next one. 

Initially I was keeping up at least an Instagram presence, but there's only so many times I felt I could share food photos without boring everyone! There wasn't an awful lot else going on in my life that was particularly 'instagrammable' - no one needs to see photos of me living surrounded by cardboard boxes...

Stepping back from blogging also gave me a good chance to consider whether I wanted to carry on with it. Having a break initially made me think perhaps it was time to wrap it all up, and to occasionally think back to "those days when I had a blog". But now that life is starting to settle down again, I definitely feel like I'm missing something and it's time to get back to blogging!

Canon Camera

So here I am, back at my laptop, typing away and wondering where on earth to begin?! Last thing I was writing about was a week in Prague - so I feel there's rather a lot to catch up on!

I guess the biggest updates are a new flat and a new job. Having moved every year since 2011, you'd think I'd be pretty fed up of moving into new places - but actually once all the hard bits are done (like actually finding a place, submitting my entire life history in paperwork and lugging boxes up and down the stairs) I quite enjoy settling in and making my home all over again.

 My new flat is unfurnished, the first time I've done this. Fortunately, I've managed to convince my parents it's a good time to clear out their house and so I've acquired a few bits and pieces, plus a new bed. I still need to buy a sofa and table and chairs, but I've improvised with some blankets and cushions on the floor for now! 

At the start of the month, I took up my new job as an FY2 doctor (second-year junior doctor) in a new hospital trust. I'm working in psychiatry and I'm thrilled with it so far! I'm thinking of applying for psychiatry training next year, so this is an ideal rotation for me. Mental health is easily my favourite area of medicine and I think I'm going to enjoy the next four months rather a lot. 

A few months ago, I talked about getting over my anxiety about driving. This week I've needed to drive in order to get to some of my induction teaching for the new job (or face 2 hours of public transport each way). I still don't enjoy driving and probably never will, but I've massively increased in confidence. I've driven for an hour each way on busy roads, sometimes in heavy traffic and no longer feel particularly anxious about it. I've also nailed parking in my designated parking space - a tricky manoeuvre thanks to it being right behind the automatic gates...

And in other news that I don't think I've mentioned here yet, I've signed up for another half marathon! I ran the London Vitality 10,000m in May and fancied going a bit further. I'd been making lots of excuses not to run another half, but I also couldn't get the idea out of my head. So, all being well, I'll be running 13.1 miles through Oxford in October. I'm sticking to a training plan, finding some good routes near my new flat and have discovered a nice swimming pool I can use for a bit of cross training.

London Vitality 10000 runner

So that's what is going on with me right now! Thanks for sticking with me through my little break and I'm hoping to be getting back into blogging a little more regularly again :)



Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Postcards From Prague

Tram in Prague

Life has felt really rather all over the place the past few weeks!

I've been swamped in "life admin" - coordinating moving house and all the pre-employment checks required for my new job across two hospital trusts. Honestly, is there anyone else out there who'd like a copy of my passport and a recent utility bill? Because I feel like I'm just handing them out all over the place right now!

This month I've also worked two sets of night shifts, throwing me right off course when it comes to leading any kind of a normal life.

And as if that wasn't all crazy enough, I decided that a few days in Prague in the middle of my night shifts would be a good idea. It definitely was a good idea, although finishing work at 8:30 in the morning and jumping on a plane the same afternoon was pretty tiring...

Thanks to post-night-shifts brain and just general busyness, I never really kept track of exactly everything we did while in Prague. Mostly we simply explored the city; wandering around the Old Town in the sunshine, visiting the castle and parks and just making the most of a really good public transport system. 

So rather than write a detailed account of the places we went with advice and reviews, I've decided to share a small selection of the 400+ photos I managed to accumulate in the few days we spent there!

Tram in Prague

Charles Bridge Prague

Houses Czech Republic

View from Charles Bridge

Prague Castle from Charles Bridge

View from Prague Castle
Stromovka Park


Thursday, 1 June 2017

Vitality London 10,000

London 10000 Run

 The spring bank holiday. A perfect excuse to spend a long weekend lazing around and catching up on some much-needed rest, right?!

Nope. Two months prior to it, I decided it would be a good idea to spend it running 10 kilometres around London instead. Don't tell me I don't know how to live.

Determined to set myself some sort of goal to work towards, and to get back into running properly for the first time since last year's Bath Half Marathon, I entered the Vitality London 10,000. So come 10am on Bank Holiday Monday, I was taking my place on the Mall and stretching up on tiptoe trying to get a glimpse of the start line!

Despite busy days at work, plenty of long on-calls and a couple of weekend shifts, I made a pretty decent effort at sticking to my training plan. Some days it was a relief to pull on my trainers, put the hospital behind me and get out on the pavements or the treadmill. But there were also times when I was just too tired to run, no matter how much I wanted to. Combining the running with a busy job that sees me spending most of the day on my feet has taught me loads about doing what feels best for my body - and on more than one occasion that meant resting, or cutting my run short.

It's a great time of year for a race though. All those extra hours of daylight in the mornings and evening make it feel like there's lots more time for running. Plus there have been some beautiful views on my riverside route when the sunlight sparkles on the water.

Race day itself was rather a warm one, yet deceptively grey and cloudy. I was pleased with my decision to run in shorts rather than leggings - and grateful for the water stations and roadside shower, spraying runners with cool water just after halfway. 

The Mall London 10000

The Mall

Standing down on the start line, the atmosphere was brilliant. I've never really been one for nerves before any kind of sporting event, but I was full of excitement and adrenaline waiting for the starting buzzer to go! 

I got off to a good start, feeling nice and comfortable at the same pace as the runners around me for the first few kilometres. With the music, the crowds and the runners around me I find it much easier to just get comfortable running and not really notice my pace - normally I'm glancing at my phone every few minutes to check how fast I'm going and how much I've still go to do!

It was particularly nice to spot my parents at the roadside shortly before half way - always good to have some supporters to keep me going. 

Around 5km though it started to get a bit tougher. The streets were pretty quiet, the air was humid and I really questioned why on earth I'd ever thought this might be a good idea. At this point I simply had to remind myself that I'd put hours of training in, had a load of sponsorship on this and that it was less than half way to go - all I had to do was keep going. 

And keep going I did. Finally seeing the 8km and then 9km marker was such a relief - and a little extra spurt of enthusiasm came from the guy who reached the 9km and shouted something like "last kilometre guys, let's smash it!"

I've walked down Birdcage Walk many a time, but it was great to run down it and know that just around the corner I'd be able to see the finish line. Despite the struggle between 8 and 9km, somehow I found the energy (and fortunately the space!) to sprint the last 100m or so and cross the finish line feeling a great sense of achievement. In fact, I almost forgot to look up to my left and see Buckingham Palace - I'd been too focused on the bright pink finishing gantry!

Finishing 10km

I'd been aiming for about 55 minutes to complete the race - with previous 5km runs taking me about 30 minutes it felt like a good target to go for. So I was delighted with 53 minutes and 2 seconds! Although I've already got it in my head that I'd like to do another 10km and shave a little more time off next time...

Running Kit


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Isle of Wight

Maybe it's the longer days, maybe the warmer weather, or perhaps the early holiday photos starting to spring up online - but the past few weeks I'd found myself craving walks on the beach, tasty food and just a change of scenery.

Boats at Cowes Isle of Wight

So when my mum suggested spending a few days in the Isle of Wight, I was only too happy to agree. It's a place I'd never visited before, yet close enough to be an easy trip to squeeze into my days off.

We set off on the wettest Wednesday I've seen in a long time - not ideal holiday weather - but fortunately, things did improve! Picking my sister up en route, we boarded the ferry at Southampton and crossed the Solent, arriving on the island early afternoon.

With the rain putting most outdoor activities off the menu, we sought out somewhere to eat and with a bit of googling, came across The Lifeboat Inn, a restaurant alongside a marina. Basically, I'd picked this place because I saw the word 'halloumi' on the menu, which has always served as a good way to find somewhere to eat in my opinion. This tactic did not disappoint - we had some delicious halloumi and falafel burgers, and narrowed down an excellent dessert menu to creme brulee with fresh strawberries.

The Lifeboat Inn East Cowes

Halloumi and falafel burgers

Strawberry and vanilla creme brulee

Lifeboat Marina East Cowes

For our only full day on the island, we started with a drive to Alum Bay. I forget how beautiful beaches in the UK can be, and the coloured sands and sparkling water looked wonderful in the morning sunshine. We took the chairlift down to the beach, and then went out to The Needles by boat.

Cliffs Isle of Wight

Chairlift at Alum Bay
 Alum Bay Isle of Wight

Coloured rocks at Alum Bay

The Needles

We then ventured on to East Cowes, wandering along the sea front and stopping to enjoy some tea and cake in one of the cafes. Shortly after this however, the clouds drifted over and the rain began so we got back in to the car and drove to the south of the island to admire the scenery (if not the blue skies).

Royal Yacht Club Cowes

Cowes Isle of Wight

For dinner we ate at The Bargeman's Rest, a pub near to the hotel - and serving the hugest portions I've seen in a long time. My main could easily have satisified three people, and the peanut brittle sundae I ordered for dessert completely defeated me!

On the final day we returned to East Cowes for breakfast, fuelling up on eggs and coffee before taking a trip to Osborne House, the seaside residence of Queen Victoria. It's a beautiful English Heritage property, and so beautiful in fact that I'm saving it up for a post all of its own!

Osborne House

After a lovely few hours in the house, grounds and beach of Osborne House we headed to the nearby Albert Cottage Hotel and it's Consort Restaurant. I'd highly recommend this as a place to eat on the Isle of Wight - their food was delicious, perfectly portioned and the staff were very attentive. Plus they have the most beautiful gardens outside and seemed to be serving a very popular afternoon tea.

The Consort Restauant Albert Cottage Hotel

Goats Cheese and beetroot


Coconut and mango meringue

Albert Cottage Hotel Garden

And not long after that it was time to go home! Back on the ferry, across a slightly less grey Solent to the mainland and a lovely weekend reunited with my favouite Jack Russell...


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Little Things I've Loved This Week #50

Happy Things Coffee

It feels like a while since I've managed to write one of these posts. Not because I haven't had lots of lovely things to talk about, but just that I've been too busy to sit down and do it! However, as I say frequently, these are one of my favourite posts - a chance to reflect on the good things in life, to appreciate the moments that make me smile and a bank of positive things to look back on when I need a little pick me up. 

With the events in Manchester this week, I deliberated over whether to write this post or not. Whether a list of how wonderful my week has been, while others' lives have changed forever is appropriate. But this post has never been about selfishly celebrating my own happiness. It's about recognising the best bits of life, enjoying the good in smallest of things, finding light in the gloomiest of days and making every day count. And I find it's times like this that it helps to remind ourselves that there is far more good in this world than bad, it just depends where you're looking.

So here are the things I've found to smile about this week:

Compliments on my suturing skills. I've been spending a lot of time in the operating theatre recently, and have been given a few opportunities to close up the incisions at the end of the operation. Suturing was something I found incredibly tricky at medical school and was sure I'd just never get the hang of. So it's really made me happy to receive repeatedly good feedback from my supervisor, telling me that she thinks I'm a natural at it! Like many things I initially found hard at medical school, I think it's sometimes just a case of waiting until you meet the right teacher before you really get something.

Thank yous. All my colleagues are great and always polite, but sometimes we are so caught up in work we don't really acknowledge when we help each other out with the little things. So the fellow junior doctor who sought me out to say thank you for not just checking some blood results while on call, but updating their patient list so she didn't have to do it in the morning made my feel very appreciated. Similarly to the anaesthetist who specifically thanked me the next day for offering to take some bloods on the ward which meant we avoided delays on the operating list. I don't do things for the thanks, but it's nice to be acknowledged.

After works drinks in the sunshine. Finishing an oncall shift at 8pm really doesn't feel so terrible when it's still light enough to sit outside in the evening for a drink. And even better not needing a jacket!

Gold glitter nail varnish. Three days off this weekend = enough time to make it work painting my nails. I forgot I even had this particular Nails Inc polish!

Brie. I often say I'm not really much of a cheese eater - but by that I really just mean that I'd probably be not too bothered if you told me I could never have cheddar cheese ever again. Because Friday evening I treated myself to Brie and baguette and it was delicious! It always takes me back to summer holidays in France.

Homemade Thai green curry. I've never made my own green curry paste before, so I gave it go a Saturday night. There's something rather pleasing about starting with raw ingredients and creating something that unmistakeably smells like a green curry!

Let me know some of the happy moments of your week?


Monday, 8 May 2017

An Afternoon at Ham House

Ham House National Trust Richmond

When there's bright daylight streaming through my blinds, I can't face the thought of staying in all day! So Saturday morning, spying weather that was ideal photo-taking conditions, I packed up my camera, grabbed my National Trust card and jumped on a train to Richmond.

National Trust gardens have become one of my happy-places, somewhere I can wander for ages snapping away. I've been trying to make an effort to visit new places - recently I've also been to Osterley Park and Basildon Park, so Ham House was next on my list.

Thames Path River Sign

Back of Ham House

Ham House is about a mile and a half away from Richmond Station, but it's a beautiful riverside walk beside the Thames. Just before arriving at the house I got a little bit distracted by the polo club next door and ended wandering down a few more footpaths trying to get a glimpse of the polo ponies from afar. 

While I wasn't all that interested in the interiors (it was all dark wood panelling, rather too gloomy for my liking), the exteriors and the gardens were right up my street. In fact, I skipped the house completely when I arrived and headed straight out into the gardens. 

Hedge Tunnel Garden

Statue in garden

Garden gates

The gardens are extensive and absolutely beautiful. Everywhere I turned seemed to hold more and more photo opportunities, and the house itself makes for a pretty stunning backdrop to the greenery. What was especially pleasing (in terms of photography anyway) was the near lack of other visitors, despite being a Saturday afternoon - although it was just gone midday. 

National Trust Gardens

Garden Bench

National Trust gardens

Having covered the gardens, crisscrossing back and forth in search of all the best angles, I wandered through to the Orangery for something to eat. I settled myself at the tables outside, a fruit scone with jam and cream in front of me and plenty of beautiful wisteria to set the scene around me.

The Orangery

Purple tulips

Gardens and house explored, I made my way back along the river to the station, mindful of the hundreds of photos I would have to sort through that evening!

Where are your favourite places to spend a weekend afternoon?

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