Come Join Me Over Here!

Hi there!

I'm glad you've come to read my blog, but unfortunately I don't live here any more!

Feel free to trawl through my archives or look up my posts on Scoliosis which will always be at home here, but when you're ready please come and join me at my new home:

See you there!

Catherine Ann x

Monday, 23 September 2013

School... How I Study (Part 1)

For the most part, I do pretty well at school. I'm lucky, I suppose. I've got a fair amount of brain somewhere in there, so that once I apply myself I can get along just fine. Sometimes, I guess it's the applying that's the problem.

I thought I'd share with you all how I study, both in general and for specific subjects. These aren't tips: this is just how I like to work--but maybe you'll find something that works for you.

The most important thing for me is to have a specific area where you study. Personally, I have a desk just outside my room with a pencil pot (sadly not a PixiPot!), notice board and all my books in the one place. Make sure that wherever you study, you've got everything you need close to hand. All your notes, plus dictionaries and even water or a snack will mean much less "Oh I'll just go and get..." which will stall your progress no end. Having said all that, if you feel totally sick of your surroundings--it'll happen--don't hesitate to lounge on the sofa with your book or sit out in the sun if it ever comes back. This might be just the refresher you need.

Another really important element is timing--not just how long you study for, but when you do it. I personally cannot face my books as soon as I get home... Ew. No. For me, that's the time to flop about for a while in front of the telly, get something to eat, go for a walk or maybe even take a nap... as long as it's not for three hours, then it's great to take that rest and recharge. What's the point in studying when you're knackered? You won't take it in. I usually do a couple of hours in the evening and then get up around half six or seven and study for an hour or so before school. I love that time in the morning when my brain isn't all full up, and everyone else is still asleep so I can work in the peace and quiet... but this might not be for you, and if not, don't listen to me! Experiment. Find a time that works for you and use it.

Regarding time limits, I try and I try, but it never seems to work. The thing is that, like it or lump it, we're all unique blooming snowflakes and unfortunately learning will simply take as long as it takes. I can't set aside half an hour each for both English and maths when I know the former may need a break that night and the latter could take twice as long! I find it best to write a list of what needs to be studied and simply get started. Any teacher who's telling you to spend an hour each night on their subject is clearly delusional... that could mean anything from seven to eleven hours' study a night! When does one eat? Sleep? Shower? (That is a necessity, people...) At the end of the day, once you're trying your best to study each subject, that's all you can do. Work as hard as you can and give it your all, but know when to stop. Tired teens aren't clever ones, believe me.

I just want to add a quick note as I edit this post, because people around me seem stressed by copious amounts of homework: "I had three hours' homework last night, and that was BEFORE I even STARTED studying!"

Some people might disagree with me here, but in my opinion homework is a form of study. Obviously you need to be doing more than the bare minimum to get the grades you want, but if you think about every essay or set of questions you do, all the time you're revising what you learned in class. The majority of teachers know what they're doing and set homework for a reason, so remember that it counts to. A day with homework done is not a day less to study, so don't panic too much.

I guess all I can do is stress that every person is different. Studying should be done in a place and time that work for you... but above all, it should be done. Don't put it off. Don't make excuses. Don't get overwhelmed. Take it step by step; every little helps*.

We can do this.

*please don't sue me, Tesco. Love you. 

Friday, 20 September 2013

Food, Glorious Food... What I'm Watching

I’m going to be doing a lot of school posts soon as promised, but I just wanted to include this little one about my adoration of cooking shows.

I love a good cooking show, me. I’m always on the hunt for new recipes, plus there seems to be something in my brain that simply obsesses over food.  I suppose most girls swoon over pictures of their favourite actors or bands... Me? I’m more likely to have a calendar of fruit and veg on my wall. I don’t know what it is, but I love watching food being cooked almost as much as I love eating it. There’s something kind of therapeutic about the slicing and rolling, peeling and blending that just relaxes me and makes it seem like everything’s going to be OK. I think it’s always a kind of instinct of mine, too, to make sure those around me have plenty to eat. Seeing my cupboards and fridge full just makes me feel better, and I guess I get the same “hit” from watching full cupboards and burning stoves on TV.

(At this point I’d like to mention that a comment, just ONE comment, about how I’m not crazy would be really, really nice right about now)

Of course I’m addicted to Come Dine With Me... come on, who isn’t? Watching people try far-too-ambitious recipes (for better or worse) and then argue about it over the dinner table? I defy anyone not to become addicted.Of late, however, there are two cooking shows I’m really enjoying so I thought I’d recommend them to you.

The first is “Hairy Bikers’ Best of British” on the BBC. I have always loved the bikers, namely Si King and Dave Myers. They are just really nice guys with a genuine love of food, and it shows in everything they do. I could listen to them talk about food for hours—what I really love is their enthusiasm. It just goes to show, as Patrick Ness said recently, that if you feel strongly about what you’re doing it will show in your work.

Each week Si and Dave take a different theme, e.g. “breakfast” and not only suggest recipes from around the world, but look at the history behind food. If you love history like me, you’ll find their recycled clips from old TV shows and factual commentary really interesting. The bikers and I have something else in common, besides a passion for cooking: an almost idol-like appreciation of Delia Smith. Something I love about their recipes is that it’s always real food. Stuff you’d cook yourself and ingredients you actually have! There’s nothing more frustrating for me when a posh TV chef says “we’re just going to use our basic store cupboard ingredients, such as dragon fruit and the blood of twenty angry centaurs...” What the bikers show is made from regular ingredients, sometimes delicate, sometimes rough-and-ready, but always, always beautiful.

“Best of British” airs Fridays on BBC2 at 7:00pm, and there are usually catch-ups throughout the week. The Bikers also have a range of recipe books and I’m sure they’re on BBC DVD, too!

Another TV chef who’s made a great impression on me is Jamie Oliver. The man never stops! From school dinners to his campaign to get us eating more fish, and even when he put cooking aside and opened up his own school, he’s always doing something to help other people. I really admire his commitment. With successful restaurant chains, kitchenware, recipe books, TV shows and goodness knows what else, it would be perfectly understandable if he said, you know what, I’ve got enough money and fame... but instead he puts his mind to making a difference. If he doesn't like something, he works on changing it, and whether you're into cooking or not, that's a great message to take away. 

I love Jamie’s fresh, can-do attitude, for example in his 30 and 15 Minute Meals. He aims to show people that anyone can have good-quality, healthy, tasty food if they know how. For ages I’ve been sitting on my sofa thinking that I’d love for him to teach us some more about cooking on a budget... and now he has!
“Jamie’s Money Saving Meals” is what I and many other Jamie fans have been crying out for. He shows us not only how to cook cost-effective tasty meals, but also how to shop smart, for example which meat cuts to buy, and how to store our food so bulk-buying lasts longer. If you’ve read some of my other posts you’ll know that when it comes to cooking the freezer is my best friend, and Jamie utilises this wonderful appliance in his series as a great way of saving money.

The show airs Mondays at 8:00pm on Channel 4.

If you don’t have the channels for these shows or live abroad, try BBC iPlayer or 4OD on the internet (though iPlayer doesn’t work here in Ireland). Alternatively both the BBC and Channel 4 have most of the recipes they feature on shows available on their websites. Perhaps I’ll make a Pinterest board of my favourites.

Writing this post has made me realise that there are in fact roughly a billion cooking shows I love, but I decided just to end it with these two or I’d be here all night... Perhaps I’ll do another post like this soon, if you like it. Feel free to recommend your favourite shows! 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Food, Glorious Food... Autumn Vegetable Soup

So maybe I made this recipe because my mum’s been buying copious amounts of sweet potatoes lately. Or maybe I wanted you all to have something nice for your Thermos. Either way, enjoy!

1 large onion
2 large carrots
1 sweet potato
1 red pepper
Cloves of garlic, to taste
Vegetable stock cube
Black pepper
Olive/sunflower oil (just a splash)
And a blender!

1) Dice the onion, carrot and sweet potato. Place them all in a large saucepan with a splash of olive oil and begin to sauté.
2) Make up about a litre of vegetable stock (just pour the boiling water over the stock cube, everyone) and pour it onto the vegetables after five minutes.  
3) Bring to the boil and leave to simmer. Crush in the garlic, then chop up the pepper and add it to the pan.
4) Simmer for around 15-20 mins, until all the vegetables are cooked through. Then leave to cool for a while and carefully pour the mixture into a blender.
5) Blend until smooth, then transfer back to the pan and reheat the soup. Stir in black pepper to taste.

6) Enjoy! This is delicious with wholemeal or soda bread. Why not stick it in your thermos for a healthy lunch?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A Healthy Appetite At School!

Had intended to post my healthy update and school lunch ideas as separate posts but I’ve been pressed for time lately what with school restarting and making a big effort to keep on top of my studies (more on that later). As a result, I won’t be adding two new resolutions this week. I’ve missed a few walks and jogs lately, so I’m going to focus on keeping my original plans in place now I’m settle back in at school.

I have, however, started keeping a food diary. It’s been really useful in making me realise where problem areas are, and just making me more aware of what I eat in general. I write down all the food and drink I have in a day, and then I colour code it. Green is for healthy food, orange is something which is OK but I could’ve gone without, and red is just really unhealthy food that there’s no excuse for! This way,  I can look at it after, say, a week and see where I can do better. I allow myself a few reds in there, but if I notice too many I make a big effort to make the next week more “green.” I’d highly recommend it, because while I’m not into diets I do think it’s really good to get a handle on how much you’re eating and see on paper where you could be cutting back/adding on.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Tullamore Show, which is the largest agricultural show in Ireland. It’s not just cows (though there are SO MANY COWS); there really is something for everyone. Think village fete on steroids. There were hundreds if not thousands of varied stalls and competitions. Two in particular caught my eye and gave me ideas for blog posts.

The first, “Shauna’s Boom Books” will feature in a “Surrounded by  Awesome” post very soon, but something else I saw was a competition for imaginative, healthy packed lunches!  

I thought these were great, and the competition as a whole was inspired, but something I noticed was that... well,

Is anyone else sick to death of blooming sandwiches? They’re a great idea, don’t get me wrong, I mean no disrespect to certain Earls, but after a week or so they can get just a little boring. I’ve put together some nice lunch ideas for you all in today’s post.

But first things first, if you’re going to survive till lunchtime, you’ll need to eat a proper healthy breakfast. Even though you might not feel hungry in the morning, you should be eating the largest meal of the day at this time. Skipping breakfast will only lead to you snacking later on, so if you think it’s a way to lose weight, think again! Make sure it’s a balanced meal. I like to have cereal e.g. Wheetabix, with some fruit and a cup of (now herbal) tea. You could try things like scrambled eggs on toast, porridge... as a general rule, try to fit in protein, carbohydrate and fruit.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was getting really hungry before lunch time, so I tried to find ideas for a snack at break. We only get about ten minutes at school, so it had to be something quick which would fill me up. Again I opted for protein as it releases energy slowly...
Thus began my love affair with peanut butter. I brought it in spread on a half-sandwich of wholemeal bread, and it kept me satisfied for hours! I also tried “Ants on a Log”, a popular American snack made of celery, peanut butter and raisins. I was skeptical because I do love celery but I wasn’t sure if the flavours would go together, but it ended up so tasty and filling!

Now onto lunch!

A great alternative to sandwiches is soup. As soup doesn’t expand the stomach so much, it makes you feel fuller for longer. It’s also a great way to get some of your five-a-day if you’re not keen on veggies!
I’ve invested in a cute little Thermos—they’re going for €5.00 in Dunnes Stores right now! It brightens up my day and is a great way to bring in my soups or teas to school without the bulk of a full-sized flask. I rarely advertise or encourage you to spend money, but honestly I’d recommend nabbing one quick!

I’ll be posting a recipe for Autumn Vegetable Soup very soon, but for now I love this recipe for Peaand Pesto soup by Nigella Lawson. It really filled me up, but you can try bringing in a slice of wholemeal or soda bread if you’re feeling ravenous!

Another thing great for lunch, again full of protein, would be my Hummus with a Twist. You can bring in some celery, carrot or cucumber crudités like in my recipe, or why not try using it to fill a sandwich with wholemeal bread. I’ve tried both and it’s really tasty. That’s all we’re looking for in a lunch—something yummy that will fill us up ready for the last lessons of the day!

I’m also a big fan of pasta, so I made a lot of homemade sauce at the weekend and stored it in jars (sterilise the jar with boiling water and the sauce will keep for over a week in the fridge). I then cook the pasta the night before or in the morning and bring it to school in a little Tupperware container. You could also try adding a knob of butter and a spoon of Marmite to your drained pasta and heating for a few seconds. Nigella (are we sensing a pattern?) suggests doing this with spaghetti and I’d recommend it for Marmite lovers!

It’s also important to keep your schoolbag filled with water (in a bottle of course, or your books will get soaked) and maybe some extra fruit in case you need it. I usually have an apple or banana with me, but you could try dried fruits too like raisins or apricots.

I hope this had given you some ideas to keep the rumbling stomachs at bay! I’ll try to have some more ideas for you very soon!