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Durdle Door, Dorset

Earlier this year, I visited Durdle Door in Dorset. I never got round to writing about it, but as I was going through my photos, I realised that I have some truly remarkable shots of the seaside, which I just have to share.

The weather was rather dull – clouds and grey skies – which makes the electric blue shades of the water even more impressive.

Please also note that with the exception of the last photo, all the photos are completely unaltered – no filters or colour adjustments.

Continue reading Durdle Door, Dorset

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PhDs, fitness club and a sparrow

Whenever people talk about PhDs, they make it seem all doom, gloom and back-breaking work. Now, I’m not trying to dispute that a PhD is tough and if you’re researching a topic like mine, you should anticipate being tucked away in a chilly lab on quiet evenings when the undergrads have all left for the day. Studying for a PhD is not easy and you will have to make sacrifices, whether to your bank account, social life or sleep.

On the other hand, if you plan your time well enough, you may be able to slot in a couple university societies. I’m taking advantage of my current, relatively clear schedule and joined the Fitness Club, which conducts group workouts several times a week in the evenings. I get to exercise and socialise; also I believe that working out in a group makes it much more palatable (and therefore effective) than working out alone.  I suppose it does help that I live on campus but I’ll take every chance I can to avoid being a hermit while I can, because I’m sure that time will come eventually.

So I’m going to enjoy every day as it comes, work my hardest to get my work done and not worry. This post actually came about when I looked out the window in my office and saw a sparrow grooming itself. Continue reading PhDs, fitness club and a sparrow

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It’s been a long time…

…since I last posted anything.

I guess I’ve been pretty busy – I’ve done a lot since I last wrote, including teaching English at an international school, moving countries and starting a PhD. I’m actually sitting in the PhD office right now, looking out the window at chirpy undergrads heading to their lectures. It’s a nice campus, with nice people and I think I’ll be alright. So far, I’ve managed to break through the shy/can’t-be-bothered wall that usually stops me from being sociable and I have to say, I’ve met a nice bunch of people that way.

So, I thought I’d share the recipe for a Chinese/Japanese fruit cream cake that I’ve made a few times. Growing up as a child in a very Asian environment, this cake automatically screams birthday to me. It’s made up of a light sponge, with chopped fruit and cream sandwiched between two layers. Then the entire cake is covered in a light, creamy icing and topped with more chopped fruit; as you’ll see in my pictures, sometimes the sides get a bit more decoration by way of sliced or chopped nuts. There are many variations out there, using different fruit and sometimes flavoured creams, but what I’ve made can probably be regarded as the classic version.

Continue reading It’s been a long time…

Fitness Blender rant about body shaming in social media

I follow these people for their fitness videos, they have loads of fun, varied workouts for different abilities and interests, and thought this rant was a good watch. I felt that they covered a lot of issues to do with the latest trend of people sharing photos of ridiculously cut abs, round butts etc with a pseudo-motivational message.

They make a good case for fitness and exercise -without- the fashionable focus on an ideal body shape. It’s definitely something to watch if you’ve been disheartened by what a lot of people advocate as the ‘perfect body’, which is unachievable for most people.

Figs and goat cheese

I already have a draft post that’s been half-written for nearly a month now. The problem with that is that there’s too much to describe and I think I’m a little too pedantic, which makes it more work than it really should be.

However, I had a lovely time in London over the weekend and thought I’d share a little of what I ate.

First, I made figs and goats cheese as a quick starter for lunch on Saturday. I believe figs are in season now, and the figs we bought certainly lived up to that, subtly sweet and juicy. I picked up some goats cheese from the butcher down the road – it’s a gorgeous sweet, cheese with a rind and creamy outer layer similar to camembert, with a firmer, almost crumbly centre. After slicing the figs open with a cross-cut (see this for a proper written description), I wedged a small piece of the amazing goats cheese in the centre. Then I baked them at about 180-200°C for 5 to 8 minutes, just enough to melt the cheese and allow the figs to warm up a bit. It’s a classic pairing and I certainly understood why after the first, warm burst of sweet and salty melted cheese in my mouth as I bit into the fig.

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Continue reading Figs and goat cheese

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Flowers and scones: in the midst of summer

As I type right now, I look up occasionally and see the heavy raindrops pitter-pattering outside the doors leading to the garden. It’s a strange sort of rain – heavy, but not a proper downpour, and the sky has that weird quality of being almost overcast, but not quite. The sun’s managed to peek through a little so overall there’s a rather dreamy feel to it.

I’ll stop rambling on about the weather now, even though it was what originally inspired me to write this post. The past month or so has been filled with mostly glorious (read: sunny) weather, although I do draw the line at 30°C heat in a country that’s built around a climate that doesn’t usually stray over 20°C.

However, the upside of all that heat was lots of flower photos…
Continue reading Flowers and scones: in the midst of summer

Skinny cheesecake

Last week I made this cheesecake twice, the first time to try out the newly discovered recipe, and the second because I enjoyed the first attempt so much. Also I had friends over.

We had oven baked “fried” chicken, using a recipe I saw on the Food Network on a show called Not My Mama’s Meals. They call it Unfried Chicken, and I was amazed that it isn’t actually the grease and oily skin that makes a good piece of fried chicken, rather it’s the crunch, which the cornflakes manage to produce very well.

However we dove into the chicken so quickly that I completely forgot to take pictures, so I’ll move on to the cheesecake I made instead.

I found the recipe on a blog called Parsley, Sage & Sweet; this post in turn came from another blog called Cook Book of Trial and Error. I was attracted to the idea that you could make a decent cheesecake from a cheese that is pretty much fat free (the quark I bought has 0.2% fat), and the comments seemed promising.

Still, I was rather skeptical, but it was an easy recipe to put together and quark is cheaper than regular cream cheese, so I thought it was worth the attempt.  Continue reading Skinny cheesecake

Banana muffins

As I ran through the ingredients for this recipe again, I realised that I’d made a vegan recipe! I’m not vegan or even vegetarian, so I don’t usually look out for vegan recipes although I do consult blogs dedicated to vegan food as I love the creativity needed to make a nutritious yet tasty meal without meat.

I found this particular recipe because I ran out of eggs and the shops close at 4.30pm on Sundays. I’m going for an interview early tomorrow morning so I wanted take a packed breakfast with me, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted muffins, specifically banana muffins, as I have a couple brownish bananas in the kitchen.

The original recipe was simple and I only made a few changes, mainly substitutions because of ingredient availability, with the exception of two: I omitted baking soda because I felt that adding it might make it taste funny (I’ve had bad experiences with excessive baking soda). I also added 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon because I like the taste. Continue reading Banana muffins

Spring, with a whisper of summer, via brownies

Admittedly not my most original baking post as I made brownies, again.

In my defence, it’s a different brownie recipe, and one I made without the convenience of my scales or measuring spoons. I was over at my best friend’s flat and she doesn’t own scales, measuring cups or spoons. It’s amazing how dependent I’ve become on my baking equipment, when only a few years ago I didn’t even know that measuring spoons existed.

So I stepped into her kitchen and asked for the scales. Scales? What scales? Fortunately her flatmate owned a measuring jug. Then it was on to Google to find out the equivalent of a cup to mls on the jug. I have a funny feeling that the quantities I ended up with may not have been exactly what the original recipe called for, but the end result was still delicious.

This time the only change I made to the original recipe (apart from my suspect measuring devices) was to add about 50-60 g of dark chocolate chips to the brownie mix. Other than that the recipe is exactly as Deb, of Smitten Kitchen  posted it, here.

I used the melting in the microwave method as I didn’t really feel like setting up the water bath. It came out fine, as the following pictures can attest. Continue reading Spring, with a whisper of summer, via brownies

Vanilla Twilight

Vanilla Twilight

Owl City has a lovely, lovely song called Vanilla Twilight. It’s a simple song, with a simple melody but everytime I hear it, I positively swoon. I suppose it’s just the deeply buried romantic in me clawing to get out.
The line that made me sit up and notice this was “…the spaces between my fingers are right where yours fit perfectly.” Isn’t the imagery just beautiful?
The photo I’ve used is one I took of the Lakeside Park just by Nottingham University, where the tree branches conveniently shaped themselves into a heart shape.
Yes, it’s official, I am a soppy romantic.