Tag Archives: reflections

School’s Out for Summer

22 Jun

It’s now the end of June and my latest German course has finished. Finally! I have been going to evening classes twice a week for the past 15 weeks. And I really feel like a need a break for a few months.

I can’t honestly say that I don’t really feel like I have progressed all that much. My friend, Mark, couldn’t have put it better when he said (about learning German) that the more he learns, the more he realises he doesn’t know. This is exactly how I feel. It’s as if, for every thing I learn, something that I learnt last week, gets squeezed out of my brain. There isn’t enough space in my brain.

Whoever it was who said that “Ignorance is bliss” might have been on to something. The more I know, the less I feel I know and this has an impact on my self-confidence and my motivation to carry on learning at all!

I am hoping to take (and pass) the next and final German exam early in 2019. Before you ask, yes this is one of the items on my 40 Before 40 list of challenges. I have decided that if this is to be a realistic possibility at all, I need to carry on with doing quite a lot of German grammar exercise during the summer so that I don’t forget things completely. The idea is that by the time the next course starts in the middle of September that I will know the grammar and I have to concentrate only on learning some vocabulary and techniques for passing the exam.

I’ve decided to try to make a “revision timetable” for over the summer so that I can stay on track. However, I know that this doesn’t always work; it rarely worked in my school days so that chances of it working in the summer, when I feel like I need a break, are also slim. But I will give it ago anyway. I might have to tape the revision plan onto the fridge so that I am reminded of it every time I go to get something to eat.

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Medical Matters

20 Jun

No one likes to go to see the doctor, do they? Unfortunately, in the past few months our household has been a regular visitor to doctors and medical professionals.

First of all, I had a accident when I was running which was causing me pain at the back of my knee. The knee would be aching for days after any form of exercise and would hurt when I was going upstairs or bending my knee in any shape or form.

I went to see a knee specialist at the hospital and the words “possible torn meniscus” and “MRI” were muttered. I was happy when he suggested a course of physiotherapy to see if this improved things. I went for physio for twice a week for three weeks. I tried to run on the knee as well and I was really happy that, although I could feel some pain, it wasn’t half as bad as it had been. The doctor agreed to carry on with more physiotherapy, as it seemed to be helping a lot.

I have been frustrated while I have been out of action. I haven’t be able to go running, play sport or go cycling. I am really excited to report that when I went running last weekend, I had virtually no pain or aching feelings in my knee immediately or in the days afterwards. The physio also said this week that it was the first time that he wasn’t able to feel fluid in my knee. I am so happy that I will be able to get back outside and do some running training. I will feel like a dog that has been let of its lead for a few weeks at least before I start complaining that I don’t like running and I don’t want to do it anymore. But this means no more hospital or physio appointments.

My other half was in hospital at the start of May for an operation. It was not an emergency and was planned, so it wasn’t a big deal or anything that was risky. However, it turned out that both of us needed treatment in the end…

I arrived to pick him up and take him home. We had to wait for a while until the doctor came in to see if he was ok and to confirm that he was ok to go home. It was a hot day but in the morning when I left for work it was raining and chilly so I wore my winter coat into work. By the time I got to the hospital, I was so warm that I undid the back of my blouse to try and cool myself down.

Shortly after, the doctor came in to talk about the operation and ask my other half how he was feeling and if he was in any pain and so on. It was then that I was starting to feel faint and I noticed that I was beginning to sweat more and more. I told my boyfriend I wasn’t feeling so well and he told me to sit down on the bed and have a lie down but I felt stupid taking his bed from him when I had only come to visit.

The next thing I remember was I was lying in the bed, wondering why my boyfriend was standing next to the bed and a male nurse was taking my blood pressure. Apparently I fainted and hit my head on the wall but I just remember waking up and feeling a lot better than I did a few moments before.

On the plus side, I did get a free cup of coffee once I had come round and then we were quickly off home.

I am hoping that my knee rehabilitation continues to go in the right direction and I don’t have to go anywhere near a hospital in the near future. I don’t want to have to faint again to get a free cup of coffee.

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Cookbook challenge

16 Jun

Thanks to my vegan diet challenge, my Challenge #25 of cooking every recipe from one cookbook is going well because I chose a vegan cookbook!

Here are the latest recipes I have made:

Almond and Cinnamon Drink

This was basically a smoothie and easy to make. It wasn’t all that special and I didn’t include the star anise in the recipe because I don’t like the flavour of aniseed.

Little Potato Cakes with Yogurt Dip

This was so easy to make and so tasty. I somehow managed to make about 3 times as many as the recipe said it would make and I though that we might be able to freeze some for another day. But nope, we ate them all in one sitting!

Roasted Chickpeas

This was a spicy snack and only took 20 minutes to bake in the oven. It was my idea to take these into work as a alternative to snacking on fruit and nuts in the office. However, they were so moreish that I ate them all soon after they had cooled down in the oven.

Soba Noodle Summer Rolls with Tofu and Coriander

I have only made spring noodles once before and that was on a Vietnamese cooking course that I went on last year. These are called summer rolls and not spring rolls because they are not deep-fried so they are a bit healthier. They were easy to make but a bit fiddly to get all of the ingredients in the wraps and wrap them up neatly. The recipe also suggested making a peanut butter dip made with soya sauce and agave syrup and was a nice accompaniment to the summer rolls.

Asian Noodle Salad

Making good on my promise to make and bring more of my lunches into work with me to save money, I made this Asian Noodle Salad. I didn’t use the specific noodles that the recipe stated. I used the soba noddles that I used for the summer rolls above. Our cupboards are so full of ingredients that I have had to buy to make one dish from this book that I am running out of space to put things. The salad itself was a nice alternative to a salad with lettuce and tomato and didn’t take long at all to make. The peanut butter dressing was ok but it turned a bit solid by the time I was able to pour it over the salad. I would definitely make this again.

Mexican Pepper Salad

Another lunchtime option (and we also had a portion of it with dinner one evening as well) that was very easy to make. Because the weather has been recently good in the last few weeks I was able to eat this outside in the sunshine. I’m not sure why this was a Mexican salad because I always associate Mexican food with spicy, hot food.

Quick Ajvar

This a Serbian roasted red pepper and aubergine relish. It’s really nice and spicy and goes well with toast or just on the side with vegetables. It really was quick to make – the vegetables are roasted and then puréed with oil and seasoning.

Colourful Little Toast Spirals

The quick ajvar was a main component of these. The ajvar is spread onto wholemeal bread that has been squashed flat by a rolling pin. The bread is then rolled up and baked in the oven for 15 minutes. It was a quick and easy snack to make and delicious too.

Sandwich spread

I was slightly nervous about this recipe. The ingredients (vegetable stock, rice cakes, onions and tomato purée) seemed a bit unusual to put together to make anything that would taste nice. However, I made some sandwiches with this spread and grilled vegetables. The mixture also kept well in the fridge so I could have it a few days later on bread or with vegan crackers.

Little Quinoa Balls with Mint Sauce

Like many of the things that I have made from this book, my creation looks nothing like the pictures in the book. In this case, I used multi-coloured quinoa whereas the book used the normal variety. The next problem with this recipe was that it said that the quinoa needed to be made into balls the size of tennis balls – I’m not sure then were the “little” part comes from. When I tried to move the balls around in the pan while frying them, they are started to disintegrate. I decided to make small burger-like patties so that they would definitely be cooked in the middle. It meant that I ended up with about 20 of these quinoa “burgers” which didn’t last for very long!

That’s 34 recipes out of a total of 100 already finished!

6 weeks to go

2 Jun

On Monday I will only have 6 weeks left of my vegan challenge. I thought that this challenge would drag and would be marking off the days one by one but actually it’s not been so bad.

Here is how the last week has been…

Supermarket offerings

I have got a bit lazy with preparing all of my food from scratch and I have tried a few vegan products from the supermarket. Some of them have been great, some I definitely wouldn’t buy again.

I tried a rice drink with matcha powder in and it tastes like someone put grass in a blender and liquidised it. But I had more success with a vegan cheese and a spicy bean burger. I was hoping to make a vegan cheese burger but the cheese didn’t actually melt so it wasn’t the same but was still pretty tasty. If you are wondering the cheese was made out of, it was made out of almond nuts.

Eating Out

My friend, Araz, told me about a new pizza place that serves some vegan options. I was so happy to have lunch with her and Mark this week and enjoy a vegan pizza. The pizza itself was made from wholemeal flour and was topped with tomato sauce and vegetables. I also had some vegan cheese as well. By the time the pizza arrived, I had forgot I had ordered it and thought the pizza had artichokes on it. But actually this was the cheese. I think it was made from cashew nuts. Next time I wouldn’t pay extra for the vegan cheese because it wasn’t all that special but good to try.

I went to see The Nutcracker Reloaded last week with Johanna, who I used to work with about 3 years ago. We had a nice burger at a British- style pub. The sauce on the burger was actually made from soya so it was also vegan-friendly. I guess it makes sense for restaurants to make vegetarian food also vegan because then they kill two birds with one stone (pardon the expression!)

I also ate at Hiltl this week. It’s a completely vegetarian restaurant which has a big buffet and a lot of the items are also vegan. It was the first vegetarian restaurant to be opened in the world. It’s no surprise that it is so successful and is still going today (it first opened in 1898) as the food is really good.

Lunches

I have gone for the convenient option this week and mainly bought my lunches from the supermarket. I totted up how much this cost this week and it would be far easier on the pocket if I made my own. So next week I will be making some nice salads and wraps to take into the office for lunch – especially now that the weather is nice and I can sit outside and enjoy my packed lunch alfresco!

Things I learnt in May

31 May

Here are some surprising things that I have learnt over the last month.

1. It is possible to have too many bank holidays in one month. This May we had 3 bank holidays: May Day, Ascension Day and late May Bank Holiday. I have nothing against bank holidays but I also realised that after May we have one bank holiday (1st August for the Switzerland National Day) and then none until Christmas. Can they be spread out a bit more please? The other thing is that two of them were in the middle of the week so you have to work the day before and the day after. I have said it before and I will say it again: it would be better to move the day to the beginning or the end of the week so that people could enjoy a long weekend.

2. I have missed being at home. This month was the first time that I had been back in the UK in 2018 and the first time I have personally seen family and friends. What was unusual and a welcomed surprise was that the weather was nothing short of glorious.

3. Did you know that there is a difference between a shrimp and a prawn. I thought that the words could be used interchangeably but apparently that is not correct. While both have five pairs of legs, a prawn has claws on three of the five pairs of legs and a shrimp only has two. Who knew?

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4. I have a higher than average reading speed. Just by chance I came across a speed reading test on the internet. It turns out that I have a reading speed of 430 words per minute with a reading comprehension of 100%. Ironically in May I have lost a bit of my reading momentum because of other projects getting in the way but I am hoping that I will be able to get back on track in June and be able to sit with my head in a book more often.

5. Be kind to your knees. I have been struggling with a knee problem for sometime and I have now been referred to a knee specialist. Luckily it looks like rest and physiotherapy is helping and nothing as drastic as surgery is needed. But still look after your knees because if they weren’t there, you would miss them. A lot.

6. I am a librocubicularist. It sounds like a really strange star sign but it actually means a person who reads in bed. I love reading and I love reading in bed. Even though sometime I do fall asleep with a book in bed. I guess there really is be a name for everything.

I’m not sure how it is the end of May. Time seems to be racing away with itself at the moment, which has to be a sure sign that I am getting old. Whatever you have been up to this May, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Cookbook challenge

27 May

I have been busying myself with cooking in recent weeks in order to get nearer to my goal of cooking every recipe from one cookbook. There have been some interesting and surprising results. Here are the latest dishes to be ticked off my list.

Museli bars

These were surprisingly easy to make but I had to find some vegan butter to add to the recipe which wasn’t hard to find at all. I would definitely make these again and the boyfriend also approved! Next time I will make them a bit fatter because they ended up being really crumbly because they were a bit too thin.

Pesto and “Ricotta” Balls

When it come to eating, beware of anything in quotation marks. It normally means that the substitute that you are making is a poor substitute for the thing you are trying to replicate. The recipe was easy enough to make and the consistency was similar to ricotta cheese in fairness. But it just wasn’t *quite* the same.

Spicy Oven-Roasted Cauliflower

This was another super easy recipe. I added some vegan Thai curry paste as well to the spicy mixture to give it a bit more of a kick. And kick it did!

Aubergine Rollmops

For this recipe I needed to find juniper berries. I thought that in Switzerland that this would be a mission impossible but, as ever, an expensive department came to my rescue. I should have sliced the rollmops a bit thicker because during boiling they did become quite flimsy and it was difficult to put the onions, gherkins and mustard inside and roll them up before they disintegrated. It looked a bit like a (vegan) dog’s dinner but it tasted great.

Greek Farmer’s Salad

The idea of this recipe is that the feta cheese is replaced with marinated tofu. It was absolutely delicious and we ate it with some grilled vegetables from the grill. I also made extra so I could take a portion into work for my lunch. I would happy eat this again and again.

Andalucian Asparagus Salad

At the moment in German-speaking countries, it is Sparagelzeit (Asparagus time) everywhere. You can’t move in the supermarkets without bumping into asparagus and there are lots of stalls on the side of the road selling them, so this recipe is perfectly seasonal. It needed white and green asparagus and also some dates. I was skeptical about the using the dates but it worked well with the other flavours.

Courgette “Spaghetti” with Wild Garlic Pesto

There is also a lot of wild garlic around at the moment as well. This was another easy-to-make recipe and another one that I took into work for lunch. The main problem was that the garlic is so strong that my breath smelt for the rest of the day. Plus, as I said before, courgette made out of spaghetti isn’t like the real thing.

Cauliflower and Potato Salad

This is one of my favourite dishes that I have made so far. It was delicious and served warm. It had a spicy flavour and was filling.

Spicy Tomato Tartare on Ciabatta 

I am not sure why it was called spicy as there was no chilli in it but I have no complains on the taste side. It is very similar to a dish that we normally make anyway but with olives and onion added. When I toasted the bread I also rubbed garlic onto it to keep the vampires away.

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Spi

cy red lentil spread

The final product, after cooking the lentils and adding the spices, was too wet so I tried to reduce it in the pan to thicken it up. I was able to keep in the fridge for a few days and then use it as a substitute for butter with bread and also on crackers. I need to make this again and again because we bulk-bought a huge 5 kilo bag of lentils and they need to be eaten.

Aubergine Schnitzel with Garlic Cream

Although I can’t deny that this was delicious, I made a horrendous mess in the kitchen. What didn’t help was that I think I bought the “wrong” vegan cream. The recipe said you needed to “draw the aubergine through the cream” but the cream was too thick and I ended up having to paste the cream on with a pastry brush.

The result was tasty but if I was to do it again I would make sure I bought the right cream and do it in a bigger kitchen because ours was too small for all the different “stations” that you need to construct this – flouring station, breadcrumb-ing station etc.

And that is 24 of the recipes completed! I’m off to get started on my next batch of cooking now!

Another week full of veggies

23 May

I’m now so into this challenge that it almost feels like I have been a vegan forever. It’s been a busy week and I haven’t had a lot of time to try new recipes so I’ve been reusing old recipes and eating soups, salads and grilled vegetables. Of course, I haven’t really been missing meat and dairy products, until I went home at the weekend…

Cheese cravings

When I went to South Asia last year, I was craving cheese on an hourly basis. I thought that I would be craving cheese a lot more by now and that I would have tried to make my own “cheese” from cashew nuts. But I’ve so far refrained. I also learnt that the local supermarkets stock a vegan mozzarella. It’s on the shopping list for next week already.

Who ever said that eating cheese made you have strange dream was totally off the mark. All cheese products must be out of my system by now and I’m still having dreams so weird that Sigmund Freud would be scratching his head at what my subconscious was trying to tell me.

Eating Out

I only ate out once this week – for our work team lunch. The menu wasn’t vegan-friendly so I had to ask for the roasted aubergine with tomato and potatoes without Feta cheese. It was a shame because a sprinkling of salty Feta would have made the dish sensational. However, my vegan-ised version was pretty good without it.

Going Home

I haven’t been home nor seen my family in the flesh this year so this long weekend we planned to go back for a visit. I was a bit nervous about telling my mum that I wouldn’t be able to eat animal products. But actually she has been scouring the supermarket aisles for vegan options. She now knows what tofu is but I can’t imagine this making its way onto her weekly shopping list.

I’m relatively sure that my mum had managed to buy one of every type of vegetable in the world for our 3 day stay. We could have had a vegetable festival and I was glad. Everything was delicious!

As I have mentioned before, I have been surprised by how supportive people have been about my challenge. This challenge has been so far made so much easier by the words of encouragement and understanding that have been thrown my way. So thank you so far!

However, I was severely tempted by English food. This sounds like an impossibility but when you grow up eating certain foods, you end up being very attached to them even if you know that some of them aren’t all that healthy or even all that tasty. Here is a list of things that almost tempted me to the dark side: sausage rolls, pork pies, roast chicken, bacon sandwich, everything in Pound Bakery, rice pudding… The list goes on. But I stayed strong and I am glad I did.

 

Compliments

As well as losing some weight, a few people have told me how well I look. I had read about people getting a “vegan glow”. I guess I must have it because people don’t necessarily say that I have lost weight but more that I look well. This does mean I have to learn to take a compliment better but that is a small price to pay for people to say that I look good!

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