Month: January 2013

Homemade is Best.

Being an English literature student means that I do not have a very heavy timetable in terms of contact hours. I am actually in uni for classes for around a dozen hours a week so the rest of the time I decide how I space out my work. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of work to do on top of my reasonably light timetable – reading, note taking, essays… My timetable has its pros and cons: I have an awful day on Friday starting at 9am and finishing at 6pm, but I do get Wednesdays off!

So today I thought it would be fun to make the most of having the day and create something. And create I did. I’m not really a crafts kind of person, not unless they are for Christmas. I am, however, a baking kind of person, and my father being away and my mother quite busy I decided to make dinner. What kind of dinner can you bake?

Pizza.

I haven’t made pizza since I was a child and I made it with my mother and sister in the holidays as a fun activity. I used a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and it was so simple and easy to follow. This isn’t the exact same recipe but the section for the dough is the same so follow this and then just choose your own toppings. To make the sauce I just fried two finely chopped cloves of garlic in a glug of olive oil and then added a tin of chopped tomatoes. Then I spread the tomato sauce on the bases, then I sliced some mozzarella and arranged it over the top of it. Personally I love to add fresh rocket on top once the pizza is out of the oven, in the summer fresh basil is equally good.

IMG_7034

 

IMG_7037

 

IMG_7036

 

Have you ever made your own pizza?
What are your favourite pizza toppings?

Sophie x

Advertisements

In Which Sophie Reads.

I’ve been thinking about starting a little series on here for a while now, although I know my blog is mostly a lifestyle blog about my weekly goings on, health and food, one of my main passions in life is literature (I am doing a degree on it after all) and I want to feature it more on here. I didn’t want to write great long reviews in which I dissected texts until you don’t even feel you need to read the books because I’ve already completely explained them, I just want to inspire people to read more and enjoy books even just have as much as I do.

You don’t have to be doing a degree in literature in order to love reading, I have been captivated by books since I was about 8 years old and have been devouring them ever since. Although I have to read dozens of books a year for my course, when I can manage to find the time I read plenty of other novels (and sometimes short stories or even poems) in between.

With the start of the new year still being part of my holidays I made the most of having so much free time and read three really enjoyable books and I thought now would be the perfect time to start a mini review series!

IMG_7030

Artful by Ali Smith

I went to see Ali Smith give a talk about this book at a literary festival in November, despite having not read a single one of her books, as I’d already heard her speak at a talk about Angela Carter which was brilliant. Hearing her read extracts from Artful I couldn’t resist and immediately blathered on to my boyfriend about how amazing it was and Tom, being such a lovely person, bought it for me for Christmas.

The book is comprised of four lectures that Smith wrote and gave at Oxford University, each centred around a theme – ‘On Time’, ‘On Form’, ‘On Edge’ and ‘On Offer and On Reflection’. The narrator of the story is haunted by the ghost of her former lover,  a university professor. After a year of mourning for him (or her – the book remains unclear on this), she walks into the study they shared and picks up her old copy of Oliver Twist which she begins to read, it is then that the ghost arrives. The professor had been in the process of writing a series of lectures on art and literature, the lectures written by the dead fictional character and those you are reading written by Smith blur which I suspect is what she intended.

What I love about this book is that it is both at once easy to read and incredibly complex. The writing style is uncomplicated and flows easily and yet the text is absolutely rammed full of allusions throughout. The professor’s lectures are filled with literary quotations and the narrator also adds her own. I felt like I was reading more than one text and whilst some might find that slightly difficult to swallow, I loved it.

Definitely a book for those with a love of literature as an entire subject.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath 

Few people have not heard of this book and yet I had never read it before recently, despite it being on my wishlist for years. The novel was published in 1963 and set ten years previously, opening in New York. The protagonist, Esther Greenwood, won an internship at a New York fashion magazine along with a group of other young girls. The novel starts with her thrilled with the opportunity as she hopes it will help her realise her dreams to be a writer but as it progresses Esther slips into a depression as her life appears to spiral beyond her control. She struggles with the idea of a future as a woman in a society which does not take women seriously or give them the opportunities she longs for. The book is filled with her journey throughout difficult relationships, failures and losses, and her emotional development as a young woman coming into her own and learning to see the world through her own mind.

I more or less read it in the three hours I spent travelling to and from London a couple of weekends ago which is the fastest I’ve read a book in a long time – just shows how much I was captivated by both the story and the narrator. It’s a heartwarming but equally heartbreaking story and I couldn’t recommend it enough.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 

Another book I had been meaning to read for a while, it has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years, no doubt helped along by the film made in 2012. It’s an epistolary novel, the narrator, Charlie, writes a series of letters to an anonymous person and it is through these letters that we learn about his life. The story is one of the trials of adolescence, the difficulty of growing up. The letters span almost exactly a year in Charlie’s life – August 1991 to August 1992. He writes about high school, about his friends, about his family, and about his English teacher who gives him extra books to read and essays to write. As the letters progress it becomes clear that Charlie does not have an easy life and has his own issues to deal with, it is not always a comfortable story but it never ceases to be a touching one.

I know it may seem overly talked about but I really enjoyed it, and although it may sound like a typical story of adolescence it is so much more than that, it goes so much deeper. It has been a while since I’ve felt so strongly in support of a novel’s protagonist, Charlie may not be an easy character but he is definitely easy to love.

So I hope you’ve enjoyed this and that you might be inspired to go read one of these books. Let me know what you think of my writing reviews!

Sophie x

These Snowy Days.

Ah snow. It spreads its thick white blanket across the country with such speed and all of a sudden the countryside is unrecognizable.

Snow is such an inconvenience when you need to travel, I spent over an hour stood watching the announcement boards in Kings Cross station on Monday morning praying that the incredibly delayed train would eventually arrive and not get cancelled like the one before (it  finally arrived!). It causes road problems and can be super dangerous. It makes cycling a nightmare. It turns to ice on the paths…

Urgh.

But despite all of that I can turn my mind and see its beauty. The fields and trees look wonderful, and everything seems so bright with the sun reflecting off the snow.

The last week or so has mostly been spent being laaaazy. Like wake up at 10am and don’t get dressed till after lunch kind of lazy! It’s just been so nice to have some time to relax and not have to do anything. I have been doing some things mind you, just nothing taxing. I’ve been reading lots (I have a review planned for you), I’ve been organizing my things, baking and I spent the weekend in London with Tom. We had a lovely weekend meeting up with his old friends from uni and spending nights/mornings curled up watching comedy on TV. I adore spending weekends with him 🙂

mosaicf650300902afa24a9c7ec364f9254203c161de5f

 

Went for Chelsea buns with a uni friend | Reading for my course in between more enjoyable reads | The epitome of my ideal lazy day

mosaicf32a16233b398e23a8058f55791fc385b53e466a

The first snow | Comfort food – cheese, ham and pea pasta bake | Saturday night in Camden

mosaicf6fa5af35ac15538f943bf56e84cae390a8177e6

Snowy walk to the gym | Frozen stream | Red berry surrounding by a blanket of white

Going back to the gym today felt great, the way working out should feel, so hopefully I’ll have the energy to carry on going. I have heaps of reading to do for the new term so that’s what I’ll be busy doing for the rest of the week. I also feel like baking something cake based so watch this space…

I hope you’re all having a lovely week and if it’s snowy where you are that it isn’t too much of a hassle!

Do you like the snow or is it just a hassle?
How’s the first month of 2013 shaping up to be for you?

Sophie x

On Loss and Family.

IMG_7001

IMG_6999

IMG_7000

My family is one of the most precious things in the world to me. Although we may routinely drive each other up the wall, we have always been quite close and I know that I definitely wouldn’t have been able to come this far without their support. My parents and my sister have always been there for me and I hope I will always be there for them. Alice is definitely the best sister you could have! Despite not being as close to them, my grandparents are also incredibly important to me and they have also helped me become who I am together.

Sometimes though, we forget how lucky those of us to have family around us truly are and it takes something painful to remind us.

On Sunday evening my uncle died. He has lived in Denmark since before I was born and although I have only met him a handful of times I still feel a great deal of sadness. I feel sad for my grandfather, my aunt and my father who have lost a son and a brother, and I feel even more sadness for his children, although they are grown up the pain of losing a parent must be awful. He has been ill for many years now so I can only hope that he went peacefully and take comfort that at least now he no longer suffers.

Loss of anyone is always a terrible experience, even if they are not someone especially close to you. But I believe that we can always learn from our experiences, even those that bring us pain. Having to reconcile myself with the fact that my uncle will never come back to visit only reinforces how lucky I am to have the family I have surrounding me.

I know that I am extremely lucky.

My heart and prayers go out to anyone who has lost someone close to their heart, I hope that as time eases the pain it will be easier to remember all of the happy memories and be glad for what they had before it was ended.

Sophie x

Life Lately.

Having had a week mostly by myself with plenty of time to catch up on sleep and relax, I have to say that I needed this extra week off. I hope everyone who is back at work aren’t finding going back after the holidays too difficult, I imagine you’ve been looking forward to the weekend!

This week I had a lovely evening with my sister at one of our favourite eateries… (can you guess where?)

IMG_6994

Wagamama! (Of course)

Alice had the Chicken Katsu Curry which was absolutely delicious, I loved the breadcrumbs on the chicken.

IMG_6995

Isn’t my little sister (who is actually taller than me!) pretty?

IMG_6996

I went for a dish I haven’t tried before called Yasai Yaki Soba and it was fantastic. It’s a vegetarian noodle dish full of vegetables and lovely flavours. I’m glad that I pushed myself away from my comfort zone and the dish I always get, this was definitely worth trying! If you live in the UK you should definitely check Wagamama out 🙂

The rest of my week has been pretty calm. I’ve spent my days doing chores, baking, reading, writing and watching nature programs on my laptop. All the whilst cuddled up with Poppy obviously, she makes for the best company.

IMG_6997

This is more or less what my days have looked like this week.

I’m currently reading Adam Bede by George Eliot and so far I much prefer it to Middlemarch. So far this January I’ve read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Artful by Ali Smith. I have plans to write mini reviews of the books I read before term starts, sound good?

Tomorrow is my Father’s birthday and I have a fantastic present for him, can’t wait till he opens it! We’re about to go out for lunch with my Grandfather to celebrate and then tomorrow evening my Father has picked his favourite meal for dinner – steak with peppercorn sauce and chips. So lots more good food to be had…

Have a great weekend lovely people!

Sophie x

One Week In.

We are officially one week into the new year, into 2013.

I spent the first few days of the new year in France with my mother and my grandparents and it’s the perfect place for reflection. It’s always strange going there because they have no internet and as they live abroad I can’t use my phone so I spend several days disconnected from the world. I did feel the urge to check my emails and twitter several times but the bliss of it is I just can’t, so I spent time away from technology and got to focus on other things.

The house in which my grandparents is, for me, central to my childhood memories. When I was little we used to spend two weeks there for our summer holiday, I used to go stay with them on my own for a week at Easter each year and I’d go to the local school, we’ve visited them about 3 or 4 times a year since I was born. Although in recent years things have been a bit tough for them health-wise, I know they are still the wonderful grandparents I have had supporting me my whole life.

It was a nice, calm way to spend the first few days of 2013 just spending time with family, taking it easy, reading, eating… Personally I love traditions and in France, on the 6th of January, it is traditional to eat what is called a Galette des Rois (King Cake). It is basically a puff pastry pie filled with either apple sauce or frangipane. I bought an apple one to share with Tom on Saturday in London, and then we bought a frangipane one for the family yesterday.

IMG_6992

Now the most important element of the galette (apart from the tastiness!) is that somewhere inside each one there is a little porcelain figurine, called une fève. Whoever has the figurine in their slice is crowned the King or Queen and gets to wear the crown. It was one of my favourite traditions as a child, I always hoped that I’d find the figurine. This year I found it in the little galette I had with Tom and my mother found the figurine in the family galette.

So this year starts with a very old tradition which in my mind is a nice way to start a new time. I have three weeks of time to myself now, I don’t start lectures till the 28th of January as it is currently exam period at uni (but I don’t have any!). I have lots of organisational things planned, tons of reading, baking, and writing to do. Hopefully it will be a good month to start the year!

What are your plans for January?
Do you have special traditions like this one?

Sophie x

A New Year.

IMG_6977

The 1st of January. 2013.

It feels crazy to be writing that down. The last year has truly been a year like no other and I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it all happened in one year.

I have always liked the start of the year. I like the sense of a fresh start, of moving forwards, of new experiences ahead. I enjoy the new sense of motivation and inspiration it brings and the way it allows us to begin new projects and create new goals. It is a time to look back at all that has passed, but equally to look forward to all that may happen. For me this year will mark my 20th birthday, my 5 year anniversary with Tom, the movement from the second year of my degree to the last year…

What always astounds me is how much can change in the space of just a single year. In 2012 I went from being at university away from home like most undergraduate students,  to making the decision to transfer to a university closer to home and then moving back in with my family. It wasn’t an easy decision but I believe now that it was the right one to make. 2012 is the year in which Tom graduated from university after 4 years and moved to London to start work in the real world. It is also the year in which I started to move away from my eating hang ups and body issues. The year in which I gained confidence in my ability to be independent. The year which made me realise how important the people I love are in my life.

Reading back my resolutions from last year I actually think that while perhaps I did not fulfill all 12 of them to the last degree, the overall impression is of success. I have become healthier both physically and mentally, I worked hard and got a good mark at the end of my first year, I looked after myself better, spent more time doing the things I enjoy, spent more time on the people I love, read lots, wrote, reflected, developed… become happier

This year, I don’t want to make new year’s resolutions in the way I have in the past.

I’m not that person anymore. I like lists, but my lists are not of endless tasks the way they used to be; my lists are of wishes, of future dreams, of ideas.

This year, I am not resolving anything. To resolve means to find a solution, effectively to fix something. But I cannot fix what is not broken and as the new year begins, I honestly don’t feel as though there is anything to fix in my life. I am incredibly blessed in life, and so because I am so thankful for all that is good in my life, this year, my aim and my wish is to do more.

I want to do more of what I love, try harder in everything I do, throw myself into new opportunities, push myself to be a better person.

Doing more of everything means being healthier, means being more active and more proactive. I am so lucky to have a caring and supportive family so I want to do more with them. I am also fortunate to have the opportunity to get a degree so I want to work more and try even harder to achieve the best I can. I have lovely friends, people I adore spending time with so I want to do that more often. I am lucky to have my health, I may be exhausted 80% of the time and constantly sore but it could be so much worse, so I want to make the most of doing the most that I am able to do. And I am more than lucky to have a wonderful boyfriend with whom I am so happy, so I want to fill my life with memories of the things with experience together.

This year may be the year my health improves, and it may not. But it will be the year in which I continue to grow as a person, and it will also be the year in which I continue to find happiness.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2012, and I wish you all the best in everything that you wish to do this new year!

Sophie x