Daughter of an immigrant, granddaughter of a refugee

My paternal grandmother was born and raised in Poland. During the Second World War she was displaced to Russian, then India, then Kenya and eventually she came to the UK for a holiday and told my grandfather she was staying put. She was a DETERMINED woman, I’m not sure even Theresa May could have kept her out of the country! Therefore, my father, who was born in Kenya (Nairobi), ending up emigrating to the UK when he was around ten. As a child, he moved frequently and found it unsettling. This resulted in him firmly setting his roots down when he arrived in Swansea for University. This static influence then had the opposite effect on me! I chose to read languages in University, purely for the year abroad, and then moving to Edinburgh once I graduated. I didn’t plan to settle in one place but, for various reasons, 12 years later, I’m still here. I fully intend to experience the world either by living or travelling abroad as much as possible.

My grandma, the most determined woman I’ve ever known

There have always been big ifs with our family – what if Grandma hadn’t ended up in Nairobi? What if she hadn’t gone on holiday to the UK and decided to stay? What if she wasn’t allowed to stay? When my father was in his early 20s he had to make a decision about his nationality and became a British citizen. Wales became his home and he firmly considered himself Welsh – for the rugby if nothing else! What if he hadn’t been allowed to stay in the UK? What if I had been born in Nairobi? (Mum always says she’s not sure she could have moved to be with him).

In this rich tapestry that is the United Kingdom, my heritage story is not unusual at all – and I love it. That we’re made up of such diversity, can only enrich and enlighten us. You only need to think of a bowl of fruit to know that diversity is good. In my opinion, too much of the same is dull and stifling.

Diversity was my experience of my visits to America too. One holiday in the States, a friend (a Californian) and I played a game: we went up to strangers and asked them where they thought I came from. I was dressed 100% in clothes purchased on holiday and my friend was convinced I looked foreign anyway. The results were mixed (so we were both right!) but the thing I remember from that bit of youthful fun was that not what people thought about my nationality but that not one of the ‘Americans’ we talked to identified as American. They were Polish, Greek, Italian, African –everything! Not one single person said ‘I’m American’. Granted this was more than ten years ago but it stuck with me and I thought it was a fabulous, a land of opportunity made up of all nationalities.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the UK or in America. I can’t help but think that leaving the EU is going to have a worse effect than the current “President” (because for one thing I’m closer to this EU thing, and hopefully America will only be four years – leaving the EU will affect a generation). All I can hope is that those who feel the same way as me – that diversity enhances and enriches us – can band together and ensure a future worth living in.

I’ve got refugenes

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Project Jasmine – arm strength

Some of you will know that I started practising yoga about two years ago and in about 2 months I’ll be embarking on 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training with Mudra Edinburgh. I also dislocated my knee at the end of October (big ouch by the way) and so I’ve not been able to attend classes in the way I’d like (mostly because my transitions are so slow that I get behind quite quickly).

Everyone says, injury is really good for yoga, and it turns out – it’s totally true. Whilst it can be incredibly frustrating to lose the strength and flow that you’re used to – it teaches patience and empathy in a way that can only be learnt through experience. It’s also done wonders for my home practice.

Home practice

Right from the start of practising yoga I knew that home practice would be important but, I must admit, it was a bit of a chore. I did it, but I didn’t feel happy about it. Now, I look forward to my time on the mat. I enjoy researching, reading books about practice and deciding what I’m going to work on. I LOVE my savasana at the end and I really feel like I’ve accomplished something when I’m done. Now, I know I would have gotten to where I am now without my injury, but I do feel that having a forced vacation from regular classes has propelled me somewhat. And for that, I’m really grateful!

Having this time to myself, and doing a little bit of recording so I can look back on my practice (I hate a mirror as I feel it interrupts my flow) has helped me realise what areas I need to concentrate on. My two main areas at the moment (apart the obvious knee strength) are arm strength and backbends.

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Arm Strength

Here’s a sequence I’ve put together which I’m dropping in to my practice on a regular basis to strengthen my arms – it takes about 15 minutes of the practice and suits to being at the beginning on middle part of practice.

NB: I always start my practice with a couple of minutes of breathing (I change from practice to practice what type I start with) to ground myself and set an intention/focus for my practice.

  • Cat / Cow (1o breathes)
  • Downward Dog (10 br)
  • High Plank (5 br)
  • Child’s Pose (5 br)
  • Cobra (5 br)
  • Child’s Pose (5 br)
  • Dolpin Pose (10 br)
  • Low Plank (5 br)
  • Child’s Post (5 br)
  • Upward Dog (5 br)
  • Child’s Pose (5 br)
  • Downward Dog (10 br)
  • Side Plank – both sides (5 br each)
  • High Plank (5 br)
  • Downward Dog (5 br)
  • Child’s Post (10 br)
  • REPEAT x 3

When doing the poses, I try to keep mindful of my arms, shoulders, core etc so that my focus is on building my arm strength. (eg keeping my elbows up for Child’s Pose and shoulders back for Downward Dog). These are all fairly simple poses, but it’s good to maintain focus throughout.

This sequence was inspired by Andrea Rice in Mind Body Green. A video on how to do quite a few of the poses is below. Hope you find this useful!

If you’re ready for the next level – there’s also this video from Yoga with Adriene which has some good arm prep for chaturanga (my current nemisis!). I like Adriene’s simple and practical teaching – and I love that she reminds you that, first and foremost, yoga comes from within.

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January – Recipe Book Challenge – The Hairy Bikers’ Meat Feasts

January - month of the Hairy Bikers

January – month of the Hairy Bikers

January 2017, our first month of the Recipe Book Challenge – and we picked The Hairy Bikers’ Meat Feasts. This book was a gift to Rich from my Uncle and Aunt and we’ve already made a couple of recipes (Picadillo in particular was a GREAT success for us) but thought the lovely cold month of January was a good fit for some slow cooked, big meat dishes!

The aim is to make four new recipes from a chosen book every month. It doesn’t mean we can’t use other recipes in the month, but that our focus is on new recipes from the chosen book.

Recipe One – Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Apricots, Apples and Ginger

We made this twice – once for a dinner party at our place and once for Rich’s dad at his house. Really attractive looking dish and yummy. Definitely a good one for dinner parties.

Recipe Two – Beef Chilli with Bitter Chocolate

This is a great recipe to make and freeze leftovers. I’ve never made chilli with beef steak as well as mince and I’d definitely do again in the future. Personally, I think it’s a little vegetable light, if I were to make again I would definitely add more peppers, courgettes etc. If I’m completely honest, and I *know* that it’s a chilli with chocolate, but I think there’s slightly too much, it was a teensy bit overpowering – so I’d reduce that too. So, in conclusion – we enjoyed, but would probably adapt this recipe rather than stick to the full instructions from the book.

Recipe Three – Braised Feather Blade Beef

Using feather blade (or spalebone) steak this is a fantastic slow cooked recipe with very yummy results. We also made in bulk and have frozen for future dinners. The thing I’d note about this recipe is that, as a slow cooked meal, the meat rather falls apart, so I absolutely couldn’t make it look like the photo!

Recipe Four – Boston Baked Beans

Another long cook. I hilariously got the timing of this wrong, meaning that it was ready at ten o’clock at night (we ended up getting takeaway that night!). We ended up eating the next day and it was epic! Great use of pork belly which is really well priced and felt lovely and healthy too!

Conclusion

  1. This is a great book for big hearty meals, with the opportunity to batch book and freeze portions for future use.
  2. All four recipes were a success. Three out of four will definitely be made again (and we’ll be using inspiration from the chilli recipe for future chilis)
  3. Four is about the right number – not too much pressure, but enough to keep me focussed.
  4. I was hopeless at taking photos – will try and remember for future blog posts!

Next month….

We’ve picked out Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible – I hardly ever make curries and am looking forward to digging in and trying out lots of new things.

Next month…

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2017 Recipe Book Challenge

Our cookery books

Our cookery books

Man, we have a lot of cook books – and no sign of them reducing – we were given at least two this holiday season. Hurrah! A good present idea for us, we’ll never turn a cook book down!

We also like trying new recipes – I think there’s only one I’ve made that’s gone horribly wrong (Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meal if you want to know) and, if the recipe works out, we make it a few times, adapt it (there are always adaptions to personalise!) and add it to our repertoire.

This year we’ve decided to give ourselves a new challenge. We’re going to specifically pick one recipe book a month and task ourselves with four new recipes a month from it. At the end of the month I planning on jotting down a wee blog about the book, the recipes we used and, how well it went. We won’t limit ourselves to only one book, so if it works out to try something else, we will, but we’ll always try to default to the selected monthly book.

It would be very prescriptive to select all twelve books just now, so at the moment we’ve just pulled a few out that we’d be interested in exploring and at the end of each month we’ll make a selection for the upcoming month.

A few of the books we're thinking about focussing on this year...

A few of the books we’re thinking about focussing on this year…

Our January book is The Hairy Bikers’ Meat Feasts – check back at the end of the month for the report! 🙂

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