it’s about time: healthy happiness.

it’s about time: healthy happiness.

Since the 1st of January 2017, I’ve probably written a gazillion to-do lists in various notebooks and mobile phone apps with things I want to achieve. Okay, I’ve been doing that since my teenage years and have wanted to become a better person for both myself and those around me… and I’m not yet where I want to be. I’ve done well at meeting my academic goals, my adventure goals, any form of “bucket list” goals I have… but regarding my fitness, health and nutritional happiness, I can’t seem to leap the first hurdle, let alone cross the start line.

The fitness industry is booming with more people, particularly women, achieving the “look” of being fit, toned and healthy and I want to be part of it. In May last year, I was the closest I have been to being comfortable with the physical ‘me’ in a long time. I was going to the gym at least twice, if not three, times a week, and had been doing hour-long personal training sessions for three months. I could tell I was getting stronger and fitter even though I still grumbled and huffed when I had to do an exercise I didn’t like or if I was just feeling downright grumpy. What can you do? 😀

When I moved to Sheffield in September, I bought a gym membership but have only used it about ten times. It’s maddening. Even when I have it written in stark black ink “START GOING TO THE GYM” or “DO ANYTHING EXERCISEY ONCE A DAY” or more recently, “DO TEN THOUSAND STEPS A DAY”… I’ve hardly hit the goals. I give in to staying within my comfort zone but I know that every time this happens I’m putting off what I really want. And, that should be incentive enough.

Nevertheless, a friend of mine recently posted her fitness goals, her aims to get fit and I know that if I don’t start at some point (I.E. now), I never will. I have tried to keep it as simple as possible because I know that overwhelming myself with pressure will just send me to the nearest McDonalds and a sofa. My incentive is that I share this with you, and will continue to, so then I won’t let my little blog down so-to-speak. So, my goals aren’t to achieve the transformation that girls do in the movies, or imagine I’ll ever be an “instagram” girl standard. (I am not digging at myself here.)

I just want to know and feel that no matter whether I have had a cheeky cheat day or a holiday, I will have confidence to proudly stand in front of people I either know or don’t, in a ridiculous onesie or a bikini, with makeup on or makeup off, and be happy with what I eat and that I’m fit and healthy. 😀

I’m going to use a fitness programme by a now vaiiir famous instagrammer from Sydney: @kaylaitsines as well as doing a variety of exercises that my personal trainers taught me. I’ve chosen to do her programme (because I handily have it off an old friend (thank you)) and more importantly because it can be done anywhere. This may require a few adjustments at times but it means I don’t have to rely on gyms or which country I’m in to do it! This is great for me as one of the challenges I face is my knack for not staying in the same place for a good long period of time… so hopefully, as long as I have my trainers and some form of sports kit, I am good to go!

As another incentive to start, but also to do something that’s close to my heart, I’m raising money for MS Society UK – it is raising money for research for multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease which affects the nerves anywhere and possibly everywhere in your body.

My Grandpa was diagnosed with it, and since with Parkinson’s, and although my role is only tiny, I want to do something (as well as mowing the lawns and feeding his birds of course 😀 ) The rest of my story is on my fundraising page

MS Society has launched a campaign, ‘Let’s Kiss Goodbye to MS‘ for May and I’ve jumped onto the bandwagon! Some are giving up alcohol or wearing makeup whereas I’m going to give up chocolate (cries inside) and train to run in Nottingham’s Wollaton Park Run on the 10th June. Two birds with one stone! Yay?

Xo.

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Wrocław in 48 hours.

As a mid-semester “break” three friends and I decided to take a trip outside the UK, giving ourselves the challenge of going for a cheap weekend away to escape the repetitive student lifestyle of sleeping, eating and studying (or trying to).

 As a mid-semester “break”, three friends and I decided to take a trip outside the UK, giving ourselves the challenge of going for a cheap weekend away to escape the repetitive student lifestyle of sleeping, eating and studying. Searching on google flights, we found three places that were the cheapest = Copenhagen [Denmark], Poznań [Poland] and Wrocław [Poland].

Continue reading “Wrocław in 48 hours.”

Wroclaw: A Food Review

My recent trip to Wrocław, in south-west Poland, in mid-march has completed this particular ‘food goal’. In the 48 hours we stayed in the city, I’ve had a taste and have reviewed the local food we endeavoured to eat.

The moment I have been waiting for, since I left Montréal in January 2016, was the time I would once again eat ‘pierogis’. These are a Polish delicacy that I haven’t yet found in the UK and definitely scored high points when I visited Michael for a week just over a year ago. (I cannot believe such a short amount of time has passed since then…!)

My recent trip to Wrocław, in south-west Poland, in mid-march has completed this particular ‘food goal’. In the 48 hours we stayed in the city, I’ve had a taste and have reviewed the local food we endeavoured to eat.

Continue reading “Wroclaw: A Food Review”

A French Christmas #5: the five-course Christmas Lunch Review by Lisa and Georgie

A French Christmas #5: the five-course Christmas meal review by Lisa and Georgie

Being our first French Christmas, and being together, Lisa and I decided to do food review like the many that we did back during our three weeks travelling around China!

The places we went to and tried out the food in were: Kunming , Li Jiang , Dali , Chongqing , Chengdu & Jiu Zai Gou & Xi’an and Pingyao.

Now, in the city of Nantes in north-western France, we have taken it upon ourselves to once again review what we are eating! In the festive spirit, we have chosen to review the Christmas lunch we had at a restaurant with Léa’s mum’s side of the family. As well as being asked and braving to read the set menu in french to her family, we had had serious conversations with our stomachs that we were going to make it through the five courses. (I’m kidding about the serious conversations but I was feeling the pressure! 😀 ) 

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the set menu!

Our review works like this: Lisa and I choose three categories – namely Flavour, Appearance, and Texture – and review each course out of ten. We have tried to give the scores of the dish as a whole rather than only marking the bits we enjoyed. Then it’s fair!

I am going to attempt to translate the names of the French dishes as best I can (with the help of Léa at the time and the use of google translate and common sense now!)… but just note that I don’t do French so I do apologise if it is awfully wrong. 

Now, bon appetit!

First Course: 

15878311_10153880916406706_1577535217_o‘Cappucino de la mer et son nuage de crème vanillé’ et ‘Macaron de foie gras à l’huile de truffe’ 

Google translate: ‘Cappuccino of the sea and its cloud of vanilla cream’ and ‘Macaron of foie gras with truffle oil’ … close-ish!

Me: ‘a cappuccino style vanilla and seafood cream’and ‘a macaroon filled with fois gras and a hint of truffle oil’

The Cappuccino: The flavour is really unique, it is a combination of seaside flavours and cream. It has no cappuccino in it – don’t let the name fool you! – so we decided that that is the way the dish is served (as it came in the tiny beer glasses / mugs. It is creamy and warm (but not hot) as well as salty yet subtle… It could have prawns in it. The texture is smooth and sits on your tongue for a while. Overall, we liked it! 

Flavour: 6 out of 10
Appearance: 9 out of 10
Texture: 7 out of 10

The Macaroon:

It was odd to start with as the macaroon is has a sweet sugared taste yet the foie gras is thick and salty. We thought that the rich savour filling was served in perfect balance with the light and sugary macaroon. We’d never think of it ourselves but it was lovely, and not heavy to digest either!

F: 8 out of 10
A: 8 out of 10
T: 8 out of 10

Second Course:

15750316_10153871647001706_1539001707_n‘Tatin de foie gras à la royale gala arrosée de son givre Nantes’ 

Google translate: ‘Tatin of foie gras at the royal gala Watered with its frost Nantes’

Me: tatin of foie gras with [royal gala] apples cooked in a specific Nantes sauce?

Lisa and I had a slightly different opinion on this course. The cooked but cold apple sat at the top of the little tower, with foie gras layered in the middle, and gingerbread cake forming the base. It is another dish that combines salty and sweet but this time I felt that the flavours didn’t complement each other. Instead, it was rather overpowering. Lisa did note that the texture was moist and creamy and she enjoyed it more than I did. When I cheekily used some of the foie gras on fresh baguette, it was parfait !

Georgie:
F: 3 out of 10
A: 7 out of 10
T: 5 out of 10

Lisa:
F: 5 out of 10
A: 7 out of 10
T: 5 out of 10

Third course:

15824043_10153880916396706_32694785_o‘Suprême de chapon farci, coiffé de son lard truffé, accompagné de ses pommes de terre fondantes, et de sa crème de pleurotes au piment d’Esplette’

Google translate: ‘Supreme of capon stuffed, capped with its truffled bacon, accompanied by its melting potatoes, and its cream of oyster mushrooms with Esplette’

Me: ‘Stuffed cockerel (formally known as capon) with truffled bacon, accompanied by melting potatoes and a cream of oyster, mushroom and esplette pepper sauce’

The potatoes were the star of the show. They didn’t fall to pieces when we cut them but genuinely melted in the mouth as we ate them. The cockerel meat and stuffing was rather dry, although the skin on the outside was salty and tasty. The sauce was good but Lisa said that it needed more of a “kick” or flavour as well as a more prominent and flavourful stuffing. It was a good sized portion (as my food coma had already started to kick in…) and those potatoes get their own score of 9 out of 10. ❤

F: 5 out of 10
A: 7 out of 10
T: 5 out of 10

Fourth Course:

15820162_10153871647236706_1651893622_n‘Curé Nantais et ses graines de sésame, wasabi en croustillant sur sa mâche Nantaise, vinaigrette à la framboise’

Google translate: ‘Curé Nantais and sesame seeds, wasabi by crunching on his Nantes cheese, raspberry vinaigrette’ (HAHA, this made me giggle.)

Me: Curé Nantais [is a well-known cheese specific to the region], fried/crisped with wasabi and served with a raspberry vinaigrette

The cheese had a similar chewy texture as halloumi and had a more cheddar like taste. The layers of .. whatever they fried it in because it was too thin to be pastry .. were thin and crunchy. We didn’t detect any wasabi flavour but the raspberry vinaigrette on the salad leaves was refreshing. Léa’s family members noted that the cheese is meant to be soft and melted rather than a solid block but I really enjoyed it. If it was served to me again, I would definitely devour it. Lisa enjoyed it and said that if the vinaigrette had a bit more of a vinegar flavour, it was be a gooood dish. 

F: 7 out of 10
A: 7 out of 10
T: 8 out of 10


At this point, three hours into the meal, Léa says “I’m not too full, it’ll be just the right amount”

My face dropped in amazement… I’ve been full since the main course! You are an inspiration Léa! 😉 


Fifth [and Final] Course:

15857301_10153880916391706_1115808089_o‘Délice Dulcey tuilé sur son croustillant à la praline’

Google translate: Delight Dulcey tiled on her crunchy praline

Me: Dulce de leche [I really struggled to find an english word because I don’t think we even have one…. so here’s a spanish word instead] on a crunchy praline base served with dark chocolate, and a caramel sauce.

The ‘dulce de leche’ itself was light, not too sweet and melted in the mouth. They praline base was crunchy and not too sweet either. Lisa would have preferred a thicker base for a greater crunch to accompany the creamy flavour of the ‘dulce de leche’. The biscuit stuck in the side seemed a bit unnecessary as it was a little soft and didn’t add any particular or exciting flavour. The combination of the cheesecake and chocolate was delicious as the dark flavour cute through any sweetness. However I found the caramel sauce to make it overpoweringly sweet. We both agreed that if the dessert had been accompanied by a fruity sauce or coulis it could have given more flavour than just sugar. In the end, it was tastyyyyyy. The scoring may seem like we are contradicting ourselves but as I mentioned earlier, we try to review the whole dish with all its components, not just the bits we liked. Therefore…

F: 6 out of 10
A: 7 out of 10
T: Lisa 6 out of 10   — Georgie 8 out of 10

And that’s our French Christmas Lunch!

I hope it’s given you a bit of an insight of what French cuisine is like and maybe some ideas for you to try at home for yourself! We are so grateful to Léa and her family for sharing Christmas with us and our stomachs are almost ready to forgive us for eating so much… so for now:

Happy New Year everybody!

Xo.

new year, new me. (lol jk jk)

new year, new me (lol jk jk)

Happy 2017 Everybody!

I hope you all had a cracking evening, whether it was lying on the sofa, out partying, cooking up a storm or even working (as some of my dear friends did, you are amazing, girls!). This year one of the big newspapers issued an article that said that around 70% of the UK population were staying in for New Years this year. While many of my friends were staying at home… I wasn’t going to be one of them. 🙂 

But… I had no plan whatsoever. Danny and I just said to each other that we’ll celebrate in Nottingham. Okay, I should rephrase so I report accurate information: I decided we were celebrating at the house in Nottingham. It was looking like it was going to be a little house gathering with a couple of friends, when I happened to come across an advert on instagram (of all places) of “New Year’s at Revolución de Cuba”. Excited by the idea, I immediately sent a screenshot of the advert to Danny and we gave them a call! It was £25 for the evening per person. The wristband included three free cocktails or double shot drinks, cloakroom usage, food that was served and a chance to dance into the New Year. I was sold. 

On Saturday 31st December, Danny and I headed out to town for lunch, then to meet Danny’s friend Chris at the station, then to wander around until Hannah arrived at 16:30. I was on a hunt for something fun to wear for the night out and managed to find a sparkly top on sale in River Island. We bought ingredients to make fajitas and inflated helium balloons saying happy new year on them! The house in Notts is very well decorated and maintained this year. 😄

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Once home, we sat down on the sofas to relax for a bit. We waited for Karmen to return from work, her friend Vivien and another friend of ours, Max, to show up for food. They arrived and we sat down to our stomachs’ delight to eat the feast we had made. With a bottle of prosecco open, the atmosphere was nothing but festive.

Without really looking at the clock the girls decided to head up stairs to get ready for the night ahead. What we didn’t know are two things: It was 20:30 and it would take us an hour to get ready. We didn’t even have to shower, just apply some makeup, brush our hair and put shoes on!

Yes, we fell into the trap the typical “girls take forever” argument and we were gutted. The photo opportunities in front of our decorations were snapped away from us as we were meant to be getting the 21:50 tram to the centre of town. We managed to desperately take three polaroids but no electronic pictures until we reached the restaurant/bar/ party venue. 

Both floors were open, playing different music (mostly pop), and there was a group of drummers at the beginning which were really good!!

10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

confetti canons fired, everyone yelling, hugging, dancing, it was a brilliant 00:00 for January 1st 2017.

The rest of the night was a mix of tequila shots, deep conversations, and my favourite moment of the new year so far: finding a £1 coin down the side of one of the sofas. I am notorious for finding one pennies on the ground when I am out and about, and firmly believe in the saying:

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So if I’ve found a £1… how much luck have I just cashed in!?

Who knows. Nonetheless, I hope this year brings you all the best health, happiness and luck towards doing what you love, being happy and just having a cracking year. 

Ta ta for now!

Xo.

A French Christmas #4: the finale

A French Christmas #4: the finale

The last morning broke on the green and hilly horizons of Plerín and we joined the family at the table for breakfast. An odd thing that struck me was that the adults all put their cups of tea in bowls (that I would assume would be for cereal or other food products) and dipped bread in them before taking a bite. 

Whaaaat?

As I am not a tea-drinker, I stuck to butter on baguette and orange juice. We also tried some of the homemade jams – apricot, orange and rhubarb. Before long, we were once again packed and in the car heading to the seaside to have a little walk and breath of fresh air. We stopped in the little seaside town of Binic where there is a little harbour for boats and a lighthouse at the end of the pier/harbour wall.

The skies were glowing blue and there was a refreshing breeze blowing through the harbour. 

Our destination was Nantes Atlantique Airport to put me on a plane back to Manchester at 16:50. We bought some baguettes for Lisa and I to have on the way seeing as we were driving through the lunch hours and the return journey went without a hitch. We arrived at the airport at 15:00 and the check in queue was short.

However I didn’t want to keep everyone waiting so said goodbye to Léa’s dad, her sister, Léa and Lisa. 

I still haven’t mastered the art of not tearing up in airports so it was probably good to say goodbye rather then the four of them watching me blubber for ten minutes. I just cry easily. I’m too familiar with goodbyes in airports but that is not said with any negative emotion. I’ve been absolutely spoilt in Nantes, and I am so grateful to the LeCuddenac (I’m awful at spelling french words… sorry Léa!) family for being the best hosts I’ve ever had. 

To Lisa and Léa: be amazing, do what you love, and I hope to see you both again very soon ❤

“There is magic in long-distance friendships. They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes beyond being physically together and is often more profound.” – Diana Cortes
“We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.”

Until next time,

Xo.

A French Christmas #3: nantes then northbound

The first adventure of the day was another trip into the centre of Nantes. This time we headed to the famous Île de Nantes that sits in the centre of the river Loire. We caught the tram from the stop called Plaisance (after turning down a few wrong streets eh Léa? 😉 ) down into the centre. After crossing a bridge onto the island, we arrived at one of Nantes most famous attractions. Every year the city commissions artists and similar folk to create works or attractions across the city and it is a very popular.’Les Machines de L’Île’ started as an idea for one of these summers and has turned out to be a permanent feature. It was started on the old docks and the warehouses are still used in both summer and winter for shows and other displays in the afternoons. 

(This is the link if ya wanna see it in full: http://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/en/ )

The best way to show you it, from our walk around, is the pictures I took. I have to say, the elephant was just huuuuuge. 

We also walked further along the side of the docks, passing a gigantic crane, and seeing another feature which is a set of rings that run down one long side of the barriers by the river. It was time to head back to the city as Léa’s dad was picking us up for our two hour drive north to visit another set of grandparents. As we were crossing the bridge I heard Léa say “oh that’s our tram” making it’s away towards the tram stop 100 metres from us. 

“Shall we run?” 

“LET’S DO IT.” (obvs me embracing the thrills in life)

Of course there was a set of traffic lights between the tram stop and us… but with luck on our side and completely embracing the concept the j-walking, we ran across it as cars zoomed towards us and managed to make the tram. I think I saw the tram driver look a little amused by our little sprint and took pity by waiting those vital few seconds for us. 

Well, what’s life without a bit of excitement? Hehe. 

We walked through the streets on the western side, stopped at a famous bakery for an éclair and pain au chocolat, and headed up to our meeting point. Fabulous. We also passed through la Passage Pomeraye that was so picturesque with it’s blue Christmas trees and lights. 

Again, more pictures 😀

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Just after 2:30pm we were on the motorway heading north to Rennes then towards Saint-Brieuc for one more Christmas feast and to see Léa’s Grandpa and [same] Uncle [& fam]. The journey ended up taking about three hours. We also stopped by the seaside to take a short walk along the promenade and breathe in the fresh salty air. The Grandparents house was like a cottage in a fairytale movie. It looked adorable. 15801013_10153872304656706_1974967493_n

We unpacked, changed into “fancier” clothing and headed downstairs. Soon enough, the appetisers appeared, then we seated ourselves for dinner, and to tell you the truth… Léa kept saying “oh, wait for boxing day, that’s going to be the feast” and I kept thinking “Pah, woman how can you have more than five courses!?” 

Oh boy, oh boy: I was wrong

People. If you ever have the pleasure of being invited for a French Christmas, prepare yourselves. Your willpower will be tested and I suggest you were stretchy jeans and not a tight skirt…. unlike one silly blonde girl… 😀 

From the first appetiser to dessert, it was awesome. 

To start, we had mackerel pâté with gingerbread cake, smoked salmon with cream cheese on a macaroon and a ‘cocktail’ of mussels, prawns, tomato and scallops. Is your mouth drooling yet? Mine was.

The second course was oysters. I had three (I didn’t want to let you down mother [she loves oysters]) while the three men of the family [coincidentally all related] devoured atleast ten each. This was served with a light white wine. 

Third course: fois gras with fig and more gingerbread cake, also served with bread and a sweet white wine. 

Fourth course: chapón (basically a chicken that is actually a cockerel which is the same animal but just a little bigger and has male parts [I’m typing this following Léa’s and my short but stubborn argument in Spanish]) with beautifully soft potatoes and sweetened water chestnuts. Our drinks changed to red wine from this course onwards.

“Oh, what about dessert and cheese?, you ask”

That’s right folks. This dinner was longer than five courses. 

The fifth course included four strong cheeses and bread. Having overshot on the first four, I took it easy on this course and had a nibble on the goats cheese. It was fresh and delicious. 

Last but not least, the dessert arrived as our sixth course. My stomach suddenly seemed to jump into action at the two ice cream logs placed before us and I was able to devour a slice of each. The first is chocolate and caramel, and the other mango and raspberry. 

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While the French chatted away downstairs and Lisa messaged her family, I was asleep first. Shattered, very well fed and in a sweet slumber.

Xo.

A French Christmas #2: Christmas Day itself!

A French Christmas #2: Christmas Day itself!

First sleep in on Christmas ever.

New Christmas tradition decided.

Although it wasn’t a festive morning of jumping on my parents with a little sack of presents, it was a lovely morning. We got up, showered, and were soon out of the door to go to lunch with Léa’s mum’s side of the family. And without a doubt, all three of us were attired in gloriously dorky Christmas Jumpers:

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It was a surprise to drive out of the city and to find that we were going to a restaurant for food. After a few wrong turns, one whole circle of a roundabout, we arrived at this beautiful looking building surrounded by vineyards.

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Inside it was traditional old wooden beams and concrete walls with stone fireplaces and tall wine racks. We were sat at a long table for about thirteen people and kissed many cheeks before we found our seats. Many French people in the restaurant were apparently noting that Lisa and I were both definitely not French and my blonde hair and garish jumper immediately identified me as an English girl!

And now, the second feast of Christmas commenced. 

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the set menu for the day! 

It took about four hours, and a few glasses of wine, to finish the entire thing! Lisa managed to eat more than me but my word, we were so full. 

In order to stretch our limbs and give our stomachs a rest, Léa suggested we go for a walk around Downtown Nantes. It didn’t take long to go back into the city… possibly because Lisa and I started multiple games of eye-spy all the way in. We were rather good at it. I was amazed at the city centre. The massive castle loomed above us, surrounded by picturesque cobbled streets, and a grand Cathedral looming in the background. [Fun fact: Nantes Cathedral is the tallest Cathedral in France (not the Notre Dame) – told by Léa’s Dad] Being Christmas day, nothing was open. So we wandered around the city streets, sightseeing and listening to the pop music playing by the fake ice rink. 

At 7:30pm there was a Christmas Light Show on the front of the Cathedral so we sat in the only place open – an Irish Pub called Giggs – and chatted until Léa’s Dad and youngest sister arrived at about 7 o’clock. Slight mishap though… the show didn’t start until 8pm! So we once again played eye-spy to pass the time, throwing in a few games of 20 questions too. In no time, and after buying cups of mulled wine, the show started. 

No camera will catch the beauty of the colours, but it was very vibrant and beautiful

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Nantes Cathedral [photo cred to Lisa]
Once it finished, we headed for the car and home, ready to crash on the sofa for a cosy Christmas evening. We exchanged Christmas gifts, put on Love Actually and also managed to Skype the wonderful Michael in Montréal for a good chat. 

It all makes me think of the timeless movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and Clarence the Angel saying:

“Remember, George: no man is a failure without friends”

Xo.