Year two: reflections 

 

Yay! Second year completed – no more exams, revision… just relaxing and enjoying the sunshine! Not for long though..

I fly out to Spain next weekend for 2 months to work as an au pair, and then come back for august before flying out to Russia for 9 months. Is this real life? I cannot believe that it’s happening already! My year abroad is finally upon me, and I have to admit I’m excited but also a little nervous.

Last summer I had a not so optimal au pair experience, so I’m really hoping and praying that this year won’t be like that. I’ll be living in Madrid until the end of July, and I’ve never been there before so it will all be new to me! I’m hoping to make some friends at the church I’ve found and intend to go to while I’m there, but I also hope to gel well with the family.

I will take as many pictures as possible so hopefully a few will end up on here, and also I’m going to do some year abroad posts – things like what to do/what not to do and how to go about studying your language while abroad and making the most of your time out here. I hope it will be useful!

The weather in Exeter is beautiful right now, I’m loving the sunshine and clear blue skies. I’m missing my church camp back home (this weekend) which is sad, but I rang my family yesterday to top up on some lurve before I go home on Tuesday. Yeah, I know, I’m already about to go home and leave for the summer!!

I will admit, this year hasn’t been easy. It’s been somewhat easier than last year in the sense that I knew what to expect a little more. You can usually tell the difference between and fresher and a second/third year because of their confidence levels and how they behave. I definitely feel more confident and well on my way to being a True Adult. Although I’m not sure I’ll ever fully grow up! But I can at least feed myself decently well and put a wash on once a week so we’re doing good so far!

I was so glad to walk out of my last exam yesterday knowing that that was it. The thing is, I’d been struggling with the more complicated grammar stuff we learned this year in Russian, and even Spanish was giving me a run for my money! The step up was bigger than I expected… so I had to amp up my game and work harder than last year. I pretty much coasted last year – which is not the best approach, but then it doesn’t count towards your degree so most people do even less work than I did!

So yeah that’s the first thing – this year was harder work-wise. Because it counted. So everything had to be good. I had to read tonnes of books and things while doing all of my grammar/homework for my lectures and preparing before the lecture in order to write my coursework in my second term. And I had to revise hard over Christmas for my January exams, which is never fun at that time of year.

Secondly, I learned to trust God a lot. I couldn’t work a lot this year because I was so busy with my studies, so there were some hairy moments where I had barely enough money for food and things. Don’t worry – I made it through, but it was a little rough in places and this is also partly because I didn’t really earn a lot of money last summer. It’s hard to get a job as a student because bosses look at your CV, realise they’ll train you up to only lose you again in 3 months and say nah not having you. #studentlife.

But this summer that won’t happen as I’m working as an au pair through a company and the family has to pay you. But anyway, back to my point. I had to learn to trust God with my finances… to trust it would all be OK and try and still meet up with friends even if I couldn’t buy food or a coffee, but to just be there to enjoy being with them because that’s the important bit.

Lastly, I learned to forgive myself and love myself for who I am. It’s something I’ve found hard my whole life, and I’m sure I’m not alone with this. But this year has really been a turn around in many ways… and that has definitely been helped by reading the Bible and discovering what God thinks about me and not worrying about what other people think.

Bring on summer… I hope you’re all well and enjoying the weather as much as I am!

Brownies

You guys…. LOOK at these!!!

 

 

Want the recipe? Of course you do! The great thing about these (and most recipes I make) is that you usually have all of the ingredients already and they are super simple. The secret ingredient to these is *drumroll* ….. chickpeas! Yup! Chickpeas – they are amazing and give it a chewy texture 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1.5 cups oats
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup or agave/ liquid-y sweetener of choice (I would add another tbsp. if you’re using maple syrup and it’s not sweet enough for you – test the batter before you put it in the oven)
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder/raw cacao powder
  • 4 tbsp. soy/almond/plant milk (and an extra one-two if the mixture is too dry!)

Chocolate glaze

  • Handful of dates
  • 1/2 cup soy/almond/plant milk
  • 1 heaped tbsp. cocoa powder/raw cacao powder

Method:

1/ Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (Fan 180C/400F/Gas 6) and line / grease a small baking disk 8×8 with baking paper/coconut oil.

2/ Put all ingredients for the brownie into your food processor/blender and mix well.

3/ If the mixture seems too dry add the extra tbsps. of milk

4/ Spread the mixture evenly into the baking dish. It will be quite sticky.

5/ Put in the oven for ~30 mins… I needed less time because I had a fan oven so make sure you check it.

It will have a hard crust when it’s done and will feel like it’s not done in the middle (this makes it chewy!!)

6/ Leave it to cool.

7/ In the meantime make the chocolate glaze by blending the dates and milk in your blender, then transferring them to a small sauce pan and simmering on a lower heat for 5 mins, or until warm and smooth.

8/ Stir in the tbsp. cocoa powder and stir until glossy and smooth. Don’t worry if there are some date chunks left, sometimes they don’t all blend up!

9/ Let the sauce cool down and thicken up before smoothing it on top of your brownies. Cut the brownies into squares/shapes…

10/ Serve!!

 

You can thank me later 😉

 

I’m learning

Hey guys I’m back! (Finally!)

Sorry I haven’t posted in ages I’ve been busy juggling work / sleep / friends / jobs / life generally so I’ve not been able to really sit down and write in ages.

Honestly, my weeks have been quite long and tiring as I’m cycling absolutely everywhere and while it’s great for fitness it does tire you out. On average I cycle between 4.5 – 8 miles+ a day depending on if I’m going to Aldi or town / to meet friends or if I have to make a couple of trips to campus! And then on Thursday I spend 3 hours with other girls in my group for a project we’re doing together trying to joint-write a commentary on a video which was absolutely exhausting – not made any easier by the fact that we’re all feeling a bit upset with one member as she’s not really doing any work but relying on us to do it all!

This term Russian is really biting me in the bum. I mean I understand a lot more than before but it’s still complicated. Still, every little sentence I get right, every word I remember when asked… all of these are little wins in my opinion. It shows progress – and that counts.

Little things are keeping me going – people from back home are sending me lovely little presents which make me smile when I get them out of the postbox – today I got a Nakd fruit and nut bar and I just love them – they have so many flavours but I love the gingerbread one the best ❤ especially at this time of year…. anyone remember my pumpkin sesh last year? Well trust me it’s happening again… the moment Aldi starts selling them I buying one (or more!) and making as much pumpkin soup and pancakes as I can!!!!

Autumn is the best season!

Recently I’ve been really challenged to read my Bible more. We had a preach the Sunday before last about Recycling Prayers… as in, the more you read the Bible, the more that it becomes ingrained in you and then in situations when you don’t know what to pray, you can rely on the things you’ve read in the Bible to guide you.

I thought that was a great idea… so I’m trying to make time to do that in the morning before my day kicks off. I’m also listening to some interesting podcasts from Bethel about laughing at lies and this has been really helpful too. Things like, I can never do that, I’m not good/smart/pretty enough… all of these little things we tell ourselves which so aren’t true!!

I still have 2 jobs – The Ram and Deliveroo, so that adds more cycle time to my already very physically active lifestyle which I kind love if I’m completely honest – it means I don’t have to worry so much about doing a workout – I’m being paid to cycle!! And if I want to get to lectures on time cycling is the quickest way. So it means I do it without thinking, and it just takes the pressure off. And that’s the best kind of exercise because you enjoy it more!! Although not gonna lie the elevation here in Exeter is big!! My thighs were so sore a few weeks ago when I was getting used to it. But at least I’m getting plenty of sleep having worn myself out through the day!!!

So yeah no worries guys I’m still here, alive and well… just being a student I guess!! Hope you like my new recipe which I posted earlier – it was so good and makes a massive batch so you can save it to have through the week if you’re cooking for one or just have it as a family 🙂 It’s amazing what good food can do for the soul!

Here’s the link: https://adventuresofababelfish.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/autumn-chilli/

Hope you all enjoy the beautiful colour and atmosphere that Autumn brings 🙂

 

 

Crepes 

Happy shrove Tuesday everyone! (Hope I spelled that right!)

Easter will be here soon…. But first! Pancake day! And guess what… Students can afford pancakes too.

I’ve got a new recipe – tried and tested and it’s fabulous – I’m suffering from a bit of a chesty cough at the moment so these cheered me up a lot! 🙂 I know this blog isn’t only meant to be about recipes but it would be selfish not to share this one!

Ingredients:

– 1 cup flour. (To make gluten free use chickpea flour – that’s the one I used (in the pictures))

– 1 cup almond/hemp/koko milk

– 1 tbsp coconut oil (olive can probably be used too but I haven’t tried that!)  and a little extra for frying.

Method:

  1. Stir/blend* together flour and milk until smooth with no lumps.
  2. Stir in coconut oil and put in the fridge for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Pour a little oil into the frying pan and use a paper towel to coat the pan.
  4. Put it on medium heat for a few minutes to warm up – it’s really important that it’s no higher than medium or the crepes will burn!
  5. Pour approx. 1/2 cups worth of batter into the pan, then pick it up and make the batter spears until it covers the bottom of the pan by tilting it.
  6. Cook until the edges are done and the middle bit of the creep is tacky – kind of half dry, then flip it over. And cook for up to a minute on the other side.
  7. Turn out onto a plate and cover with lemon and sugar or agave/maple syrup.
  8. Huzzah – crepes. It makes about 6 big ones 🙂

NB: The first one might come out a little thinner than the others, this is normal! Also the pan kinda makes them better and better as you go as it gets to the right temperature.

*I used my largest nutri-bullet cup and the extractor blade.

It’s almost Christmas!!!!

I honestly can’t believe today is the first of December. Where did all of that time go? My flat is planning on doing a flat Christmas dinner this Sunday to celebrate 🙂 We haven’t managed to get decorations up yet but we’ve seen how festive F1 (two flats below us) has already got tinsel and fairy lights in the kitchen so the competition is officially ON.

Speaking of celebrations – I am now finally free of the Magdalen Chapter Hotel, although I will miss some of my colleagues. I will begin at the Ram Bar (student bar on site) next week which I am so looking forward to! I also have been paid finally by the hotel, which means I can get Christmas presents, hopefully get a new laptop (my current one is old, slow and dying!), and possibly go on a weekend away with Grace church. Who knows??

I went to Zizzis last night with the girls from my flat (minus Ellen, who had a Christmas party to go to) and it was so special. 

  
We also got a whopping 40% off all of our meals with my NUS card which was AMAZING. Mine only cost £8.60 in the end and the others’ were around £11-15 each! I totally recommend them. 

  

  
We then went around town snapping some funny pictures with all of the Christmas lights and Christmas trees on display 🙂 It also turns out that I’m not the only one having difficulties with some of the guys in our flat – most of the girls admitted that they didn’t like them either and that they were sad to hear about all of the pointed questions and jokes they make to me about my faith etc.

It’s been sooo windy down here in Exeter recently – almost as bad as those funny strong wind videos in Norway I’ve seen on Facebook recently. It’s not been too cold, but we’ve had some bitter northerly winds. Amazingly, my Raynaud’s seems to have cleared up. (For those who don’t know, it’s a circulatory condition where if you don’t regulate your body temperature then the blood flow gets restricted to fingers/toes/extremities and then once it goes back they swell up/go white/red and it can get itchy and horrid. Or they go purple. It can go away naturally or it can lead to further problems such as gangrene if it worsens. Lovely.)

But I don’t seem to have it anymore. Which is amazing. Literally, at this time of year I live, breath and sleep in finger-less gloves and ski mittens to try and keep my fingers warm, and double or even triple pairs of socks.

But this year that hasn’t happened, and even if it’s not that cold down here, often when its cold, then warmer, then cold again that can be the worst time. I’ve been walking around without gloves on over the last week – ok maybe putting them in my pockets occasionally – but they are fine!

We’ve been praying for this to go away for a while in my church back home and my family. So it’s a bit of a miracle – and it means going to Russia in the winter months is a bit more inviting! I also think my diet has helped. I eat very plant based at the moment, especially as I can’t really afford meat, and this has been known to help clear up heart disease and other circulatory conditions etc. So wow. Wowee. 🙂

I’m being a bit cheeky writing this now as I have a lecture in approximately 13 minutes…. but fortunately it’s in the forum on the ground floor which is only 8 minutes quick walk away. I do love to push things!

Until later!