Friday, 5 September 2014

Back to it

These days I don't feel as bereft as I used to when the children go back to school in September.  The silence in the house is still deafening, and I miss their wild enthusiasms and crazy logic spinning through my day, but these days they really need to get stuck back into school by the time September comes around - and more importantly they want to get back to it too.  

Olivia has left primary school and is now at high school with Cam, which they are both very pleased about.  I am delighted too because the days of the school run have finally come to an end.  To celebrate, I have waved them off to school each morning this week still in my pyjamas - standing on the doorstep, with a cup of coffee in my hand, as I watch them walk up the road together.  Utter luxury.

"Cam, why are you so tall?" #backtoschool

In one more week I go back to work too.  I'm really looking forward to it.  I have just fourteen more weeks of placement, and then I will be qualified - so exciting.  Yesterday, my parents-in-law sent me these tiny little nurse figurines to mark the final stage of my training.  They are sitting by my desk, reminding me of everything that is still to come.

A wonderful, surprise present from my lovely in-laws @turnedupto11 and @jmnewmalden - three perfect, tiny vintage nurse figurines.  I love them.  The Sister in the middle has a particularly realistic pose - her ward would be very well run! #nurses #figuri          

Saturday, 30 August 2014

10 things

  • Graham and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary.  We went camping again - and Olivia insisted on doing a photo shoot of us snuggling up on a bench together.  She took close to 400 photos, just by holding the button down on my phone camera and telling us to smile.  There was just one I liked.  We took an anniversary selfie instead, which I am much happier with.  Sorry, Olivia!
 ...and a more formal, posed anniversary picture (by Livvy) #anniversaryAnniversary selfie #anniversary
  • The children and I went to Brick Lane, ate pakoras in the sunshine as we wandered around, and came home with a huge bag of bagels for the weekend.
 Eating pakoras, walking down Brick Lane in the sunshine #london #summerClever me for buying such a huge bag when I was in Brick Lane yesterday #bagelsallweekend
  • Cam likes his bagels with kippers for breakfast.  I like mine with avocado.
 A Brick Lane bagel, and a perfectly ripe avocado. The breakfast of champions (I hope - am off to parkrun shortly) #breakfast #avo #bagel #weekend
  • I did my first parkrun in my new running club t-shirt this morning.  Rumours that I chose this club because I find the shade of blue on their shirt particularly pleasing, are entirely false.
    My first run wearing my new running club t-shirt! Another fast-ish parkrun; my times are coming back down again  #running #etonmanorac #parkrun
  • We have a new dishwasher.  It is so quiet, it purrs.
  • Olivia sewed herself a top.  This is the first time she has done any dressmaking, and I was so impressed with the results.  She did everything herself, and all I did was explain some unfamiliar terms on the pattern.  The pattern is the Oliver + S Ice Cream Dress/Top, in the age 12 size.  It comes out quite short on her - she is a couple of months shy of turning 12, but is very tall.  She is keen to make another, and add a few centimetres onto the length.
  • I did some dressmaking too, and made myself a new dress - another Lisette Portfolio dress.  It has a seagull ribbon trim on the hem, which I bought in Whitby, and contrast fabric inside the pockets.  It may be my most favourite dress I've ever made for myself - or it may just be that whatever I've made most recently is my favourite.
 New dress finished! Ready to go camping in the morning now. The pattern is the Lisette portfolio dress (Simplicity 2245) #dressmaking #sewing #dress #handmade #pattern
  • I am keen to make more clothes while I am still on my long summer holiday.  Perhaps the Lisette Diplomat Dress, which I have the pattern for, but have not yet made.  Or maybe this Everyday Skirt?
  • My sister and her two small girls came for a visit.  The littlest cousin was completely unfazed by the two big teenagers thrusting their cameras at her every time she smiled, did something cute, or moved.
 Rosetta gets papped
  • I made 22 raspberry madeleines yesterday afternoon.  There are only five left this afternoon.
     22 raspberry madeleines. Utterly delicious. Took me less than 5 mins to make and just 9 mins to bake. Very satisfying. #baking #cake #madeleines #raspberry

Friday, 22 August 2014

Run report - a running club

Finishing an early morning run - red face clashing nicely with my orange t-shirt
Joining a running club is something I've been mulling over for about six months.  The running magazine I read (Women's Running - do you read it? I am a big fan) frequently tells me that joining a running club would be: 
  • good for my running, 
  • good for my social life, and 
  • not at all intimidating.  
To be honest, I've been a little sceptical about those last two points.  The mere phrase 'running club' is pretty intimidating.  But Graham is also a member of a local running club, as are many of my friends at Hackney Marshes parkrun, and they tell me the same thing.

One of the major factors that put me off club running, was the commitment: I work full time, I work antisocial shift patterns, and I have plenty of other things I need to fit into my life.  Was joining a running club trying to fit too much in?  Would they expect me to be on committees and doing races every other weekend?  Again, Graham and other running friends assured me not.

The running club closest to where we live is Eton Manor Athletics Club - a 101 year old club, with a permanent clubhouse in a large, picturesque park, just a ten minute walk away from our house.  It has the added benefit of not being the same club that Graham belongs to - he is so much faster and fitter than me, and I didn't want to join somewhere where I might always be known as 'Graham's slower wife'!  When I looked at Eton Manor AC's training schedule, I saw that they train on three evenings during the week, as well as organise weekend group runs - so even with my unpredictable shifts, I should surely be able to manage to go along once a week? 

And still I dithered.  I've been running for just over a year now, and yet I still feel like a bit of an imposter most of the time.  Am I a real runner?  Well, a real runner is just someone who runs regularly, so of course I am.  I also worried that a running club would be be made up of super-fast young people, full of disdain for my 28 minute 5k time.  This of course, was ridiculous.  I know from going to parkrun every weekend, that running is actually an incredibly inclusive sport - where elite runners cheer on the beginners, beginners can run alongside people who've been running for decades, and everyone, aged from 7 to 87, is impressed with everyone else's time and effort.  

Last night I decided to put aside my uncharacteristic nervousness and give club running a go.  I went along to Eton Manor AC, for their weekly interval training session.  Right from the minute I turned up, everybody was so very welcoming and friendly.  They asked me about my running experiences, were impressed that I go to parkrun every Saturday, reassured me that the club was full of runners of many different abilities and speeds, and generally put me at my ease.

We ran in a big pack through the local parks to Walthamstow Marshes, chatting as we ran.  This was a very new experience for me as I generally do all my running by myself, listening to music on headphones.  Surprisingly I found I could chat and run at the same time though.  Once at the marshes, we found a straight, paved path and started interval training: two minutes running hard (the guide for 'hard' was at your fastest 10k pace, but as I don't run 10ks I tried to run at my hardest parkrun, 5k pace) followed by one minute walking or slow jogging (I walked - as did most people).  The first two minutes felt like the longest two minutes I'd ever run - it seemed to go on forever!  But after that I got used to it, and managed absolutely fine.  The nice thing about interval training is that everybody gets to run at the pace which is 'hard' for them, and yet as we were running back and forth along the same straight piece of track, you always had somebody in your sights and felt very much a part of the club.  We did this for 30 minutes, before jogging back together to the clubhouse for tea and biscuits and more chat.  

Someone told me at the end that we'd run 8k altogether - which is by far the furthest I have ever managed.  I've only run further than 5k once or twice before.  I couldn't believe what I had achieved - a longer distance than I had ever run before, and at a harder pace than I would ever do by myself.  I was so pleased!  This, ultimately, is why I will definitely be joining Eton Manor AC and incorporating a club run into my life once a week.  I was on such a high when I finished.  Running with a club will improve my running like nothing else, and push me to do more.  But in a friendly, sociable and surprisingly uncompetetive environment.

What about you?  Would you join a sports club?  Do you have similar hang-ups to the ones I had, and wonder if they are only for super-fit, semi-professional athletes?  

I'm really looking forward to the new developments in my running that I know being a club runner will bring.  I'll let you know how I get on, once my achey legs have recovered and I've managed to get out of the bath.

I am in great need of a muscle therapy bubble bath this evening. I went running with my local running club this evening and ran almost twice as far as I've ever run before! #running #legsdontworkanymore #intervaltraining #etonmanorac #london #bath #bubble
I really earned this muscle therapy bubble bath last night!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Books and sky

We went to North Yorkshire for a week, and camped on the edge of Dalby Forest on the North York Moors.  I realised that one of the most important reasons I love camping is because it forces me to slow down and do nothing.  

We went for long walks during the day, and in the late afternoon and evening I passed the time by reading (four and a half novels in five days - what a treat!) and gazing at the sky.





That's it - books and sky.  




Yorkshire sunset, seen from the tent doorway last night. This photo doesn't reveal how windy it is camping on the edge of the moors! #camping #yorkshire #sunset #summer

But honestly - what more do you need?

Forest walks through the tall trees of Dalby #summer #forest #walk

I ❤️ Yorkshire #summer #camping #sky #sunset




Friday, 8 August 2014

The best breakfast

I finally found a granola recipe that is quick and easy to make - no tedious removing from the oven to stir every five minutes - and which doesn't require me to hand over my entire month's food budget to Holland and Barrett in order to buy ingredients: this recipe - from the brilliant Jack Monroe.  
  • The recipe uses ingredients that I always have in the house: oats, peanut butter, honey and a little pat of butter.  That's it.
  • It took me about 2 minutes to mix and then just 15 minutes to cook.
  • It made the whole house smell amazing while it baked.
  • Cam did a quality control test once it was cooled, and I had to physically remove the spoon from his hand in order to stop him from eating the WHOLE BATCH.

Granola jars
I had some for breakfast this morning with yogurt, banana and fridge jam.  It was one of the nicest breakfasts I've had in months.

A very fine breakfast

The fridge jam is a cross between a sauce and a jam.  It needs to be kept in the fridge, and is a lovely thing to have on hand as the basis for a fruity breakfast, a smoothie or a pudding.  This one is made from half a punnet of blackcurrants - left over from an enthusiastic session at the PYO farm last week - a few shakes of caster sugar, and two tablespoons of water.  I put everything in a pan, brought it to the boil, and left it to bubble for a few minutes before cooling and putting it in a clean jar. 

Blackcurrant fridge jam

It is nice and sharp, and a wonderful colour.  You can make this from any fruit, but berries and stone fruits work particularly well.  The key to making fridge jam is just to use a very small spoonful or two of water in your mixture.  Proper jam uses much more sugar and no water; stewed fruit (or fruit compote) uses less sugar but more water - fridge jam falls somewhere in the middle.  

I love blackcurrants so much - such an interesting, feisty fruit.  This jar of them tastes  like distilled summer.      

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Oncology experiences

The longest placement of our course is for twelve weeks, towards the end of our third year.  We can ask to be placed in a particular specialism, and the university and the hospitals it partners with try to accommodate our requests.  I asked for oncology, and was given it.

It was a tough placement.  So much is expected of us by this stage in our course.  Our mentors are assessing whether or not they are happy for us to join the register of nurses, and we are acutely aware that in a few weeks or months (if our mentors are satisfied with our abilities) we will be newly qualified and practising independently.  We are trying to learn as much as possible while we still can, but also prove that we already know how to be safe and work as a graduate nurse.  We have seen so much by this stage of our course (after a Saturday night shift in A&E I truly thought I'd seen everything) - but of course we haven't seen or experienced a fraction of what there is to see.  People's bodies and minds still shock and surprise me.  This placement was when I properly understood that I will never stop learning.

And then there is oncology itself.  Cancer is a very complex disease that evolves and changes over time.  It can be cured and managed better than ever before - but not always.  It affects everybody differently, and touches a person's family, friends and lifestyle too.  

In my first week on the ward, one of the Macmillan Nurse Specialists said that I must make sure to spend a morning with her in one of the outpatient clinics before the end of the placement.  "You will get a very one-sided view of cancer by working on a ward," she told me.  It wasn't until the penultimate week of my placement that I got a chance to take her up on her invitation and join her in the outpatient clinic.  On the ward I cared for people who were very sick - either because their disease had progressed and they were close to end of life, or because the treatment they were receiving was making them extremely unwell, even though it may have been killing the cancer.  However, in the clinic I met a much greater number of patients who were either living a completely full life with cancer and whose symptoms were completely under control, or whose cancer had been cured or removed - by the often harrowing treatment we gave on the ward - and who had been in remission for many years.  Many of these people were the beneficiaries of the enormous amount of reasearch and experimentation that goes into oncology in this country.  It was helpful to be reminded that the very unwell people I was nursing on the ward, were just a small proportion of the number of people affected by the disease.

I had so much to think about and a great deal to say while I was on placement on this ward, but was unable to express it - partly due to confidentiality, but also because there was just so much to process in my mind.  I took even more photos than usual on my commutes, and tried to spend the time on the train really focusing on my nursing skills, and reflecting on my new life as a nurse.  I didn't get enough sleep because the shift pattern on this ward was unusually relentless, and I didn't run for the same reason.  To be able to give of yourself - as you need to do when you are a nurse, and in many other professions - you need to be able to look after yourself too.  I ended the placement with a new determination to make more time for running, sleeping, reading magazines and baking cakes - all those good things which recharge my batteries and keep me content. 

12:30pm - last week at Bart's so last week of St Paul's pictures. This one is for @runnergmcc who thinks I haven't taken enough! #stpauls  #london #work #studentnurse

6:55 - St Paul's looking particularly majestic this morning #stpauls #london #morning

6:45am - playing peepo with St Paul's #london #morning #stpauls #work

6:50am - looking up #stpauls #london

12:10 - came in early to do some shopping before work, and found myself admiring this view of St Paul's from the back as I came up the escalators from New Change #stpauls #london #sky

6:50am - the top of the dome, above the top of the trees #stpauls #sky #london #morning

6:45 - coming up from underground #london #tube #morning #work

Although I'm not going to be working in oncology when I qualify, I wonder if it might be something I return to at some point in my career.  As well as being the toughest placement I've done, it was also one of the most satisfying.  I had days where I came out of work on such a high because I knew I'd left patients feeling better at the end of the shift because of something I'd done.  And quite simply, that's what it's all about.

6:45am - steps like piano keys at St Paul's station #tube #london #work #commute

Sunday, 13 July 2014

A floral Japanese dress

A little bit of pinning and cutting this morning #dressmaking #dress #patterns #japanese

A couple of weeks ago, I made a second Japanese dress (here is the first one, which turned out to be a tunic for reasons of public decency).  This time I added 16cm to the length and  graded the side seams so that it continued the full, swingy shape.  This one is the perfect dress length for me - it falls a couple of centimetres above the knee.

New Japanese dress - with added length and a velvet ribbon hem this time #dress #dressmaking #patterns #japanese #sewing

I particularly love the neckline on this dress - it has both pleats as darts, and fits beautifully #dress #dressmaking

I bought the fabric from Stitch in Wanstead, which is a wonderful fabric shop specialising in dressmaking fabrics.  The staff in this shop have so much knowledge, and are happy for fabric ditherers like me to prowl around the shop for hours before finally purchasing something.  It is a cotton lawn, with a fine, light crispness which I love, and only cost me £8 a metre (I bought 3m to be cautious, but totally could have got away with 2.5m).  This makes the dress incredibly good value.

I absolutely love how the dress turned out, and I wear it often (as I do the first tunic-length attempt, which looks great over jeans or leggings).  The shape is full, but there are enough details to make it look stylish and not sack-like.  The pleated bodice is particularly pleasing.  This time I added a narrow velvet ribbon hem on the bottom, which is definitely my favourite way of finishing a hem on a dress, tunic or skirt (I learnt the technique many years ago, from this free Oliver + S skirt pattern).  Both this dress, and also the first tunic version, have attracted so many flattering comments from random people on the train - and even two policewomen walking past me in the street.   I love how both the style and the fabric are such a long way from anything you'd ever find in a shop. 

6:25am - Out to dinner after work tonight, so a dress and nice shoes are required. I might fall asleep with my head on the table by the end of the first course though, as I am so, so tired. #tired #work

For my birthday, my father gave me a second dress pattern book by Yoshiko Tsukiori (this one), and I have spent a great deal of time happily immersing myself in the book, and deciding what I want to make next.  This one, pictured below, is the most likely contender simply because of the delicious neckline. 

Considering what to sew next. Possibly this dress from the wonderful 'Clothing for Everyday Wear' by Yoshiko Tsukiori? Loving the neckline. #dressmaking #dress #patterns

This stage of planning and thinking is possibly one of the most enjoyable parts of dressmaking for me.  By the time I am ready to sew I have a very definite idea in my head of how the garment is going to turn out.  Then I'm just so eager to get on with the sewing so that I can start wearing it.      

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Messy desk - a snapshot

A snapshot of my life on my messy desk

On my messy desk this morning:
  • the milk bill
  • a letter from Olivia's school about a summer picnic
  • a free cup of coffee from Waitrose - thank you Waitrose
  • three unopened magazines
  • this week's Nursing Standard
  • a leaflet about pelvic radiotherapy in men
  • unexpected Amazon parcels, which I think may contain birthday presents
  • a new cookbook
  • a textbook on acute and critical care nursing
  • my Kindle - I need to load it up with more things to read later; I've just finished this book, which was a good recommendation from my father
  • keys and glasses
  • fabric for another dress
  • a freshly baked croissant in a paper bag (my breakfast, along with the coffee)
It is my day off today.  After I've tidied my desk I plan to sit in the garden and read the backlog of magazines and my new cookbook. 

Friday, 20 June 2014

10 things

The nice thing about getting an exciting new job in ITU, is that nothing really changes:
  • I made a new top.  It was meant to be a dress, but I failed to adjust for the fact that I am much taller than most Japanese women.
  • Newly made Japanese sundress a roaring success, except.... so short, it's rude. Unable to lean over or reach up without flashing my knickers. Forgot I am about 15cm taller than the average Japanese woman - it will have to be worn over skinny jeans. #sewing #patterns #dressmaking #dress #soshortitsrude #top
  • I love it though, and have bought more fabric so I can make myself a dress version.
  • More dressmaking plans #dress #dressmaking #fabric #patterns #japanese
  • I discovered that the best place to take a full legth photo of myself without balancing on the arm of a sofa or having to tidy an entire room first, is the changing room at work. 
  • Finally a picture of the whole of my new dress/top. The only full length mirror in my life is the one in the staff changing rooms at work. Fabric shopping this weekend for the next one I think! #dressmaking #dress #top
  • Basil is back in the kitchen - I run my hands through it when I stand at the sink.
  • Summer on the windowsill #summer #sunshine #herbs
  • I like these tiles at Aldgate station.
  • 4pm - excellent tiles at Aldgate station #london #tube
  • Graham is listening to James Brown and treating us all to funk.
  • Funkilicious! Husband playing along to James Brown's Get Up #saturdayfunk #jamesbrown #funk #practicekit
  • I have been running - but not enough.  I miss it.
  • Volunteering, rather than running, at parkrun this morning. The person who got this token today ran it in 14:52 #wow #parkrun #hackneymarshes
  • I baked brioche rolls, and Graham made a tarte au citron. 
  • Brioche #baking #breadThe most sublime tarte au citron that he's ever made - oof, SO GOOD!
  • The washing machine couldn't read the label that said the pillow was washable.
  • This was meant to be a washable pillow, but the machine thought otherwise #domesticity
  • When it's sunny, and I am not at work, I cycle over to the Olympic park with a quilt and sunbathe.    
  • This little ladybird is sunbathing with me, on my quilt #sunshine #summer #ladybird #quilt #lazysunday #weekend #london