Monday, 29 June 2015


Only a “simple” day trip

Sometimes in life, the best thing to do when you’re stuck on a problem (or in my case, assignment) is to leave it for a bit and come back to it a while after. Although it’s tempting to drill at the presently unsolvable question until an answer can be obtained, life has taught me that this is, to an extent, ineffective. It’s better to have a break and allow your mind to relax so that you can return with fresh ideas and clear thoughts. For many, a pause from work may mean resorting to the comforts of one bedroom, or even a quick chat with friends and family (be it online or via the telephone). In my case, there’s only one option: travel.

The four mighty pillars
Two heads on a vase
The graceful statuette
I’m sure you’ve realized by now through reading my blog posts that North East England is full of wonderful and hidden treasures. Just to name a few: Bamburgh Castle, Yarm, Tynemouth etc. All of these places have a unique and long history. Some have been well preserved in writing, while others have been retained through specific landmarks. On this very occasion, I decided to visit Vindolanda, a Roman auxiliary fort.

A bi-cultural background

Approaching the excavation arena

As someone who studied anthropology at higher education level, culture is topic that consistently arose through speech, lectures and articles. It’s a curious concept that, if we take the simplest understanding, can be perceived as the collective term used to group specific norms, beliefs, and practices associated with a particular community. There are some controversies regarding this statement, but I for one think that this is the best criteria to represent this highly complicated idea. At the Roman Vindolanda, the name immediately gives away the sort of cultural traits that you’d expect to see. Perhaps the slightly less obvious side is that this magnificent site is set against a very British countryside.

That, in my opinion, is why there is a “bi-cultural” background.

The bold eagle
But that’s not the end of the story, oh no. The blend of cultures is embraced warmly by the remainder of Hadrian’s Wall (which was originally a 122 AD northern defensive fortification established by the Roman Emperor Hadrian). Furthermore, the Vindolanda simultaneously encompasses an impressive archaeological excavation arena (if you fancy getting your hands a bit messy for a chance at discovering hidden treasures, book yourself a place online immediately). Standing firmly on the hilly landscape, I felt myself breathing in the scent of power and battle reaching back many centuries, and gazing at the minutely threaded series of historical events the site presented. It was an unforgettable moment.

Pottery and trinkets of time and history

I came back home feeling very satisfied and ready to pounce on the assignment that had troubled me much earlier.

Ending remark

So if you’re ever in need for a bit of fresh air, the Roman Vindolanda is a must-visit spectacle.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Carrot and Walnut muffins

A change of heart and taste

Hot out of the oven
When I was small, I absolutely HATED carrots (with a passion, I might add). The earthy taste of it was truly displeasing to my palette, and the bright, orangey color didn’t help either (if anyone’s thinking of getting me a gift, make sure it’s blue). I remember picking out the carrot cubes (and petits pois) from the rice we got for our school lunches every time before I started eating. Somewhere along the line of my youth however, I took a massive U-Turn on my dietary regime. It was probably when I went abroad for high school. All of a sudden, my childhood enemy transformed into a lifelong companion. The carrot I detested so much unexpectedly became particularly pleasing to my taste. For what reason exactly, I may never know. Be it boiled or raw, carrots and I are now two peas in a pod. It works best in a savory meal (humus specifically), although it functions incredibly well in sweets too. So, carrot and walnut muffins it was (add cream cheese frosting if you desire a tad bit more sugar).

Packed with protein, carbs and veg – if I could have cake for breakfast, I’d totally pick this.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Hannover (TBC)

A (somewhat) unusual travel blog post

A cuppa before the flight
Just a couple of quirky travel pics
The lone vehicle
I’m sure you all know by now that I absolutely love travelling. Being able to see and learn about new things, and simultaneously meet and greet new people, can all easily fill my wanderlust cup to the brim. So, no matter if it’s to the stunning Sunshine Coast of Australia, or to a grand and bejeweled temple in Bangkok, any sort of voyage abroad can easily quench my thirst. On this occasion, my trip to Hannover, Germany, was for a completely contrasting purpose to tourism.

Yes, you got it: work.

Morning traffic on the way to work

Clock tower along the highway
The idea of traveling overseas for a corporate task had always fascinated me. I enjoy public speaking (was in the club during high school), and working in a foreign country to me seemed like the perfect opportunity to make use of my conversation and impromptu skills. So, you can probably imagine that I was more than eager to accept the job. Of course, no journey is complete without at least some obstacles along the way. Despite not being able to speak a word of German, simply because I instead chose to learn the language of Victor Hugo and Édith Piaf in the past, I managed to scrounge up some of my non-linguistic based interpersonal skills and utilize them to the max.

So many Green Things <3
Three little boats
What I gained from that experience is completely indescribable, and in the most positive way possible of course. If it hadn’t been for the guidance and support from my friendly and funny colleagues (at least they think they’re humorous), I would have probably struggled immensely during my time in Hannover.

Little Timmy
Although tourism was completely off our to-do list, that didn’t stop me from taking quirky and interesting photos whenever I got the time. Emphasis on the foodie pics in particular; it was truly wonderful having the opportunity to sample foods from various regions in Europe and the traditional German cuisine. 

Night-time feast

And definitely a huge thumbs up to the hospitality of the hotel staff.

View from my room

In summary…

From a worker’s perspective, my knowledge into the industry my company is involved in has undoubtedly excelled. From a traveler’s viewpoint, my short trip to Germany has definitely left me hungry for many more amazing adventures.

Before we take flight...
Danke schön for everything Hannover; I will be back.

A tasty memento

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Miss Vogue's Warm Blueberry Cakes (Pudding)

Usually when I read Vogue, the first thing I head for is the section that tells you what the latest trends and styles are through a visual gallery boasting a kaleidoscopic array of colors. I think much less about any recipes it recommends, mainly because I'd much prefer to go to an online recipe site or foodie magazine. However, I do think it's important to read openly, especially since you might be in for a delightful treat. In this case, Miss Vogue's Warm Blueberry Cake (or lil' pudding) was definitely a scrumptiously sweet surprise (alliteration for literature geeks). Of course blueberries go well in anything in my opinion, especially in cakes. For this recipe however, it acted as a sort of syrup (think sticky toffee pudding except made with water, sugar and blueberries). The amount of water it asked for was considerably higher than the value allocated to the cream and self-raising flour. Having baked quite a bit myself before, I was slightly skeptical at these numbers. Nevertheless, Miss. Vogue definitely proved me wrong; my worries about the recipe failing quickly evaporated as soon as my eyes were met with the golden scented heart that stood in front of me as the oven door was opened.

A light and somewhat healthy dessert option for those that are wary of their weight - that's how I'd summarize it.

Recipe from:

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Lemon and Lavender Chicken

Attempting the extraordinary

As much as I like sticking to recipes (for the sake of accuracy mainly), I do like jazzing them up a bit every so often. These happen to be the very rare instances where I’ll act slightly more daring than usual and employ (somewhat) wacky ingredients. Sometimes they go wrong, sometimes they go right. In this case, it was the latter (thankfully). I’ve never really liked lavender as a fragrance or lotion; I much prefer a more fruity scent. However, when it’s combined with lemon, it’s a completely different story. It’s also a bit of a tongue twister; I ended up calling it lamon and lemender chicken quite a few times. Whether you want to try it with chicken drumsticks like I did or the entire poultry, Rachel Khoo’s French recipe is definitely a zesty dinner-time delight. As there’s honey in the sauce, it goes perfectly with a crusty baguette. However, I found that a mixed veggie fried rice is also a winning accompaniment. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself.

Chicken recipe available from two sources:

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Bamburgh Castle and Berwick-upon-Tweed

Welcome back...

The journey begins...
Ever tried to restart something you’ve given up on? It’s a crushing feeling, most likely accompanied with dragging feet, trembling hands, and the sudden desire to retreat back to one’s comfort zone (e.g. bed) because fatigue has just arisen as a result of a sinking sensation of fear, probably of messing up again. That somewhat summarizes how I felt on commencing my blog for the third consecutive year in a row. Anxiety would be far too extreme, but a hefty dose of worry was undeniable.

I mean honestly, would anyone bother reading/ taking notice of a blog that’s had a year-long hiatus (NOT because of blogger's block)?

Train station brekkie

Bag of treats - best company for any train trip
They say that mood is in sync with weather. I think that’s rather subjective. For example, rain might be appreciated much more in a dry and arid environment than in a cold atmosphere that appears to receive this more than necessary throughout the year. So it’s difficult to say that the feelings associated with weather are universally identical. 

Passing Hogwarts (Durham)
However, no matter where I am when this occurs, the beaming sun always brings out the brighter side of myself. And with the exams and assignments officially finished, the seductive voice of travel sounded more than just alluring. Time to de-stress from a year of consecutive all-nighters and endless hours of biological and cultural anthropology revision. It was DEFINITELY time to start blogging and castle-hunting again, I thought. And with that, it was off to the train station for me shortly after that bold decision…

Admiring mother nature along the way...

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Bamburgh Castle

I’m not a huge fan of buses; I much prefer a long, sleepy train journey through valleys, caves etc. However, the journey to Bamburgh Castle was definitely delightful. The sunshine obviously helped but for me, the best part of it was being able to see the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (at least that’s what my understanding of geography told me) – a sight I’ve been longing to view personally for quite a while now. That being said, the scenery along the way was NOTHING in comparison with the castle itself. See below if you don’t believe me.

Bamburgh Castle
Yeah, I was flabbergasted. And I think the (pleasant) shock in my face amused the driver who said, rather casually, that he confronted this majestic and massive historical landmark on a daily basis.

Castle windmill
The Billiard Room
Looking into the King's Hall
Whilst you’re in the castle, you have a choice of frolicking through the greenery, exploring the state rooms which echo a fusion of Victorian and Medieval architectures, and admiring the Northumberland coast and beach. Here’s a tip: do it ALL. And take lots of pictures too, especially if there are interesting exhibits on (hence the photogenic owl). 

"Hoo" are YOU?/lame joke, ikr

If you visit the state room, be sure to get the audio tour - incredibly informative and interesting, I liked how you got to hear additional stories regarding the castle (particularly the ones about wandering ghosts...)

Castle kitchen
I didn’t get time for this but I think at a certain hour of the day, it the tides are low enough, it’s possible to walk over to the Farne Islands where you can admire the undeniably adorable puffins and other winged-wonders.

The Farne Islands
Oh and we can't forget about the sitting pigeons - so cute :)


Berwick Bridge
With every journey, an ending must occur at some point. Sometimes they can be quite simple, like walking out through the door to exit a museum. But in other cases, the finale is much less smooth. Which brings me onto what happened to myself after my castle visit. Obviously the learned traveler would automatically purchase a return (bus) ticket, knowing that the best way home was back the through the route they started with. However, despite my efforts, the mode of transport I was hoping to board failed to come to my rescue.

I felt like I was falling down into a bottomless pit, never expecting to catch even the faintest glimpse of daylight once again.

Nature at its best

You know the saying, keep calm and carry on? That becomes tremendously difficult when panic peaks. However, I believe that help will always find its way to you when times become desperate. And luckily for me, this was true. Through the assistance of several kind strangers who I met, I soon found myself driven back speedily to Berwick-upon-Tweed railway station, the place I had landed in prior to my journey to Bamburgh. Unfortunately though, time was not cooperating. I soon found out, to my annoyance, that the train I needed to catch was not due to about an hour later. Won’t anything go right today? I thought.

Journeying into the sunset

But then the sun descended down with a friendly gaze, and beckoned me to depart motionless and silent railway station. By following its gestures, I soon found myself next to the River Tweed, just below the magnificent Royal Border Bridge, next to the castle wall ruins. It was then that I realized that an hour’s wait for the train was not so bad, for I was transfixed by the breathtaking sight standing boldly just in front of me. It felt rather tearful when we had to say goodbye.

Farewell, Berwick
So, morals of the story:
  1. Always have plan B (if necessary, implement plans C, D, E, F.. you get the idea)
  2. Don’t panic (obvious point but seriously, it gets you nowhere)
  3. Never give up on your passion (I mightn’t be the best blogger in the world, but my love for writing is everlasting).
  4. Take time to immerse yourself in the wonders and culture of the local surroundings (the knowledge you gain from travelling is life-long, and definitely make good stories to tell your friends and family during dinnertime!)
This year’s slightly different – I’ll be busy with summer work. Nevertheless, expect frequent posts, words of wisdom, and daily rambles about travel, food, fashion and life from yours truly soon.

#Imback (finally)

Royal Border Bridge, Berwick-upon-Tweed