A Taste of Argentina, in London

It’s no secret that I’m kind of in love with the beautifully crazy place that is Argentina, and a huge part of that is the food. There, the food plays an important role in the passionate nature of the Argentine culture. Obviously food always tastes best in its appropriate country, surrounding by the sights, sounds and smells that go together to form that amazing culture.

Sadly, I can’t always pop across the Atlantic whenever I’m in need of a good steak (one day Pip, one day…) so a girl’s got to make do with what she can get. And this week that was pretty bloody awesome. My trusty food tasting sidekick and I tried out Garufin near Holborn (Cat did all the legwork in finding the place, I just showed up and…ate).

The street entrance was unassuming with just a cute flight of stairs taking us down to the basement restaurant. I want to have a staircase like this some day… Gorgeous checkered tiles and surrounded by pictures of adventures from far flung places.

Garufin staircase

Garufin entrance

I’ll be honest, I had my doubts when we were greeted by a somewhat surly seeming waiter but it turned out that was all part of his charm. We had some great discussions about all the difference wines of Argentina (Mendoza wines, my favourite, are so good due to the high altitude apparently) and he brought us plenty of mini samples to try.

We managed to change our minds halfway through ordering leading us to accidentally order a start and the mixed grill to share. Oh well, needs must…

provoleta

Provoleta can be found in all the parillas (grills) across Buenos Aires and is an amazing “pulled-curd” cheese grilled on the asado (BBQ) typically served with bread for dipping, or in this case parsnip fries. I prefer to let it cool down a little before eating as this allows it to set and sweeten a little leading to some serious cheese perfection, as our waiter fully agreed.

Next up, the meat main party.

Garufin mixed grill

It’s very hard to make meat look pretty (or let’s be honest if you’re me, it’s very hard to make most things look pretty) but this was seriously delicious. More grilled cheese, morcilla (the best ever blood sausage), chorizo, grilled red peppers and aubergine, sirloin steak and flank steak. Oh, and chimichurri aka the best sauce ever.

Yes, we cleaned the plate. It was absolutely epic, I cannot even begin. The meat was perfectly juicy (we didn’t even need to ask for it to be done medium rare), the morcilla was on point, the vegetables tasted beautifully grilled and smokey and the cheese party just kept on going.

We didn’t have room for pudding and there was no decaf coffee for us old women but the restaurant seemed perfectly happy to keep topping up our water glasses and let us chatter on with no rush to leave. I’m torn between wanting to return and wanting to ‘research’ all the other Argentine restaurants in London… It’s a tough call.

Have you found a taste of your favourite holiday when back home?

Disconnecting to get connected

I’ve written before about our obsession with social media and technology, and it’s still something I think about regularly today. The amount of time throughout each that I pick up my phone to flick absentmindly through Instagram or read a blog post whilst waiting for a bus is probably a little bit ridiculous. But lately I’ve noticed I’ve started to do that less and less, and it feels amazing.

Okay okay, maybe not the Instagram bit. It’s still my favourite form of social media. But seriously, my blog reading has dropped dramatically as of late, and I’m okay with that. More and more often I’m finding myself selecting ‘mark as read’ on Bloglovin’ as I decide to spend my time in real life instead.

FullSizeRender (22)

Don’t get me wrong, I love the blogging world (I wouldn’t be here otherwise) but it’s not my whole life. It’s great to escape sometimes, to read about someone else’s life as yours seems a little boring that day. I’m a dreamer and I always will be, dreaming of new adventures, new places discovered, lessons learnt and people met. But I never want that to get in the way of the here and now. I don’t want to waste my time comparing my life to other people’s, and dismissing my own as their’s seems more beautiful, more glamorous, more together.

This past Wednesday I was having a pretty rough day and home alone with my housemate on holiday I really needed someone to talk to, and through the power of technology (aka my iPhone) my friends were there right with me, in an instant. I felt so bloody lucky to have these amazing people surrounding me (albeit virtually) and my day turned right around. Yes I was connected, but with myself and the people I love.

It reminded me to live each moment in the here and now. Time is finite so we should choose how we spend it wisely. Let go, and let the moment wash over you.

How do you disconnect and keep connected?

A Perfect Body (The Guy’s Perspective)

After writing my perfect body post I realised I wanted to get the other side of the story and to see what it’s like living as a guy in this crazy world. When I thought about who I wanted to write it I knew it had to be my awesome friend Roberto who I met in Buenos Aires, and who now lives back in Boston in the US. When we were in Argentina we had some great chats about the social pressures facing both men and women and how we felt compelled to look, and be, a certain way. Here’s his perspective… Body image. It’s distorted. It’s stressful. It’s “a work in progress”. It’s something that really effects women. But is it just women? Are men not affected by the same, in-your-face-propaganda we’re all subjected to everyday? I am a male, in my early 20’s, and the ideal body image has evolved with me as I’ve gotten older. There’s the pressure…or more accurately, the “suggestion” of what a male body should look like. Chiseled, sculpted, tall, lean, and often hairless. It’s easy to dismiss the effect that male magazines, with their array of suited men to barely-clothed models in designer undergarments can have on us (yes, I am speaking for men at large here). But it takes its toll on you, with every passing advertisement oozing deeper under your skin, like a stream of water slowly penetrating a crack in the road. But for what? What do I gain in the end? I’ve tried to maintain strict regiments, but I began analyzing what I eat, instead of enjoying it. I strove to look like the guys I saw in fashion magazines, dedicating more time in the gym than with those close to me. Now, I am not saying to disregard physical fitness, but like my good friend Pip said earlier, the perfect body is the body that lets me do what I want. I am able to enjoy life with the body I’ve been given, pushing it to the limit when I want to, and resting it when I need to. I work on my body not to make “it” better, but to make my myself and my life better. With this body I’ve been able to trek glaciers in Patagonia, mountains in Morocco, and cobblestone streets in Italy. It works for me and what I want to do, and will continue to do so for years to come.

Thanks for much for sharing Roberto!  Again, just asking for your thoughts today…

A Perfect Body

A few weekends back I was in Birmingham catching up with one of my favourites. Whilst there we ended up having the classic body discussion. The media, society and our culture as a whole constantly bombard us with their perception of what our perfect bodies should be. From skinny to strong, guy to girl, the pressure is there. So grab yourself a coffee and let’s chat.

I can safely say that in the last 8 years I have pretty much had the whole range of different body types. As a teenage rower at school I stayed roughly the same size, I trained a tonne (through chasing my dream rather than an obsession) and ate whatever I wanted. Yes I had my insecurities but sadly that seems to be par for the course as a teenage girl these days.

Then I left school and headed off to Venezuela, New Zealand and Fiji for 5 months of epic travelling. That time was such an incredible adventure and exercise and healthy eating weren’t exactly at the forefront of my mind as an eighteen year old seeing the world for the first time. Partying and adventures? Yup, nailed it. Strangely enough by the end I wasn’t feeling myself anymore, in fact I was the biggest I had ever been. I was unfit and, for me, overweight.

New Zealand 2010New Zealand 2010

For someone who had grown up focussed on sport, not really drinking much and with a pretty consistent body size this was a whole new issue to deal with. And I knew it wasn’t just my own self-doubt this time. So began the real rollercoaster of diets, guilt tripping and binge eating as I desperately sought comfort in this new world. I was on an endless quest for the next best quick fix, that diet which would make me skinny, the solution to all my troubles… I’d cut out carbs after six, fat, and so on. Time and time again I’d crash and burn. I’d be too hungry and would dive head first into a pile of homemade cookies, head first into comfort.

I headed off to uni which, let’s be honest, doesn’t exactly help any health quest. Skipping over first year, in my second and third years I was trying to cut weight to compete as a lightweight rower, and this was not done the healthy way. Cue processed low calorie low fat ‘foods’, an obsession with calorie counting and feeling dizzy and weak on a daily basis. I was cold, hungry and couldn’t even concentrate enough to hold a proper conversation with my friends. I became preoccupied with counting down the time until my next meal, the next diet coke, anything. I remember one particular occasion, standing in the queue at Starbucks debating what size (black) americano I was ‘allowed’ to buy, with a 6 cal difference between them. I was in panic mode and I was miserable.

December 2012December 2012

At this time I was also the skinniest I’ve ever been in my adult life. In January 2013 I bought a size 6 skirt. A few days later my back injury overwhelmed me and I had to stop rowing. I felt like a complete failure. Rowing had been a part of me since the age of 14 and now I couldn’t do it and I felt like it was all my fault, like I hadn’t tried hard enough. I was utterly lost.

So what to do? I figured that since I could eat now I might as well make the most of it. My eating began to spin out of control as I consumed excessive amounts of less than healthy foods, for fear that I’d never be allowed to eat them again. I was embarrassed by my obsession and did my best to hide it from everyone I knew, although I’m sure that the changes in my body more than showed the problem.

June 2013June 2013 – doesn’t everyone drink champagne in a field with a party hat on after they get their degree results?

Slowly but surely my self-loathing grew stronger and stronger. In desperation I found myself browsing the Internet one evening, searching for a solution, a way out. I stumbled across a list of the ‘Top UK Bloggers’ and found Laura’s blog, Wholeheartedly Healthy. The more I read, the more I felt like change was possible. To my delight I found that she had started health coaching and was based in Durham, the same city as my university. It couldn’t have been more perfect. At the time I kept my health coaching secret, again I was embarrassed that I ‘needed’ this help. To this day I don’t talk about it often and I debated sharing it in this post today but to not mention it would do Laura’s work an injustice, I don’t think I’d be where I am now without her. Through working together I began to see food as a nourishment, I learnt that I could eat whatever I wanted and that it would be okay. And so my journey came to take its best turn yet…

Summer 2013 onwards I began to loose the weight I’d gained that previous Spring. I returned to working out as my injury calmed down, and I began to rebuild my relationship with food. There were still moments, there always are to be honest. But I began to learn how to handle them. As I headed to Buenos Aires in January 2014 I found myself starting to finally feel like me, a new me. My time in Argentina gave me the space to learn that it was okay to be me, something for which I’ll forever be grateful.

Upon my return I found my eating naturally inching towards paleo and I completed out the Whole 30 challenge. Educational as it was, I found myself returning to my old restrictive tendencies, somewhere I never want to go again. But again it was reiterated to me the wonders of good fats and real food. The fear gradually began to ebb away…

Whilst in Buenos Aires I started CrossFit and found what I missed from rowing, that push of your body to its extreme limits. Stretching its potential. Through eating real food, food that suits me, and pushing myself in my physical abilities I’ve found my new body.

April 2015April 2015

So, that quest for a perfect body, a quest that is now over. A quest that has haunted for me years… But what is my perfect body?

…a body that allows me to run 10k just because I feel like it

…a body that allows me to eat cake and laugh with my friends

…a body that carries me on the greatest of adventures

…a body that lifts heavier weights each week

…a body that will, somehow, get me through the toughest of WODs

…a body that will be nourished from a kale salad

…a body that enjoys a good glass of wine

…a body that sometimes needs rest and a bit of TLC

…a body that holds me strong in the roughest of times

…a body that surprises me and that I learn from every day

I guess in some ways it sounds kind of obnoxious to speak of a perfect body. I can’t say that I like my body every day but I can say that I know now it’s right for me, right now. It allows me to live the way I want to and I guess that’s pretty special.

Just asking for your thoughts today… 

Chocolate PNB Porridge (Grain-Free)

I don’t know about you but when I get up in the morning I do not enjoy having to think, not for the first hour at least. In fact, as a teenager, when I was getting up at 6am to train for rowing before school I barely spoke a word before leaving the house. According to my dad – a very unreliable source in my opinion – I would swear at him in my sleep as he tried to wake me up. Being such a polite and charming teenager I struggle to believe this.

One thing I do believe for sure, however, is that breakfast is essential. I’m not going to lie, it’s what gets me up in the morning. That chilled time with some delicious food and a mug of tea (the coffee starts later) is golden. So I tend to stick with the same breakfasts given that my decision-making skills are somewhat sub-par before I’ve eaten.

Lately, it’s either been scrambled eggs or more often this ‘paleo’ porridge. I first tried the recipe via Davida’s e-book, definitely go check it out if you haven’t already. It’s gradually evolved over the…mornings through my random substitutions and adaptation.

chocolate peanut butter paleo porridge oatmeal

Quick and easy it packs a load of nutrients into your morning fuel and you get to eat chocolate for breakfast which is an all-round winner in my books. I find that if I have something like this in the morning I’m far a bit less likely to want chocolate snacks brownies later in the day.

chocolate peanut butter paleo porridge oatmeal

The lovely folks over at MyProtein.com sent me over some of their hemp protein powder and peanut butter to try, both of which come in a kilo size. Perfect. I know there are some protein powder sceptics out there but here me out. Protein = satisfying staying power and essential to build/strengthen muscle. Clearly I could eat some meats/eggs etc. but sometimes you don’t want the normal protein, sometimes you need some chocolate porridge and this version tastes much better sans egg. Trust me, I tried. So all natural hemp protein powder is the perfect way to go.

Plus, peanut butter = delicious healthy fat. It’s not ‘proper paleo’ but it tastes good, is a cheaper than AB and my stomach enjoys some variety in its fats if you catch my drift.

So, enough chatter. Let’s skip to the good bit ;)

Chocolate PNB Porridge (Grain-Free)

Serves 1

2 tablespoons flaxseed

2 tablespoons ground almonds

1 tablespoon hemp protein powder

1-2 tablespoons cocoa powder (depending on how chocolately you like it)

1 cup almond milk or water

1 tablespoon coconut flour

1 teaspoon peanut butter

Handful frozen cherries (optional, unless you’re me, they add a touch of sweetness)

Add the flaxseed, ground almonds, hemp protein powder and cocoa powder to a non-stick pan along with 3/4 cup almond milk. Place on a medium heat and stir until all is combined.

Keep stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens.

Add the coconut flour, the rest of the almond milk and the frozen cherries.

Keep on stirring until the desired thickness is achieved. You may want to add a little extra liquid if necessary, I find it often depends on the brand of coconut flour you use.

Elegantly dollop pop into a bowl and drizzle with peanut butter.

Breakfast is served!

Disclaimer – I was kindly sent the hemp protein powder and peanut butter from MyProtein.com to be included in a recipe. All thoughts and opinions are my own and I use these ingredients anyways. Thanks for your support!

Do you have a classic breakfast? What are your thoughts on starting the day with chocolate?

An Annoucement

I’ve got a secret….

I didn’t want to talk about it on here until all was confirmed and I’d told my family, friends, work, etc.

I’m taking a trip…

This July… To somewhere where it’ll be winter…

Where there’s plenty of good food…

Lots of fluids to keep hydrated…

And new adventures to be had…

I’m going back to Buenos Aires!! Just for a month, in July, to conduct research for my Masters dissertation. I’m so excited I can’t even begin.

I fly out on 2nd July, meaning it’ll be two years in a row in Argentina for me! And some of my friends from last year are going to be back out there. Eeek!!

New Goals

I’ve never been a big one to publicise my goals on here, nor my monthly ‘words’ or whatever they’re called in the blogging community these days. But I do like having something to work for, something that I’m striving for. I grew up pushing my limits through sport and school as well I guess, and I find it’s something that I tend to have a need for to this day.

I always say that both my strength and my weakness is that I can be a bit of a perfectionist. Give me a task and I will work myself into the ground to make sure that I produce the best result possible. Useful but not always healthy. So it’s important that I pick my tasks wisely.

Academia

My Masters is drawing to a close. I just have a couple more assignments due in May and then my dissertation due in September.

Now that my deadlines are a bit more spread out I want to regain my work/life balance through working solidly and efficiently but also knowing when to stop. Treating it like a job effectively, except maybe six days a week ;)

Then, come September I obviously need to move onto the next stage…a job. The job search will be commencing this summer and I’m not expecting it to be easy. Even with a Masters and various internships the world of human rights can be incredibly hard to break into. I want to set realistic expectations, I’m not going to get the ‘perfect’ job right away. But I haven’t come this far to settle either.

Training

I’m back CrossFitting 3 days a week again (my membership is just for 3 classes per week, on a budget here!) and I cannot tell you how good it feels. I’m a great believer that our bodies are a gift and a joy to be celebrated, life has taught me that we never know what might happen. We must appreciate the joy of health and movement every day.

Lately I’ve started to miss competing. I’d love to try out some CrossFit competitions some day but truth be told I’m just not confident enough in my abilities yet…

What I have done, however, is enter some running races! It’s my dream to run a marathon some day and this is something I really want to start working towards.

So, on 16th May my friend and I will be running the colour run in Bath! Okay, realistically this isn’t exactly a competitive race. More a fun weekend away but I am so excited! I’ve always wanted to do a colour run and this one looks set to be a lot of fun. Anyone want to join?

A bit more seriously, I have entered the Great North Run! This was done on a slight whim and the race takes place on 13th September, just 2 days before my dissertation deadline so I better be organised. I’m hoping that training for a half marathon will give me some structure through my summer of dissertation writing, and provided some much needed distraction and escapism. I’m going to be running for the MS Society, an organisation close to my heart since my mum has had MS for well over 10 years. I haven’t started fundraising yet but I have set up a JustGiving page so any donations would be very much appreciated. Laura’s going to be running too, it looks set to be a great weekend!

What are you working towards?

Moments of Clarity

Not too long ago I wrote about how I’d been struggling, how exhausted I was and how things weren’t so easy. Well I’m happy to say, as you might have guessed, things are on the up! Looking back now I can see how overwhelmed and stressed I was with work, something you never want to admit to yourself at the time. Who wants to have to say that they can’t cope? Especially when it seems that others doing similar things can.

It can be rough when you’ve got used to following a set path – school, travel, university, internship, masters, ???

There’s suddenly an end point where you’re thrown out into the unknown. But then I realised, we’re all in this together. Everyone is just muddling through life, making it up the best they can. Sometimes you hit it and it’s amazing, this beautiful joy can be shared and celebrated with your friends, family and those you love. Then sometimes it seems like you’ve failed and it hurts like hell, but be reassured that you’re not the only one. We’re all in this together and you’ll get back up again.

These moments of reassurance can be long-lasting or just fleeting, moments of clarity.

Perhaps the song that lifts your soul… My personal favourite lately ;)

The workout that releases the stress of the day…

Laughter and escape with friends (either kind)…

Or just pure silence…

grenada beach

Just know that the struggle will pass.

What’s your moment of clarity?

That day I ate out for every meal

Aka last Thursday.

8am hit up CrossFit. Bench press and pendlay row followed by some seriously scaled Cindy (15 min AMRAP 5 ring rows / 10 push-ups / 15 air squats). Cycled slowly home ;)

10am out for breakfast. We went to Fink’s Salt & Sweet which is just five minutes from my flat yet it’s taken me this long to visit. Massive fail. Still, now I’ve finally ‘discovered’ it I can say for sure that I’ll be back. Black coffee and a ham, jam & edam gf sandwich was the order of the day. Salt and sweet, literally.

Fink's Salt & Sweet

11.30am packing. Excessively. Is a giant wheelie suitcase really necessary for a 4 day trip back home? Apparently so. And I still managed to forget my pjs and underwear. This girl has travelled round the world no problem but going back to the countryside for the long weekend = disaster.

1pm coffee at Euston station Pret with my friend before she goes back to Germany next week. DON’T LEAVE!

2.49pm train to Birmingham. First class because it was 5p extra.

First Class

3.30pm hunger hits. Realise that I really should’ve brought snacks. Fail. Again. Watch a film to distract myself. Laptop battery dies 5 mins from the end. For goodness sake.

5pm arrive in Birmingham. Head straight to Starbucks for processed brilliance aka yoghurt and granola. Tasted pretty crappy but I was beyond caring.

5.45pm my friend picks me up from University station. Catch-ups begin.

7.30pm (ish) head to Lost & Found for a night of indulgence. It went something like this.

Champagne cocktails‘The Grape Escape’ Champagne cocktails

Lost & Found BirminghamAdmire the view

Salmon Lost & FoundSmoked salmon and cream cheese courgette parcel with tomato and crispy capers

Pork Lost & FoundSlow cooked pork cheek, roasted pork belly and creamed haggis with baby vegetables. I can’t even…

Cocktail Lost & FoundA pretty cocktail

Pudding Lost & FoundMy version of pudding aka a creamy cocktail. Turns out my body does NOT like creamy cocktails. Big error.

11pm girl at the bar complements me on my outfit. We have a discussion about feminism and women. That’s how I roll.

12am the taxi hunt commences.

12.15am stop for cash. Taxi driver tells me all about the spliff he smoked in Morocco and how much he hated it.

12.30am arrive back. Chats with housemates.

1.30am bed. The end.

When did you last eat out for every meal? Please say I’m not the only one…

Big City Life

Six months in Buenos Aires, the crazy city that kinda stole my heart. Seven months in London, with the crazy people who have always had my heart.

Two big cities, so full of similarities but both so different at the same time. Is it really possible to compare my life in the two of them? Can I pick a favourite? Hell no, but I can try.

Buenos Aires

I’m well aware that I’ve already written a lot about this place but I can’t help it! This post shows how much the city meant to me when I was there but now I’m back in the UK I’ve found a new time and space to reflect upon it.

Buenos Aires Rooftop

BsAs is a city of noise, of craziness, of hustle and bustle and quiet moments on my rooftop looking down on it all. The city where I found who I was again (*such a stereotype*) and realised my path in life. The city which totally threw me into the unknown. I arrived there with no friends, not knowing a soul and barely speaking the language. I left with it feeling like my home, with a community of people I loved, and I built up my own life there.

A place of nothing to a place of something, perhaps of everything?

London

Ever since I was a little kid I’ve wanted to live in London. I remember looking out of my bedroom window at the garden and pretending it was one of London’s squares, dreaming of moving to big city life.

London view from the Shard

In London I feel settled, I came here already knowing the city pretty well. My friends are (mostly) here, the friends that I missed and needed so much when I was away. It’s familiar yet still big enough to be interesting and different. I can travel home to the countryside at the drop of a hat. Life here is flexible. It’s known.

London has been the perfect place for me to continue to move forward, to continue to better myself. Yet, is it possible to feel both settled and restless? That craving for an adventure, for the foreign, the unknown and the unknowable… it’s always there. Maybe it always will be, and that’s okay.

So is there a winner? Of course not. I guess what I really wanted to say in this post is that it’s okay to have your heart in two totally different cities on opposite sides of the Atlantic, and to love them both equally for utterly different reasons. As to what I do and where I go from here? Well watch this space, because I haven’t a bloody clue.

Thoughts… :)