Friday, 28 November 2014

All I want for Christmas? My dream career.

So there I was, hanging out my laundry while listening to Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You.’ As you do.

The talented wordsmith that she is, Mariah got me thinking. Was there any particular member of the male species I wanted for Christmas? Negative.

So what did I want?

What do I really want?

Well, I want a career. My dream career.

I’d spent the evening working on a certain graduate scheme application and feeling guilty for not devoting said time to my uni essays. But the trouble is, I’m far more interested in kick-starting my career at the moment. Getting a taste of the real world on my year abroad probably didn’t help either.

I know, I know, I should make the most of my final year as a student.

I know, I have the rest of my life to think about the working world.

And I know, there’s no point applying to anything if I’m not going to graduate with a 2:1.

But, as Mariah says, ‘what more can I do?’ This is where I’m at right now.

I feel like I’ve been building up to this moment my whole life – all the work placements, internships and shadowing; all the time spent imagining my working life; all my goals, aims and dreams of climbing the career ladder once I’ve finished my education.

It’s all about to happen.

And while that is beyond exciting, it’s also super terrifying.

What if it doesn’t turn out the way I’ve always hoped?

One thing I’m stubbornly having to accept is that you can’t plan everything. Whenever I speak to people who are essentially doing one of my dream jobs, they always seem to say, “Well, I actually sort of fell into the job, really.” Which is so unhelpful for an ambitious, enthusiastic, keen-bean kiddo like myself.

And the fact of the matter is, it’s a scaaaary world out there for a grad. (Yes, I know I’m not even a grad yet.)

It’s blimmin’ competitive, particularly in journalism.

As a final year student I’m facing this difficulty of not knowing how to prioritise my life: how do I balance uni work with job applications and working unpaid jobs? Which is the most important?

I’m really not sure, and I keep going through phases.

Even if the majority of final year students weren’t applying for grad schemes and the like, this would be a bloomin’ stressful year.


All. The. Stress.

I can quite foresee having a minor mental breakdown before this year is over, but let’s just push that to one side for now. That’s a whole other blog post really.

Applying for jobs is a big deal.

Sure, I’ve applied for millions of work placements, part-time jobs and internships in my time, but they’re not the same. Nowhere close.

These are actual jobs. In the actual world. Which will be your actual life.

And the reason it’s so scary is that I care so much. I really REALLY want to get something awesome, but – as our mothers have always said – all we can do is our best. (And as usual, they’re totally right.)

But what if my best isn’t good enough? It’d be disappointing. Massively so. But I suppose rejection is a part of life. Oh, we have so many life lessons to learn, fellow young grasshoppers!

And I do believe everything happens for a reason, so there’s something we must all try and remember when things don’t go as planned.

You're probably wondering what my dream career actually is. Well, there isn't just one dream. I have a few. But they're all in a similar ballpark (journalism, I'm looking at you), and I know I'm lucky to even have an inkling as to what I want to do with myself post-graduation.

I do believe this is a fabulously exciting time for all my friends and me though. So many opportunities! The world truly is our oyster!

Buuuut before I can dive headfirst into said oyster I need to finish life in the uni bubble. (Did this ‘under the sea’ metaphor work?)

And on that note, it’s back to the degree.

PS. Father Christmas, I realise you can't actually give me my dream career, so a present or two under the tree will be gratefully received as an alternative. 

What do you think about uni and graduate jobs?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Looking back on life as an English Language Assistant in Bavaria (and why it was awesome!)

This article was originally written for Epigram, where you can find a condensed version as part of the Travel section's Year Abroad Special.

As a fourth year French and German student, let me tell you, Timehop is a KILLER! Every morning I try not to weep into my porridge as I'm reminded of my life in Germany a year ago.

Teaching English in two German secondary schools in the Bavarian town of Bayreuth was probably the best six months of my life. Those of you who followed my adventures on my blog will not be surprised to hear this, and I can't tell you how much it makes me smile to read back my old posts (under my Travel tab). Only on my very brief essay breaks, naturally.

But let's recap a little and I'll try to explain to you just how fab a lifestyle it was...

I'd go to school for the ludicrously early 7.45am first lesson of the day (no joke), "teach" for a couple of hours and be back home, in my PJs, munching Milka chocolate in bed by 10am. Just as my friends back home were heading off to their 9am lectures. Mwah ha ha. *sobs upon realising I'm now one of them*

The truth is, life as a language assistant is pretty darn sweet. You supposedly have twelve hours of teaching per week (always spread over just four days) and you're meant to do twelve hours of lesson preparation too. But - can you keep a secret? - between you and me, no-one does twelve hours lesson prep. There just aren't twelve hours to be done!

And guess what? You earn gooooood money as a language assistant, in Germany and Austria in particular. So, what with all your time and money, it's the perfect set-up for exploring your new home country and the rest of Europe.

Without a doubt, how much I travelled was the BEST part of my year abroad. And I'm so glad I worked as a language assistant and thus had the time (and money) to do so.

To be honest, I think travelling and experiencing more of the local culture is just as important a part of your year abroad as the work. I mean, if you're only going to live in Bavaria once in your life, you'd be a fool not to make the trip to Oktoberfest in Munich and the Nuremberg Christmas market, don't you think?

If you work out how to get the best ticket deals (I recommend the Bayern Ticket), travelling within Germany is ridiculously affordable too. It was through my travels that I fell in love with Germany... And Bavaria in particular. Who knew it was such a magical, charming place?! Well, maybe you did. But I sure didn't!

Rothenburg ob der Tauber at Christmas time... Take me back!
Places aside, the German people I met everywhere I went were amazing. Everyone was so friendly, welcoming and helpful - completely going against the (totally unjust) German stereotype.

From my housemates to my colleagues to my pupils, I made some brilliant friends during my time in Germany.

And although I didn't come away with a new-found desire to be a teacher, I did really enjoy teaching. Sometimes I'd just assist in classes, occasionally I'd lead them, now and again I'd take pupils out to speak to them one by one, and every week I ran a conversation club for the older pupils who wanted to know more about modern life in Britain. (I think they particularly enjoyed learning about vajazzles and how to make apple crumble.)

I mainly worked with the 17-18 year old pupils, and the fact of the matter is their English was already amazing. These kids put all British teenagers to shame when it comes to foreign language learning. I'd talk to my pupils just as I would my own British friends, and considering they're only a few years younger than me, it's hardly surprising we really did become friends. I feel the pride of an older sister upon getting my former pupils' snapchats from uni now. (Yes, we're even snapchat friends.)

And if I wasn't working with the older kids, I was being made to feel like a celeb by the younger ones. These cute little children may only have just started English, but it was so sweet to see them get so excited by my entering the classroom.

For the most fun way to spend your year abroad, I cannot recommend being a language assistant enough. I miss it so much, and I'm not just referring to all the Glühwein, Schnitzel, Wurst, chocolate, Lebkuchen, Stollen, Haribo, pretzels... *wipes drool away from mouth*

Sorry, where was I?

Ahh yes.  Being a language assistant in Germany was probably the best six months of my life. If you have the opportunity, do it. And take loads of pictures with which to haunt future you.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

A long overdue hair makeover at Bonomini.

Apparently you’re meant to get your hair cut at least every eight weeks. It had been at least eight months…

My hair was fine, really. There was nothing drastically wrong with it. But the ends were getting straggly and I’d perhaps been pretending my extremely grown-out highlights were a dip-dye for a smidge too long.

But going to the hairdresser wasn’t an essential. With a million and one things on my to-do list, finding a hair salon and booking myself in for an appointment was not a top priority. It’s so easy to let these things slide, isn’t it?

That’s when Money Supermarket got in touch. Yes, Money Supermarket.

I know what you’re thinking: “How did this result in Rachel getting her hair done?” Well, allow me to explain, oh curious one.

Money Supermarket have just launched this new campaign called Balance Transfer Your Life. Here’s what they say:
“Like finding a credit card with a free balance transfer, there are loads of these little niggling tasks that we just keep putting off, which is why MoneySupermarket is getting involved and offering you the chance to ‘balance transfer your life’ – no matter what the little chore is.”
To be honest with you, I have not been considering finding a credit card with a free balance transfer. Being the sensible young lady that I am though (ahem), I had been meaning to go to the hairdresser.

So, extremely generously, Money Supermarket offered to swoop in, find me a nearby hair salon, book me an appointment and pay for the whole shebang! I KNOW!

And before I knew it, I was off to Bonomini, an utterly gorgeous salon in Clifton here in Bristol.

The interior is super stylish and the staff were delightfully friendly.

Naturally, I was rather excited. I LOVE going to the hairdresser and revitalising my look. Don't you think it's such a treat having someone do your hair for you? I literally do not understand people who see going to the hairdresser as a chore.

After a brief chat with my fabulous stylist, Lori, we were underway.

Those 40 minutes or so when your colour's sinking in and there's nothing for you to do in the world but sit around reading magazines are pretty blissful, aren't they?

Not only was I treated to a full head of highlights, a wash, cut and blow-dry, but I was also given a Keratin treatment.

Do you know how much a Keratin treatment costs!? Well, let me tell you: a lot.

It's a conditioning treatment that basically makes your hair smoother, sleeker and softer for weeks to come, and I've certainly noticed the difference.

Not only do the chairs in Bonomini give you a back massage and allow you to put your feet up while having your hair washed, but I also got a wonderful head and shoulder massage while my Keratin treatment sunk in. Sooooooo relaxing.

Oh. And I got to have this fun flying saucer heat thingy fly round my head for a few minutes which was amusing.

And yes that is a little tea set just for me. During my time at Bonomini I was treated to tea, juice AND Prosecco! Seriously. Living. The. Dream.

I'd started off trying to take my snapchats subtly, but soon gave up and just selfied away for the world to see.

A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, right?

I left with a spring in my step, feeling utterly pampered and fabulous.

You know how after leaving the hairdresser you can’t help but check yourself out in every single window you walk past? Yup, that happened.

So how did my hair turn out?

Well, I love it!

Here's before:

And here's after:

I realise you probably can't see much of a difference, but these pictures don't massively do it justice. The change is subtle, but that's what I wanted. I love having caramelly tones all through my hair, and although I love my lighter "dip-dye" ends, they now blend more smoothly into the rest of my hair.

The ends look neater and healthier, and I've had a long layer put in which gives my hair a little more shape.


If you like the sound of having one of your niggling tasks organised and paid for by Money Supermarket too, you can! Well, you can enter to win anyway. Find out all the deets here.

Thanks to Bonomini for pampering me and Money Supermarket for giving me this fab opportunity. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

A raw brunch at NAMA, Notting Hill, and a raw rice pudding recipe.

Healthy, organic, vegan and raw food restaurants have been springing up all over London recently. They’re the trendy eateries of the moment, and I’m hoping this is a trend that will continue to grow.

NAMA is one such restaurant, and having read lots of fab reviews and practically drooled all over their website, I was super keen to visit and try them out on my latest visit to London.

Conveniently, I was staying with ma best gal pal, Georgie, who is also totally into healthy, ethical eating.

Located in the divine Notting Hill, NAMA is perfectly positioned for all the yummy mummies and yoga bunnies who live there.

NAMA was created, in their own words, “to enrich, inspire and nurture”, which sounds pretty fab to me. One of their aims in setting up NAMA was to introduce people to an alternative lifestyle choice, one of nutrition, health and wellbeing. And I’m all for that.

NAMA is a raw food café, which basically means the food hasn't been cooked, treated or processed in any way at temperatures above around 45C. They say:
“Above this temperature the enzymes in the food begin to degrade, losing a great part of their nutritional value. These enzymes play a number of vital roles, including supporting the digestive process, maintaining cell functioning and helping to transport nutrients around the body. Therefore adding a greater percentage of raw foods into your diet can have amazing health benefits. Whether you eat 100 % raw food, high raw with some cooked or just some raw, no matter where you stand, is an excellent way to reach or maintain your optimal health.”
I’ve read a lot about raw food but had always been slightly wary of it to be honest with you – surely raw food basically means carrot sticks all.the.time? But I loved the sound of NAMA’s food philosophy and so was super interested in paying them a visit and finding out how raw food can be delicious.

Over-excitedly strolling through Notting Hill
Georgie and I arrived for a Saturday morning brunch and excitedly sat down (seriously, we’d been excited about this for days.) The interior fits perfectly with the vibe of the café – simple, clean and natural. There was also wonderfully chilled out music playing.

At 10am, we were the first ones there (keen beans), but by the time we left it was packed!

We were brought some cucumber-infused water as soon as we sat down which not only looked really cool but was also tastier than expected. I also generally just love it when water is brought without you having to ask.

First up, Georgie and I ordered a few beverages: I went for a Chai latte and mango lassi smoothie...

Of course, when ordering my latte I was offered a choice of milks: coconut, almond, hazelnut, rice, hemp or bonsoy (nope, I've got no clue what bonsoy is either.) I chose almond and it was delish - didn't really taste any different to a regular latte with normal cow's milk.

My smoothie was also insanely delicious. Super thick and tasty, and the friendly waitress even told me she thinks the others on the menu are all better! Crazy.

Georgie went down the très healthy green route with a green tea and green juice:

She thought her juice was delish. I was less of a fan. But that's probably just because I'm yet to try a green juice and actually like it.

Moving on to the food, it was a tricky decision. The walnut pancakes and buckwheat granola were extremely tempting, but in the end Georgie and I both ordered the porridge:

It's called porridge but is actually made from fresh mature coconut, dates, almond, apple, vanilla and spices, topped with cacao nibs, hemp seeds and blueberries. How's that for a bowl of health?

I liked that it was served with individual milk jugs too.

Of course, unlike classic porridge, it was cold, so in my opinion more like bircher muesli than porridge. Whatever you call it, it was blimmin' delicious. Like, seriously delicious, and really cleverly made - the texture was just like muesli/porridge!

We both absolutely adored it and agreed we'd eat like this all the time if we could. The porridge was filling, flavoursome and made me feel super awesome as it was so full of goodness.

As I looked around the café, it appeared most of our fellow diners were on the porridge too... We must have made a good choice.

Brunch was not over yet though, oh no.

It was pudding time, of course. (Brunch pudding is totally a thing, right?)

NAMA have a selection of puddings, but I think the best offering is the sharing plate of mini ones - who can choose just one pudding!?

Beautifully presented, much!?

Despite being somewhat full, we managed to chomp our way through blueberry and lime cheesecakes, maca energy bars and white chocolate crunchy squares.

They all tasted so indulgent I could barely believe they were all so healthy! The white chocolate squares were my favourites.

Georgie and I left NAMA feeling energised, awesome, happy and full. I was also extremely taken by the lunchtime menu so am pretty desperate to go back and give that a try too. I just wish there were more places like NAMA around!

Realistically, it's the prices of all the ingredients that make eating the NAMA way all the time slightly challenging, but I certainly left feeling inspired to try.

And if you fancy having a go at some raw eating yourself and can't get yourself to NAMA, they've kindly shared one of their recipes with me: Arroz con Leche (Spanish rice pudding).

Arroz con Leche is a creamy rice pudding delicately flavoured with cinnamon. It is one of Spain’s favourites and we have decided to recreate the flavour in this delicious raw recipe. The traditional rice and milk are replaced with coconut, one of our favourite nuts.   
To serve 4, you need: 
1 cup young coconut meat (from 2 coconuts)
3/4 cup coconut water
1/4 cup maple or date syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
Put the coconut meat, coconut water, and syrup in a blender and process until very smooth. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the blender jar with a rubber spatula. Transfer the mixture to a small mixing bowl and add the dried coconut and the cinnamon and stir well to mix. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours. To serve, sprinkle some cinnamon powder on top and decorate with half a cinnamon stick. 
Stored in a sealed container in the fridge, the Arroz con Leche will keep for three days.
I certainly think it looks and sounds delicious so am keen to have a go myself - do let me know if you do too!

What do you think of raw food?

NAMA kindly invited me and Georgie to try out their café but the opinions in this blog post are entirely honest and 100% my own. Thanks, NAMA!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Ludicrously skinny, scrummy and simple peanut butter banana pancakes

Oh my god you guys, I have massively won at healthy brunch. 

Actually, not even brunch but just breakfast - these are so good-for-you and low-cal you can totally have lunch as well.

But sweet lord in heaven above, they are ludicrously delicious. 

Like seriously, mind-blowingly tasty

So insanely good that I made them twice in three days. I've been dying to share the recipe with you ever since!

They're super flavoursome, bursting with peanut buttery banana-y goodness, which is then a match made in heaven with the Choc Shot and berries I like to top mine with. 

They've got that classic American fluffy pancake texture going on which is quite frankly a marvel considering they don't contain any flour. That's right: NO FLOUR!

Although, they're slightly squidgier than traditional pancakes, but hey, I for one enjoy the squidge. 

The egg makes them rise, but they don't seem eggy or omeletty at all, neither in taste not texture. 

These pancakes are actually an ideal breakfast because they're super healthy and really filling too. 

What with the egg and peanut butter they're blimmin' bursting with protein to fill you up for the day and beautiful energising banana will give you a fab morning boost. 

What's more, you get a huge portion for one person and they're so low cal - for seven pancakes (which I consider to be one serving), I've calculated it's about 300 calories. Insane, right?

Obviously if you smother your pancake stack in Nutella your calorie count is going to shimmy on up a bit but in the name of all that is delicious, I think that may have to occur. 

I like to go for a drizzle of all-natural, low-cal Choc Shot myself so finish feeling oh-so-virtuous. 

You know what would also be epic though? Chocolate chips in the pancake batter. Go on. I dare ya. 

And oh ma days, are these babies simple. I bet you're expecting me to list a load of weird protein powders and whatnot, aren't you? Well no, siree! All you need is three ingredients. THREE! And they're normal things you probably already have too: 
  • Banana
  • Egg
  • Peanut butter

Oh, and depending on the size of your egg/banana you may need a splash of milk (I used almond milk) but everyone has milk, right?

So to sum up, these pancakes are a little bit wonderful. 

I'll be honest, I'm feeling pretty damn pleased with myself for concocting them. Yup, I'm a smidge smug. So I really really hope you guys love these pancakes as much as I do. 

I just can't get over how amazing they taste and then how healthy they are!

Sorry, I really should calm down. 

This recipe is for one portion (a stack of seven pancakes) but could easily be increased to serve more. 

It's crucial your banana is super duper ripe (like, brown ripe) as this will give your pancakes more flavour and natural sweetness. 

Now I want these pancakes again.


1 super ripe banana
1 egg
1 large tbsp smooth peanut butter 
(A splash of milk if needs be - I used unsweetened almond milk)


1. Mash your banana. 

2. Add the egg and whisk in well. 

3. Whisk in the peanut butter until you have a smoothish batter. Add a splash of milk if you think it needs it. 

4. Either use kitchen roll to wipe a tiny drop of oil round a non-stick frying pan or place a circle of non-stick parchment on the cooler hot-plate of an Aga. Leave to heat up for a few minutes. 

5. Drop large spoonfuls of the batter into the pan and watch them spread and small bubbles appear on the surface. 

Cook for about 1-2 minutes over a medium heat then flip over and cook another minute or so until brown (these go a bit darker than traditional pancakes, fear not.)

6. Stack up on a plate, top with whatever you fancy and prepare to enter healthy heaven...

Do let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Following my dreams with a Smythson Panama notebook.

A girl can never have too many notebooks. Especially not a girl who loves to write as much as I do. 

And whilst I'm often found tapping away on the Notes apps on my iPhone and iPad, nothing beats putting pen to paper. I always have a notebook in my bag, and it's safe to say I get through a fair amount of them. 

I particularly love notebooks for list-making, especially for lists that are going to be a bit more permanent (so probably not your shopping or weekly homework lists.)

A stylish notebook really inspires me to write too. Not only to write, but to dream, to use my imagination, and to think. 

Such has been the case with my latest acquisition, this beauty from Smythson: the Panama notebook.

As one would expect from Smythson, it’s frightfully well-made and oozes quality.

At first I was slightly perplexed by the pale blue shade of the paper, but then I read the story in the back of the notebook – it turns out Smythson notebooks and diaries contain ‘Featherweight’ Paper, copyrighted by Frank Smythson in 1916, who had a vision to create the world’s first practical, lightweight, portable diary.

My notebook is certainly practical, lightweight and portable, so well done, Frank!

Furthermore, Featherweight Paper is half the thickness and weight of normal paper so you can squeeze lots of pages into a slim book. The paper’s also rigorously tested to ensure it can hold ink from a fountain pen. I kinda wish I had a quill to be honest with you.

Featherweight Paper is also pale blue in colour (although I don’t know why.)

Paper aside, the Panama notebooks are bound in crossgrain leather and can even be rolled up or squashed – they improve with age. There’s nothing like the slightly-worn look of a well-loved notebook, is there?

The notebook bindings are handmade with stitched spines and gilt-edged pages, which certainly add a luxurious feel in my opinion.

After the notebook was first launched in 1908, it was affectionately nicknamed ‘the Panama hat of books’ (hence the name) due to its ground-breaking design.

The bright colour certainly fits in with the colour scheme of my life
It's too pretty for random scribbles, and I don't want to get through this notebook quickly so am only going to write down my absolute best musings in it. 

I'm thinking my favourite quotes, inspirational ideas and bucket-lists. It's so beautiful a notebook it deserves only the best notes!

I'm also feeling pressurised to do my best handwriting. God forbid I make a spelling error! *hyperventilates at prospect*

It's the perfect size for keeping in your handbag (lightweight and small but not stupidly so), but even if inspiration strikes and I find myself sans Symthson notebook, I plan to scribble down my brainwave elsewhere and write it up in my notebook of beauty later.

Hopefully, a few years down the line, I'll have a little book full of inspiration, ideas and memories to look back on. 

You know those books of motivational, witty and deep quotes? Well, I plan on turning my beautiful Smythson notebook into something of a personalised one. You never know, maybe it'll be published one day and you'll be able to buy my musings in Waterstones (or download it to your watch/glasses that work as fully-functioning computers.) (It probably won't.)

I personally think writing, taking time to reflect and pausing for a moment to collect your thoughts is super important, and in this fast-paced, technological world in which we live, it's more important than ever. I need to do more of that anyway, and it turns out a pretty notebook can be just the impetus you need. 

Simply taking a few moments to stop and think about your blessings, something you've heard and want to take on board, or a kind gesture you witnessed and want to remember - and noting it down - can be really therapeutic. 

Smythson Panama notebooks have for a long time been popular with distinguished writers, journalists and travellers – the type of people I long to become – so it’s pleasing to read that “over many generations, [Smythson Panama notebooks] have been called a ‘secret social passport’.”

I see my new notebook and can't help but smile. A little reminder to follow your dreams never hurt anyone either.

This is a sponsored post by Smythson - they very kindly offered me my Panama notebook, but I truly love it and the above blog post contains only my honest opinion.
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