Winter Blues


You know, I give up, I can’t be doing this anymore and I need a way out. What is it that has got me so rattled, you may ask? Is it my PhD? Is it my personal life? Is it my inability to find a job? Well, it’s actually a combination of everything, and yes I have been blaming the season, even though as we near the end of the year, it often becomes my favourite part of the year. As of now however, I’m simply apathetic. I’m struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed and finish those last few experiments and complete my PhD. I suppose it probably has something to do with the fact that the answer to my simple yes/no questions, is only maybe. ‘Maybe’ can’t get you very far. Even a ‘no’ is more useful. Yes, I agree that it’s a negative response, but even negative responses can be motivational, much better than a ‘meh’. Which perfectly describes my current state of mind.

I can’t even remember if it truly is seasonal…my brain (like many others) has a tendency to forget about anything remotely depressing…and of course, romanticising that which is does remember. I can’t blame winter, even though I feel blue. I just want to perk up again, I only wish I knew how.

I think I need to distract myself…maybe some time away? Or read one of the two Mark Billingham books I have sitting around untouched. I just need to do something…and even cooking and eating isn’t helping (very sad!). And of course, when I am sad and upset I want chocolate. Even though I have a dairy/lactose sensitivity…so what does that mean?…Painful tummy aches and worse! I need to cheer up and finish everything!!! So much to to do, glad my spirituality is helping me to just take a few minutes out several times a day. I need more of that. Amplified.

 

My Favourite nachos from Las Iguanas!

Yummy tuna bagel. Best bagel I’ve ever had!

Chocolate chip packed brownie!

Vanilla gelato and Ferrero Rocher cookie dough from Sprinkles. Extremely decadent.

Homemade kidney bean and potato chilli.

Tandoori potatoes made in my new worktop oven/grill! Yum!

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Where have all the good men gone.


Sometimes there’s very little that can be said, but so much that can be done. This dystopian reality we live in, is nothing short of a nightmare. There are atrocities happening on every corner of the globe, in every culture, in every language, and we are all responsible. It’s not enough that natural disasters and calamities affect us, we have to make the lives of those worse off than us difficult, we have to create man-made disasters. And just because our western media grossly neglect the atrocities that are committed by the so-called “world powers”, we turn a heavily blind eye to everything which isn’t occurring outside our doorstep…unless of course, the media decide they want to showcase a story for the rest of the week.

It is now surrealism to imagine a world where people can get along and accept each other’s differences, we no longer have leaders who are the voice of reason and peace. And what’s scarier than that? The fact that these people who incite violence and difference through their silence are the very people who we have put in power. Shame on us as a collective. We are failing in making our voices heard over the deafening noise created by those who have no regard for the lives of anyone different to them. We have become the very people that history has fought over decades, the people that turn a blind eye, the people that try to “ethnically cleanse”, the people that repeat the worst atrocities in history, the people that use violent and inciting words when discussing war with conflicting partners, the list is endless.

What’s worse is that these brewing indifferences is only a start, the poison has spread amongst us, we have let racism, sexism and xenophobia take over like the viruses that they are; we have allowed society to become spoiled and corrupt. This isn’t the world we should leave as inheritance to the generations to come, what have we done to diffuse the tensions that we have unnecessarily created? What have we done to make those who are different to the majority feel safe and respected? What have we done to project the voices of those whose voices are being throttled and reduced to weeping? It only takes one step from one person, to go forward, and that is a step every single person can take. We can smile. We can help lend a hand. We can talk to someone who looks lost and scared. We can take one step. No step is nothing, each step is worth something, I’d like to believe that each step taken with a positive attitude leads to a Butterfly effect somewhere else in the world…a step towards helping an elderly person get into the bus, makes the life of a Syrian refugee a little less fearful for one night. But we can’t stop, we have to keep taking those steps and we have to inspire everyone we know to do the same. I’m not saying donate all of your belongings, or all your money, just a little bit of time, just a step.

 

PS. Titular reference…now more so than I ever, am I finding myself asking this question…the question from a hymn I remember from school.

Ready, Steady…Bake/Cook/Eat!


I believe that this is a much needed post, with all the surreal calamities befalling the globe…be it man-led or natural, I feel like we need something to distract us. To make us feel warm and fuzzy on the inside again, so that maybe, just maybe…we can at least realise what it means to be human again. I can’t help but have a serious undertone to my words, and that is because I find it impossible to ignore what it going on…why do we allow the few of the human race to dominate and undermine what it is to be human?…you know what, that is a question for another post.

I promised myself that I was going to keep this light-hearted…not just because I need it right now, but because we all do. And what’s better than food to keep us going when times are tough.

This is a montage to food…a montage to my food, my cooking. I love cooking/baking!

 

IMAG4032.jpg A comfort food common to almost ALL Gujaratis…Rai vara bataka (Potato with mustard seeds).

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A Fruity number, blueberry and raspberry traybake…I sort of over did it on the fresh fruit aspect and so it was more tart than nice! Well, at least the pigeons enjoyed it!

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Chicken enchiladas…pre-cheese melting! Yum! I love Mexican inspired food, almost as much as I love my Indian food. I like the depth of flavours of things and the spicy, tart, sweet combinations that flood your palate!

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Quintessentially British! I love a good Cream tea! Tart raspberry jam with velvety clotted cream. It’s always jam first for me!

 

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My very first attempt at a hidden Oreo surprise cupcake! Went down unbelievably well…had to stop the siblings fighting over the last one! I was too overwhelmed by sugar in the days before baking this (night before Eid! As always lol) so didn’t try it, but I’ve been assured it is very much in demand! The buttercream was a last minute addition courtesy of my aunts recipe (milk is a must! Her words!), which I proceeded to make on Eid day, dressed in my Eid clothes. God knows how I managed to keep it clean!

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Hot chocolate volcano with custard! I love custard! I went with a colleague of mine to Creams, and this is what I got. Well worth the dairy induced stomach aches! Yumm…custard and chocolate (my love for custard later inspired a disaster…see below!)

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Oreo bubble waffle…tasted nice, but ever so slightly overrated. I think personally, I prefer I straight up regular criss-cross waffle.

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Nachos a la Nazra…pre-grilling! These were amazing, the vibrant colours of the chilli (I ran out of Jalapenos!), the salsa and the tortilla combined with the explosive flavours beautifully balanced with sour cream was an explosion of love in your mouth! Too bad I accidently forgot about turning off the grill and the cheese caught a little…tasted so good that no one cared!

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The theory of this little disaster was far more successful than its actual existence. A jam doughnut inspired mug cake with dairy free custard. Note…over cooking the mug cake makes it feel like a sponge…(very dry and oddly airy), and almond milk is a no no for custard. Stick with milk or just water!IMAG4028.jpg

My slightly over done lasagna…it’s not my fault! The kids want crispy cheese, so they get crispy cheese! I love lasagna. I love starch…yummmm.

 

It’s okay! I’m alive!


No really, I am! Despite all the last minuteness of everything going on right now and all the chaos and stress coming at me from every angle. I am very much still alive. However, only just. It’s difficult to stay afloat when you don’t have the strength to get out of bed…or perhaps it’s just pure laziness. Whatever it is, it certainly is a hinderance. And whilst that warm and cosy feeling I have when I’m lying in bed is plenty to keep me there (and successfully it has!)…that little voice in my bed reminds me more and more adamantly…that there is work to be done. Stay tuned.

Deadline, deadlines and more deadlines, with a splash of stress and reality check.


Don’t evaluate me on the actions of my past, instead judge me on the principles of my present and the intentions of my future.

It has been a hectic few weeks, dashing around to complete my poster for the ISHR-ES meeting in Hamburg, Germany and the uncertainty of whether I could submit within my deadline. But all of a sudden I’m a lot calmer than I have been for a number of weeks (a little help from Nature of course…no, not the journal…although that is helpful too). My DoS is convinced that I can submit on time and regardless of whether those PCR plates show up or not, to be honest…it’s not that big of an issue, I could still use some of my pilot data and mention what I see, but I’d really love to have some complete data. I’ve been enquiring along a new line of thought, something which I just happened to come across a few days ago, something which shows promise and excitement; but I have to remind myself that now is not the time to start new studies, I need to wrap things up.

So let’s focus on the trip to Hamburg, and in true Nazra fashion, here comes the pictures. But before a complete visual overload, I just want to say that I really enjoyed Hamburg as a city, and whilst we (my sister and I) hadn’t quite planned the cultural side of our visit as perhaps Dublin, there was a nice vibe to the city; and if we were slightly more interested in pigging out on chocolate and harbour history…it may have been paradise.

 

 

I have to say the Miniatur Wunderland was definitely an incredible site, The Vatican was one of the most impressive models I saw. And the day to night transition was amazing! And of course the Hachez Chocoversum chocolate museum was definitely a sweet treat, perfect with the opportunity to create our own chocolate bar…lots of chocolatey fun! The botanical garden was also an amazing experience, the humidity and heat were truly replicable of a brilliantly tropical environment, just look at the moisture on that leaf! And the floor to ceiling aquarium at the zoo was definitely breathtaking. Other than being a little expensive in some aspects, the city was great fun when the weather permitted!

 

PS. Title: nope, it’s not a typographical error. I do indeed mean Deadline, deadlines and more deadlines. The ‘Deadline’ refers to the vastly looming thesis completion date, and the others refer to the myriad of deadlines, either self-imposed or doled out. I’m drowning in these deadlines…I’m only a small person!

Edit: The PCR plates arrived!

Have you lost your Dhokla?


Do you ever get the feeling that some things are just Now or Never? Well…this post is one of those. I started writing (by which I mean the title) this particular one, over two weeks ago, and finally I’ve had to get to grips with the fact that I have been procrastinating from actually procrastinating (a vicious cycle for the seasoned procrastinator). I should probably add that it’s taken a good 14 hours from start to finish with this post. Procrastination is not always your friend.

So what has been keeping me away, you ask? Deadline, deadlines and more deadlines, with a splash of stress and reality check (will also be the title for my next post…can’t let such a title go to waste!). August is crowning and with that, the countdown to the end of my PhD is only days away. In theory. I need to finish, I want to finish…but…(there’s always a but). There is still some way to go before I can actually submit and dust my hands of the laborious work that is a PhD (see what I did there!). So those PCR plates, you ask? From Bio-Rad? Still non-existent I’m afraid, to an extent where I think that after around 4-5 months, I’m throwing in the towel. Instead I’m now thinking of an alternative which…actually doesn’t even existent, but let’s see if the companies I’ve contacted can be more satisfactory with regards to customer service.

Right, let’s deviate from PhD related drama, and let’s talk about what is always on everyone’s mind. Food. As I mentioned earlier in a previous post…or two, I’ve found that cooking and baking are perfect to distract me from the chaotic levels of stress that spike high on a daily basis. One thing that I have a slight obsession with is experimentation, which of course as a “scientist” is no surprise. And of these experiments, avocado brownies has definitely stood out; my normal brownies (regardless of Oreos, marshmallow fluff or other ingredients) go down very well, in fact they go down too well, so I thought why not try an avocado or two. And of course, in true scientist-style, I did my research and found that the drawback to the nutritionally superior version of a brownie is a somewhat swampy taste. So how do I get rid of that taste? Simple, add strawberry jam to the concoction…except there certainly is such a thing as too much jam! I didn’t actually follow a specific recipe, I just substituted avocado straight for butter, and although the taste was actually quite nice…I don’t think I’d leave my full fat version, probably because I’m very odd in the sense that I can’t stand stodgy brownies…and avocado will give you a very dense and stodgy brownie. I suppose if I really had to bake them again, I’d definitely only add about half the amount the flour I normally use.

That was a few weeks ago, today however, I’ve made what I was craving since last week…Halwa Poori and Chana Masala (although I’ve haven’t made the pooris yet, it’s for dinner so I’ve got a bit of time). I’d been craving halwa poori, like the one we have when we go to a Pakistani restaurant in Makkah or Madinah, but the fact that I was in Hamburg all week meant today was the only chance I’ve had to make it happen (more on Hamburg in the next post). Halwa poori is traditionally a breakfast dish, pooris are eaten with chana masala and then with sweet halwa; but to be honest you could eat it at any time because it’s so good!

 

Can just about see the very dense, stodgy texture of the brownies.

Chana Masala…one word…Yum! Even without the coriander!

Semolina halwa…mango flavoured with pineapple chunks, raisins and nuts!

 

PS. I love khaman dhokla! You’ve got to mad not to like it! Gujarati food rocks!

I need a paper towel and a Valium.


Nos somos humanos, e nos não somos perfeitos. Mas, tentamos.

Isn’t it a relief to have your car insurance sorted? It feels like a bit of a load off…though sadly not a huge amount. I was supposed to have finished everything by now…but here we are, almost mid-July and I am yet to complete my PhD lab work. It’s not entirely my fault or ineptitude either, something I’ve ordered and subsequently re-ordered over a period of 5 months has yet to arrive. Bio-Rad. Why the incompetence? My PCR studies should’ve all been completed by now, but I’m still waiting to hear from you, it’s unacceptable!!! I’m now hoping that the one contact I have at the company can speed through their incredibly useless processing and get me what I need ASAP. Apart from that…everything else seems to be dependent very much on luck. I seemed to be unable to yield any results from something which worked at a 100% success rate…and now that (with a great deal of help) I’ve got it up and running again, I’ve now run out of antibodies…so despite spending 10 hrs in the lab yesterday…I’ve nothing to show for it.

On a slightly better note…my DoS has just sent back corrections for me to do with my chapter…and although that’s a good thing, having a flick through, I don’t feel so great about it. There are a lot of tedious things that need changing and some data which is apparently not needed. But of course…I spent weeks if not months collecting the data and then of course the painful analysis, so it feels a bit painful to remove. I feel quite deflated to be perfectly honest, the sort of feeling where you’re trying to pump air into a balloon with a hole in it. Absolutely futile. I won’t lie. I’m exasperated. I want to finish everything and move on with my life. This PhD has been draining and not because it’s too difficult, but because this environment is corrosive. This is where hopes and dreams come to die, Little One.

But let’s end on a slightly positive note…I tried baking peanut butter and M&M cookies on Sunday. The verdict was positive, though being self-critical (as always) they weren’t what I had wanted. Recipe was from Tanya Burr, although she also adds pretzels and I didn’t have nearly enough M&Ms (little brother ate them!). Enjoy! I’m going to try and find as many things to bake as possible…my only real form of stress relief!

Cookies!

 

PS. Titular reference is Lorelai’s reaction to Emily wanting to date.