What time is it? It’s Vegan time!


Yummy vegan and vegetarian food!

The ‘Wicked Kitchen’ range of exclusively vegan food is actually Wicked; from what I’ve managed to try, they’ve managed to get a lot of flavour into their products, which is something I often find lacking in most packaged foods, especially catered for vegetarians/vegans. My favourite has to be the sourdough caponata pizza with mint salsa verde (tasted amazing!).

So as the title may hint, I’ve been experimenting with a changeup of my dietary habit, just because! I’ve always liked vegetarian/vegan food, but it’s always been very Indian, and as I’ve mentioned before a lot of Gujarati food is vegetarian, in fact on closer inspection it’s actually vegan. So I figured why not!

It started off quite easy and for the first two weeks (the last two of Veganuary) it was great, I was very strict with what I would eat and I actually found myself more focussed and more energetic, probably because I wasn’t binge eating as much nor was I indulging. I actually really enjoyed the vegan food I cooked at home, and sometimes it would end up being vegetarian if I could escape certain ingredients, but nonetheless, I really enjoyed cooking and eating freshly made food at home! I even managed to re-write my results chapters for my thesis and write the majority of my conclusion too.

But the great start was not to last, a few cravings later and I found myself seriously wanting a different texture and taste, notably chocolate. And of course, since JamJar recently opened in Coventry, it was a no brainer. The mix chocolate cookie dough was divine! Very indulgent but perfectly sweet, not too much and not too little and the hazelnut gelato was a much preferred accompaniment to the hot cookie dough over vanilla ice cream served elsewhere. If I had more of a sweet tooth I would be going back regularly! But luckily I’m not overly hyped on dining out! Save the pennies AND the pounds! A necessity for a student.

So whilst it lasted it was certainly interesting, I lasted a lot longer than I had initially given myself credited for and I think I’m certainly going to change my dietary habits, mostly cutting back on the binge eating and trying to consciously include freshly cooked vegetables into my everyday eating pattern. And although ‘Wicked Kitchen’ is incredibly pricey, I will certainly be looking out for overs and marked down prices, because the food is good and the tub is reusable! Perfect!

 

PS. Food listed from left to right, top row: Mustard seed potatoes (Gujarati – rai vara bataka), Chana masala, Delhi dal makhni (ready to eat range from Ashoka). Bottom row: Gluten free mac and cheese with spicy mushrooms, Spiced brussel sprouts and sugar snap peas, Mushroom curry.

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A very late start to the year…


Three weeks into the new year and only now I find myself ready to write something. It’s odd how a few days of perpetual writing can affect the brain…even if it seems that the content is no where near the same. I’ve pretty much completed my thesis (certainly the official draft) and after a chaotic approach to all things ‘supervisory’…it would appear that the breadth of the storm was not as predicted. My chapters are being ‘looked’ at by someone other than my DoS, and in the case of prolonged absence, I have a team shuffle which is ready and willing to go. Sorted. Or so one would think, if that was all that had caused my incredible apathy of late…surely I’d have a spring in my step now? But the reality is that I am still very much laden with apathy and a sense of relentless hopelessness…which can only be shifted in periods, only to return back to where it came. My three concerns and points of distress currently stand as life, job and thesis…and perhaps I should’ve titled my blog post as such.

The truth is, that unlike my other postings, where I somehow talk myself out of a rut and get myself motivated, this post won’t achieve that. It’s not about whether I can create an environment where I remind myself of my capabilities and surrender to the laws of nature which often do the opposite of what one desires. This post is a reminder that whilst one can be motivated, driven and passionate (from angles one never dreamed)…if there are others involved, the process is never going reach the anticipated outcome. Dependence on others to do the right thing, is common sense, just like when you are entrusted with a responsibility which would affect someone else, you most certainly will give due diligence. But sadly…this isn’t the world we live in, at least not anymore. I’m glad that it doesn’t take too much for me to write how I feel and it does help getting it off my chubby yet narrow shoulders. The weight of my world is often too much to take…and without anyone to share it with, it seems to be the very thing that will crush me. My dreams, aspirations and desires is what’ll be the end of me. How incredibly glum.

So, let’s veer away from that for the moment, and ignore that we are currently living in a world much like that portrayed in Idiocracy, and let’s try and see a way through this all. What I’m saying is that we all need a little bit of positive change, there’s been far too much negativity, and sometimes just one small happy thought is enough to change world. So what’s my small, happy thought going to be, you ask? Well…given my particular view…it can only be the feeling one gets when you see a soft little blanket of snow fall, and even with all the elements out there to destroy it…it leaves it mark, and even when it’s gone, it’s not forgotten.

 

Let’s make 2018 the year we change everything that we’re unhappy about. NQ out.

We are in crisis.


There are very few times that I truly regret giving up on Medicine…but sometimes, seeing how useless you are to the prevailing problems that are only heightening, can make you question your decisions all over again. I’ve always remembered just wanting to help, it’s corny to some people, I can understand that, but it was the reason why I wanted to be a doctor. I hated feeling helpless every time I saw someone suffering, didn’t have to be someone I knew or someone close to me. I just wanted to help. But all my efforts to pursue that, seemed to fall short and I was indeed exhausted, and here I am, once again, asking myself “how am I useful?”. And right now, in this particular moment, I find myself unable to answer.

That question has only been amplified in the last few days, and now perhaps incorporates a much bigger picture. I now find myself asking “where did it all go wrong?”. I’ve had very few regrets in life (just over a quarter century), but if I were given the opportunity to change one thing about my life, I find that my current answer would be my PhD. The stories given by freshly doctored students may not even reflect the true horror experienced when so many of the factors simply don’t add up. I am constantly trying to think, why didn’t I push harder to get out of this before it even started. I have told myself over the past 3 years that it will get better, but I have yet to see ‘better’. I know what my passion was, and I gave that up because I had no other choice…but where I am now, I am no happier. I’m struggling to complete my PhD in a manner in which I am happy, and through no fault of my own. I feel completely powerless over my own future, and that has often not been a daunting fact to me, however now I feel shaken. I feel as though the people who have the control are the very ones who have broken me, leaving me as mere fragments held together only by my faith. I am broken. And I am unhappy. It’s truly a realisation when I can say that I did not find doing a PhD difficult, no matter where I failed and where I picked myself up again, I was always determined because I believed in my ability and succeeded, but it’s the last hurdle, the one that requires dependence on a very incompetent few where I find myself stumble. Worse, is that I cannot skip this hurdle, nor can I sufficiently cross it alone.

This is where I find myself this year, almost poetically at an inverted crushendo, where everything has ‘built down’ and led to a very steep decline. In a way, it can only get better, but tell that to the one who fallen into a dark hole, with no obvious way out. I was perhaps naive in my thinking that my experience and skills would successfully equip me for employment, yet, this again is a task I find myself unable to check off. In fact, my current thoughts about my personal occurings resonate very much with my thoughts regarding the global and national situation. We are being governed by those who WE placed in power, yet we are unhappy, being made to differentiate between our neighbours, and no closer to peace. Why are we in this mess? It is not one simple answer. Brexit. Trump. Modi. May. Climate change. Deforestation. War. Terrorism. Poverty. Sickness. Austerity. Jerusalem. There is too much wrong to find even one right.

I need a light to break through the darkness. We all do. We need peace and global calm. Not calamity or enmity. We need a light to show us the right way once more. I hope that this new start can wipe all our mistakes and we can look forward to making things right. Let us not let our past decisions dictate our futures. Let us not let those with hatred speak for us all. Let us truly show what mankind is…and let’s not waste our time with fireworks!

 

NQ out for the year.

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!

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.

Must’ve eaten from the same beetroot.


I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve posted (it probably hasn’t, but I haven’t really got much sense of time at the moment), so here goes!

So just to get things up to speed, I’m recovering from a cold…it’s been more ‘headache’ than most other symptoms, but I’m not complaining…much. Although the cold may be subsiding, the headache may be here to stay. Undergrad projects have started and that spells chaos, and since we’re (PhD students) making a point of staying well out of the way, I’m hopeful that the chaos won’t spread. But who am I kidding, since when doesn’t chaos spread? In fact, it may even reside well within the roots of each of our respective studies…now that’s a scary thought!

Four weeks to get through, and I’ve finally got my “plan” written down, whether I can complete all that I ambitiously aim to fulfil…well…we’ll just be optimistic, won’t we? As I said to a colleague of mine earlier today, I have 7 lots of experiments to complete until the end of April, and I should be able to complete 5 of the 7 things. But then again, life does tend to get in the way of things, and I do mean Life…please don’t ask me what that means, my mum has asked me plenty as it is! (Crawls into the smallest little crack in the wall…They’ll never find me here!…laughs theatrically until a spider crawls into my mouth)

Like I said before, this is going to be a very busy year, and I expect to be procrastinating a lot. A lot. I just hope that everything happens like I hope it will. There’s a lot of hope and effort to be put into this year, and it’s entirely possible, with the support system that I have. I love you all. I just want my silly isolations to work, and I hope that I can make sense of the flow cytometer! I have no idea what the outputs mean, right now it’s all just random blobs…in what I would say are the wrong places. But how would I know! Oh well, just have to try again and then again, until I can get something that I actually understand.

So here’s to new and old techniques, and a year of waiting and seeing.

 

PS. Titular reference: Something I heard on TV.

Three days, one dress.


Do you ever just feel as though tears are just looming…no need for a push, just a tap to set them free? Oh well, I suppose it’s a passing thing. One minute you’re an emotional wreck, the next you’re hard as nails. It feels as though I haven’t posted in a VERY long time, and I suppose in the blogosphere…it probably IS a long time. So what’s been happening? Well, it seems that once again I’m struggling to “science” (yes, it is a verb…because I said so), I seem to be unable to get my own protocol to work again! And it’s odd because my colleagues seem to be working it just fine, in fact even when I make my own buffers and do 80% of the protocol…with 20% assistance (the crucial part clearly), it also works just fine. But any more input from me, send my experiment to the bin…quite literally. So what does that mean…it means that I can not “science” (yes, once more) without a pseudo-proxy. And what does that mean? Well…it means that since there is a shortage of PhD students in the lab right now (holiday season of course)…my experiments are on hold.

It felt as though before I started writing this post…I had a lot to say…perhaps too much, maybe to the extent where I am now overwhelmed with catching up with myself. So I suppose that means that I should summarise…right? So in short, Nazra isn’t having a very good ‘end of year’, far too much political drama which has destroyed all hope in one’s self and a lack of trust in everyone around (not my bestie!). Too much hurt, and not enough support. It’s a darn good thing that the Gilmore Girls came back…and even better that Nazra is a one-woman-band. You pick yourself after every fall, dust off, head strong and shoulders back…and carry on forward. It’s the way of life, there will always be people to put you down, but the important thing is to not let yourself down. Believe in yourself when no one else will and listen to your heart. It can be turbulent and often you feel like you shouldn’t leave that warm bed first thing in the morning, but you need to go out there and show your critics that no matter what they say, you will only take positives from them. They can’t hurt if you won’t let them.

So, as much as I would like to say that the phase has passed…it hasn’t quite, but I’m not going to let it put me down anymore. And with a bitter-sweet few days in London (BPS Pharmacology 2016), I now have a new energy for my work, I feel validated to an extent…not that I really needed it, but it’s just fuelled my imagination. All I need to do now is focus my energies on the right areas…I need to plan ahead for my future, I need to make those contacts and get those people thinking about taking me on. I need to complete my chapters and get my experiments to work (God help me! Please!). And I need to be firm with my supervisory team, no more waiting around for 20 minutes outside of an office and chasing up meetings when no one actually turns up for one, they will ALL HAVE to respond. No more nice Nazra.

Like I said a few years ago…Bring. It. On.

 

PS. Photos from London! Aside from the initial shock horror and reality smash for my colleague…the conference was well informed and I picked up a lot. But of course, none of that matters when you get to hang around London and see all those lights…SJ making it all sweeter. And of course, there was pizza (yum)…and Wicked!

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Psst…I feel as though I should clarify the titular reference, my indecisiveness meant I bought the same dress three times over three days…having returned it twice! Glad I bought it…for the third time!