Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Birthday Weekend

Oh, its been a gooooood weekend. Long weekend, really. Ok, ok. Five days. Not every day was in celebration of my birthday, but I just happened to have five really amazing days in a row... with my birthday thrown in the mix.
Last Thursday, a bunch of friends and I went to a comedy show hosted by the group The Noise Next Door. They are a HILARIOUS group that does improvisation. They remind me a lot of the TV show "Who's Line Is It Anyway". The comedy show was part of the Fringe Festival and it made for a really good night.
On Friday, I was supposed to go out to different clubs with some friends, but that plan fell through and I spent the night in, watching a movie and eating unhealthy food with Caitlin. Before that, I had some long and intense gym workouts which was a nice end to the week. And actually, for the crazy weekend that was about to begin, this low key night was exactly what I needed.
Saturday was filled with epic-ness. First, I went to the Marina and saw two Brighton Festival shows- Trolleys and Push. Both were contemporary, which isn't really my cup of tea, but I enjoyed both a lot.
When the shows were over, I wandered around that area of the Marina. I'd never been to this part before and I had thought I'd seen it all! So that was a nice adventure. I ended up in a cafe to grab some food, but half of the cafe was a mini art gallery so I looked around there as well.

Apparently, I wasn't supposed to take pictures. So after I was told off, I quickly scooted out of there. I then went into town where I wandered down New Road- which has a bunch of random musicians, people in costumes, and people handing out flyers during the Fringe Festival. After some ice cream by the beach, I went off to a pub to watch the Champions League final. Chelsea (a London team) and Bayern Munich (a German team) were playing. First of all, those are my two favorite teams of ALL TIME. Secondly, a London-based team has never won the Champions League. Needless to say, the pub was PACKED (remember, I'm in England and they get more excited about football [soccer] than pretty much anything else... except maybe beer). The game was REALLY good. It went to penalty shoot out and in the end, Chelsea won by one penalty goal. The resulting eruption from the Brits surrounding me was INSANE. There was alcohol, glass, and bodies being thrown everywhere. I'm so happy I got to experience that, it was really awesome to see.
Sunday during the day ended up being a random adventure in Eastbourne- a nearby city that I hadn't been to yet. I walked along the seafront, which was nice because Eastbourne isn't nearly as crowded as Brighton, and there was a band on the beach playing Disney songs. It was awesome, until they stopped playing the Disney songs, so we moved along. I also got to see an art exhibit, which was interesting. What an artsy weekend I've had! Adding a little culture into my life before Sunday night.... when I went out for my birthday. We played pub golf. And instead of writing out how the night went, I'll show you in pictures:

End of round one.
End of round two.
End of round three.
End of round four.

End of game. With a final score of zero! Not too shabby.
Monday was my actual birthday. I worked on my report, but decided that I didn't want to spend the day in the office, so I went into town instead. I hung out at Wai Kika Moo Kau, a vegetarian (and possibly vegan?) restaurant that was on my Brighton bucket list. Not only did I mark that off, AND get good food, but I also hammered out a lot of my report. Before I go further- this past week has been great for my bucket list. I've marked off- Cala and Arrobas (Spanish restaurant), Eastbourne (city), The Basketmakers Arms (pub), and Wai Kika Moo Kau (Vegetarian restaurant). YAY! Ok, so anyway, after a long day of report-writing, I went off for some birthday dinner with a few close friends. But no, the adventure doesn't end there. Thats only four days!
On Tuesday, I learned how to play golf! (kinda) I went to the driving range. And failed miserably. BUT, I did hit the ball pretty far when I managed to actually hit it haha. I also got to spend more time at a marina, and look at boats, which is always a bonus in my book.

...I'm going to leave out the usual gym/food update. The majority of my birthday presents were food related. So... yeah. I'm in a fatty's paradise, but its not great for my waistline! But I DON'T CARE. Why, you ask? Three words- Macaroni and cheese.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

So much festival goodness :)

First, before I start attacking the past two weeks, I'd like to post some pictures from way back when.
Remember when I posted about Easter brunch? Well here is a picture, finally! You might be able to see in the background- little Easter eggs where hidden all throughout the restaurant, including on top of some of those picture frames!

This is the beautiful tulip explosion that has happened all throughout campus. We are hitting some rainy/overcast weather currently, but it was beautiful when the sun was out.
Now, on to some updates. The big news of this post is that the Brighton Festival is currently running. As is Brighton Fringe (the non-selective festival). And a three day music festival, called The Great Escape, just ended. My first festival adventure was.... well, not what was expected. We were planning on seeing Barricade, a circus performance on the opening night of the festival. However, it was in the middle of Hove. And being from Falmer, I wasn't quite sure where the exact location was. In the end, we arrived a few minutes after the show had ended. Why, you ask? Because we accidentally took the connecting bus the wrong way. And ended up taking that bus's entire route before ending up in Hove. So while we didn't get to see the performance, we did get to see a part of town that I've never seen before. And I'm ok with that, I always love a little exploration. Now, I want to spend more time in the heart of Hove!
When all three festivals were running at once, Brighton was CRAZY! Especially at night. There were people EVERYWHERE and they were drunk and excited and there was live music outside. It was really nice. I'm happy the city isn't always like that, but the atmosphere was amazing.
I didn't buy tickets to The Great Escape. I thought they were 150 pounds for a 3 day ticket to up-and-coming bands. So that was not something I was going to buy. However, it was only 35 pounds for the cheap tickets, so I want to go next year. Since some of the venues were outside, I did end up seeing one band called Me and The Bees. They are from Spain and the lead singer apologized, saying "I have the broken English". Adorable. Anyway, they were quite good and really solidified my desire to go next year.
Besides that, I haven't done much festival-related stuff. Starting tonight and throughout the entire weekend, I have a lot of festival activities, so on the next post there will be a lot more :).

I've been enjoying lots of time with friends, especially since I'm focusing mostly on this First Year Report so I have nights off. And multiple times within the past two weeks, I've gone to The Mesmerist. I've really got to tell you about it. Its set up like a restaurant with a bar. And the menu looks good, I'd like to go for food sometime. However, at night the tables are cleared away to make room for a dance floor. And the music they play? Big band 50s. Its AMAZING. The decor is... strange. For example, there's a mannequin behind the bar wearing a skeleton pelvis as a mask. But this place is great. You can sit and chat. Or you can dance to great 50s music. And the crowd is always chill.

I've also been able to explore a little bit of the surrounding East Sussex area. It is SO beautiful here. There's a lot to see around the coast line, there are a lot of natural foresty areas, and there are tons of adorable quaint towns. I went to Rye and Camber, where they have sandy beaches!!!!, this past weekend. It was SUCH a good day. I hadn't realized how much I've missed sand beaches. In Brighton, its rock beaches. And that, my friends, doesn't even touch a sand beach. Camber reminded me a little of Monterey, which of course made me nostalgic. Here's a map to figure out where I am. I had to roughly guess with the stars because my English geography still isn't very good. But the green star near Brighton is where I am and the green star near Rye is where I went to.

 Speaking of maps, I found a HILARIOUS Brighton-play on the Tube map. Those who know what the London Underground map looks like should appreciate this:

I know for the past few posts I've been moaning about my abstract and my report. Well, I'm happy to say that my abstract is IN! I'll have to make a poster, but the conference isn't until October, so I have plenty of time for that. I also think I'm pretty ahead of the game for my first year report, but it is taking a lot of time to complete so I try to keep working on it every day. I've been having some failed experiments lately, which has been a downer. My new TEM experiment didn't really answer the question I was hoping it would. And it seems like I might need to use a different form of microscopy to get my answer. Which means more time off to train, because I don't know how to use it. I've also had some trouble with the snails cooperating and with getting the gels to work for me. It's frustrating. And slow. But that's science. On a better note, I have applied to be a tutor for bright, low-income students in East London and have made it through the first round of qualifications! There are two more rounds, so hopefully I can get the job. I'm also hoping to be a tutor (TA in the States) for the University, but this other program will let me create my own program to teach the students.

And finally, a Paleo update. First off, let me say that this is my favorite diet I've ever been on. And not just because I'm allowed to eat bacon! I recommend it to anyone who's looking to be healthy without frantic calorie counting. My diet has become less strict as the time has gone on. For example, I've incorporated yogurt back into my daily diet. I like it too much to get rid of it and yogurt is pretty good for you. Have I reached the weight I've wanted to reach by the time I wanted to? No, unfortunately. However, since I moved here, I've gotten my BMI under control and have dropped three pant sizes. And I can't be too upset about not obtaining a number when I'm so happy about the other two. Although, buying new clothes doesn't really fit into my budget... but my clothes are getting too big to really be able to wear anymore. ...oh well. I've really done this to be healthy and I think I'm really moving in the right direction for that. Paleo has helped me understand what my body actually wants. Not only can I distinguish between hunger and boredom/craving/whatever for the first time in my life, but I realize specifically what it is my body wants. And when I do have an especially bad day from the diet, I feel awful the next day. Which is even more initiative to really keep the grains and dairy down. I used to have terrible cravings for grains. And while I still get a craving for toast, or would devour cheese manicotti in a heartbeat, I'm not so keen on the everyday grain intake that I used to have. Pasta is pretty boring to me now, unless it has an epic sauce to go with it. And that's a big step for me! Besides feeling better, I think I'm looking better too. And I'm feeling stronger. That's because of the increased exercise I've been doing. I'm on a good routine and I'm actually enjoying working out! The Paleo has helped with my weight lifting- the diet make my muscles feel amazing while I'm lifting, instead of the normal fatigue. I'm not looking to become super strong, but the health benefits of weight bearing exercise are too great to overlook.
Here are some Paleo-friendly recipes I've tried and really enjoyed. They aren't all completely Paleo, but with a few substitutions can easily be made for a strict dieter. However, I'm not that strict. So there wasn't much deviation from the original recipe: Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps- so ridiculously good and easy that I'll probably be making this time and time again. Spinach, Squash, and Zucchini salad: I'm usually not huge into salads. I find most are either too boring or too crazy and over-the-top for my liking. However, this has BACON. And butternut squash. And zucchini. And I used arugula instead of spinach for an extra peppery flavor. But this salad was phenomenal and I'm planning on making it again this week. Lighter Sesame Chicken: This was great. A take on Chinese food, but no grease and way more filling. Chia Seed Pudding: This one might be a little strange for the average individual. But if you LOVE pudding (like me) but need it healthier, then this is a good recipe. It lets me eat chocolate while on a diet while adding fiber. Ummmm, yes please! I've made this at least 3 times so far :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lenzie Goes Paleo

Paleo, primal, caveman. Whatever you want to call it, that's what I'm working on right now. It started as a desire to quickly get through a plateau that I've hit, but I'm also interested in the aspect of ketosis that it can supposedly lead to. Let me explain- the paleo diet is actually pretty simple; no grain, no dairy, no legumes. Just meat, fruit, veg, and healthy fats. I'm ALL over that, even though I usually try to keep my animal protein consumption low and substitute it with beans, lentils, or other high-protein grains/veg. This is my fourth day and it hasn't been too bad yet. I like the challenge that it brings when it comes to cooking. It has also introduced me to some new health foods- like coconut oil, almond meal, and chia seeds. Plus, from the biological/health aspect, it seems like a pretty sound idea- to eat like our ancestors ate, taking out all of the highly accessible processed foods that are SO unhealthy for us. An added bonus is that it is supposed to reduce bloating, IF you have a minor gluten or lactose intolerance. Gluten, found in many of the grains that we eat, and lactose, found in dairy, are actually intolerances that most people have, if just minorly. This is because of our evolution- after the breast feeding stage in development, mammals don't consume dairy. And grains weren't accessible for consumption (think of how processed our flour and pasta are!) in the same way as they are today. Now, I have no idea if my body is intolerant to either of these, but if it is, the bloat caused by the intolerance will go down. Its worth a shot, right?
But really, after only four days, I haven't noticed much of a difference. I'm thirstier than normal. My hunger is different than what I'm used to... I'm guessing its a craving for either dairy or grains. The nice difference I've noticed is in feeling tired. Usually, I get tired during the day. However, I only feel tired now if I don't get enough sleep the night before. I also feel like my muscles are more willing to cooperate during my work outs. I'm thinking that has to do with the increase in protein being eaten.
If nothing else, its a nice challenge to try out. Will I only eat paleo from now on? Oh HELL no. Will I stick it out for a few more weeks- definitely. Will I incorporate it into my normal diet- most likely.
Most of this blog update is on paleo because, honestly, its taken a lot of my time. To travel out to different grocery stores to get food I can actually eat, to cook all different kinds of recipes so I have every meal covered... Think about it- there is no "fast" or "on-the-go" food you can get that would be paleo friendly. So if I want to eat a meal and not break my diet, I've got to make sure I've got food prepared. Here are some of my favorite paleo recipes:
Rainbow Asian Slaw: If you know me AT ALL, this has my name written all over it. And it is so so so delicious that I will be making it time and time again.
Tomato Soup: I was a little worried about the consistency since there is no cream, but this was DELICIOUS. And, as a side note since I'm on a health food kick, stop eating canned soups. Seriously. Not only do they taste disgusting in comparison to home made soup, but they are FULL of sodium. And that makes your heart sad. Plus, soup is possibly the easiest food to make. And if you have access to a hand blender, your options for different kinds of soup doubles. I'm planning on making a cauliflower soup and a butternut squash soup during this diet as well. Again, cream and cheese free. I'll let you know if its successful.
Lemon Chia Seed Pancakes: I'm most excited to share this recipe with you- simply because this is from my friend Caitlin's blog. Its a play on Lemon Poppyseed, if you hadn't already picked up on that. And you are probably thinking that there is no way to make a pancake paleo-friendly. BUT THERE IS A WAY! Instead of flour, use almond meal. Easy peasy, plus WAY more protein than you would've gotten with regular flour. Bonus. Now, this recipe isn't paleo. But if you sub the butter for oil and leave out the sugar, you've got a paleo pancake. Its missing sweetness, but just top with honey and you're good to go! Or maple, but I don't have maple.
Another attempt I've taken to get over the plateau and also to just add another layer of fitness is some weight lifting. Caitlin is a weight lifter and is showing me the ropes. I can now happily say that I know how to do a barbell squat, bench press, overhead press, deadlift, Romanian deadlift, and assisted chin up/ pull up. My deadlift form is TERRIBLE, but luckily Caitlin knows what she's doing so she corrects me when I mess up.
Besides this new diet, life has slowed down a little bit. Work isn't just racing by, although that might just be because the actual hands on research I'm doing takes less time at the moment. Its also because I got two fantastic results last week and don't even have the opportunity to get results this week. BUT, next week will hopefully bring some interesting electron microscope results so I'm very excited about that. I've finished the abstract for the conference that I'm going to and I'm slowly making my way through an already almost full notebook of research and putting it into a Word document for my first year report. But this writing is just SO boring. Materials and methods section, WHY YOU SO BORING TO WRITE ABOUT!?!?!
Finally, a pub quiz update- I THINK I've mentioned before how my new pub quiz goal is to get third to last place, as opposed to the usual second to last. Last night, a group of us went to a new pub, Duke of Norfolk, and played. And we got third place!!! Too bad there were only four teams. Haha! But I had a record night with not only being about to answer the science questions, but I also knew some of the Literature and Soccer questions. w00t!

PS- Sorry for the lack of pictures. I know word dense entries are getting old for all of you.