Broccoli pesto pasta


It is unfortunate that the photograph makes this dish look somewhat boring, when it really isn’t. I chose this recipe because it reported to be easy and quick and it was a weeknight, so I didn’t want anything that would take too long. The flavours are subtle, causing one to savour each bite. I doubled the recipe, which made a lot, more than I was expecting. But the pasta is also great as a pasta salad. I’ll include both the recipe for the pasta and also for how we made it into a pasta salad.

Broccoli pesto pasta
(From BBC Good Food)

Serves 8

  • 800g penne, farfalle or conchiglie pasta
  • 250g broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 6 Tbs pine nuts
  • 10 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 Tbs Parmesan (or grana padano), grated
  1. Tip the pasta into a large pan of boiling salted water and cook according to pack instructions. Meanwhile, bring a smaller pan of salted water to the boil, add the broccoli and boil for 4 minutes.
  2. Drain the broccoli and return it to the pan. Lightly mash the broccoli with a potato masher or fork. Finely grate the garlic and zest the lemon, then mix into the broccoli with the chilli flakes and pine nuts. Cut the lemon in half and keep for later.
  3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Stir in the broccoli pesto and squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon. Pour in the olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Spoon in the grated Parmesan, toss the pasta well and serve.


IMG_8160Pesto Pasta Salad

Serves 2

  • 200g pasta, prepared as above
  • 200g salad leaves of your choice (we used mixed leaves one day, then rocket/arugula the next)
  • a handful cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • a handful of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • parmesan (or grana padano) cheese, grated
  • lemon olive oil, to taste (can substitute olive oil and lemon juice)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all of the ingredients into a large bowl and toss until well mixed. Enjoy!

Favourite things

My church:


Dressed in penitential purple for Lent. I know, my church has featured before, a few times. But each time I’ve provided a different picture of the church, so it’s all good… ūüôā

Out of season

Last December I posted about a crafting project I had started¬†using the autumn leaves F. has brought back for me from Germany. I never did write the follow-up post because it included someone’s Christmas present, and then I ran out of craft tape,¬†but now I’ve finally finished all of the framed leaves I was going to make, so I can write about them.

After preserving the leaves with modge podge, I chose the best and prettiest leaves to frame. I ordered four sheets of A4 plexiglass from Amazon and bought four glass picture frames that were on sale at Boots. I discarded the backs of the picture frames, saving them ‘just in case’ for another project which, conveniently, I have found a purpose for (forthcoming). The glass panels are held together with craft glue, hot glue, or modge podge — I experimented to see which works best, and it’s all-purpose craft glue. The craft tape I found at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s (I can’t remember which) while in the States, and I found something similar from Bonkers here in town when I ran out. I would have preferred book linen tape, but I couldn’t find any *anywhere*. The craft tape worked out fine though.

a) Sarah's leaves b) my leaves

c)   d)

a) Sarah’s leaves; b)¬†mine; c)¬†F.’s grandmother’s;¬†d)¬†and F.’s.

Sarah’s features a leaf from Oklahoma, Scotland, and Germany. Mine and F.’s grandmother’s have leaves from Germany and Scotland, and F.’s is fully German. I have lots of leaves left over but I have put them away until I can think of something else to do with modge podge-preserved leaves.

This is an example of how long projects can take at this stage in life. My workspace for crafting is a little alcove in the sitting room and the preserved leaves lived there for about three months. I only have time to craft about an hour or so a week, if even that, so it takes a long time for any project to get done.

Anyway, although the autumn leaves are out of season now, they are still pretty.

Mango cream


Whenever F. and I have dinner together we try to have a dessert. Nothing fancy, just something sweet to finish off the meal. Since yesterday had the good news of a job interview and finishing my second penultimate-ready chapter, I bought some double cream, mango, papaya, and passion fruit yoghurt, and some mango chunks.

The problem with yoghurt is that it can be too sweet on its own, and that’s why we mix it with cream. The end result was somewhat plain looking, so I cut up the mango chunks and arranged them on top to make it look special.

Mango cream

  • double cream
  • mango, passion fruit, and papaya yoghurt
  • mango chunks

1. Whip the double cream to your preferred consistency. I like it just before it gets whipped, when it’s still liquid, but thickly so.

2. Mix in the yoghurt to taste.

3. Chop up the mango chunks into smaller chunks and mix in with the yoghurt cream. Arrange slices on top if you wish, but this is not necessary.

Simple, thicker and creamier than plain yoghurt, and delicious.

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Opening line: ‘Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father.’

go tell it on the mountainAs it nears Johnny’s fourteenth birthday, Johnny is increasingly at odds with his community, especially his father. Gabriel Grimes’s fanaticism drives him to abuse his family in his pursuit of righteousness and perfection. Set in 1930s Harlem, Johnny does well in school and dreams of leaving Harlem to live in the big houses of Fifth Avenue. But Johnny doesn’t know the stories of his community and his family, how his parents and aunt all came to Harlem from the South and the lives they left behind and the sins they brought with them. Sin, redemption, faith — these all bind the stories together, even Johnny’s.

Writing a summary for this novel was really difficult. There are three parts to this novel: the first and last parts are Johnny’s story, and the second part tells the individual stories of Johnny’s father and aunt and of his mother. Reading this novel provides insight into the black community in the early twentieth century. I found it challenging at times, regarding zeal and faith, and also found it very heartbreaking. Racism is awful, full stop. I know I write that from the position of being a white woman. But being a woman means that I can relate, a little bit: the scene where Gabriel walks down the street to get medicine for his wife, and he’s afraid because he’s aware that he’s the only black man out and there are white men all standing at the doors of the bars, and the sense of plain¬†wrongness and frustration at feeling afraid in that situation — as a woman, I too have felt that when walking down a street at night, alone, in a city, being hyper-aware of my surroundings. Not the same. But similar. This is a novel I would recommend people to read if they’ve never really thought about race relations in the U.S., or if it’s been awhile, or just to anyone.

Some like it hot

‘After a cup of tea (two spoonsful for each cup, and don’t let it stand more than three minutes,) it says to the brain, “Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!’
‚Äē Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat


I like my tea hot, and I like it to stay hot while I jam away to Brooke Fraser while editing my chapters. Luckily for me, my brother and sister-in-law gave me a ceramic travel mug for Christmas. It has a lid, which helps keep the tea warm.

IMG_8139And then Sarah told me the trick for getting the tea to stay hot for even longer: first pour boiling water into the mug and once the mug itself is warm, discard the water and then brew the tea in it. Presto! Hot tea that stays hot until I finish it! (Okay, with one or two exceptions, but I’m impressed by how long my tea stays hot in this mug.)

The only problem? The ceramic would get so hot I couldn’t hold the mug. The solution: for my nifty travel mug, I would knit a stylish travel sleeve.

And so I did. I used the Woven Cable Coffee Mug Sleeve pattern from A Tight Knit Gathering Blog. Fingers no longer scalded by hot surfaces, hooray.

Now I just need a tea cozy for my teapot and then I will be sorted for piping hot tea for finishing the rest of my PhD!

Ricotta, tomato, & spinach frittata

No photo this week because I forgot to take one. But the good news is that my frittata came out looking exactly like the one in the picture from BBC Good Food.

I also followed this recipe exactly — for once I had everything in the recipe. So, copied from BBC Good Food:

Ricotta, tomato, and spinach frittata
(From BBC Good Food)

Serves 3

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion , finely sliced
  • 300g cherry tomatoes
  • 100g spinach leaves
  • small handful basil leaves
  • 100g ricotta
  • 6 eggs , beaten

1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the onion for 5-6 mins until softened and lightly golden. Add the tomatoes and toss for 1 min to soften.

2. Remove from the heat, add the spinach leaves and basil, and toss together to wilt a little. Transfer all the ingredients to a greased 30cm x 20cm rectangular baking tin. Take small scoops of the ricotta and dot over the vegetables.

3. Season the eggs and beat well, then pour over the vegetables and cheese. Cook in the oven for 20-25 mins until pale golden and set.

Serve with salad. Enjoy!


Opening line: ‘My mother thinks I’m dead.’

legend_uk_ausFloods, earthquakes, and recurrences of plague have ravaged North America. Two countries – The Republic and the Colonies – are perpetually at war. In the flooded capital of the Republic, a prodigy trains in the military, destined for a glittering career. June is put into the field early when the Republic’s most-wanted criminal breaks into a highly guarded medical facility and kills her brother during his escape. It is her job to find him. For the first time June goes into the poor districts of Los Angeles, on the hunt for the enemy of the Republic: the boy named Day. But what happens when she finds him is enough to shake her trust in the Republic, and in everything she has ever known…

Legend by Marie Lu is a new, young-adult science fiction dystopia. I had bought it last year, having found it while looking for books to fill the YA dystopian hole left in my life after finishing The Hunger Games and Chaos Walking triologies. But then I delayed reading it, skeptical, because I knew it was going to be a gamble and sometimes I’m not the gambling type. I’d bought quite a few books last year to replenish my science-fiction collection, and so far the new fiction I had tried had been duds. I was hesitant to try something new.

Which was silly of me, of course, because once I began reading¬†Legend I was hooked. Long-time readers of this blog will know that my favourite sub-genre of science-fiction is dystopian fiction. This means that I was both inclined to like¬†Legend but also hold it to a high standard. If this is my favourite type of book, I don’t just want it to be good, I want it to be¬†excellent. Fortunately,¬†Legend stood up to those expectations.¬†I took it with me to the doctor’s office and read it while waiting at the pharmacy to pick up my medicine. I had two chapters left. It was so good that once I was given my prescription, I sat right back down and finished reading it in the pharmacy!

I am eager to read the next instalment, but am saving it as a reward until I finish the next section of my thesis. In the meantime, Legend has made me excited to read again, so I am happily skipping along to reading other books.

MV Choices: Postgraditis

Postgraditis is more than making good grades or feeling smart.

Many people may perform well on tests in school or even make firsts during their undergraduate degrees, but postgraditis is when you choose a topic and obsessively study it until you know more about it than everyone else. Postgraditis, and its more severe form PhDitis, is a chronic condition that affects a small percentage of the population. Though rare, it is a serious and acute disease with lasting side effects.

Some¬†people still think that postgraditis is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong. Postgraditis can seriously affect the well being and relationships of those diagnosed with the condition. It can affect eating habits, sleep patterns, and can interfere with one’s social life, leading to loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

Postgraditis can take many forms. It can range from those who develop a tendency to collect plant samples, take the opportunity to experiment with lasers, have a fixation on numbers, or even more dangerous flights of philosophical fancy. Those vulnerable to this disease must be aware of the symptoms in order to increase the chances of an early diagnosis.

The symptoms of¬†postgraditis can be complex and vary widely between people. But as a general rule, if you have postgraditis, you swing between feelings of idealism, self-importance, and generally feeling ‘on top of the world’ and feeling stressed, anxious, and like you no longer time have time for extracurricular things you used to enjoy.

If you think you or a loved one might be suffering from postgraditis, consider the following questions:

  • Are you looking at graduate programmes or are already enrolled in a graduate programme at a university?
  • Do you make more than one trip to the library per day?
  • Do you have more than 100 books on or around your desk?
  • Do you find yourself contorting yourself on the floor in stretching exercises or yoga poses recommended by your physiotherapist?
  • Do you frequently eat more than one meal in your office?
  • Do you find yourself referring to your office or lab as ‘home’?
  • Do you use words such as ‘sign’ and ‘signifier’ during dinner conversations (and know what they mean)?
  • Do you spend an inordinate amount of time on Wikipedia or becoming intimately familiar with the inner workings of the BBC or The Guardian websites?

If you answered yes to¬†two or more¬†of the above questions, you might have a case of postgraditis. However, there are many other symptoms of¬†postgraditis and¬†you’re unlikely to have every¬†one listed above.

There is no single cause of postgraditis.

You can develop it for different reasons. However, studies show that those with undergraduate degrees are more likely to develop this condition.

If you have postgraditis or PhDitis it is important to talk to your local academic advisor.

There are no physical tests for postgraditis. The main way in which your academic advisor will tell if you have postgraditis is by asking you lots of questions about your educational history and how the way you are feeling is affecting you mentally. Try to be as open as you can with your academic advisor. Describing your symptoms and how they are affecting you will really help your academic advisor understand if you have postgraditis and how severe it is.

Living with postgraditis may be difficult, but also can be very rewarding.

Not all of the consequences of postgraditis and PhDitis are bad. In many cases it can lead to a sense of purpose, a new prefix to your name, or even a career. Many people make long-lasting friendships during this time and even meet their life-partner. Postgraditis is not a life-threatening disease and often goes away after 1-10 years.

There are some key steps you can take to help your recovery from postgraditis.

  • Eat well. It is important to maintain a healthy diet while coping with postgraditis. Research suggests that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, monitoring your alcohol intake, and including a regular amount of cake is essential to surviving postgraditis in good health.
  • Get regular sleep. The organ most affected by postgraditis is your brain. Your brain needs regular times to recharge, which is best done while you are asleep. However, too much sleep can lead to lethargy and distraction, so it is important to find a balance that best works for you.
  • Exercise.¬†It has been shown that being physically active lifts your mood and can reduce stress and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your self-esteem. Taking a short walk after lunch can also reduce the tension that comes from staring at a computer screen or bending over books for most of the morning.
  • Find other people with postgraditis.¬†In order to fight loneliness and isolation, it is important to make friends and find ways to be social. Many universities have support groups for those with postgraditis, called ‘forums’ or ‘societies’.
  • Be organised. Keep a diary and keep good notes. This will be essential when you find that you need to remember something you read from three or four years ago.¬†The more organised you are the easier your recovery will be.
  • Meet regularly with your academic advisor. Your academic advisor is there to help you. This can be a fruitful and rewarding relationship. In the rare case where your assigned academic advisor¬†is unhelpful, absent, or too busy, find someone to be an unofficial mentor to help you during your recovery.
  • Do your work.¬†Once you are diagnosed with postgraditis, often the recommended course of recovery is to finish your degree.¬†Remain diligent and keep working. Remember: The only person responsible for a full recovery is you.

Postgraditis does not appear in children and rarely in people under the age of twenty-one.