Ok, so for many of you we are almost a week into social distancing, staying home and even isolation. I’m now past week 2 of quarantine and I’m lucky enough to be finding my groove. For those of you who know me, cooking is one of few activities that can completely calm me. I’m so focused on what I’m doing I find myself thinking less and less about anxieties. Obviously at a time like this it’s a privilege to have the resources to cook or bake but if you do it’s a great way to make something delicious, hearty and possibly healthier than processed food, let alone for many it’s a great way to keep busy and escape the reality we are currently facing. I’m an avid baker and my flat mates, family and friends are constantly receiving edible gifts. So for now, I’m going to be occasionally sharing some of the recipes I do all from beginner recipes to those slightly more difficult bakes. As much as I’m a perfectionist who finds it hard if my cooking doesn’t come out as imagined, it’s a bit of fun either on your own or with those in your household. I will be using as much as possible everything I have in my cupboards from months ago that need to be used up. This first one is SUPER easy and not only can it be made with loads of different alternatives when lacking ingredients I’ve used, you don’t need to bake it. It’s extremely quick and delicious and still remains a top favourite for those who know me. Bring on the lemon cheesecake.
Ingredients (Vegetarian friendly)
Mascapone cheese 500g (you can half or quarter all ingredients if you only have enough ingredients that way. You can also use alternatives like Quark or cream cheese etc.)
2/3 Lemons for juicing and zest
2 Tbsp Icing Sugar
12-15 Digestive Biscuits (Oats, other biscuits and granola are great alternatives, as i’m aware of how most biscuit isles or cupboards will be baron already)
2 Tbsp Honey (Other sweetening agents can be used like maple syrup for example)
Fruit to top
Firstly crush you biscuits. This is a great time to get some stress therapy breaking them with a rolling pin or giving them a good bashing in a bag (just make sure the bag you use doesn’t have any holes!). Mix in your honey and soft/slightly melted butter. Fill a tin or case with the biscuits evenly and refrigerate.
Next mix your mascarpone cheese with the lemon zest. Depending on your taste buds you’re going to want to juice 1-3 lemons. Personally I like a strong lemon cheese cake so I usually juice 3 lemons and use accordingly. You are going to want to add your icing sugar to the mix to not only balance the sour and sweet but it’ll help prevent the mixture from splitting when you add the lemon juice. Fold in your lemon juice slowly bit by bit with a wooden spoon, I would avoid whisking as you don’t want the mixture to split.
Once the mix is smooth, retrieve your biscuit base from the fridge. Top the base with the lemon cheese mix and level out. I personally love to have a thick base, not here for puny bases, there’s got to be a balance with the cheese mix.
Top with fruit or whatever tickles your fancy and put back in the fridge to stiffen for a couple of hours.
For many of you working from home for an extended period is something you may not be used to. But don’t panic!! We are currently in uncertain times and unknown territory which will be making us all extremely anxious, but as someone who has worked pretty much consistently as a freelancer with the majority of my time from home I thought it may be helpful to share some tips on how to be your most productive, consistent and disciplined whilst also being kind to yourself and tackling those tricky moments.
First off where better to start than the morning. Now, there are a lot of positives to working at home, one being no commute. For many, our daily commute racks up time with the average commute standing at a whopping daily total of 58 minutes and for London commuters 1.5 hours. I hear what you’re thinking…a lie in. Now is the perfect time to utilise this time whether it be recovering from the lack of sleep, waking up to complete house work, spending more time with your family or exercise. You will be gaining some serious extra time in both your mornings and evenings however this can easily lead to bad habits. When I first started freelancing at 18 I had to learn discipline pretty damn quick. Discipline is what is going to keep your mojo. Firstly, whether you decide to get some extra sleep or do something before you start work, leave some time to get up and going. When I say up and going I don’t mean 5 minutes to open your eyes and then pull your laptop under the duvet with you. My best advice is to get up in some form and get ready for the day. I know it’ll be tempting for a while to stay in your pyjamas whilst staying in bed but this will soon become your arch nemesis in terms of being productive and mediating your mood. It starts with pyjamas in bed, then 10 minutes more sleep after your alarm and before you know it it’s 5pm, you’ve watched the entirety of the Shrek series, finished 4 emails and your to do list is longer than your arm. My best advice is to on the most part, get up, get washed and changed and have breakfast. Separate your morning routine from working. Allow yourself time to get your bearings before settling in to take a deep breath before organising and starting your day.
Have yourself a cheat morning as a treat when you complete your goals. Years ago I decided to have one morning a week where I am slightly more lax on how I start my day if I get everything done that I need to. As long as I don’t have any early morning meetings, most Fridays I allow myself to work around my usual routine. This mostly involves me getting up, making breakfast and a decaf coffee before organising my day either from on top of my bed or in my slacks for the first hour usually from 9am. Now don’t get me wrong this isn’t a definite weekly event and if it is it’s usually from my hours being askew from events, meetings and more. But it is important to reward yourself. If you’re ahead of the game or work all up to date, allow yourself a reward.
Set yourself a workspace, preferably outside of the bedroom. Now i’m not going to deny I’m a martyr for doing calls or work extremely early dressed in the dark but I desperately try and stick to a routine including having a space you can associate work with rather than rest, relaxation and sleep. Originally when I began freelancing I would work from a desk in my room. Although I got a lot done I noticed how it began to impact other areas of my life first of all my sleep. I started to struggle with relaxing before bed (all those who know me know I already suck at relaxing). I couldn’t dissociate the idea of work with the space I used to sleep. Winding down became a nightmare, where i’d find myself doing the odd extra bit of work, which then moved to my bed, which then ate into important hours where I should have been sleeping. Eventually the desk had to go. I’m lucky enough to have other space in my home where I can work. I normally move around the house to keep my mind fresh. I usually spend most of my day at the table where I can lay out everything from my technology and calendars all the way to note books. I may also spend some time in other areas of comfort like at my sofa and coffee table. Just because something is comfy and not a traditional desk doesn’t mean you can’t work efficiently. I think moving areas through out the day keeps you awake, aware and fresh thinking. Just be aware that whatever space you use you will associate with work to some extent, which is why if possible try and create some distance from where you sleep.
Take A Break!!
When you work from home it is so easy to work through the day or to hit the wall. I constantly find myself missing lunch which is replaced with meetings, calls or simply me being on a roll. I find it really hard to balance feeling guilty when being away from my laptop or phone even if its for something brief like getting a drink or going to the toilet. It is something I’ve always struggled to manage. If you think about it, when you’re in an office environment how many times do you visit the kitchen for a coffee? How many trips to the toilet do you do? How long is your daily lunch break, so on and so forth. From working from some of my clients offices, I can remember having these moments and almost feeling less guilty whilst splitting my day up, giving me brief respite from what I was doing and in the long run actually making me more focused and motivated for each task. If you apply these to being at home you too will feel respite. I tend have a lot of appointments or errands, I always try and place them together at a suitable time where either I can still be on a call or doing my emails whilst having a brief break and getting other things done to refresh my mentality. Get the parcel posted. Have that 20 minutes walk around the block (or perhaps currently exercise inside the house or garden). Make that coffee. Have a conversation with someone in the house or over the phone that is separate to what work you’re currently doing (no that doesn’t include you have a good old moan about work if it’s needed to let some frustration out). Find what works for you, that may be silence but for others that may be background noise like the radio, Spotify or even a podcast. Ultimately follow the advice you’d give to a co-worker, friend or family member. If you’d be shocked or tell them off for not going to the toilet all day, or not eating any food as they are glued to their devices then follow your own advice and apply it to your working day.
Try and end your day at a set time.
I know this can be presumptuous for those in industries where you are around the clock but if you can set your self a time appropriate to end your day. I know it’s not just me that is guilty for editing documents at 10pm, however you’ll soon notice that if you allow yourself to do this there will be no end in sight. It’s important to unwind, to do something different to your working day that you enjoy. Put down the laptop and the phone, and pick up something else whether it be a book, the TV remote or spending time engaging with others. I like to plan my next day, or at least anything I can plan ahead with. I like to make a to-do list in my note book following up what I’ve already done, what needs to be addressed and what to focus on the next day. This means the next day my head is up to date with where I got to the days before. Making lists is my way of combating work efficiently and boy does it allow me to worry less about forgetting to reply to that urgent email or analytics report I need to have done by 2pm. My other issue I’ve had to try and combat is to put work down. I’m constantly being told off by friends when I’m out and about or in sociable settings to focus on what is going on and now my incoming emails. I’ve lost count the amount of times i’ve said “give me a second to finish this email” or “excuse me briefly, i’ve just got to make a call” whilst at the pub or in a restaurant , it’s something that has driven my friends and family mad over the years, and although at times it’s completely necessary to get lets say Angela that excel document on the timings for our event tomorrow or to do damage control it is also not healthy to be constantly zoned out of the present when at my God Son’s Christmas choir concert. Therefore make sure you “sign out” and have some you time. Balancing you time and work time is what is going to make your days much more productive and enjoyable.
Finally be kind to yourself. We are in difficult times where many are going to be stressed and anxious about their jobs, family, income and more. Although these are key please remember your own health and sanity. Give yourself time to pace yourself, not everything has to be done at once! Please speak to others whether it be FaceTime, your family or even a pet. It’s important you don’t feel alone at this time, and if you know anyone who is alone please reach out in a safe way and also try and support their mental and physical health too. This comes first and before that email to the office.
Stay safe, follow precautions and look out for each other.
To me being a woman is more than social construct. To be a woman to me is a winding road of endless possibilities.
Since my youth I’ve been surrounded by an abundance of strong woman. At every turn in my life there has been a defiant, intuitive, kind and intelligent woman paving the way. My memories are filled with women who have not only looked after me or guided me but who have helped define who I was, am and have become as a woman. Growing up my worldly environments were captivated by women. My earliest memories are filled with my mother who had to take control of situations and multiple roles whilst she worked as a mother, employee of the NHS, daughter, friend, support system and as an individual herself. Truly the biggest inspiration to my life with every unconditional role and action she does to this day. To me it was normal to have a such a strong individual navigate our lives between her and other incredible female role models. My father worked a lot, something that was a privilege to both him, our life and upbringing, but in between it were female role models who filled and put together my life puzzle. My mother sacrificed much for both myself and my brother. She offered emotional and practical support whilst supporting the household, family, husband, all whilst managing to somehow find time for herself. I didn’t just witness this behaviour from my mother, from as young as I can remember I remember arriving at Marilyn’s early morning, to late and even sometimes over night. Marilyn is and will always be more to me than my childminder/nanny, Marilyn was another mother whilst my own mum worked and provided for us. My mother always says how I would tell people that if my mummy couldn’t be there my second mummy would, and boy did Marilyn. Marilyn provided stability and routine for me and my brother whilst teaching me about independence. I can truly say I’m still in awe whilst she continues to provide this for other children. So much of my life memories revolve around her and her family and being accepted as if we were her own children. If we focus on this and remove my loving father and other male role models who mean the world to me from the agenda, my life was guided and dominated by woman. Whether I was ill, needed emotional support on morals, ethics and drive I mostly always found the direction I turned to to be towards a woman. I feel huge privilege to reminisce on memories of my upbringing both for the good years alongside those trying and testing years of mine. I feel that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these woman who taught me so many things.
As a young girl I mostly ran around in dungarees, base ball caps and wellies following my brother and my young male neighbours. Whether it be army crawling through mud, football matches in the summer until dusk, playing with Action Men whilst not escaping brutal boyhood wallops just because I had different anatomy I found myself to be what some may say a typical ‘Tom Boy’. The boys had no fear in treating me exactly the same as each and everyone other them. This bellowing ‘Tom boy’ side was something you couldn’t ignore. I had no fear in asserting my dominance and playing it as rough; whatever the boys gave I could give bigger. Being a woman in society stereotypically revolves around certain topics like beauty, being gentle, being soft and more and don’t mistake me from the above, I adored my plastic high heels, nail varnish kits and pretty dresses (not that my mum could get me to stay in them before the age of 5). These were all things that had their place in my relationship with being a woman but I learned early on that there was a place for those amongst other important attributes, but from my role models I was taught not to become to focused on these specific ideas that were assumed as essential and key to being a woman, if anything my female role models encouraged my more boisterous side. Instead of being made to pick a side or angle I was taught to hone in being strong, independent and kind something that is genderless.
You rely on woman day in day out through some form of contact whether it be someone or thing you see out and about, a role model on social media or a story of a woman who defied the odds to better our society and pave the way to change paying the ultimate sacrifice in many scenarios and situations. I physically can’t write every significant moment or opportunity we have to thank a woman. I have found down trodden women in so many situations whether it be work places, stereotypical societies or more. Alongside this I have found resilience and kindness. In short one of the worst things you can do is pit women against each other. I mean, if we’ve learned anything from the past it’s not to do this, it doesn’t work out too well. Women have had to band together in every instance imaginable to push against undesirable or horrific circumstances. I have found in my darkest moments women to turn to, my friends being a key example. Don’t get me wrong I adore my male friends equally and there is no competition but as it’s International’s Women’s Day it would be wrong to ignore the women who have banded together to lift me up and hold me together whilst I’ve fallen apart. My friends don’t just help and hold me together when I’m unwell or struggling, but they are like an essential part of my DNA keeping me functioning and strong. Without them I’d simply unravel. I enjoy and look forward everyday to what new accomplishment they achieve, every scenario they tackle head on, and what being a women and a female friend means to them. They have taught me about team work, how when one falls apart we all then can follow and fall to pieces. I’ve learned we are stronger in numbers and it’s not only offence when one of us are wounded. I’ve learned that it’s all for one and one for all and a together we are a force to be reckoned with.
My mum my hero.
It’s funny, looking back, each of the woman in my life brought to life different elements. For example my Grandma and Nan taught me patience. Whether that be whilst they waited whilst I threw myself on the floor kicking and screaming as a kid, to gardening and the understanding of nurturing and time and how patience leads to good things. Marilyn taught me resilience, that I could approach anything in my life knowing I had the tools to conquer and defy the odds and that there will always be someone there onside to help especially even when those I love the most can’t always be around. My mother taught me determination, that I have the capability and strength to pull through from not only what I’ve been taught but by who I am as a person and that my attributes are to never be sidelined by what a gender dictates. To me being a woman is more than a gender, a role or assignment or stereotype. Being a woman is tackling and redefining what we are taught by society a woman is and what a woman is capable of. Being a woman is being more than stereotypes, that it’s ok to harbour these traits of delicacy and more without them chaining and defining roles for us. Being a woman is and can be whatever you want it to be, no shame in any role YOU chose it be.
Here’s to all the woman I love, have supported me, owe my life to, and those I’m yet to come across.