Apreciating beauty: Full moon sunrise in the desert

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One of the most beautiful experiences in nature is still resonating with me strongly. The reason being…I took the time to acknowledge and appreciate it. During my time in India this year a wonderful friend and yoga teacher, Sunita Singh, taught me the importance of taking a pause to stop and appreciate beauty.

All too often we think that we are capturing a beautiful moment by frantically Instagraming it, and before you know it the moment is gone. Sunita explained the importance of taking a few minutes to really let the beauty sink in, in silence, admiring the beauty and really experiencing it. Storing it away in your long term memory along with all the sights, sounds and smells will help you to remember it for years to come.

I was woken around 4am overlooking the desert in Arizona by the brightest, lowest and largest full moon I have ever seen. I’d missed the eclipse but I stared up at it nevertheless for a few minutes before drifting back off to sleep. A few hours later the sunrise woke me again, this time the moon was setting behind the mountains and there was silence beside the dim noise of the desert wildlife. It sounds ridiculous but it was utterly magical. Tears were welling up in my eyes simply because it was the most beautiful thing I’d seen in a really long time because I’d taken the time to really appreciate it.

It took me hours to get ready for yoga this morning because I kept pausing to take in the fading view. We should all stop rushing around. Instead, why not set aside time every now and then to take in all the beautiful things instead of overlooking them or just getting the perfect snaphot. Life is too short to let all this beauty pass you by.

 

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Skiing success=not dying whilst sliding down big hills


I had absolutely zero interest in skiing after moving to Switzerland. I’m not paticularly good with adrenaline and my wrists are so feeble they could break just from looking at them. But last summer I took the plunge and bought a load of ski gear in a sports sale. It was 34 degrees and I was trying on thermals but it was the commitment to the cause I needed. The first 2 experiences were utterly horrendous. My first episode was in a blizzard on a steep blue run with a sheet drop to my right whilst my friends repeatedly shouted PIZZA at me from a distance. The second time I strapped skis to my feet I had flu and it was the last weekend of the season so it was glorified sunbathing in slush.


Third time lucky for the first weekend of the season this year. I gritted my teeth and donned my shiny new gear and went for it…wholeheartedly. I spent a great deal of time building up my confidence in my own physical ability in India and it paid off. I can actually ski, somewhat competently too. Granted I was still practising with toddlers but I wasn’t on my arse or hiding on a sun lounger. It is exhausting trying to stay alive on compacted ice when toddlers are flying past you and women are carrying babies up the piste. A 30th birthday ski lodge apres ski in a strong blizzard dressed as a unicorn is the only answer for exhaustion. I think this year is finally the year at the tender age of 27 that I’m going to nail skiing. Famous last words. Bring on more snow!

Morocco: Marakkech & Tamraght. Surfing & Yoga

You know those times when you laugh so hard that your ribs ache and your cheeks hurt? Imagine that for seven straight days. It sounds exhausting but it was pure infectious week of medicine for the soul in Morocco. It’s not often that I recommend particular places to stay as I usually take the cheapest bed available and spend all of my time away from accommodation, however in these circumstances I cannot recommend these places highly enough.

It was an EXTREMELY impromptu last minute trip decided during a yoga studio afternoon tea party. Two wonderful friends are both primary school teachers, so we took advantage of their holidays. Weirdly we had been researching Tamraght individually for a surf and yoga holiday, the universe brought us together and we had the most hysterical week of exercise and laughter. There are truly hundreds of surf schools north of Agadir,but Surf Star Morocco is utterly unbeatable. The accommodation is awesome, we took a triple room and ended up with a huge apartment to ourselves. The rooftop has beautiful views for dawn and dusk yoga, and the food is out of this world. The team of people working at the camp feel like a giant extended family.  October is just at the start of the season and totally worth a trip if you book your flights in advance, don’t get caught out with last minute bookings!

If you’re thinking of giving surfing a try, be warned the waves are packed and you’ll be dodging other beginners all day long. I learned the hard way on day one and bit through my lip after kissing the board in a wave. I spent the rest of the week looking like Pete Burns. Most camps will have yoga teachers that take a day off so there will be a yoga free day, perfect either for day trips, or for me an opportunity to teach.

It was really hard leaving camp after a week of dysfunctional family life but a final night in a suite at the Riad Assouel in the heart of the Medina in Marrakech was calling. Normally hotel photos exaggerate beyond belief, but in this case no picture can show just how amazing this riad truly is, what’s more absolutely nothing can capture the beautiful fragrance. The painstakingly restored medieval architecture and carefully chosen furniture make you feel like Moroccan royalty. From the riad you can take a short walk to Le Jardin, prefect for dinner in the candlelit garden oasis.

I’ve spent years hoping to visit Morocco and this did not disappoint. A truly fabulous week spent with the very best company imaginable.

Fleetwood Mac: If you book them, they will come.

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It was always a life long dream to see Fleetwood Mac. I spent years in hope that one day they would finally cave in and honour one of Michael Eavis’ pleas to play Glastonbury. After days spent in Haight-Ashbury and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco, I got a feel for what it would’ve been like to witness them in their heyday.
After over a decade without touring the full band line up, I never thought it would be possible to see them in their full glory. But alas my dreams came true when they announced that they would headline the Isle of Wight Festival.
The island itself holds a lot of memories for me, and relatives would go to the original festival as hippies in the 70’s back when the likes of Jimi Hendrix would grace the stage. There was no hesitation in buying a ticket and after countless trains, buses, cars, planes and ferries, I made it to the island and was reunited with my best friend and decade long festival partner in crime.
‘Rumours’ were ironically building building throughout the weekend, suggesting that an undisclosed member of the band was experiencing health problems. There was a huge fear that they would cancel in the camps and in the news, but my Wayne’s World mantra remained; ‘If you book them, they will come’. I kept this up for days. I spread the word with every passerby to send out healing vibes and even reserved a bed with the staff in the welfare tent, should the worst news come.
By Sunday afternoon we were on safe ground and it was evident that they were going to show, I could finally relax. The energy felt amazing and the rain stopped in time for them to take stage. Rumours was my 2015 soundtrack, so it was extremely emotional singing along with childhood friends and a crowd of strangers. It was a healing experience hearing them perform songs so important to me, and even more impressive to witness their power. Seeing a lifelong idol in Stevie Nicks performing her heart out was truly inspiring. With the musical nostalgia combined with festival closing fireworks I was blown away by what will probably remain one of the most influential performances of my lifetime.

Fondue and Feuerzangebowle

IMG_0136-0Living in a Swiss nation you’d think its pretty standard to have a fondue as a work social event. Well it is every part the stereotype you have in your head. However working with a number of German colleagues has meant that there was an inevitable Bavarian twist on the occasion. Instead of the seasonal Glüwein we had a rather theatrical Feuerzangebowle. As you’d expect it’s very much a case of fire by name, fire by nature affair. The recipe is much like its mulled wine cousin’s but I fear the fiery version has considerably higher alcoholic content.
You just need a mild red wine, nothing too rich as it becomes syrupy as it cooks. To this you add a cinnamon stick, some cloves and a star anis, and some sliced fresh lemon and oranges. Then for the best bit…the specialist goods. You can order sugar cones online all year round which is he safest option unless you have a well stocked German specialist store in your vicinity. You place the sugar cone on a platform on a platform as the mixture bubbles in a cauldron below. You soak said cone in rum then set it alight. As the flames melt the sugar it forms a syrup the drips into the hot cocktail beneath. You add a ladle of rum as the flames lower and continue to your taste. This is also true for the sugar content. You can add as much granulated sugar as necessary to sweeten it. Obviously the aroma it creates is astounding. Pure Christmas in a mug.
The only appropriate accompaniment for this drink is a good fondue. We paired it with 2 different types a hausgemacht stronger full flavored blend and a milder smoother version. Absolutely delicious start to the festive season.

Artichoke gratin

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I can take absolutely no credit from this recipe. It was introduced to me by a good friend at a tipsy gathering at university. The dish was presented to us and decimated within seconds. The same has happened every time I’ve made it since. It’s the simplest of recipes but it gets hoovered up like its the last meal on earth.
I have not included any quantities here as it depends on the size of your oven proof baking dish, but you need enough artichokes to cover a thin layer of whatever dish you have to hand.
You need to find prepared artichoke hearts to keep things easy. Either in a tin or as antipasti (for this variety you’ll need to drain the majority of the oil. Roughly chop them into smaller chunks and separate the leaves. Spread them out to cover the base of a baking dish and set aside. In a small bowl mix some mayonnaise with some fresh minced garlic, or if you can find it, some smoked garlic. The flavour is worth the hunt for some specialist ingredients. Season with black pepper a small pinch of salt. Mix together and spread over the artichokes. Stir the mixture until thoroughly combined and compact it down to press out all of the gaps. Then sprinkle a generous amount of grated parmesan on top and bake in the oven until it slightly crisps on top.

Get Better – an important message about taking responsibility for your own health this World AIDS Day

I’ve always admired the poetic and extremely articulate lyricism of Scroobius Pip. He flows words effortlessly in a way that you find yourself listening intently to the important messages that he tries to convey. The song Get Better by Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip is of no exception.
He describes the situation of sexual health awareness in London, where he hopes that we develop a society in which we don’t criticise young people. Instead we should focus on encouraging people to educate themselves before making uninformed decisions.
A particular section of the song struck me the most, with the lyrics: ‘The internet and public services give free education. So it really ain’t a case of rich of poor, it’s a case of self motivation and nothing more. Like Billy says, whether you have or have not wealth, the system may fail you but don’t fail yourself.’
This World AIDS Day saw the launch of a new research publication carried out by NAT (National AIDS Trust). It highlighted the striking lack of knowledge amongst the people it surveyed across the UK. It is astounding that with all the free access to information, people are still blissfully unaware of the basic facts about HIV. The suggested reasons for this are plentiful but one of the theories centre around the notion that people have become nonchalant. Sexual health is seen as a less important concern when people feel that any infection they acquire can be removed by simply taking a drug. A quick fix and it’s all gone. However people are blissfully unaware of the facts regarding the range of infections that could affect them at some point in their lives if they do not protect themselves and others. They are uninformed of re infection complications, drug tolerances and issues with late detections.
This World AIDS Day, should be an opportunity to inform ourselves about our own sexual health and take responsibility for our own actions. There really isn’t an excuse. The abundance of free information, testing and counseling in sexual health service means that we don’t have to look very far for free advice, even from the comfort of your own home.