10 ways to deal with the blues

29 12 2009

It could be worse. A random giant could pick you up whilst you're in the middle of pootling about.

At the moment I feel deeply blue. It’s a combination of a number of factors – returning to work, leaving my home country, missing my family and feeling a bit confused about what I’m doing with my life. I think everyone gets a bit depressed at times and the dark winter weather doesn’t help!

There’s not much that one can do about feeling down, you tend to have to just ride it out until it goes away. Usually trying to get into a routine helps as you can go on autopilot until your mood has improved. However, here are 10 ways to deal with the blues:

  1. Accept it. Trying to analyse why you’re sad or work out ways to change your situation will probably make you feel worse. If there’s an obvious cause to your unhappiness then do something but otherwise just try to accept it as one of life’s low times. The high times will come eventually.
  2. Eat well. Eating healthy food and not resorting to too much sugar will help stabilise your energy levels and make you feel more in control.
  3. Exercise. Even a short walk will make you feel more energetic and the fresh air will help clear your head. Try to focus on all the beautiful things around you. Remember that the world is an amazing place.
  4. Do something with your hands. Try cooking, painting, cleaning or craft. By concentrating on a manual task, you will enable your brain to switch off and relax.
  5. Get comfy. Put on your most comfortable clothes, light some scented candles and listen to music or watch a happy movie. Smells can really affect your mood so surround yourself with an uplifting fragrance such as citrus.
  6. Read a book about someone in a similar situation to yours. It is very comforting to know that other people have experienced the same things as you.
  7. Take care of others. Give your loved ones, pets and plants some attention. Nurturing others will help take your mind off yourself and will make you feel better.
  8. Plan something fun. Plan some kind of outing or holiday for one or two months time. It will give you something to look forward too and it will make the time in front of you seem more manageable.
  9. Buy a gift for yourself. The best thing to buy is either the starting kit for a new hobby or an item to make your home prettier.
  10. Remember that nothing lasts forever and that life changes all the time. Try to just appreciate the present because one day you will look back and not understand why you wasted so much time being miserable. Also, forgive yourself. People tend to think that their actions are very important to other people. They aren’t. Just let go of things and where necessary simply say sorry. Try to keep calm and not panic about your sadness but instead try to just focus on getting through each day.




Make your own samosas

17 11 2009

It’s really hard to find decent savory things to snack on. If you want sweet stuff there is masses of choice but for people who like their salty snacks, crisps seem to be the only option. Pondering this dilemma the other weekend, I decided to make a big batch of samosas as they are the perfect savory snack.

For the pastry:

Ready made pastry (filo or puff)

Or make your own

220g plain flour

3 table spoons olive oil

water

  • Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the bowl and add a table spoon of olive oil. Mix the oil with the flour. Continue to add the oil and mix it until it is all added.
  • By now your flour and oil mix will be starting to resemble dough. Add small amounts of water and keep mixing until you have a smooth, stretchy dough.
  • Wrap the dough in cling film and place it in the fridge.

For the filling:

half a teaspoon tamarind paste

teaspoon Garam Masala

teaspoon paprika

teaspoon cumin

teaspoon coriander

teaspoon turmeric

a large potato diced

one onion

chopped up garlic clove

chopped up inch of ginger

chopped up chilli

other vegetables of your choice diced

meat diced if you want

  • Heat up some vegetable oil in a large saucepan or wok at a medium heat. Add the cumin to the pan. Once you can smell the cumin getting nutty, add the onions and put a lid on the pan.
  • After a few minutes, the onions should be soft. Add the garam masala, turmeric, tamarind and paprika.
  • Add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Allow them to fry for about 5 minutes.
  • At this point you can add the rest of your ingredients at your discretion based on what kind of samosa you would like to be eating. Add the coriander near the end of your cooking.
  • Once all your filling has cooked, take it off the heat and allow it to cool down. The longer you leave it, the better the flavour. Overnight is ideal.

Making the samosas:

  • Roll your dough into a log and divide it into sections that are about 4cm thick.
  • Roll each section into a flat circle about the thickness of a ten pence piece. Cut each circle in half and make them into half cones. Add the filling and then seal. Water will make the dough sticky so rub some water onto the joins.
  • Deep fat fry or oven bake. Brush with olive oil to oven bake.

Have fun eating them!





Scampington

11 11 2009

On friday night, my fiance and I received a little furry guest. He was in the middle of a busy city road, “frozen in fear”, being driven over by numerous cars. Luckily, he was so tiny and frightened that he stayed still and went between the car wheels.

Just as we pulled up, a man ran out of his car and grabbed the kitten and threw him on the side of the road before driving on. We were right next to our apartment block so my fiance pulled over and told me to grab the kitten whilst he parked the car.
scampi 022
At the back of my mind, I knew that we would be opening a can of worms (both literally and metaphorically) by rescuing him. I walked over to where he had been left and there he was clinging to a tree, trembling like a leaf and mewling hysterically. Throwing caution to the wind, I acted on my human instincts and scooped him into my arms. He nuzzled into me and didn’t even try to scratch.

The man who had helped him returned but it was clear that he was most likely with the UN and unable to take the furball in. We took him into our home and so began the rollercoaster that has been the last few days with Scampington.





Dead Sea Mud Mask

6 11 2009

During my recent trip to Jordan, I stopped by the Dead sea and picked myself up some real dead sea mud. Okay it wasn’t completely real as in I didn’t go and dig for mud and then put it in a little pot but it was genuine Dead sea mud in a pretty container. In keeping with my post about using simplified, natural products; Dead sea mud is perfect. A few nights ago I decided to try it out and see if it had any miracle properties.

Dead Sea Mask

Not one to do when waiting for pizza delivery

First I had a hot shower to open my pores and then I slathered on a thick layer of Dead sea mud. You can tell that it is genuine mud as it smelt strongly of clay and you have to mix it before putting it on as it contains sea water.  I left it on for approximately ten minutes during which time my skin slightly tingled and I felt a bit as if I was sitting in a bog due to the smell of clay. I then washed it off and put on a moisturiser.

The smell did linger for a while, but it wasn’t a horrid smell. In fact it just smelt earthy. My complexion was ‘glowing’ afterwards but my pores were not significantly improved.

A few days later I repeated the process and this time, you could really see a difference. My pores were smaller and cleaner looking and for most of the week my complexion was shine-free. It was definitely more effective than any other face mask I have ever used!





Make your own

4 11 2009

Recently I have fallen victim to the craze for eliminating harmful ‘chemicals’ from your life. Now, as someone with a science background, I know that everything is a chemical so there is nothing that is free of chemicals but I do think that it is important to try to cut down on all the gunk that we are putting into our bodies.

The other day I was thinking about how everyday I get up and watch my face with a cleanser, put on moisturiser, deodorant, perfume and make-up. During the day, I might use a hand cream or more make up. I come home and wash my body with shower gel and my hair with shampoo and conditioner then I moisturise my body and my face again. Put on more deodorant and often more make up and perfume. We all do it and it means that we are actually putting a lot of stuff onto our skin. Plus when you add in all the rubbish that we have in our food, you can’t help but worry a little.

However, I am a rational person and I do think that people are worrying too much about it.

This is a great article written by a scientist where he talks about how these issues have been over-dramatised.

Nevertheless, I still plan to remove some of the unnecessary chemicals from my life and I will be posting anything good that I find.





Men melt

2 11 2009

An Brazilian artist has tried to bring attention to global warming by creating 1,000 miniature ice sculptures of men. Nele Azevedo positioned the ice men on the steps of Berlin’s Concert Hall and allowed them to melt in the sun.

ice-sculptures_4I would have loved to have seen them in person!





Petra, Jordan

30 10 2009
The Jordanian Royal Family

The Jordanian Royal Family

During our stay in Jordan, we of course made time to visit Jordan’s most famous attraction – Petra! Petra is such an amazing place that even the ever-wandering Bedouins choose to remain there. It is also the place the movie directors pick when wanting to film in a land time forgot – both Indiana Jones and The Transformers have been filmed there.

 The hostel we planned to stay at in Wadi Musa (just outside Petra) arranged for a taxi driver to pick us up from Amman. The journey from Amman to Petra should not cost more than 50JD and we paid a little extra so that we could stop off at various spots along the way. You can also catch a local bus from Amman to Jordan – this will usually cost 5JD each. I would recommend that you do one leg of the trip by taxi as the journey takes 3 hours and the highway is quite dull so it’s worth doing a few stop-offs to break it up.

Our taxi driver was a lovely guy who pulled in at a cafe and picked us up some delicious falafel to snack on along the way. During our drive we were stopped numerous times by police to have our IDs checked. This was quite reasonable as the road we were on went past Jordan’s borders with Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Jordan feels like a very safe country and you can tell that the authorities are doing their best to keep the country stable. The Royal family is incredibly popular and you will see their photos everywhere. Whatever they are doing is working because the country is prosperous and most people seem contented. In places there does seem to be poverty but I would say that that is more to do with living in such a harsh climate.

The Dead Sea

The Dead sea

First stop was at the Dead Sea. Stupidly we had not packed any swimwear as we had not been planning on going to the Dead Sea. It is not the most picturesque coastline but it is dramatic. Sharp cliffs meet with a dark sea and in the distance you can see the coast line of Israel. There are few areas where you can access the water but here and there you can see people floating about in the salty brine or painting their bodies with the black mud. We bought some of the mud and I shall let you know if it does anything miraculous to my skin.

After a short stop (I think our driver was somewhat disappointed that we didn’t stop longer for a swim as he was having a good chinwag with some pals of his), we headed onwards along the coast road. Our driver suddenly pulled over at the side of the road and pointed out a small pillar of rocks up on a cliff. Turns out that in front of us was Lot’s wife, the lady who turned back for one last look and got turned into a pillar of salt. That’s the amazing thing about Jordan, it is absolutely steeped in ancient history and myth.

On we went. The drive was pretty arduous and took about 5 hours so not one for anyone prone to car sickness. Next up was the village of Dana which we stopped to look at from a distance. It is a traditional Bedouin village. We then headed up into the mountains and stopped to visit a local Bedouin man. He invited us into his home (built into the rock face) and offered us some very tasty sage tea. He was very friendly and showed us some of his handmade items as well as his collection of ancient coins. People in Jordan are often trying to sell you something but they are always polite if you say no and do not tend to be as forceful as people can be in other Middle Eastern countries. I bought a bracelet and a necklace from him for a very reasonable price (with a bit of haggling). He genuinely seemed to enjoy meeting us and we enjoyed meeting him. If you are ever travelling up the mountain road to Shobak castle then do stop to see him.

Shobak Castle

Shobak Castle

Shobak castle was built in 1115  and located up on the top of a conical mountain, surrounded by desert. It was built to guard the road from Egypt to Damascus and was fought over by many different people during the crusades. Not much remains of it but one can still feel that it was once a very important building.

Our driver then took us onto the small town just next to the site of Petra. We stayed at the Petra Gate hostel and I would definitely recommend it. It is clean and the staff are very friendly, especially the owner (Nasser) who was always available to answer questions and give advice. For a very reasonable price you also get a good breakfast. The next day we woke up early and were taken for free by Nasser to the entrance of Petra.

Words simply cannot describe Petra. There is nothing like it in the world; it combines both the geological magnificence of the grand canyon with the archeological spendour of the pyramids.  You approach Petra via a short hike through a gorge known as Bab Al-Siq. Lining the route are various engravings and tombs. The whole way you can easily imagine how Petra was once a bustling city and one cannot help but think of all the explorers and adventurers who have trod the path before you.

Entrance to the treasury

Entrance to the treasury

At the end of your hike you come to a narrow opening through which you can just catch a glimpse of the treasury. Walking through, the treasury is revealed in all it’s glory. This quote from two commanders from the Royal Navy in 1818 best sums it up, “We do not know with what to compare this scene, perhaps there is nothing in the world that resembles it.”

As we only had one day in Petra, we decided to climb up to the high place of sacrifice in order to get a good view of the whole site. The climb was arduous but worth it as the view was spectacular and, as it required some fitness, there were less people around. Reaching the summit we then opted to take a different route back down which also took us past a number of other sites and allowed us a great view of the royal tombs.  Walking down, we came into the city centre and the colonnaded street. By this time we had been walking for about four hours and were pretty tired. The monastery is at the top of another mountain and is about a 4 hour round trip. If you are only there one day then I think the high place of sacrifice is better to visit, as the round trip takes you past almost everything.

The Treasury

The Treasury

The amphitheatre

The amphitheatre

The street of facades

The street of facades

On our return walk, we got chatting to some young Jordanian girls on a school trip as well as a very sweet Bedouin girl called Riza. They were all delightful and keen to practice their english on us.

By the time we got back to the Petra Gate hostel, our legs were aching but we were exhilirated by the sights we had seen. We ventured out for a kebab before opting for an early night to rest our weary limbs. The food in Petra is not as good as the food in Amman and expect to pay slightly inflated prices.

We opted to do our return trip to Amman by local bus. The journey was on the desert highway and only took about 3 hours. Using the local bus is a great experience as you get an insight into local life. I must say that I am in awe of Jordan’s strong sense of family values. There was a pair of gorgeous little boys on the bus and everyone got involved with playing with them and keeping them entertained.

Jordan is a very moderate Islamic country which allows people to have freedom of religion as well as giving women relatively equal treatment. Many women, as well as men, opt to wear head-dresses but, personally, I think this is mainly a practical adaption for living in a hot, dusty country. Generally, the women seemed to be respected and looked after.

Having been to Petra, I can honestly say that there is nowhere like it and that it would be a shame to never visit it. As one of the new seven wonders of the world and having been built by the Nabateans in 100BC, visiting it is a truly a memorable experience.