Seeing as I’m currently pottering around the sunny shores of Australia, I thought participating in a Wanderlust tag was particularly fitting.

Where was your first plane to?
Australia! I was 11. We stopped over in Hong Kong and landed in the old airport shortly before it was replaced. The plane came down in between the skyscrapers – I mean you could actually see people at their desks – and I thought this was just the way all planes landed! Needless to say, I’ve been disappointed with most landings since. Also, this was the days before individual video screens so there was just one big screen at the front of every section. Being 11 I couldn’t be bothered with that, so I think I just drew and played games with my sister the whole way. Oh, and subsisted entirely on Jelly Babies, if I remember correctly. Good times.

Where have you travelled to that you would love to visit again?
I’d love to go back to Canada. I previously visited Vancouver, Vancouver Island and some inland BC countryside, and my favourite place was probably Tofino, on Vancouver Island, or Vancouver itself. I was only about 16 when I visited so I’d do things very differently now!

You’re leaving tomorrow, money is no object, where are you going?
Normally I’d say Australia, but seeing as I’m there now, I’ll go for Hawaii. It looks absolutely beautiful, especially those long hikes you can go on up volcanoes. Thinking about it, I’ve never been anywhere volcanically active so that would be exciting in and of itself.

Preferred method of travel; planes, trains or car?
I think I’ll go for train, because it’s generally less of a hassle. However for very long journeys I’d say plane, because you can get further quicker and it feels like more of an occasion.

Favourite travel website?
I’m going to be boring and say Skyscanner or Tripadvisor. I’m a researcher by nature and it makes me happy to have all this information at my fingertips – even if I take most of the reviews on Tripadvisor with a truck load of salt.

Where would you travel to just eat the food?
Italy. They’re marvellous at catering for coeliacs plus the food is absolutely delicious. I’m dreaming of burrata, gelato, gluten free pizza… It helps that it’s also a very pretty travel destination with plenty of culture to keep me busy between meals.

Is there a place you would never go again?
This is a tricky one as there’s usually something redeeming about every destination, and circumstances affect your enjoyment of a place immensely. After that heavy caveat, I think I would say Strasbourg, in France. When we visited it was cold and rainy, we were visiting my sister who was having a miserable time there on an Erasmus placement, I was a grumpy teenager who had to share a room with her parents, everyone smoked and it was disgusting, the pavements were covered in dog poo, I did not appreciate the cuisine (lots of pickled cabbage and giant gristly sausages) and I was too young to appreciate the wine that the region is famous for. I’m sure if I went back now I’d have a lovely time – the architecture was certainly very impressive – but that trip was not a highlight for me.

Can you recite your passport number from memory if asked?
No… I can remember some of it but have never sat down and memorised it. Maybe I should do that. 

Do you prefer the window, aisle, or middle seat?
Always the aisle seat, always always. Preferably an exit row or bulkhead seat, too, which I’ll happily pay a bit extra for. I have very long legs so I get very cramped in most plane seats. I also have a bad back so I need to keep getting up and stretching it (along with my legs) so people would get quite annoyed quite quickly if I were anywhere other than the aisle seat. It suits me fine – I don’t like to feel hemmed in anyway.

How do you pass the time on the aeroplane?
Anything I can think of to pass the time! I binge watch films, TV shows, and/or documentaries if there’s an on-demand entertainment service, if not then I’ll read or listen to music, chat with my companion, eat, make notes on travel ideas from guide books or in-flight magazines, put on nail transfers (the cheat’s aeroplane mani), daydream. I pretty much never sleep, which is annoying but at least I get good value from the in-flight entertainment service?!

Thanks to Tea from Tea Was Here for posting this tag originally, and if you haven’t done this Wanderlust tag before, then I tag you to complete it too! Post me a comment linking to your post if you do.

Happy travels, everyone!

-Rachel



My beloved grandmother had a fall recently, and in the aftermath making a batch of frozen meals was a practical thing I was able to do to help. She had broken her wrist in the fall and couldn’t cook at all, thus Sloth Kitchens (the rather grand title I’ve given my batch cooking initiative) ground into action.
I’ve noticed these kinds of situations are arising more and more often for me and my friends as we hit that life stage where our grandparents sometimes need a little help. Also, friends are starting to have children, and something I’ve always been keen to do is deliver food to new parents. And of course, ’tis the season for coughs and sneezes and flu-ridden friends are generally grateful for a home cooked meal.
My 5 batch cook meals of choice
batch cook meals for invalids, post operation, ill, sick people, new parents, new mothers, new fathers

Carrot and lentil soup ¦¦ This can be pimped with extras if you find the base a little bland, but the great thing about this soup is that it’s almost allergy proof. It can be made vegan, dairy free, gluten free, and possibly paleo compliant as well (although if you’re an invalid and you’re still eating paleo… good luck to ya). My recipe is here.
Shepherds pie ¦¦ Of all the bolognese based dishes, this one is the best. It doesn’t have tricky pasta to cut like lasagne, it’s dairy free unlike lasagne, you don’t have to make pasta separately and worry about it sticking together or being difficult to eat like spaghetti, and the mince has a gravy based sauce rather than a tomato based sauce which may provide a welcome change. You’ll all have your own shepherd’s pie recipes which may or may not have been passed down for generations, but if you don’t, Google is your friend here. Pick the recipe that looks the simplest. I use the recipe from The Gluten Free Kitchen by Sue Shepherd (or wing it).
Chicken stew ¦¦ The basic recipe goes something like this: cut up some chicken really small (see below) and brown. Add whatever chopped up vegetables you have to hand. If you want to go for a theme like Mediterranean, knock yourself out. Add passata, herbs and spices. Put in a slow cooker for 8 hours. Tada! This is something a bit different than the endless bolognese they’ll have been eating for weeks.
Risotto ¦¦ Some of my favourite ‘flavours’ are pea and mint (great for veggies, a less stodgy type of risotto that’s great for summer), chicken and pancetta (excellent if you need a healing protein boost), and red pepper and chorizo (for a sort of Spanish twist). 
Roasted veg ¦¦ This one is for those people who might be slightly more mobile, or increasing in mobility, who want lots of veggie goodness but don’t have the stamina, dexterity or time to stand and chop a whole pile of vegetables. They can add these in to whatever else they are eating – they make a rad accompaniment to polenta, a plain tomato pasta, or you can hoof them down cold from the container if that’s more your style. #nojudgement
Things to consider
Packaging ¦¦ For people who like to reheat in ovens or who are lucky enough to own an Aga, consider metal takeaway trays. For those with microwaves, pack in plastic. Both types are available from supermarkets and shops like Wilko. They’re inexpensive and mean you’re not chasing after your containers for months afterwards.
Extras ¦¦ Consider including plastic cutlery, paper plates and disposable napkins for those who can’t easily wash up after themselves. Sachets of condiments are a good idea, especially if they complement the meal.
Guests ¦¦ New parents may have family members staying. Always ask how many they’d like cooked for, or deliver a job lot of single serves for them to use as they see fit.
Physical restrictions ¦¦ If you’re cooking for a Grannie who just broke a wrist, or a new mother who is breastfeeding, try making your meals easily eaten with one hand. Don’t include anything that needs cutting up, or chasing around a plate like peas. Things that still taste good while lukewarm are a bonus.
Dietary requirements ¦¦ Do check whether there’s anyone who maybe has a nut allergy or coeliac disease. Make sure you’re quite clear on what they can and can’t eat, and if you’re not sure, double check. They won’t mind, I promise. Make sure you don’t fall foul of any cross-contamination, either.

Nutrition ¦¦ Part of me says that when you’re sick, caring for a new person, or short of time, it’s totally fine to indulge yourself. The other part of me says that indulgent options are often the easy options, so the person you’re cooking for is more likely to be eating those already. Plus, bed rest and/or medications (and, I hear, childbirth) can play havoc on your insides, so a good ol’ dose of wholesomeness might go a long way. Fibre is your friend. That’s all I’ll say on the subject.

Common sense ¦¦ You’d think this would go without saying but… common sense isn’t always common. Steer clear of spicy food, anything that may interfere with medications or breast milk, alcohol, or anything risky like unpasteurised dairy, raw eggs, runny cheese, or any ‘lightly cooked’ meat/fish. It may be boring, but err on the side of almost nuking everything just to be sure.

Do you have any tried and tested recipes for taking to new parents or people who are ill?

-Rachel



It’s now just over a week (!!) until I embark for the sunny shores of Sydney, to spend Christmas with my sister and her family. I wrote a bit about how excited I was for the trip here, but that was a few months ago now and things are getting closer, and much more real. I’ve never spent Christmas abroad before, and neither has Mr ANN, so that’ll be something completely new for us. I’m so excited – but I’ve also realised quite what I’ve got left to do. Here’s what my going away checklist is looking like at the moment.

falalalalalalalala.

Wardrobe ¦¦ It’s sweltering over in Australia at the moment, with temperatures regularly over 30°C. That’s not something my pale British self is used to – but I’m certainly not complaining. My wardrobe may need some serious looking at, but there’s nowhere to buy shorts in the UK in December so I’ll just have to make do.

Christmas presents ¦¦ These have almost all been taken care of – we decided to adopt all our UK family members an animal each from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey, which is a cause close to my heart. Most people in our families are grown-ups who just buy everything they need themselves, and we have no desire to clutter up their lives with things they don’t. So an animal adoption suits us all very well. For the non-grown-ups, well there’s only my nephew in the UK, and we’ll get him something else to go with his animal – some books about it, I think, and maybe an Attenborough DVD. The other niece and nephew will be in Australia, so we’ll be taking presents with us for them. We’ve been asked to bring out some books so have been delving into our childhood memories for our most loved stories (and then buying them online – how very Millennial).

Packing ¦¦ I’m a last minute lassie when it comes to packing, but I think I should probably start getting some bits and pieces together now. Especially because it’s so cold here that I just can’t conceive heat. I keep trying to pack jumpers before realising what I’m doing. This could take a while. Any tips, anyone?House sitting ¦¦ We’re going to be staying at my sister-in-law’s (well, my brother-in-law’s sister, that’s my sister-in-law… right?!) place while she, her husband and son are in New Zealand visiting family. It’s such a generous offer of them – and they’re letting us use their car as well! – but I’m quite nervous we’re going to ruin something somehow. We’ve already been warned not to turn on the ceiling fan in the bedroom because it calls the police… Help?

In-flight entertainment ¦¦ We’re flying with Asiana and I’ve heard a vicious rumour that the in-flight entertainment isn’t up to much. It’ll probably turn out to be fine, but I’d rather be prepared – because realising that you’ve got 4x 11-hour flights to keep occupied and only one hastily-purchased trashy magazine to entertain yourself with (purchased solely for the free nail polish, obvs) is not the best way to start a trip. I’ve got some books but I’m thinking some podcasts might be more realistic given my anticipated attention span.Korea ¦¦ Speaking of Asiana, we will be stopping over in Seoul for a brief spell in both directions. Whilst I don’t think we’ll leave the airport on the way out (4h stopover), we definitely will on the way back (19h stopover, with hotel provided by Asiana – thanks!). So we need to think about what we’re going to do, the things we absolutely can’t miss, and how on earth I am going to stay warm given I don’t have space in my suitcase for a whole entire cold weather outfit that will be used for less than a day. Has anyone visited Seoul? Any travel tips or recommendations?

Work ¦¦ Things have been suspiciously quiet at work recently, which means there shouldn’t be too much I need to get squared away before we leave. It does however make me anxious that something is going to suddenly hit my desk the day before we leave. Oh and I’ve got to cobble together something respectable to wear to the Christmas party this week, too…

House ¦¦ Remembering to eat all the food in the fridge before we go, put the heating on timer so the pipes don’t freeze, let our neighbours know we’ll be away, put the bins out… Boring stuff but we’ll regret it if we forget it.

Do you have a pre-travel checklist?

-Rachel

10 years ago today I had my first spinal fusion. Having been diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 12, every rapid growth spurt had made this day increasingly inevitable. The three operations I ended up having were horrendous, each in their own uniquely awful ways, but that’s a story for another day.
Today was the day to celebrate my new, straight(er) spine and titanium hitch-hikers and the journey we’ve been on together. This spine of mine has had a pre-tty interesting 10 years and I wanted to mark it’s 10th birthday in a suitable fashion.
First, I treated you to a nice lie in. Nothing like some horizontal time for a tired spine. Remember when I was on bed rest and I insisted I’d never need to sleep again? Well…

For breakfast, I made gluten free pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. Hella better than hospital food, let me tell you. Let’s not mention the fact that you, dear spine, probably triggered my coeliac disease as well. This is your day, and we don’t pick fights on birthdays.
In the afternoon we headed out and bought some provisions for the party we’re throwing you at the weekend. I wonder how many other spines get parties? Oh well. Good thing you like to eat all the same kinds of things I like to eat.


In the evening, we headed out to watch the Christmas Lights Switch-on & Fireworks Happy 10th Birthday Rachel’s Spine Fireworks down by the river. Thanks, Bedford Borough Council! They were beautiful, spectacular, and they even played ELO’s Mr Blue Sky. Do you remember listening to that while we were recovering? 


Afterwards, we had some of The Good Hot Chocolate (basically chocolate shavings) and watched some Gilmore Girls. Aren’t you glad we have Mr ANN to watch things with now? He’s much better company than Fred SP ever was. Sorry, Fred, it’s not your fault you’re only a cuddly toy.
Well, spine of mine, we’ve certainly had our ups and downs. Today, you’re still making your presence felt in all sorts of ways but I know it’s just so that I don’t forget about you. No hard feelings. You’ve taught me a lot; about real lives and the real people who live them, family, pain, joy, determination, loss, faith, empathy, friends, resilience, luck, how kick-ass nurses can be, and which ones are the good pills. Also, you gave me some really awesome scars which are not only some of my favourite things about me, but a fantastic way to wind people up – shark attacks, freak accidents involving Edward Scissorhands, or my true identity as Frankenstein’s Monsteress.
Here’s to the next 10 years. I wonder what will have happened by then? 
Love,
-Rachel