Vegan pumpkin soup (and more)

The season for pumpkins is undoubtedly now, but what do you actually do with them? Do you carve them and then leave them to rot? Or buy pumpkin spiced lattes in ode to Halloween? Well let me tell you – pumpkins are a hugely under-rated vegetable (actually technically a fruit), filled with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, including carotenoids (great for your eyes), fibre (keeping you fuller for longer), vitamin C (to help fight off those winter colds) and potassium (good for lowering blood pressure)

Looking at a pumpkin though, you might think ‘what the hell do I do with this’? I know I sure did – I wasn’t even sure how to cut it! The great thing about pumpkin it can be used in a huge variety of dishes. Almost the whole pumpkin can be used too, including the seeds.

To cut, I used a serrated knife and cut it in half, before scooping out the seeds into a bowl. See further down on what to do with the seeds! This soup is super (souper) easy to make, makes enough to feed a family and is a perfect side or starter at a dinner with some crusty bread and, for non-vegans, cheese (I recommend gruyere).

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Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pumpkin
  • 1 onion
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 1tbsp vegetable spread (or butter if you’re not vegan)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper

 

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  • Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and pith (see bottom with what to do with the seeds) and cut the halves into three each.
  • Score a crisscross pattern into the quarters and place on baking trays covered in baking parchment or tinfoil.
  • Pour olive oil on top of the pumpkin and sprinkle the salt and pepper on top
  • Roast for 30 minutes until soft when poked
  • While the pumpkin is cooking, dice the onion and fry until brown in a saucepan
  • Add the vegetable stock and simmer until pumpkin is cooked
  • Remove the pumpkin from the oven and leave to cool enough to touch it
  • Cut away the flesh from the skin of the pumpkin and place in the food processor
  • Add the vegetable stock and onion mix
  • Blend (in batches if need be)
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

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To use the seeds: wash using a colander and remove the pith (the orange gooey bit) from them. In a bowl, coat in olive oil, salt and any other seasoning (I LOVE a little curry seasoning for this). Spread on a baking tray and cook until crunchy and very lightly browned. Make sure not to burn! Enjoy as a healthy snack any time of day.

 

OK, so I absolutely hate waste, and sadly soup is hard to make with skins, so what do you do with all those leftover skins? I have 2 ideas – pizza and miso-glazed pumpkin.

 

Miso glaze:

  • 1 tsp miso
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tsp lazy garlic/garlic paste
  • 1tsp lazy ginger/ginger paste

Mix all up and spread on the skins. Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes.

 

Pizza:

  • Tomato paste
  • Oregano
  • Cheese (vegan or real)

Spread the tomato paste on the skins, top with grated cheese and oregano. Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes. Enjoy!

 

I hope these recipes give you some ideas of what to do with one of the most under-rated and best value vegetables/fruits out there. My advice would be to go on Halloween or shortly after, stock up and make all of the above recipes! How do you use your pumpkins?

How to beat the winter blues

It’s inevitable that as the winter draws in and days get darker (thanks clock change) that lots of us will start to feel a little down and start to get the ‘winter blues’. A lot of people in the UK suffer from S.A.D, also known as seasonal affective disorder, a mood disorder that causes otherwise positive people to have symptoms of depression ranging from mild to severe in the winter. Symptoms include excessive sleep, tiredness, lack of motivation, hopelessness and low moods, although the severity can range widely between people and from day to day. Whilst the exact cause isn’t known, it’s though to be to do with low light levels reducing serotonin (the happy hormone) or increasing melatonin (the hormone that allows us to sleep at night). Whatever the cause, it’s an annoying fact of winter for a lot of people, but thankfully it can be managed and reduced. Even for those without SAD, doing some of these management techniques can help with general low mood found around winter.

In my past I suffered from depression, starting in my pre-teens and drawing out for almost 10 years. Over time it diminished, thanks to the support and help of family, friends and professionals. During my late teens and early twenties it manifested as SAD – thankfully sparing me summer months but returning as the weather got colder and days darker. My experience coping with it has allowed me to spend the last two winters in relative peace from the low moods associated with SAD. So here are some of my top tips to keep happy this winter! I hope you find them as useful as I have 🙂

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Autumn is a beautiful time of year – but for many it just means darker days and feeling blue

Get enough sleep – but don’t overdo it!

In winter all I want to do is sleep sleep sleep – biologically scientists think that’s because there used to be less food around in winter and sleeping more would mean using less energy so you didn’t have to eat as much. But nowadays with tesco just down the road and deliveroo at the other end of a phone, we don’t exactly have any food shortages to worry about! Having a good sleep schedule is important at any time of year, but especially when there is no natural light to wake you up. Set yourself a strict bedtime and wake time and try not to deviate from this. That way you’ll be getting enough sleep without getting too much and feeling lethargic from it. I aim to be in bed by 10pm, asleep by 10:15pm and up by 6:45am everyday. Sleeping more than 9h a night can leave you feeling more tired, and restricting sleep to 8-9h means that when you sleep, you sleep deeper – something we all want and need!

 

Exercise

I cannot stress enough that exercise – although it often feels like the last thing you want to do when you’re down – is some sort of miracle drug when it comes to SAD. Of course, as with everything, this is a balance of getting enough workouts without exhausting yourself. My gage is how much I can manage – I tend to do a similar amount, allowing for 2 rest days a week. I try to workout when it’s dark outside – the pumping music and energetic atmosphere allow me to forget how dark it is and get lost in the endorphins of the workout.

 

Fresh air and LIGHT

With a lack of natural light being one cause of SAD and low moods, it’s not surprising that getting natural light is on my list of ways to improve symptoms. If you work full time you’ll be familiar with the sad reality of arriving at work in the dark and leaving in the dark, leaving you no time for some sunshine or even any light! Artificial light doesn’t have the right wavelengths to suppress melatonin enough so broad spectrum lights and natural light are the only two that will help with moods. I would 100% recommend getting outside for at least 20 minutes at lunchtime to make the most of the natural light and get some fresh air to keep you awake. I also have a sun lamp – a broad spectrum light that helps me to wake up and produce vitamin D in the winter – I turn it on as soon as I wake up and eat breakfast with it shining on me. I swear by it to help keep my body-clock in check when it always seems dark outside. If you really struggle with SAD I would recommend getting one of these and using it for 30 minutes every morning.

 

Food

Whilst the winter can leave you reaching for the quickest pick-me-up, it’s important to remember that relying on unhealthy foods for energy can leave you feeling even more down after you eat them, often caused by a sugar crash. High carb meals, whilst delicious, should be saved for days of heavy exercise, as they cause the release of melatonin, which is often what makes you feel sleepy after a big meal. Avoid carb-heavy meals at your desk to avoid this, and try not to increase refined sugar intake, as the crash after your blood-sugar spikes can also cause low moods, not helping the situation. I try to avoid coffee in the winter because I know that if I start I will end up relying on it to feel normal, but on tired days I have some just after lunch to get through the afternoon. Research has shown that if you’re not a morning person, having coffee in the morning can mess up your body clock, making you feel weird and anxious, rather than alert.

 

Talk!

If you’re struggling don’t be afraid to talk to family and friends – the chances are that they’ve probably felt the same way too. Research suggests that up to 40% of depression is genetic and that SAD affects 1 in 15 of the UK population. Talking through how you’re feeling (or even just talking about anything) can help alleviate symptoms. Having supportive friends and family around can make the difference between letting SAD ruin your whole winter and managing your low moods and coming out the other side with an even stronger support system. Make the most of them – they’re there because they love you and want to support you. Use that!

 

Self-care

Make time for yourself and don’t ignore your feelings. Run a nice hot bath, light some candles and just sit, enjoying your ‘me’ time. I’m definitely guilty of pretending that I don’t need time alone, and will sometimes go for a week without spending an evening by myself. For many people, all they want is to be alone when down, but for others it’s only too easy to ignore thoughts by keeping too busy. There’s a fine line between keeping busy and ignoring your personal needs. Set aside at least one day/evening a week to pamper yourself to show your body (and mind) some love. Do a little yoga, mediation or just read a good book – it’ll do wonders for your inner energy.

 

I really hope these tips help you manage any winter blues you may be feeling – they’re common, everyone has their days but there are lots of things you can do to help minimise the bad days. For me, rather than being 3 months of feeling horrible, winter now comes with only a few bad days here and there, meaning I am left to enjoy the festive season with family and friends as it is meant to be enjoyed.

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Make sure to eat well and get enough vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy in winter

Shoot with David Wren

Here are some photos from my recent shoot with the amazing David Wren, one of my favourite to date!

I look forward to sharing the rest of these on my instagram too 🙂 Hope you like them as much as I do!

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For shoot enquiries please email meldunbar@wmodel.co.uk or beatrice@wmodel.co.uk

Podcast recommendations

Podcasts became a huge part of my life around 2017, when I started using them to learn more about my chosen final year Biology topics. Since then, they’ve been a constant accompaniment to my everyday life – from sitting in the tube to heading out for some long and otherwise lonely runs. Most recently, I have taken on ‘walk to school month’ as my very own #walktowork month, joined by some others throughout instagram. The health benefits of fresh air and low-intensity exercise cannot be overstated, especially during the darker months, so please join in!

The time spent listening to podcasts is time that not only passes quicker, but is also hugely productive – from keeping up with current events to learning about niche topics, podcasts (in my opinion) make you a more interesting person all round. Let me know of any of your own suggestions and tell me how you get on!

I get my podcasts on Overcast but you can also get them on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher and many other places.

 

In no particular order, here is the list of my favourite podcasts:

The High Low
“A weekly pop-culture / news podcast brought to you by Dolly Alderton & Pandora Sykes – the former co-hosts of The Pandolly Podcast.” Another conversational podcast on all things popular culture, including the #MeToo movement, celebrity news and food snobbery. Very useful if you don’t want to read the news everyday but also want to know what’s going on in the world (and not just the serious stuff).

 

RunPod
Every week Jenni Falconer speaks to a range of people who share her passion for running. From fitness experts to casual runners and everything in between, I love this podcast as it feels like I’m sitting down for a fun little chat with all the guests. “Along the way, you’ll hear top training tips, monumental mistakes and some inspirational stories. So, whether you’re a seasoned marathoner, treadmill trainer, fitness guru or simply putting off that Sunday jog, RunPod is here for you.” Recommend for your long runs.

 

Happy Place
“This is a place where I want to collect all things that make me happy – from joyful food to a clear mind. I hope there’s something here to bring good, simple happiness to your every day” – Fearne Cotton, presenter of Happy Place. I love this podcast because it goes behind the face of many celebrities and talks in a really emotionally intelligent way about mental health, tragedy and day to day life pressures. These are the kinds of conversations I live for, and if I can’t have them myself with these people, this is the next best thing 🙂

 

This American Life
“This American Life is a weekly public radio show, heard by 2.2 million people on more than 500 stations”. It explores themes of contemporary western living and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s one of the hardest podcasts to describe but is well worth a listen! It’s sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted but always draws you in to a story and makes you think!

 

Wardrobe Crisis
If you’re into sustainability and/or fashion, give Wardrobe Crisis a listen. Hosted by VOGUE’s sustainability editor, Clare Press, this interview-style podcast uncovers many hidden truths about the fashion industry. “Join Clare and her guests as they decode the fashion system, and dig deep into its effects on people and the planet. This show unzips the real issues that face the fashion industry today, with a focus on ethics, sustainability, consumerism, activism, identity and creativity”.

 

Freakonomics
“Freakonomics radio is an American public radio program which discusses socioeconomic issues for a general audience”. I have very little interest in economics really, but for someone who likes to understand the world this podcast brings up a whole load of things you’d just never think of. Great for lateral thinking.

 

The Power Hour
My friend and host Adrienne Herbert started the Power Hour as a way to inspire others to get up an hour earlier to achieve more with their days. Now it’s a weekly conversation with inspirational change makers to see what drives them. “Whether you want to build a business, write a book or run a marathon, the Power Hour is going to help you get there faster”!

 

Adulting
Another podcast hosted by a friend of mine, but I’m not just recommending it because of that! Oenone describes this as “the podcast that’s trying to figure out all of the things we never got taught at school”. This pod covers so many topics in deep-dives with interviewees, from diet culture, to white saviourism and money. I always learn something new when listening!

 

Invisibilia
“Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behaviour – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions”. I absolutely love this podcast. It’s less fact-based than the others I listen to, but explores things we wouldn’t often think about with anecdotes on a theme. Well worth a listen, but maybe give it a miss if you’re feeling a bit down. It can be quite bleak.

 

The Naked Scientists
“The Naked Scientists flagship science show brings you a lighthearted look at the latest scientific breakthrough, interviews with the world’s top scientists and answers to your science questions”. I know I’m an unashamed nerd, but I have no shame in recommending this to absolutely everyone. It’s done in a way that absolutely everyone can understand, so no need to feel like you’re not into science and therefore can’t listen!

 

Stuff you should know
“How do landfills work? How do mosquitoes work? Join Josh and Chuck as they explore the Stuff You Should Know about everything from genes to the universe”. Enjoying a podcast that explains just about anything you can think of pay put me somewhere on the nerd-autism spectrum, but I absolutely love it, and it gives you a basic knowledge of a bunch of stuff that people might talk about, from maps to nude beaches. Anything you can think of, it’s probably covered.

 

You are not so smart
“You are not so smart is a celebration of self delusion that explores topics related to cognitive biases, heuristics and logical fallacies”. I don’t understand what that means, but still MASSIVELY enjoy this podcast. It’s definitely in my top 3 pods ever, and also wins the ‘coolest intro music’ award.

 

Homo Sapiens
“Will Young and Christopher Sweeny talk to inspirational people over tea and biscuits.”. Basically described as ‘an LGBTQ version of Women’s Hour’, this podcast is like listening in to a conversation between the two hosts that ranges from hilarious to emotional and back in the space of an episode, covering a bunch of important topics. Not just for LGBTQ+ listeners! Have a listen and see what you think.

 

The Life Scientific
“Professor Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work, finding out what inspires and motivates them and asking what their discoveries might do for mankind”. If you’re a fan of amazing stories about people who have done amazing things, listen to this. I love to hear about the science, but even better than that is the often crazy and inspiring lives that the scientists have lived.

 

Nerdette
“Interviews with your favorite authors, artists, astronauts and more. Because everybody is a little nerdy about something.” This is a new one for me, recommended by a fellow woman interested in the world. It looks at popular culture (one of the latest ones was on black panther, another on Chloe Kim in the winter olympics) and hot topics in the news from a ‘woman of the world’ perspective. I love it!

 

The Debrief/ Nobody Panic podcast
“We all know that adulting is hard. As in, there aren’t nearly enough memes in the world to fully explain just how fantastically awkward it is to try and be an actual, legitimate grown up (because what does being a grown up even mean?). Each week The Debrief’s Stevie and Tessa will be on hand (erm, headphones?) to help you get your life together. They’ll be doing all of the hard, boring research for you into the things that you actually need to know to get by in life.” This podcast annoyed me at first, but actually has some reeeally useful tips and brings up some super important topics about being 20-something, especially as a woman. The Debrief website is also incredible, so if you like that, you’ll probably like this too.

 

Science Hour
“Science News and highlights of the week” – this may sound incredibly nerdy and in depth but the whole podcast explains everything in lay terms for everyone to understand. It reports the latest research in all areas of science, from medicine to astrology to palaeontology. I love keeping up with science news but have no knowledge of anything other than the basics in lots of fields, so it’s great to have the research and its relevance explained.

 

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Podcasts whilst walking to work or out on a run can make the time pass quicker!

Social media and mental health

How to enjoy real life (aka get off social media)

 

… from someone who works three jobs in social media.

 

Before I set out, I’d just like to state that I love Instagram and all it has done for me, but am writing this because I think it’s important that we are all aware of the potential impacts it can have on our lives. I hope you enjoy it!

When was the last time you left the house without your phone? Spent a day ignoring all all social media? If you can’t remember and think it might have been some time a century ago, you’re not alone. A recent study showed that 91% of 16-24 year olds use social media, spending an average of over 2h everyday scrolling through feeds of friends, celebrities and others, with well over 3h daily screen time. Spending all this time on our phones has had known impacts on our mental health. In a study that came out recently, instagram was found to severely harm peoples’ mental health, affecting sleep, body image and causing fear of missing out – all things I can vouch for on a personal level. Snapchat, Facebook and twitter followed close behind in terms of damage to mental health, increasing anxiety and feelings of inadequacy in users. The effects of social media use don’t stop there either – last week it became evident that social media was linked to the 68% increase in hospital admission for self-harm. This was the second well-publicised study this year to directly link social media to worsening mental health.

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Instagram is the worst social media channel for mental health

When we look through our social media feeds, what do we see? We see carefully curated lives excelling at various things and it’s only natural to compare our real ups and downs to this polished highlight reel. Thankfully, for many, social media is used only recreationally, and reducing usage shouldn’t be too hard. However, for many others, social media is a job – a means of earning money and a way of life. The more time you spend on social media, the more careful you have to be that it’s not negatively impacting you. If you’re reading this, you probably have instagram, and if you have instagram chances are you’re already addicted (sorry).

 

Signs you might be addicted to your phone

  • You check it regularly even without notifications
  • You get ‘phantom buzz’ syndrome (when you swore it vibrated but alas no messages)
  • You feel naked if you leave the house without it
  • You forgot to actually enjoy something because you were too busy recording/photographing it

 

How to track your phone usage

  • Checky (measures how many times you check your phone)
  • Moment (tracks how long you spend on different apps on your phone – you can also do this on iphones in settings > battery > battery usage then clicking the clock top right)

 

Intrinsic v extrinsic self-esteem

Understanding that social media is not real life, however important it is to you, is one of the most important things I’ve done for my happiness in my adult life. I started my instagram over 5 years ago, and I quickly found that many used it as a way of creating a ‘perfect’ life, viewed by others as ‘goals’. But how realistic are these things to upkeep? The chances are, that girl you think has the perfect life, just doesn’t – that’s not to say she’s unhappy, but the chances are that she has problems and fears, just like the rest of us. Just look at the story of Essena O’Neil.

So how can SM be improved? The Royal Society for Public Health’s #statusofmind report suggested various measures instagram could implement to reduce the negative impacts it could have on its 800 million users, such as heavy usage warnings – how often is it that we suddenly find that it’s been 30 minutes since we started scrolling through instagram and felt like 5 minutes. Other suggestions included identifying and signposting help to users showing signs of mental health issues, and highlighting when photos have been digitally edited – it’s one thing having body-envy, and a totally different thing being envious of a literally unachievable photoshopped body, and important to note the difference.

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One of the measures instagram could implement to make it a safer platform 

When I started instagram, I found that many said they started their accounts to help them feel connected to people with similar interests. The irony is that the more time we spend on social, the lonelier we feel – it’s been proven. We are so versatile as humans that we’ve changed in one generation from developing self-acceptance at a young age to looking to likes and follows for validation, and I know how quickly that happens. It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s going on on social media and lose track of our real lives, our real connections and friends. The positive feedback cycle of posting, receiving validation and then posting again to receive more validation is easily formed and not easily undone. It’s altering where we look to for self-validation, changing us from people who are self-assured to people who struggle to accept ourselves without others accepting us first. It’s important to remember that we are all on our own journeys, no one is a finished product and you cannot compare your journey to anyone else’s final destination.

 

Boredom 

The constant distraction from phones means we are rarely, if ever, truly bored. Boredom is the source of a lot of ingenuity, self-reflection and contemplation, and without it we may be reducing the creative capacity of our brains. When you sit on a train, what are you doing? Playing a game? Editing photos? Messaging people? Waking along the street, do you have your phone in your hand in case you need to check it? We hate to be bored, preferring to fill our time with ‘productive’ activities. If pushed, people would literally rather administer electric shocks than sit doing nothing for 15 minutes (look up the study, it’s crazy). A book called ‘bored and brilliant’ set out 6 steps to acing boredom, and surprise surprise, the first two were to do with getting off social and disconnecting from the world on the other side of your phone. It’s so easy to fill time nowadays, but it might not always be good. Boredom has been linked to increased productivity, creativity and pro-social behaviour (being nice to people and doing good deeds). When you’re rushing around all day, there’s no time to think. But when you’re alone, there’s nothing to do BUT think. And all that time to think might just turn you into the creative, brilliant, social butterfly everyone on social media thinks you already are.

 

How to be more social, without being on social

  • Put your phone away in your bag whilst walking around. Look around you, enjoy your surroundings and don’t keep checking your phone. You’ll be surprised what you notice when you’re looking up rather than down.
  • Put your phone away when talking to people. This is just common courtesy – you may think that you can text/read messages whilst listening to your friend but you just can’t. I promise you. Don’t leave your phone on the table, put it in your bag or coat pocket to avoid checking it every 5 minutes. Your friends will thank you too.
  • Put your phone away when eating. This is not only good for your mental health, it is also good news for your physical health too. Paying attention to what you are eating increases feelings of satiety and enjoyment of food, meaning you’re less likely to over eat.
  • Listen to podcasts or music instead of playing on your phone when on public transport. Taking out your phone as soon as you sit down is unnecessary. Pay attention to things around you.
  • Turn off notifications – I can’t stress this enough. It’s rare that a notification is so important that it needs to be checked immediately, and looking at your instagram photo every time it gets a new like just isn’t useful.
  • Set time without your phone before bed. Did you know that 90% of 18-29 year olds sleep with their phones under or next to their pillow? The more you use screens before bed, the lighter your sleep, and the longer it takes you to get there. In a world where we are already limiting our sleep to get more done, we need every minute. Put your phone away from the bed, then spend time reading or just thinking before going to sleep. If it’s hard, you know you need to practise more.
  • Set aside social media time and prioritise real life the rest of the time. When I know I can use my phone for 5-10 minutes every hour, I’m much less likely to check it during that hour.
  • Schedule posts. This is especially useful if you work in social media. Twitter apps such as hootsuite and buffer make this really easy, and for instagram drafts can be made all at once and posted later, meaning you’re spending less time thinking of something to post when you’re busy.
  • Delete social apps that you don’t really need. Whether that’s twitter, instagram or facebook. You don’t have to delete your account, but deleting the apps can be a good way to reduce usage.
  • Do other things that you love! If you find that you have time to scroll through SM feeds for hours, you probably have time to do a hell of a lot of other amazing stuff too! Just think of all the things you could get done if you just put down your phone for the day…

 
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Get outside, notice your surroundings and enjoy real life!