Sunday, 29 March 2015

90. Baking for Mum's Birthday

Hello everyone, here's the first of my B posts (if you have no idea what I mean by B posts then read this) for March and it's a baking one because who doesn't love a bit of birthday cake?! It was my Mum's birthday this week and for the third consecutive year, I baked her birthday cake. I started baking my Mum's birthday cakes because:
  • I love baking.
  • I love my Mum.
  • She loves my bakes.
  • Our local bakery unfortunately closed down 3 years ago so I didn't really have much choice!
  • The bakery didn't have a massive variety of birthday cakes for adults but with home baking, the possibilities are endless!
I've been looking through old posts and I actually published a post about my Mum's birthday cake last year exactly a year ago today! I didn't do a post for the one in 2013 but here is a photo (it's not the best photo sorry, there are some from my Mum's party but the lighting is a bit dodgy with the candles):

So from pink buttercream and a carrot cake with orange cream cheese frosting, what could I possibly do this year? Well, I bought my Mum some Lindor white chocolate truffles for Mother's Day and she finished the box in a couple of days so I knew I had to go with white chocolate this year! White chocolate is probably the most difficult to work with due to its high fat content and I have had a white chocolate ganache disaster a couple of years ago for an Eid cake so wanted a simple and foolproof recipe because I had to bake it after a 6 hour shift at work. I stumbled upon this little beauty on the BBC GoodFood website. I followed the recipe for the cake but added my own twist on the decorating to incorporate my Mum's love for pink. I used the pink piping icing from Asda which wasn't the easiest to work with and if I'm honest, I won't be repurchasing it as it just would not sit on the cake and kept being lifted up whenever I stopped piping. The Asda Daisy Swirls sugar flowers were a great finishing touch, however. Also, I took out some of the cake mixture to make 6 cupcakes because I was actually using a square 20cm cake tin rather than the one mentioned in the recipe. The white chocolate icing in the recipe was so much easier to prepare and work with than a gananche and this recipe has helped me to overcome my fear of baking with white chocolate! Watch out Milkybar, my mixing bowl and spoon are coming for you! 

What's your dream birthday cake?
Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x

89. March Favourites

Hello everyone, I haven't actually done a monthly favourites post so far in 2015 because in January, I had exams so didn't get up to much apart from revision and in February, I was busy producing resources for my antibiotic resistance project. Quite a few favourites have accumulated so I have a few more than the expected three for the third month as I have made up for not having favourites in January or February.

1) Nivea Soft- If you're on a budget and are looking for a good facial, hand and/or body moisturiser then you're in for an absolute treat because this is a 3 in 1 product! It is a rich formula but sinks into the skin so well. I have been using it mainly on my face every morning and hands when it's cold and it hasn't lead to any break outs or excess oil in my oily T-zone. I'm yet to try it on my body as I prefer to use the Soap and Glory Righteous Butter. It smells gorgeous and it does last all day on my face at least. It contains vitamin E and jojoba oil which is an added bonus. Jojoba oil is said to be good for people who suffer with acne, sunburn and psoriasis. Vitamin E is an antioxidant so protects our cells from damage from free radicals which may lead to cancer.

2) John Frieda Frizz-Ease Original 6 Effects Serum- My thermal protection Frizz Ease hair serum finished so I needed to replace it but decided to buy the original serum instead as I rarely use heat on my hair. I apply this to my hair as soon as I get out of the shower so it's literally dripping wet and it really does tame my mane and prevent frizz. It smells great just like the thermal protection serum and the effect lasts between washes. I use about 3 pumps as my hair is quite thick and the length is halfway between my shoulder and elbow. Just a little disclaimer- the product is not red, it's actually just a clear serum. 

3) The Avengers- I know I'm about 3 years late to watch this film and after several of my friends telling me that I have to watch it, I finally watched my first Marvel film and all I can say is that my friends have very good taste in films. I have this thing where I have to watch a film or TV show from the very beginning and I definitely need to do that with the Marvel Cinematic Universe series. Thor and Captain America are my favourite superheroes and my favourite scene was when Thor went mad at Captain America for asking him to put down his hammer. The fighting scenes are amazing especially when it was Captain America and Natasha Romanoff. Another character I really like is Maria Hill and that's not just because Cobie Smulders plays her. The film had the right balance of romance, action and comedy so it's not surprising that it was such a hit. My friend, Sammia has already said we should watch Avengers: Age of Ultron together in a few months so I best hurry up and get watching all the other Phase 1 and Phase 2 films. I really want to dress up as Captain America and Thor (but not at the same time haha)!
Rating: 4/5 (It didn't get the full 5 sheep because I'm yet to watch other Marvel films which could be better than this).

4) Branston pickle- this is probably the first time someone has featured this in their monthly favourites but I do love it on my Ploughman's sandwiches. We actually finished lectures three weeks ago (but university is far from over as we still have exams and coursework) so I have been working quite a few shifts as a student ambassador this past month because I haven't actually worked since the October open days as I have been so busy with university work. I take a packed lunch to work and honestly because of Branston pickle, cucumber sandwiches are no longer my absolute favourites, they have been replaced by a good Ploughman's.

5) My favourite drink this month is Robinson's Blackcurrant and Apple- unfortunately, my Mum is still in hospital and she loves this stuff and now, I have it too whenever I want an alternative to plain water. I like having it in my favourite cup which is the one my lovely summer internship manager got me as a leaving present <3

6) Adidas Ultimate Fit Tights - We're almost in April and yes I am still going to the gym having had my membership for 2 months now (yes I'm also surprised that I've stuck with it for so long). All the clothes I've been buying so far this year have been gym gear and these are by far my favourite purchase. Although they are a little pricey at £31, Adidas do offer a 10% student discount and also, their quality is incredible so they're a good investment piece. Before I bought these, I got some from H&M which were £15 and the seams started unravelling at the calf bit so I decided to stick with good old Adidas. What I love about these tights is that they fit perfectly and don't slip when doing vigorous exercise like running on the treadmill at 8.5km/h for 5km or working out on the cross trainer for an hour. I also love how flattering they look by smoothing out any bumps, even on my thunder thighs! Mine are in the black colour as it goes with everything and in the medium size (I'm a size 10-12 and 5ft 4 in height).

What has been your favourite food, film, fashion and beauty item in March? 

Until next time, take care. 

Mancunian Sheep x

Monday, 23 March 2015

88. To Be or Not Two Bs?

The Life of a Mancunian Sheep is almost 4 years old and I have finally (hoorah!) decided on what I want it to be, better late than never, eh? I actually attended an intensive journalism course at university today and it was my first experience of media teaching since the tiny bit we did at GCSE English as I did neither a GCSE, A-level or degree in media. I thoroughly loved every second of it and it inspired me to really think where I want to go with this blog. Let's be honest, I'm not one of your typical beauty bloggers because 1) I don't actually wear any make up apart from the occasional nail and lip products and 2) There are various other things that I am far more passionate about than the latest Mac lipstick. I'd just like to point out that I am not slating beauty bloggers at all because there is obviously a massive demand for them as they produce some wonderful tutorials and people like myself do rely on reviews for skincare and beauty products.

Anyway, enough about other blogs, you may be asking "So, in which direction is the Mancunian Sheep heading?" Well, I've taken Oscar Wilde's advice of "Be yourself, everyone else is taken" and I'm going to write about what's important to me, what I am passionate about and what I enjoy doing and reading/writing about and that is the three Bs (in no particular order, I've just gone for alphabetical):

1) Baking

2) Biology (particularly bacteria so microbiology).
3) Books

There will be three posts a month for now relating to each of the three Bs (this may increase to three posts a week once I have finished my degree). The fourth weekly post each month will be a typical Mancunian Sheep post so it may be a monthly favourites, a song of the month, a film review or on an event that I attended. The three Bs may seem unrelated at first but some posts will overlap so watch this space! As we still have a week left of March, I will be uploading four posts over the next 7 days so keep an eye out for them! 

Much pun, such fun.

Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x

Thursday, 19 March 2015

87. I Love Bacteria

I've got the bug for bugs (apologies, couldn't help myself). I've finally realised what my calling in life is in the huge, complex world of Biology (it is the study of living organisms after all and we're far from simple). Regular readers will know that I'm doing an education project on antibiotic resistance this semester after writing my literature review on it last semester. Last week, I delivered a workshop to two A2 Biology classes and I loved it! Raising awareness of such an important issue made me accomplish what I wrote in my personal statement when I applied to study Biology at the same age as the students that I taught "I want to pass on biological knowledge and motivate others either through research or teaching", circle of life or what?

Why am I telling you all this? Well, today, I heard a fellow biologist tell some Year 8 students visiting the university "Nobody cares about bacteria" and unfortunately, he's not the first one I've heard say this but he's wrong. I had to bite my tongue from saying "you do realise you're more bacterial than human?" (as we have 10x more bacterial cells in  our body than human) but I was oh so professional. So why am I defending our teeny tiny tenants? A lot of people have the mindset that bacteria are not important because they can't be seen with the naked eye but they're far more deadly than the sharks and big cats we're told to be terrified of from an early age. There has not been a new class of antibiotic since the lipopeptides were developed in 1987. If antibiotic resistance continues to increase, hip transplants will not be able to take place and that's the last thing we need with an ageing population. People receiving chemotherapy are immunosuppressed so are less efficient at fighting infection anyway and without antibiotics, they will be at real danger. Although antibiotics are used to kill bacteria/prevent bacterial growth, many antibiotics are also produced by bacteria. In January 2015, a new antibiotic called Teixobactin was found to be produced by soil living bacteria and so far, no resistance to Teixobactin has been reported. ~99% of bacterial species cannot grow in lab conditions but using iChip technology, the bacteria that produce Teixobactin were able to grow in small permeable membranes so single colonies of bacteria could grow and still access nutrients from the soil. 

Soil, is my other potential calling in life and again is overlooked as the brown stuff that is used to grow the lawns at the Wimbledon courts, turns to mud when it rains at Parklife/ Glastonbury or is used to grow lots of crops in. Not only could soil be our source of new antibiotics, it could also be used to tackle another problem facing the world- climate change. Not only could we use soil as a terrestrial carbon pool to counteract the increasing carbon emissions but it could also be used more efficiently to produce more food for the increasing population, estimated to hit 9 billion Homo sapiens by 2050. Globally, soils contain 1500

billion tons of carbon which is more than double the carbon stored in the atmosphere. Reforestation and changing farming methods to no ploughing are some ways in which we can increase carbon storage in soil. How do bacteria fit in with soil and carbon storage? Well, what determines whether soil is a carbon source or pool is if the decomposing bacteria break down the carbon or release it back into the atmosphere via respiration.

I've just been looking up information on a Masters in Medical Microbiology and although I don't intend to go onto further study immediately after graduating, I would love to come back to it in a few years but want to take a break from education (particularly revising every Christmas) and go travelling hopefully!

If you'd like to find out more about antibiotic resistance and carbon sequestration then check out the links below and feel free to comment below and ask me about it:

TEDx talk on Antibiotic Resistance from the UK's Chief Medical Officer:

Teixobactin Nature article:

BBC Radio 4 Inside Science on the International Year of Soils:

Until next time, take care.

Mancunian Sheep x