The History Behind Thanksgiving

ANDY, A SECOND YEAR M.PHIL HISTORY STUDENT, TELLS US ABOUT THE AMERICAN TRADITION OF THANKSGIVING…

Andy here, wishing you all a warm Autumn greeting.

Like some of you this time of year is not just a prep for Christmas and Black Friday, which is really around the corner, but as a time to gather the family for the tradition in the States that we know as “Thanksgiving.”

Some of you, being American like myself, have probably noticed the absence of the holiday here. I personally have taken a break from it, mainly due to no time and not having Thanksgiving Thursday off, (The last Thursday of November). Nonetheless, it is an important part of our heritage that we still share with others far and wide. That being said, this holiday tradition, of two hundred years or so can be shared with whomever we like.

The holiday was intended to celebrate, give thanks and blessings for a good yearly harvest. Though it seems highly “Americanised”, it has roots in many other nations’ histories including the UK, dating back to the Protestant Reformation and of course various harvest festivals of New England. In the United States the holiday is primarily based on harvest festivals and events in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. Additionally, from similar events from 1612 stemming from the colony of Virginia. All the immigrating pilgrims and puritans from England in the 1620s and 1630s, carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving. As history states this holiday is based off a series of harvest events, contraire to the popular belief of just one.

In the United States, traditional harvest festivals were not held regularly until the 1660s. Proclamations for Thanksgiving did not take off until after the American Revolution in 1682 by both church and state leaders. It was not until George Washington, our first President on the 26 November 1789, that Thanksgiving became and was proclaimed “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and single favors of Almighty God.”

It was not until President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 26th of December in 1941 signed a joint resolution of Congress that the original national Thanksgiving Day changed from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. He had tried two years early to make it a holiday in order to boost the economy.

Today, Thanksgiving is a day to show and give thanks for ‘have and have nots’, and gifts, quite in line with the pending Christmas festivities. To some families back home, they use it as a weekend, Thursday through to the Sunday; to start to prepare for the festivities of Christmas. The whole holiday is framed by a meal with a roasted turkey garnished with cranberry sauce, yams, pumpkin pie and whatever other tasty foods traditionally associated to the first meal the of the pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower to the Massachusetts shores in 1621.

 

The tradition has stuck and with that I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Top Tips on Being a Good Neighbour

2ND YEAR PSYCHOLOGY STUDENT, GEMMA, SHARES HER TIPS ON STAYING SAFE AND SECURE BY BEING A GOOD NEIGHBOUR…

As a Second-Year student, I am undergoing my first year in private rented accommodation and one thing I have learnt is the importance of getting on with neighbours. Not only does it mean there is less tension between locals and students, it also means you have some support if you have an emergency in your house. We had rats in our back garden and somehow this brought us and the neighbours together; although they were angry at first, we explained we were in the process of sorting the situation. Our neighbours actually ended up helping us by ringing up the council and our lazy landlord; in the next few days the landlord finally got pest control to come around- being nice to your neighbour can benefit you as well! Here are my 5 top tips on being a good neighbour:

1. Be friendly
Introduce yourself to your neighbours; if they are also students you may have lots in common with them and you could build new friendships. If they are local to Reading, being friendly can put them at ease and build the community between locals and students.

2. Be clean and tidy 
Find out when rubbish collection day is and remember to bring bins back off the street after the rubbish has been collected. Bag your rubbish properly and keep your house clean so you don’t attract vermin.

3. Keep noise levels low
You’re not in halls anymore- not everyone around you wants to party 24/7! If you’re planning a party, let your neighbours know so that you can work out a time and date that works okay for both of you- Friday or Saturday nights might be the best day as your neighbours are less likely to have work or school the next day.

4. Take responsibility 
If you do get any complaints, take responsibility for them. Apologise and let your neighbours know that the incident won’t happen again, otherwise they may get the University involved which could lead to disciplinary action.

5. Be considerate with parking 
Ask your neighbours about the parking policy and make sure you don’t take up your neighbour’s spaces. Don’t block roads, driveways or garages and make sure you stick to speed limits when driving around your neighbourhood.

Confused? Go to PAL…

3rd YEAR CLASSICAL STUDIES STUDENT, SASHA, TELLS US MORE ABOUT PEER ASSISTED LEARNING…

It’s first year, you’re sitting in a seminar, and you’re nodding your head in agreement at something your tutor is saying in an attempt to look like you know what they’re talking about. Or maybe you’re not in first year and you’re just confused.

Everyone at university has been in a situation where they feel out of their depth, and it can be far easier to settle for pretending everything is fine instead of doing anything about it. Where would you even start? Your housemates all do different subjects, you don’t know many people in your classes, your lecturer probably has no idea who you are, and you’ve never seen such a big library in your life… There’s an endless list of possible reasons why you may want to stick your head in the sand and hope that that one little passage doesn’t show up in the exam.

Talking to people in your classes about the things you don’t understand is probably the easiest way to deal with this setback. Now I don’t know about you, but interrupting a seminar to admit that I don’t know something important isn’t my idea of a great time. You get the most out of seminars when you prepare in advance, after all. But weekly sessions, run by students for students, sound like a much safer place to start. Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) is exactly that: students who took the module last year run sessions for people currently taking it, and help them figure out what’s going on.

Last year I volunteered as a PAL Leader in my department and helped field questions like “Where even is Thebes anyway?” and “Why are the 700s called the 8th century?” You’d be surprised by the number of times one person would ask a question, and suddenly it would all come out: texts are difficult to understand or no one remembers definitions or referencing is way harder than it looks. Sometimes the people in your classes have the same questions as you do, and you’d never even know it. But just as often they’ll have the answers to your questions too, and that’s the really important thing.

PAL Leaders aren’t there to teach you like a lecturer, and it’s a good thing too; in one session I drew such a geographically inaccurate map of Greece that I should have been dropped from my course on the spot. But at the end of the day, everyone at that session remembers what Greece actually looks like, or at the very least they know where Sparta isn’t, which is more than they may have known when they came in. Sessions will always be based on student feedback, which means Leaders will always focus on something the group is struggling with. The best way to get the most out of your education is to take control of it, and showing up to PAL sessions is a great place to start!

For more information about PAL click here

Grace’s Healthy, Freezable and Simple Recipes

THIRD YEAR HISTORY STUDENT, GRACE, SHARES SOME EASY RECIPES FOR YOU TO PREPARE AND FREEZE FOR ANOTHER DAY…

These recipes can easily be changed to suit your tastes, by adding or removing different vegetables. The first two can also be made vegetarian by adding more veg and not the meat. These meals are great to put in for tomorrow’s lunch. I have given the recipes for 2 portions however you can easily batch cook several portions and then freeze in containers. So, you have easy meals to reheat for the next two weeks, while still eating healthy, homemade food.

 

Casserole

Ingredients for 2 portions:

(Add more vegetables if you do not want to add meat)

  • 1 large chopped up sweet potato
  • 1 large sliced carrot or a handful of chopped mushrooms
  • 1 chopped onions
  • 1 chopped pepper
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes or fresh ones if you prefer
  • 2 chicken breasts or thighs, or 2 to 3 sausages per portion

For the Stock:

  • ½ cup of red wine (you don’t need this is you don’t drink alcohol, plus the cheapest wine works fine in cooking)
  • Vegetable, chicken or beef stock (I use Bisto gravy)

Heat oil in a sauce pan, then brown the chicken off on all sides and then add the onions.

Once you feel everything has been cooked well, add all the chopped vegetables and the chopped tomatoes. Make sure to regularly stir, so the vegetable at the bottom do not burn.

To make the stock, use half a cup of wine for 2 portions. Use enough stock (or gravy) to cover all the ingredients in the pan. If you are not using wine, just add more stock. Mix the wine with the stock and pour over the ingredients. Then put the casserole in the oven at 180˚c with a lid on it for 1 ½ hours, leave it in for 2 hours if you have made more than 2 portions. Stir once when half way through cooking.

Serve with rice or bread.

 

Stew

Ingredients for 2 portions:

(Add more vegetables if you do not want to add meat)

  • 1 roughly chopped peeled potato or 1 sweet potato
  • 1 chopped onion
  • ¼ chopped turnip or swede
  • 1 chopped parsnip or 1 chopped carrot
  • Chicken, beef, vegetable stock (I use Bisto gravy)
  • 1 chopped chicken breast or (not chopped) thigh per portion, or whatever you feel like, vegetarian sausages?

Heat some oil in a saucepan and then brown off the chicken on all sides. Put the onions in the pan and cook. Once the onion and chicken are well cooked, add the other vegetables. Stir regularly.

Then add the stock (gravy), between ½ to 1 cup, depending on your preference. Let it simmer on a gentle heat, with the lid on for 1½ hours, leave it for 2 hours you have made more than 2 portions.

Serve with crusty bread.

 

Lemon Chicken

Ingredients for 2 portions:

  • 2 chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 cup of beef, vegetable, or chicken stock (I use Bisto gravy)
  • ½ whole lemon or ¼ to ½ cup of lemon juice (change with preference)
  • 2 handfuls of chopped mushrooms
  • 1 chopped onion
  • Optional 2 handful of walnuts
  • Optional 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • Optional ½ teaspoon ground ginger

Add some oil to a saucepan and heat, then add the chicken and ensure it is well cooked on all sides. Then add the onion and ensure it is browned off. Add the mushrooms and walnuts.

To make the lemon sauce, use cup of stock and mix in the from the juice from the lemon or pre-bought lemon juice. Add the ginger and garlic, put the sauce into the pan. Let it simmer gently in the pan, with the lid on, for an hour, ensure the chicken is cooked all the way through. If you do more than one portion, ensure it cooks for 1½ hours.

Serve with rice and boiled vegetables.

Andy’s Mushroom and Spinach Lasagne

2ND YEAR MPHIL HISTORY STUDENT, ANDY, SHARES A FAVOURITE RECIPE…

Are you a fan of Italian food? Thinking of something healthy and a bit light, with no meat? Or vegetarian? Try a mushroom spinach Lasagne! Pour yourself some Pinot Grigio wine and some nice garlic bread and enjoy!

 

Mushroom Spinach Lasagne

Ingredients:

Lasagne noodles

A box of fresh mushrooms, sliced.

2-3 packages of frozen spinach

Package of mozzarella cheese-Shredded.

Bin of Ricotta cheese (1 pint will suffice)

1 tea spoon of salt

1 tbsp. of Black Pepper

1-3 Dash of Italian Spice.

1-3 jars of Alfredo Sauce

 

Directions:

Spray a good size casserole dish with non-stick spray and set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Cook noodles until done and strain in a colander. Set aside.

Take spinach and place it in a 2-quart pot with some water and proceed to boil. Add spices, salt and pepper to the spinach. Cook until done, strain all the water out and set aside.

Slice mushrooms up and set them aside.

When making the lasagne you want to layer the ingredients. How you want to make the layers is really up to you. The way I layered it was: noodle, sauce, mushrooms, cheese, spinach, Ricotta cheese, noodle and sauce again; and repeat until you have 3-4 layers. Once you have your layers in your casserole dish you want to use the left-over sauce and cover the lasagne with it. And top with cheese.

Cook in the oven covered with tin foil or a top for about 20 minutes, then uncover until dish is bubbling and cheese is all melted.

 

Ben’s Tips for Staying Sober

THIRD YEAR HISTORY STUDENT, BEN, SHARES SOME TOP TIPS ON STAYING SOBER WHILST AT UNIVERSITY…

It’s generally believed that students spend large portions of their time at the institutions at which they study intoxicated to some degree or another. Now, there’s nothing at all wrong with this, but what is often forgotten is that there is a sizeable portion of students who for either reasons concerning their health, religion, or simply because they don’t want to, forgo drinking entirely. When this is the case, it can be intimidating to be around so many people who are drinking. If this is the case for you, here are some things worth bearing in mind when it comes to trying to remain teetotal at university.

First of all, remember you don’t need to drink to have a good time with a group of people who are. Assuming the individuals you are with are okay with you not drinking – and anyone who is reasonable should be – they’ll be happy to continue to interact and otherwise have fun with you, and you needn’t feel left out for not joining in drinking. When people congregate and drink, the actual imbibing of the alcohol is only half of what people are actually enjoying, as the other half is the rituals people associate with drinking: having friends in one space at a time, taking part in common activities, but this activity isn’t necessarily drinking – it’s talking, and having fun, and anticipating the evening to come! These are all things that can be done and be enjoyed whilst sober as well as things that can be done and enjoyed around people who are sober. By bearing this in mind, it makes spending and enjoying the time you spend around those are drinking much easier.

That said, it is understandable if certain social events – such as clubbing – seem less enjoyable while sober. Perhaps you’d still like to try them, and maybe still enjoy them, but if you don’t on account of sobriety and would rather find alternative ways to spend your evenings, they exist! Your housemates or friends likely won’t go out every night, and it’s also likely they’d be happy to try activities where drinking is less central. But failing that, the University of Reading hosts many relaxed activities of this type and even has a society dedicated to people who choose not to drink – the “R U Not Drinking Much” Society, which has free membership and regularly hosts open offer events that lack a focus on alcohol, so should you need too, or even if you just want to meet others who prefer to stay sober, they exist.

Nozomi’s Dinner Time

NOZOMI, A THIRD YEAR FILM STUDENT, SHARES A FAVOURITE RECIPE…

Recipe: Brown Rice Bowl with Lentils, Caramelized Onions & Fried Egg

One of the many survival methods you will pick up whilst at university is cooking (unless you’re in catered halls of course). This is a simple and nutritious recipe I’ve been cooking for a short while now and I really enjoy. Feel free to add things to this as well as it’s a pretty customisable meal.

(portion accordingly)

Ingredients:
Brown basmati rice
Green lentils
Vegetable stock
Olive oil
Yellow onions, thinly sliced
Garlic clove, minced
Parsley leaves, finely chopped
Egg
Salt
Black pepper
Paprika

  • In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Add the brown rice, lentils, and a hefty pinch of salt, and return to a boil. Cook until the rice and lentils are done.
  • In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over.
    Add in the sliced onions and cook until deeply browned.
    Add small amounts of water to prevent onions from burning and to caramelise.
    When the onions are deeply golden and almost finished, add in the minced garlic and cook.
    Add other chosen vegetables and/or meats accordingly
  • Once ready, put half the mixture into the brown rice and lentils bowl. Reserve the rest for serving (or even the following day!)
  • Wipe the pan used to cook clean, lightly grease with olive oil, and return to heat. Crack an egg into the pan and cook to your desired doneness.
    Sprinkle the top of the egg with salt, pepper, and a dash of paprika.
  • Once done, place the fried egg into the bowl.
    Garnish with the remaining caramelized onions, garlic and other chosen vegetables and/or meats.

 

(recipe adapted from http://www.thekitchn.com/ )

International Food Stalls on Campus

3RD YEAR HUMAN GEOGRAPHY STUDENT, HOLLY, SHARES HER EXPERIENCE ABOUT THE CAMPUS INTERNATIONAL FOOD STALLS ON THURSDAYS

So you’ve made it through hump day but need something else to keep you going till Friday? The international food stalls on campus are a perfect Thursday pick me up to warm you up on these colder days!

The stalls are outside the Palmer Building on Whiteknights Campus on Thursdays between 10am and 3pm.

I headed down there after a lecture at 1pm and it had a buzzing atmosphere with lots of hungry students and staff trying to decide which stall to pick!

There’s a BBQ, Caribbean food, Chinese, German, Scandinavian, American, Spanish and much more!

I saw that the Greek stall ‘pitta-pitta’ was very popular so I decided to give that a try. I got the chicken gyros in a wrap for a reasonable £4.50. It was a warm pitta bread filled with tzatziki, tomatoes, onions, chicken and chips, with a selection of sauces to choose from. It was delicious!

This was a very comforting choice on a grey day and spurred me on to finish my assignment. I highly recommend the Greek stall and I will definitely be going back to the international food stalls to try a different one next week!

Lucy’s Mascarpone Pasta

2ND YEAR ITALIAN STUDIES STUDENT, LUCY, SHARES HER RECIPE FOR MASCARPONE PASTA. PERFECT FOR A COSY NIGHT IN!

This recipe for mascarpone pasta is my “go to” dinner at university. Whenever I get in late from a lecture and can not be bothered to cook properly (or even when I just fancy it!) I make this dish. I love this recipe because it is healthy, easy and quick to make and it tastes delicious! It is also incredibly versatile as you can add and take out ingredients. So if you are not a fan of your greens you could substitute courgette for peppers – you can literally chuck anything in! You can even swap the pasta for some rice to make it into a tasty risotto – this will definitely impress your flat mates!

Ingredients:

One chicken breast

One onion

Half a courgette

Two bacon rashers

A couple of handfuls of spinach

Pasta (this depends how much you want but I would go for two handfuls per person)

(serves two)

 

Step one: Boil some water on the hob and add the pasta once the water starts to boil.

Step two: Fry the chicken in a pan in some olive oil until it starts to brown.

Step three: Whilst waiting for the chicken to cook, chop up an onion and chuck it in the pan.

Step four: Chop up the courgette and put that in too.

Step five: Cut up a couple of bacon rashers and add to the pan.

Step six: Throw in the spinach.

Step seven: CHECK THE CHICKEN IS COOKED!!

Step eight: Check the pasta is al dente and drain. Then add it into the other pan.

Step nine: Dollop in a spoon of mascarpone and stir it round along with some salt and pepper.

 

Bon appétit!

Ways to Avoid Procrastinating

3RD YEAR THEATRE ARTS, EDUCATION AND DEAF STUDIES STUDENT, ALEXANDER, SHARES SOME TOP TIPS ON HOW TO AVOID PROCRASTINATION…

We’ve all been there where we are really struggling to motivate ourselves to complete our work. Sometimes it’s important to have a break because otherwise we get burnt out and resent studying. But sometimes we need to find strategic ways to help us stay more focused. Here are my top tips on how to avoid procrastinating:

  • Have a ‘spring clean’ of your phone apps. As much as you may love them, ask yourself are there any that I find far too distracting and don’t desperately need? If so, delete them! Honestly, I found that when I’ve deleted distracting apps from my phone I’ve been able to stay a lot more focused. Sometimes, just simply changing your notification settings can also be a huge help. There are many apps out there that can help you to stay more focused. One that I’ve enjoyed using is called Forest. You set a timer for the amount time you want to stay focused, the app will then start to grow a virtual tree. If you unlock your phone, the tree will die. Sometimes even when my phone is on silent and no notifications are popping up, I’m still tempted to look at it. There are days where I just have to stick to put it away somewhere. “Out of sight out of mind”!
  •  Go somewhere that you will do work. If studying at home doesn’t work for you, go to the library or use one of the other study spaces on campus. If you like studying with friends, but it’s too distracting – you may need to consider studying independently, unless of course you are doing group work with your friends – but make an agreement to keep each other on track.
  • Have something in mind to reward yourself with after a long study session.
  • Keep your ultimate goal in mind: to leave uni with a degree to your name.
  • Think about why you are procrastinating… sometimes I procrastinate because I am tired and lacking the energy I need to do my work. Therefore, sleep is very important, and I know we all get sick of hearing it, but it’s so true – we try and survive on much less sleep than we actually need! Other times I procrastinate because I don’t enjoy certain tasks or find them really daunting. I find thing to do is to get those tasks over and done with first, in order to get a weight off my shoulders and then I’m able to look forward to the tasks that I enjoy and find less daunting!
  • Put up motivational/inspirational posters and notes to yourself – this is something I’ve found useful and also it helps to make your room to look better. You can buy some fantastic posters here.

Hope these tips help and all the best for a successful procrastination free year!