Tackling the January Blues


Oh the January blues… Christmas is over, the weather’s not getting any better, it’s time to go back to uni… we all experience it. But you can beat those blues, with these tips:

  • Remember that before you know it, the weather will be getting better and the days will be getting longer. The dull weather can drag you down, but looking forward to Spring and Summer can help.
  • Wrap up warm and get some fresh air… there is something about being outdoors and enjoying nature, that can really help to lift energy and mood.
  • Some people find exercising can lift mood… for me that’s just going for a short walk around the nature reserve in Earley, but for some of you it might be something a little more vigorous!
  • Continue doing things that you enjoy outside of your course. It can be easy to get into an eat, sleep, study, repeat routine… but having things that help you relax and socialise are important. Maybe you could start something new this month. If you’re not part of a club, society, or sports team at the moment or you already are but fancy joining more, check the Essentials page. There is also information on there about volunteering, RUSU and sports.
  • See your new year’s resolutions as a positive. Look at them as a way of positively improving something in your life, rather than a heavy weight of “I must change this!” Try not to burden yourself with them and beat yourself up if you’re struggling with them, it’s a case of one step at a time… you have 12 months before setting the next ones!
  • Think about how much you have achieved. This should help to motivate you through the next few months.
  • If you’re struggling being back at uni, think about what motivates you to be at uni, the modules you enjoy or are looking forward to. Remember, that you worked hard to get here and you deserve to be here! If there’s a club or society or group of friends that really help to get you through, keep getting stuck in with that. I have met some great people in Reading, and spending time with them really motivates me. Remember that if you are struggling, you can also talk to the University’s Wellbeing Team.
  • Continue to keep in touch with friends and family from your hometown. Sometimes we just need to hear a familiar voice. I really love using Skype and FaceTime to keep in touch with people… It’s so nice to see and hear somebody live in front of you, even when they’re miles away!
  • Change your bedroom around, to give it a new look. Put up some new pictures or posters that will make you smile, reminisce, and motivate you.
  • Treat yourself! If you have any monies or gift vouchers that were given to you over Christmas, use them to get yourself something you will love.


Hope these help you to have an uplifting Spring term. If any of you have any tips for more ways to tackle those blues, post a comment below!




R.U. Not Drinking Much? Society


What is it about?

The R.U. Not Drinking Much? Society is a place with no pressure to drink alcohol as there are many people who just want to have a good time together without drinking being the main event. This society is open to everyone regardless of whether they drink alcohol a lot or not. They have a welcoming environment, which lets you socialise in and have fun at their events. It provides alternative entertainment for people who cannot or do not want to drink alcohol for whatever reason even if it’s just for one night. Therefore, for those who drink, it lets you save money on nights out that would have normally been spent on alcohol but still lets you have a great night.

My experience

I have been a part of the R.U. Not Drinking Much? Society since my first year at university and it’s been great so far. I am very comfortable in this society and was happy to meet other people who do not drink a lot of alcohol like me. At their events, I always had an enjoyable time since everyone there is really friendly and they all get along with each other. I like their events and have made lots of wonderful memories. I’m sure the other members would agree that the society is a lovely place to be and hang out with your friends. They have a very relaxed atmosphere, so you’d be warmly welcomed to any of their events even if you just come along to a few of them.

The events

The society has regular events every academic term, usually once or twice a week. They are typically held on a Monday or Friday evening on campus. Some examples of the wide variety of events they organise include board games nights, film nights and off-campus trips. Most of the society’s events are completely free to attend as well. Therefore, if you haven’t already tried out this society, you should definitely come along to one of their events. You can even invite your friends and family who are not a part of the University since the society has free membership for students and non-students. There is also an optional donation membership for anyone who would like to donate and contribute towards the society’s funding for their events. So, if you are interested and have some free time, you can find their events via their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/notdrinkingmuch/

Holly’s Turkey and Spinach Omelette


Make sure you stick to your new years’ resolution of being healthier this year with this cheap, quick and easy meal that can be eaten at any time of day. This omelette is packed full of protein and vitamins and is carb free!


2 teaspoons of oil

3 large eggs

Baby spinach

Turkey slices

Your preferred seasoning


  1. Crack and whisk the 3 large eggs in a bowl
  2. Pre-heat grill at 170 degrees
  3. Heat a medium frying pan then add 2 teaspoons of oil
  4. Add a handful of spinach to the pan and cook for 45 seconds
  5. Pour onto the egg mixture onto the spinach and let it sit
  6. Add turkey slices on the top of the egg mixture in small pieces
  7. Once the bottom of the egg mixture is cooked, take the pan off the heat and cook the top of the omelette by placing the pan in the grill until the top browns off
  8. Serve with more spinach and your favourite sauce and/or seasoning

Interview with my Personal Tutor



At the University, Personal Tutors are available to meet with you to discuss how you are getting on with your course. I’ve had a very positive experience with my personal tutor, and I would recommend to first year students to build up a good rapport with your tutor, and an honest relationship, because there is nothing worse than bottling things up. You shouldn’t be embarrassed to say you’re struggling, because your tutor is there to help you. I caught up with Ilan, my Personal Tutor to find out more about his role.

What is your role as a personal tutor?
Ilan: My tutoring role is a general pastoral role, to support students and make sure they are happy and enjoying university life. It could be helping them through any problems with halls of residence or renting a house, anything that they may be anxious or worried about during their time at Reading.

What can you help students with?
I: If they’re stressed or worried about anything, I can talk to their course tutor, or if it’s issues relating to halls, I can find out who the relevant person is and pass on the concerns. If they’re feeling lonely, I can encourage them to join in with university events, sports, clubs and societies. If a student has a disability, I can also sign post students to where they can get information and support.

How often can students meet with you and for how long?
I: Once every term, for one hour. Although my students can contact me, anytime to request another tutorial.

Is there a procedure to go through with booking a tutorial, or do tutors contact students?
I: I email out the times I’m available and then students book directly with me, the time they would like to have their tutorial. It works on a first come, first served basis.

Can students choose who their personal tutor is?
I: Generally, when a new cohort of students start, tutors are allocated with some students. Students don’t get to pick who their personal tutor is, although you can request a re-allocation if your relationship is not working as well as it should.

What else do you do alongside your personal tutor role?
I: I lecture on three courses; BA Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies (TAEDS), the new BA Education Studies, and BSL (British Sign Language) – a new module on Whiteknights.


Thank you Ilan!

To find out more about personal tutors, click here.



The Very Merry and Medieval “Plum Pottage”


It’s that time of year where family is in town, love ones are near, and what brings us together? Food. This time of year was especially important in many medieval households, as a time for celebration, giving and for many to share the best of their kitchens with their guests. Where cooks cook and present their dishes with great pride.

Now what did they eat? or what was served? We have a good idea of what was served by many of the art work left to us today, as well as recipes that have been passed down, which have their roots in the medieval kitchen. For example, mincemeat tarts or pies, goose, special pies, roasted pig, swan – with permission from the king, stewed vegetables, mulled wines and ale were all presented on the table. What is one of the most popular dishes today? I would go with Christmas pudding.

Christmas pudding is another Christmas tradition which sources say began in the Middle Ages but it might have been earlier than that, as there is a reference to it as far back as Roman times. The traditional name, ‘Plum Pudding’ came later in the Victorian Era. But the fruit pudding we all know, was first known as “Plum Porridge or Pottage” or “Frumenty.”

Like many of the dishes from the Middle Ages which consisted of varieties of meat and raisin, this dish was made from porridge or boiled wheat, raisins or “plums”, eggs, sweetened by molasses or honey, fruits, currants, dates, then spiced with cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. The mixture was kept moist by treacle or molasses. Due to the pudding’s fair amount of alcohol content, it helped keep it preserved and not spoil. It would then be good to eat a month to even a year after it was made. We start to see variation and addition to the dish as early as 1420, and during the reign of Elizabeth I, plums were introduced as a fruit in the mixture. Due to the popularity of the fruit, it was added to many other dishes, hence “Plum Pottage” came to be.

After the pudding was cooked, the original prep for the pudding was to be hung by a hook in a “pudding cloth.” This was later changed to cooking or boiling/steaming later on. The round little shape it has today topped with holly began to circulate in 1836. This is where the food specifically becomes a Christmas dessert. Authors such as Charles Dickens reference the new popular use in his story, boosting the dish’s popularity. Cards and printed articles also show families gathered and celebrating the holiday with the pudding dressed with its holly on the table.

Both Christmas puddings were outlawed to be eaten in the 17th Century by the Commonwealth Parliament. The consumption of the foods was considered “heathenish and a papistical practice.” This was reversed under the rule of Charles II.

NB, Christmas Pudding, It’s Medieval Origin. The West Australian, Dec. 21, 1935 (trove.nla.gov.au)

Ciara’s Christmas Recipes


The recipes below are all meals that my family have cooked since I was a child – they have become tradition, which is why they so strongly remind me of Christmas time! Along with the traditional gingerbread house, the roast dinners and the Christmas pudding, these are some of my favourite Christmas meals. The braised red cabbage with gammon is our Christmas Eve dinner, and the pie is cooked every boxing day to use up any left-over turkey! Approaching the holidays, it’s always exciting (for uni students, especially) to be coming home to a house full of food and home cooked meals, instead of super noodles and pasta for every meal! I know that every family has traditions at Christmas, but this year maybe mix it up slightly and cook some Christmassy meals that you haven’t had before! Enjoy!

Braised Red Cabbage


1 kg red cabbage

450g onions, chopped small

450g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped small

1 clove garlic, chopped very small

¼ whole grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

3 tablespoons of brown sugar

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

15g butter


  • Preheat the oven to 150° C
  • Cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the hard stalk
  • Then shred the rest of the cabbage finely with a sharp knife or in a food processor
  • In a large casserole dish, place a layer of the cabbage seasoned with salt and pepper, add a layer of chopped onions and apples with a sprinkle of the garlic. Continue these alternate layers until all the ingredients have been used
  • Then pour in the wine vinegar and add pieces of butter on the top
  • Put a lid on the dish and cook slowly for 2 – 2 ½ hours – stir once or twice during the cooking
  • And that’s it! This red cabbage freezes well and is delicious – the perfect Christmas recipe! It goes perfectly with a ham joint or with Christmas dinner

Extra Easy Mode:

  • Just bung all of the ingredients in the pot and give it a stir, then cook for the same amount of time – it works just as well and saves lots of time!

Mum’s Ham, Leek and Turkey/Chicken Pie

This recipe is great for using up Christmas leftovers of just for a big meal – it freezes well and is really tasty!


2oz butter

2oz plain flour

2 leeks, chopped

300g cooked ham/gammon (cut into chunks)

500g cooked turkey (cut into chunks)

3fl double cream

1 pint chicken or turkey stock

Salt and pepper

Puff pastry (I usually use a pre made packet)

Small amount of milk


  • Pre-heat the oven to 200° C. Heat some butter in a pan and sauté the leeks until soft. Add the flour and soak up the juices and then add the stock little by little stirring all the time until you have a thick sauce that is bubbling
  • Add the cream, and season with salt and pepper. Finish by stirring in the turkey and ham
  • Pour the mixture into to a ceramic dish. Roll out the puff pastry so that it covers the dish, wetting the edge of the dish so the pastry sticks. Any extras you have you can fashion into shapes to decorate the pie – I like to cut leaves out and place them on the middle. Brush the pastry all over with some milk or a beaten egg – this helps the pastry to go a golden brown and crisps nicely
  • Make sure you cut two lines into the pastry as air holes, and then bake for around 35-40 minutes (keep an eye on it as all pastry cooks differently and may take less time – as you can see in my picture I left it in slightly too long!)

Leek and Potato Soup

I always associate Christmas time and the winter with lots of homemade soup, and my favourite to make is leek and potato! It’s really simple and quick but is a lovely meal!


2 medium sized potatoes

3 leeks

2 vegetable stock cubes

Black pepper


  • Peel and dice the potatoes and add to a sauce pan. Chop the leeks and add them to the pan too
  • Add around 1 pint of boiling water to 2 stock cubes and stir – then add to the potato and leeks and heat and bring to the boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for around 20 -30 minutes
  • Once the potatoes have cooked through, the soup is ready! Season with pepper and salt in you like. You can eat it like this, or you can use a potato masher or an electric blender to make the soup smooth. And that’s it!

What’s on in Reading over the Holidays


If you’re staying in Reading over the break, or if just want to come back for one of these events, look here and see what festive things are on and when!

A variety of things to do in Reading town centre.

  • The Oracle extended Shopping hours – open until 10pm Monday-Saturday. 18/12/17 – 24/12/17.
  • Eating Out – Ask Italian offers options for those with extra dietary requirements, and up to 40% student discount!
    Las Iguanas also offers a Latin-American, 2-course, festive meal for only £19.95 (or £14.95 on select days!)
  • Christmas bars – I have already visited two great ones here – The Jager Haus German themed bar at Riverside, with currywurst, churros and Bailey’s hot chocolate. Another is just down the stairs from Reading station called Après Bar, which is a little more pricey.
  • Peter Pan is on at the Hexagon, your yearly dose of pantomime! 9/12/17 – 7/1/18.


Big club events over the holidays

  • 16/12/17 – Love Presents Jaguar Skills – Coalition
  • 31/12/17 – Black and Gold New Year’s Eve – Matchbox
  • 31/12/17 – NYE: Lost Pandora The Lost Paradise – Coalition


If you want to travel out of Reading, consider the events below or have a look at what’s on in London! (A short and easy ride by train).

  • Oxford Christmas Market, on Broad Street, Oxford. A short train ride away! 7/12/17 – 17/12/17
  • The National Trust have put together a list of what they’re putting on Berkshire this festive period: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lists/christmas-in-berkshire
  • There’s also a lot going on in the Beautiful city of Bath, including a Victorian carousel from the 14th to the 30th December and an ice rink!


Hopefully this list has given you some inspiration of how to spend your well-earned break, and Happy Holidays to all!


Mincemeat Pies (Based on a Medieval Recipe)


The history of the mincemeat pie is quite old. It can be traced back to the 12th century when crusaders brought back spices from the Middle East. The spices then where introduced into the medieval diet and used for various things including spiced meat and fruit. This popular mix is what began the little pies that we know today. Mincemeat pies.

I derived most of this recipe from a course I took in 2014 from FutureLearn. I had to do some improvising, as I did not have all the ingredients available to me at the time.

What you will need:

  • 1 cupcake tin (I made a dozen with this recipe)
  • a medium size pot to cook down the mincemeat
  • bowl for dough
  • pastry cutter

Shortcrust Pastry Dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups of flour (I like King Arthur flour the best)
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter
  • good size pinch of salt
  • 4-5 Tbsp of cold water


  • 2 pork chops –optional- (If you want to place meat in them… original pies did have meat!)
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of dried currants
  • 1/2 cup of dried cherries (could even use dates. But my store didn’t have any)
  • 1/2 cup diced dried plums
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 1/3 cup of rum
  • 1 tbs of molasses for color
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • a few dashes of salt
    (when measuring out the spices I was quite generous. But I cook like “throw it all in a pot”)
  • two large tbsp of marmalade
  • 1 slice of orange
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs for binding agent
  • 1 table spoon of olive oil

Take the two pork chops, with no bones and place them in the pot. Dust them with cloves and put the olive oil in to tender the meat. Add about a 1/2 cup of water to steam them. Cook them until they are just done. You want the meat tender and easy to chop up into fine pieces.

Chop the meat up once it is cooked through and return to the pot. Next, with all the liquid still from the pork chops, add all the fruit, sugar, orange slice, marmalade, bread crumbs, wine, and spices all into the mix. Put the mixture on low and cover with a lid. Add the rum to flavor. Taste periodically, to see if you need to adjust any of the spices or add more. It takes about a good 3 hours for the mix to cook down at low heat. It should have a consistency of thick jam. When done, let it cool. Mincemeat can be stored for up to a year if canned in a jar with sealed lid, if the mix is made without meat. Brandy or rum is excellent to preserve the mixture.

Preheat oven to 176 C -180 C.

Grease cupcake the tins with lard.

Mixing the shortcut pastry and final prep for the oven:

In a bowl, add the flour and salt mix well. Chop up the butter and add that as well. I don’t have a food processor, so I used a pastry slicer and blended the butter and flour together. I next used my fingers to get the mixture to a consistency like bread crumbs. Then add the water and kneed to form a soft ball of dough. You can refrigerate over-night or just roll it out.

Cut the dough large enough to fit in the cupcake tins and fill with the mincemeat mixture. Cut another circle to use as a top. Don’t forget to poke with a fork for ventilation. Cutting the pastry in shapes such as stars or Fleur de Lis for the top is a popular decoration for this treat. I just made mini pies.

Cook for 20 minutes or until crust is baked and a tiny golden. Lift out with a fork or knife and cool on a plate. If you love mincemeat pies and other holiday treats you will love these. Homemade is always better than store bought! These tasty pies can be stored in an air tight container or tin for a good two weeks. Refrigerate or freeze. Enjoy!


Petite Christmas Puddings


Last year my housemate, Francesca, had this amazing idea of making individual Christmas puddings (does a big one ever get finished?) and putting cocoa powder in them as, let’s face it, regular Christmas pudding isn’t always a fan favourite. So I’ve carefully shadowed her, written up the recipe and voila! Now you too can provide your housemates with festive cheer – and puddings for days!


280g Caster Sugar
80g Unsalted Butter
2 Eggs
200g Plain Flour
40g Cocoa Powder
2tsp Baking Powder
100ml Milk
100g Raisins
30g Chopped Walnuts
50g Chopped Cranberries



275g Royal Icing Sugar

8tsp Cold Water


Makes 12 puddings.



  1. Preheat the oven to 160° C/320° F/Gas Mark 3 and line a 12 hole muffin tray using butter to grease each hole.
  2. Blend together the sugar and butter in a bowl using an electric whisk or mixer.
  3. Beat the eggs together then slowly whisk them into the mixture.
  4. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and continue mixing.
  5. Next, pour in the milk, also doing this slowly, and whisk until it reaches a creamy consistency.
  6. Add the raisins, walnuts and chopped cranberries and envelope them in (saving some of the cranberries for decoration).
  7. Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin tray and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until there is no residue left on a knife once inserted into them.
  8. Carefully remove the puddings from the tray and leave to cool before icing.
  9. For the icing, slowly mix together the icing sugar with 8 tablespoons of cold water to create a thick consistency.
  10. Teaspoon the icing onto the smaller side of the puddings, adding a little bit at a time so that it gently drips down the sides. Make sure not to heap too much icing on top as you won’t be able to achieve the dripping effect. For extra decoration, place the leftover mixed cranberries on top of each pudding for the leaves of the puddings.

8 Tips for Making the Most of the Christmas Break


You are probably thinking let me just enjoy the break full of food and fun? Solid advice, but do make the most of your break so you return in January the most rested and productive student on the earth with these top tips…


  1. Organization:
  • It’s always best to get ahead before going home. Get organized with your notes, assignments and your timetable – what do you need to do? Make sure you have you the right text books so this doesn’t hold you back. Put your spring timetable into a diary and organize your life around lectures and the deadlines you know.
    Work/Life Balance is Key. Planning = happy student


  1. Christmas Celebrations:
  • Keep Christmas celebrations on the 24th to 26th and New Years Eve completely university free. You need a break and to celebrate with your family enjoying all the festivities.
  • Make time for family and enjoy being home. They will want to hear all about your term and if you’re going to get them to do your washing the least you can do is hang out with them.


  1. Academic Work:
  • Some people prefer blocked days and others prefer a few hours a day. Work out what is best for you and plan it, but don’t over work yourself – little and often method works well in the holidays. Don’t forget to reward yourself for getting your work done; whether this is an extra Christmas chocolate or an extra night at the pub, it’s vital!


  1. Catch up with friends from home.
  • Pretty much everyone you went to school with will be home so make sure you reconnect with your friends as sometimes it’s hard to keep in contact in term time.


  1. Jobs
  • Earn a little extra money.
    You may or may not be in your overdraft; either way earning a little money over the Christmas period is never a bad thing. Christmas is a great time to get CV experience, paid or volunteering.


  1. Future Jobs:
  • Depending on your year, you might be looking at graduate schemes or internships. Christmas is the perfect time to sit down for a few hours and apply, research and apply some more.
  • Revamp your resume and keep your documents UPDATED!
    Opportunity knocks the moment you’re least expecting it so it’s always best to be prepared. Christmas is the perfect time to update all your important documents with your latest experiences.


  1. Wellbeing
  • Exercise: Stay healthy and combat holiday bulge by keeping up with a regular exercise regimen. You’ll feel better for it.
  • Catch up on sleep: Uni is exhausting and late nights doing work or clubbing can really take its toll. While you’ve got a break, enjoy the lie ins for a while, then try and establish a sleep routine ready for those January 9ams.


  1. RELAX
  • Do things that make you happy! You deserve a break after your hard work this term and need to be rested before going back for another jam-packed term!
    Whether its films, food, sleep or adventure, find what works for you!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – Bring on 2018.