31 Mar 2016

my study week #10: combating procrastination

When revising, procrastination is a beast that must never be awakened if you can help it. And the best way for me to do this is through the use of the FocusNow app where you grow plants. Every 25 minute burst grows a fruit but if you play with your phone when the timer is on, that fruit dies. It's quite addictive as you get to see how your farm looks. There's also a leaderboard which refreshes each week so the more bursts you do, the more points you'll gain. Furthermore, there is the opportunity to level up also - a certain number of one fruit unlocks the next fruit up and so on; and the higher up that chain you go, the more points you gain per fruit grown. Interested? Last time I checked, it's free on the AppStore and no, I'm not paid to talk about it! It's just an excellent app where you can actually see the progress you make.

29 Mar 2016

in search of the perfect blue-black ink #5: lamy blue-black cartridges

In this post, we venture back into cartridge-land with Lamy blue-black cartridges. These were a bit of a disappointment to say the least (I can find no reason to explain why it looks so washed out with extended use!).

Previously: Platinum blue-black cartridgesPelikan Edelstein TanzaniteDiamine Twilight and Diamine Blue Black.

And how it looks within my notes (along with a festive scribble during a tutorial in December):

27 Mar 2016

my week #206

This week, I took things really easy but I still ended up with a fever on Friday (all ok now though thank goodness). That's a sign that perhaps I should be taking better care of myself instead of being the workaholic that I am.

Each week in my planner, there is a quote and this week's is so true, I thought I would type it out in full:

"A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees
- Amelia Earhart. 

Prior to this year, I'd never seen an episode of Friends but when one of my friends said that it's the sort of programme I would like, I went and bought the digital boxset off iTunes as I had some vouchers that needed using. I'm glad I did and I finished it this week. Phoebe and Joey are my two favourite characters of all time, from all TV programmes that I have ever watched. Phoebe and her phalanges have me laughing out loud and it's just fitting that a phalange had a part to play in the ending too!

How was your week?

24 Mar 2016

homemade burgers: healthy and budget busting

I don't often blog about food because let's face it, I'm no connoisseur. The majority of my meals are as simple as you can get and I'm such a stickler for healthy eating at home, the posts wouldn't be much fun! That's not to say I don't have the occasional treat and I do this by eating out once every two-three months where I choose something a bit naughtier.

Today, I thought I'd share my ridiculously simple homemade burger recipe. Those of you who've been to London or live in London may have come across the many burger chains around. And it is one of those chains that inspired me to make the meal below. It is very quick to cook though the prep time can take a while so this isn't a meal to be made on a regular basis if you're stretched for time. However, it is very healthy - I've used barely any fat/oil and even the beef I used was a lean cut. The only sin in it is a bit of cheese.


Ingredients - this makes five burgers
For the burger
500g lean beef steaks (or beef from a roasting joint)
1.5 whole red onions
2 garlic cloves
Sea salt and black pepper
1 medium egg
A few leaves of lettuce
Two salad tomatoes
Three gherkins
Burger buns, cut in half horizontally
A cheese of your choosing (I chose Stilton - surprisingly good in a burger!)

Rocket leaves
Spinach leaves
A small handful of fresh basil
Cherry tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar
Ground pepper
Sea salt

Oven-Baked Fries
Eight Maris Piper potatoes
Fresh rosemary
Sea salt
Olive oil

Oven-Baked Fries
1. Wash the potatoes and cut into 1cm thick fries (I chose to keep the skin on but you can peel it off if you want).
2. Boil the fries for two minutes and then drain.
3. Line a tray with tin foil and place all of the fries on it. Add a dash of olive oil, ensuring that all fries are coated.
4. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for thirty-forty minutes. Keep your eye on it!
5. Meanwhile, blend the rosemary until it is a powdery consistency. Add sea salt to the blender and blend once more.
6. Once the fries are done, toss them in the rosemary and sea salt powder.

7. Wash the salad leaves and cherry tomatoes and allow them to dry.
8. Place all leaves into a bowl, add a dash of balsamic vinegar, grind some black pepper and sea salt and then mix. Place in the fridge.

9. Slice the beef and then blend until all ground. Now, cut the onion and garlic and add into the ground beef. Add some black pepper and sea salt too. Remove from the blender and add an egg and mix thoroughly using your hands.
10. Roll the beef into a small golf ball size then flatten.
11. Cook the beef patties according to how you like it done. This can vary so I haven't specified times but a good way to judge is to see how much it shrinks vertically. The more it shrinks, the better it is cooked inside.
12. Wash the lettuce and salad tomatoes. Cut the lettuce so that it's shredded and slice the tomatoes.
13. Toast the burger buns prior to building the burger.
14. Building from the bottom of the bun up: add the shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, then the beef patty once cooked to your choosing, add some cheese, sliced gherkin and finally the top of the burger bun.

15. You're now ready for dinner!

22 Mar 2016

in search of the perfect blue-black ink #4: diamine denim

Part four where Diamine makes another appearance (and a few more still to come - Diamine is perfect for a student budget!). This time, it's Diamine Denim.

Previously tried blue-black inks: Platinum Blue-Black cartridgesPelikan Edelstein Tanzanite and
Diamine Twilight.

Here is how it looks in my notes:

Diamine Denim is definitely a darker blue-black than the others I've tried and I do like how well it flows. Then again, I've yet to try a Diamine blue-black shade yet that flows poorly...

20 Mar 2016

my week #205

I'm now on two weeks' of holiday which I'm very happy about - it's a great opportunity to catch up with friends, sleep and study! Because of this temporary freedom, today is an allocated blog day for me to catch up on all things to do with Paper Lovestory. Sorry if I've not replied to any emails, comments, etc. (Unfortunately, Instagram comments are harder to reply to.)

This week, I was on Urology and I really, really enjoyed it. I've always been interested in Nephrology but am unlikely to choose medicine for a number of reasons so Urology really ticked a whole load of boxes for me. I was lucky to have been allocated a consultant who does nephrectomies so I had the opportunity to scrub in and also learn about the more medical side of the specialty in clinics. On the other side, I also learnt that Urology is full of practical procedures (box number 1 ticked!), a decent amount of medicine and a great work-life balance.

How was your week?

17 Mar 2016

throwback thursday: to a time when my handwriting wasn't cursive

Two and a half years ago, I started medical school and back then, my naivety believed that I'd have time to keep all my notes super neat. If you look at my Instagram now, all my notes are written in cursive and with joined up handwriting but back then, everything was printed. Today, this is a 'Throwback Thursday' back to that time.

Back in first year, I even had time to use washi tape for headings - a rare feature now. This notebook was the very first one I filled at medical school and though the handwriting isn't my neatest, it is an example of how I initially envisaged all my notebooks would look like.

Some things that haven't changed are the fact that I wrote purely in note form with clearly demarcated headings.

How times change, eh? A bit of a different Throwback Thursday but I thought it would be nice to reflect on how my notes looked when I was a bit less realistic and a bit more of a dreamer. 

15 Mar 2016

book: us by david nicholls

My reading pace this year has been excruciatingly slow and that's mainly because of the sheer amount of work I need to get through before exams. I'm still finding time to read on a daily basis though and my 'to be read' pile just seems to be growing so there won't be a shortage of things to read for quite some time yet!

One of the books I finished earlier this year was Us by David Nicholls. You might recognise this name as he also wrote One Day - which was made into a film a few years ago. One Day was an excellent read and when I spotted Us on my friend's bookshelf, I asked to borrow it and I'm glad I did.

Nicholls is an excellent writer with a knack of being able to write about the ordinary in a way that engages the reader. If you read the synopses for One Day and Us, they don't sound like anything special but yet, I would definitely recommend both books.

Us centres around a family of three: Douglas, Connie and Albie. It tells the story of a family trip around Europe through which we see glimpses of their past. Through the narrative, we get to know each of the three characters and what the family dynamic is like. Each chapter is short so it's an easy book to pick up and put down if you struggle to read a lot in one go.

Although the book was full of clichés, it still worked because they were realistic clichés. A scientist marries an artist (opposites attract), scientist father wants creative son to do 'academic' subjects and mother is the laid back parent so gets along better with son than father does.

My favourite bit about Us is how different Douglas and Connie are - he is a sensible, middle-of-the-road kind of guy and she's more laid back and happy-go-lucky. The book starts with Connie telling Douglas that she's leaving him and on first impressions, it's easy to see why they weren't compatible in the first place. However, their different personalities balance each other out extremely well and as the book wore on, this became clearer and clearer and it definitely made me feel a bit sad towards the end!

Us tackles growing apart as we grow older (a sad fact of life) but also the topic of separating and divorce. I like that in this scenario, separating doesn't have to be a bitter and twisted thing and that it can be amicable with all parties coming out of it relatively unscathed and not full of loathing for each other. In short, Us is a grown-up book (so I'd say for those in their mid-twenties onwards - maybe because I've read it :) ) that shows that no matter how hard we try sometimes, if things aren't meant to be, they can't be forced.

Overall, I'd give this read an 8.5/10 and wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone who enjoyed One Day and wanted a semi-serious read.

13 Mar 2016

my week #204

This week was another where there was a junior doctor strike here in the UK. The lack of media coverage was a bit disappointing because this is an issue that will affect everyone, regardless if you're in the healthcare profession or not.

Anyway, I don't want to get into the politics of it all. I'm still on surgery placement and this week was orthopaedics. With only three more weeks left of surgery, I'm a little sad that it has all passed so quickly. Next week is urology, a specialty I'm seriously considering as a career in the future because the anatomy interests me, I love renal physiology (but not renal medicine as a specialty!) and the fact that robots are used in urology surgery! It's all still early days though so we'll see how I find next week. Hopefully, I'll be able to get onto a foundation programme with a urology rotation so I can make a more definitive decision.

How has your week been?

10 Mar 2016

my fountain pen and ink collection at the end of 2015

So I know we're now three months into 2016 but I've had this blog post in my drafts since the end of December. I've been super slow at posting it so here it is now. My obsession for fountain pens started at the beginning of 2015 and well, let's just say my collection exploded a fair bit since then. Here's how my collection of pens and inks (excluding cartridge inks) looked at the tail end of 2015...

Pens (top to bottom): Parker 45 (I've had this pen since my teens!), Lamy Safari, three Pilot Kakunos, Kaweco Skyline Sport, Faber Castell OpArt Ambition, Platinum 3776 Century Nice, Pilot Vanishing Point, TWSBI 580AL in purple, Platinum Plaisir, Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell and a Sailor Four Seasons Yukitsubaki.

A few of these pens will be talked about in more detail in due course...

Ink: Diamine Blue-Black, Diamine Denim, Lamy Blue, Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite, Lamy Black, Lamy Blue-Black, Diamine Prussian Blue, Diamine Grape, Diamine Twilight and J Herbin Rouille D'ancre.

I think I have a good mix of luxury and cheaper fountain pens which works well for my current situation. The cheaper ones come on placement with me while the more expensive ones are used for long periods of study :)

8 Mar 2016

my thoughts on the TWSBI 580AL Diamond Purple with a Fine nib

In late-2015 and after being paid for some peer teaching I do, I decided to treat myself to a TWSBI 580AL Diamond in purple. Currently on a no-spend ban, I'm glad I purchased this beauty before the ban came into place! It has a piston-filling mechanism and I love the demonstrator nature of it because I can easily see what it is inked with (to an extent - most of the inks in my current collection are shades of blue-black!).

The packaging and design are both so simplistic and beautiful at the same time. I love the purple accents which contrast nicely with the red TWSBI logo at the end of the pen cap. The pen feels very sturdy and it is the right length for my, larger than average, hands. I opted to get the fine nib and I love how it writes. Before we explore that further, let's just have a little look at the nib - isn't it beautiful?!

The first ink I decided to fill it with is Diamine Denim (more on that in a few weeks' time) and there is a slight purpley tinge to it that goes well with the pen design. The ink capacity is also ridiculous - it only needs to be filled once or twice a week (maximum three) whereas I'm changing Lamy cartridges once a day sometimes! Just amazing. My next goal? To fill it with J Herbin's Poussiere de Lune at some point to see how that looks.

Finally, how it writes. I use it unposted because the cap is actually quite heavy and adds a bit too much weight to the pen when posted. The writing sample below is from a lecture I was sat in and my favourite thing about this pen is how it didn't dry out even when inactive for a few minutes. 

Overall, this pen is amazing and I'm still trying to pluck up the courage to take it on placement with me. Mainly because I currently tote my Lamy and the amount of times I've had people ask to borrow a pen makes me shudder at the thought of someone ruining this lovely TWSBI offering.

6 Mar 2016

my week #203

This was my first week on general surgery and I really enjoyed it. The doctors I met were all really willing to teach and as a result, I learnt a lot. One consultant even explained why he kept asking me questions which I've never had before - I expect to be grilled and all the better for my learning if I get asked questions I don't know the answer to! This was largely a upper and lower GI week and next week, I'm on orthopaedics which will hopefully be just as fun.

One thing I can definitely say is that the 8am starts are killing and weeks like this often make me question how I'll survive once I start work. Balancing studying with 8am - 5/6pm placements has been really difficult and I'm resigned to the fact that I perhaps won't be as productive as I would like to be. Also, I guess that a lot of the learning will come from being on the job!

How has your week been?

3 Mar 2016

using two planners simultaneously: rifle paper co and hobonichi

This year, I decided to try and keep my university and personal life as separate as possible and to do this, I've opted to use a Hobonichi Techo alongside my Rifle Paper Co planner.

My Hobonichi follows me around the wards and on placement whereas my Rifle planner stays at home on my desk where it holds my home and personal life to-dos and events.

On placement, I used to use an A6 notebook where I'd mock up a schedule for myself and then use the rest of the notebook to take notes regarding what I've seen in clinic, on ward round and in A&E. There are also notes from teaching in there. 

Because the Hobonichi Techo is dated, I don't need to painstakingly draw up my own weekly schedule and can instead fill in the gaps as you can see below:

The amazing Tomoe River paper means that I can use fountain pen in the Techo without fear of bleeding or show through! Later in the year, I'll show how the day-per-page diary is used on placement but for now, this is how I separate and plan my life.

In the Techo, I'll have a brief note (usually in pencil) for when I have personal things scheduled, for example, dental appointments and drinks with friends, etc. This way, I can see what other things are planned but I won't see the more personal and health-related things (ahem, if you're a girl, you'll know what I mean) or inadvertently show them to a colleague. 

I'm going to see how this system works out for me this year because the plan is to note down jobs that need doing whilst on ward round/interesting cases seen in clinic. The only issue I have at the moment is the lack of pages available to me for clerking patients so a compromise may have to be struck (weekend pages are currently an option for this!).

1 Mar 2016

full circle: back to fountain pens (and why they're great!)

When I was in high school, I used fountain pens a lot and the evidence I have of this is that my old teenage journals were all written in fountain pen. Then, I went to university and converted to gel pens because they didn't dry up during lectures or during a period of inactivity. However, now that lectures are a rarity and most of my pen use is confined to writing notes for hours on end, fountain pens have made a gradual reintroduction into my stationery life. I now use both types of pens for note taking.

Today, I thought I'd share why I've gone back to them but also what's not so good about them for me.

Why Fountain Pens Are Great

1. Goodbye hand cramp! Hello a proper pen grip!

With gel pens and biros, I have a nasty habit of pressing down a bit too hard and this causes me to get cramp. A definite inconvenience when attempting to take notes for an extended period of time. Fountain pens are ideal for me here because they encourage me to hold a pen properly and not exert too much pressure on the nib.

2. The feeling of sophistication

Having been enticed by fountain pens that cost a bit more than the entry level ones, I feel quite grown-up when using them for note-taking now. Two of my more sophisticated ones include this Pilot Vanishing Point in Raden and my Pelikan M400 in tortoiseshell. The latter has seen loads of use in my notes recently due to its ability to hold more ink than the other pens in my possession.

3. The choice. Design, nib, barrel colour, price, the list goes on!

We're all different and that's a wonderful thing about us humans. There'll be pens out there that you love the look of and then there are others that you will not be so enticed by. Two great examples are the Lamy Safari and Pilot Kakuno - both pretty affordable for the newbie user who doesn't want to shell out megabucks for a pen that may not work for them. They both come in a variety of colours and nib sizes so there'll surely be one that would appeal to you.

4. Inks are fun!

When I first got into fountain pens, I was overwhelmed by the different brands and colours of inks out there. However, this can only be a good thing - the sheer variety of inks mean that trying a new one is a bit of a buzz!

5. They are timeless.

Fountain pens are constantly evolving. For example, Lamy come out with a new 'limited edition' colour each year for their Safari and Al-Star pens. The fact that ink companies are also coming out with new inks each year should be further proof that fountain pens are here to stay.

The Downsides

1. Can be expensive.

Depending on whether you're a cartridge user or a converter user, ink can get pretty expensive. Cartridges tend to be more expensive once you work out the price per ml but ink bottles are more messy and more hassle. I use the best of both worlds - I keep old cartridges, wash them out and then fill them with bottled ink using syringes and needles. This way, I always have a cartridge in my pencil case in case ink runs out when away from home.

2. A daunting category of pen if you're a relative newbie.

When I first got into fountain pens seriously, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of brands and pen models. It's also hard to know what kind of fountain pen would be the perfect one: there are so many designs, colours, nibs and brands that choosing your first one can determine how deep you fall in love with fountain pens.

3. Nib sizes differ between brands and even within the same brand!

Shown above is a Pelikan extra fine, a Platinum fine and a Lamy Extra fine. The one that writes the finest is actually the Platinum and the one that writes the thickest line is the Pelikan extra fine. This can be frustrating if you can't get to a pen store to try before you buy.

4. Messy!

After a heavy note taking or study session, I usually end up with ink on my fingers and side of my hands. Using bottled ink is also a messy affair!

5. The need for good quality paper.

Generally, 90gsm paper works better with fountain pen ink but I have found a few exceptions: Tomoe River Paper (the type of paper in Hobonichi planners) is amazing and Muji notebook paper is also pretty good (you can see an example above - the ink used is Diamine Blue-Black).

So, the first five are reasons why I've gone back to fountain pens and why I love them and the second five reasons are things I can deal with. Are you also fountain pen obsessed? If so, why? If not, what's put you off them so far?