Energy Balls

Here is my recipe for some super healthy snacks you can make in about 3 minutes for while you are on the go! They have been fuelling my running since I made them and I am completely obsessed. Just throw the ingredients in a bowl together, mix then form into a ball shape. Simple!

All these recipes make 6, so if you fancy more or less just adjust the measurements!

Chocolate

Ingredients IMG_0436

  • 50g Oats
  • 50g Cocoa Powder
  • 50g Nut Butter
  • 30ml Date Syrup

Pumpkin Spice

Ingredients IMG_0433

  • 50g Oats
  • 50g Pumpkin Seeds
  • 50g Nut Butter
  • 2tsp Cinnamon, 1tsp Ginger, 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 30ml Date Syrup

Cherry Bakewell

Ingredients IMG_0430.JPG

  • 50g Oats
  • 50g Ground Almonds
  • 50g Nut Butter (almond works best)
  • 100g Cherries (dried or glace)
  • 30ml Date Syrup

Coconut & Lime

Ingredients IMG_0431.JPG

  • 50g Oats
  • 50g Desiccated Coconut (& a little extra for decoration)
  • 50g Nut Butter
  • Zest of 1 Lime, and Juice of 1/2 a Lime
  • 15ml Maple Syrup

Any brand/ any nut for the nut butter will do; if you are on a budget Morrison’s own peanut butter is fine. Same goes for the syrup, any will do! I use Whole Earth 3-nut butter because this brand uses sustainable palm oil (but it is quite an expensive), and date syrup because it is unrefined and I think it tastes nicer.

I hope you enjoy making these fun snacks! If it looks a little dry, add a little more syrup, and if it feels a little too sticky add some more oats. They are good to store for up to a week, in a dry airlock container at room temperature.

That’s all for now!

Claudia x

Procrastination

Here’s one for all my fellow students! We are all guilty of procrastinating from time to time, and I am delighted to tell you it’s normal. Here is some valuable information I’d like to share about the brain, that has helped me understand why I sometimes feel opposed to the idea of studying.

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Why we Procrastinate

Current psychology research believes the brain can be divided into 3 developmental areas. One of these areas of the brain is called the Limbic System, and this part is responsible for all our fundamental emotions, like pain, fear, fight-or-flight, pleasure and reward. It is responsible keeping us out of situations that make us feel stressed and uncomfortable and that are associated with pain. Well, procrastination is essentially the limbic brain subconsciously finding ways for us to avoid the pain and discomfort of studying or revision, and the thoughts of failure, poor performance and disappointment.

If you are a bit geeky like me and would like to learn more about the limbic brain’s role in procrastination, check out this 5-minute video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Npguemshl4E

Neuroplasticity

The good news? We can train our brains to reduce how often we procrastinate, thanks to a thing called ‘neuroplasticity’. It is what a lot of Physiotherapy is based upon; the ability of the brain to adapt and rewire in response to change. Now that I know I procrastinate because of the way we’ve evolved, I consciously attempt to alter the way I think about revision. Being aware I am subconsciously avoiding pain allows me to feel the fear, and do it anyway.

If you’d like to understand more about neuroplasticity, check out this 2-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELpfYCZa87g

Things That Work For Me

I’m certainly not perfect. But, since learning this about my brain I have found ways to reduce how much I am avoiding my work, and I have actually increased my productivity. Here are the main techniques that work for me:

  1. Telling my brain off. Knowing my brain is programmed against me has helped me to consciously override this brain setting (most of the time).
  2. Breaking to grab a cup of tea, because tea fixes everything. It is ok to take breaks, in fact it is recommended by nearly all revision experts.
  3. Setting realistic outcomes for revision. Saying ‘I must do 9 hours uninterrupted is silly’. Don’t do it.
  4. Changing it up every so often. I know how I study most effectively 99% of the time, but sometimes it helps to change things. This week I am studying with a friend, and last week I taught my dog what I had learnt so far in anatomy. I find it makes my knowledge more rounded and flexible, so I don’t just have my notes imprinted on my brain as my only tool.
  5. Knowing my learning style. I know I am mostly a visual learner, so to power through most productively, I know I need coloured pencils & paper, silence and a big mug of tea.

Know Your Downfalls

I know that sitting in an unclean area while revising is a non-starter for me. I also know that if I haven’t had a cup of tea in the hour before sitting down to study, making one before starting is a necessary requirement. I must turn my phone off, sit facing away from my wall posters/photos and put in earplugs because noise and images make my mind wander. I break up my revision using the Pomodoro tool as much as possible. This is basically doing 25-minutes of solid study, a 5-minute break, repeating about 4 times until taking a 30-minute break. If I hit a wall, I go for a walk. All my best thoughts and ideas are had on my walks, like my idea to start this blog.

I hope this helps, and that you take this information into account when you next find yourself cleaning your bathroom to avoid an assignment.

Til next week!

Claudia x

Warming Winter Pies

Fill these classic puddings with whichever fruits you fancy; I find hand-picked has more flavour than shop-bought. Here is my recipe for Blackberry & Pear Pie, with a homemade Vanilla Bean Custard to accompany it.

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Ingredients (makes 4 tartlets, or 1 medium pie)

(To make this recipe suitable for vegans, swap for butter and egg for the ingredients marked in brackets!)

  • 175g Plain Flour
  • 80g Butter (or vegan margarine; measure out & chop, put in the freeze for 20 minutes before use)
  • Cold Water
  • 2 Medium Pears: peeled, cored, chopped into 1cmx1cm cubes
  • 150g Blackberries
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp Caster Sugar
  • 1 tsp Cornflour
  • 1 egg, whisked (or soy milk)

Method

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl from a height to incorporate as much air as possible, add a pinch of salt.
  2. Chop the butter into small cubes and add to the flour. With cold hands, quickly rub the butter and flour together with your fingertips until it resembles fine crumbs.
  3. Add 2 tbsp of very cold water, and using a knife, mix, chop and bring together to form a rough dough. You may need to add a little more water, so add slowly 1tsp at a time.
  4. Use your hands to bring the dough together, being careful not to work it too much, and once there are no remnants on the bowl, place the dough in the fridge to rest for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Heat the oven to 160 degrees fan.
  6. Between two sheets of greaseproof, roll out the dough until it is 3-4 mm thick, using the tin as a guide (cut the shape of dough into 8 circles if using tartlet tins, or two large circles if doing one large pie).
  7. Grease the tins, add a sprinkle of flour and tap it out before putting the pie base into the tins and leaving in the fridge to rest for 10 minutes.
  8. Put the chopped pears into a large bowl and microwave for 3 minutes. Then add in the berries, cinnamon, sugar and cornflour and stir until combined.
  9. Remove the tins from the fridge, prick the bases with a fork and blind bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, then remove the baking beans and return to the oven for a further 7 minutes until the base looks biscuit-y in texture.
  10. Add the filling, being careful not to overfill, then brush the rim of the crust with some egg wash (or soy milk) before pressing down the lid of the pie with a fork. Pierce the top of the lid to let air out while cooking and brush the tops with egg wash (soy milk).
  11. Cook the pies for 40 minutes, then turn the oven up to 180 degrees fan for a further 8-10 minutes cooking until the pies are golden brown on top.

The Custard

(While not yet adaptable for vegans, this tart still tastes as great when served with soya cream, available in most supermarkets!)

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Ingredients

  • 575ml Whole Milk
  • 50ml Single Cream
  • 1 Vanilla Pod
  • 4 egg Yolks
  • 25g Caster Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 7g Cornflour (1 rounded tsp)

Method

  1. In a large saucepan, bring the milk, cream and vanilla pod gently to a simmer.
  2. Separately, hand-whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour together until blended in a large bowl.
  3. Once gently simmering, remove the vanilla pod from the saucepan, open it and scrape out the seeds. Return the seeds to the saucepan, discarding the pod.
  4. While whisking, pour the milk into the bowl with the egg yolks and combine together before returning all of the mix back to the saucepan.
  5. Heat gently until thickened enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon.
  6. Serve hot immediately, or cover with cling film and leave to cool before refrigerating for up to 24 hours.

I hope you enjoy making these pies, but more importantly they taste good!

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That’s all for now!
Claudia x

 

Disconnection

For those of you that know me well, you know I spent the past 6 months without social media, and used a phone that’s only functions were calls, text and WhatsApp.

Before I decided to rid my life of the web I felt like my phone was attached to the end of my arm, and I actually took a step back and laughed at how dependent I had become on my phone. It was like an obsession, a reflex whereby I was clicking the screen every 10 seconds to check for messages or burying my head in the small bright screen whenever I felt awkward in a situation. It was always in my pocket or hand, and having grown up feeling quite indifferent to social media and cool new gadgets, this made me quite out of character.

I was due a phone upgrade, and being a lover of science, I decided to use the opportunity to try an experiment. I instead decided to downgrade from an iPhone 5c to a small, low storage and minimal function LG. When using the camera it was like looking through a fogged-up glass, and the screen froze from day 1 if you clicked two buttons in quick succession. But the alarm, call and text buttons worked and I was content that I had what I needed.

I deleted it all; Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter. You name it and I didn’t have it. I even stopped posting on here for a while. I took a complete break from the digital world, and it did me the world of good.

During those 6 months I started looking outwards rather than downwards at a screen. I started to appreciate beauty in little things, like walking my dogs and not having a clue what time it was, waking up and spending the first few hours of my days off from not knowing what one of my mum’s friends had had for breakfast, or if North Korea had blown up America yet. There were some aspects that weren’t perfect, like not knowing what my friends were discussing when they were talking about a current meme, or online trends. But overall this simpler lifestyle was one I could have happily continued for as long as I’d liked.

My experiment was a success, because I now know I can live without a smartphone and social media, and enjoy a tech-free life. Now that I am a student at university, I have started to reintroduce social media and I enjoy it as a way of seeing how my friends at different universities are getting on, networking and keeping up to date with the latest news related to Physiotherapy online. I do not have my phone with me all the time, and most of the time I don’t carry it my pocket. I can go hours without checking my phone during the day, and having found a happy balance makes me feel accomplished.

I would highly recommend trying this experiment if you are feeling like your phone is something you cannot go a minute without; it has certainly helped me.

That’s all for now!

Claudia x

 

Injury and Time Out

I am now a student physiotherapist! To celebrate this, here is a very unscientific post about injury and treatment, because its only been a month and I’m not a Tree of Knowledge just yet. I am going to discuss my recent injury and how it has affected my running and outlook.

If you have read my blog post The Backbone to Success you will know I have had back problems for quite a while. This time last year the pain radiated down into my legs and caused severe knee pain meaning I found running incredibly painful. The knee pain alleviated slightly after 8 weeks of complete rest, after which I began to build up the training again. I was doing really well with my running by January of this year, and when I ran the county cross country championships I was getting back on form (nowhere near my 2014 standard, but the closest I have been since then).

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Throwback to 2014 when I was hitting my fastest times, and 20 minute 5ks.

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And a throwback to January 2017; getting back on form (or so I thought).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then in early February, I don’t know if it was by training too much too soon, or other life factors but I found myself to be in a great deal of pain once again, with the same injury I had a just a few months earlier.

I went through a really rough period where I hated training, and I hated the fact I was hating training. I used to think running and triathlon were a big part of who I am because I loved training for them, so being injured and not progressing caused a lot of inner frustration. I decided to seek some answers. I saw some doctors, had some scans, physiotherapy and strength training and now I am pleased to say my injury is largely under control.

This has been a major lesson for me as a person and as a runner. In February I stopped recording my training because everything was so unpredictable and dependant on pain levels that time spent fixating on training plans and analysis was time wasted. It took the pressure off me to hit targets and it has helped me to reevaluate why I love running in the first place.
The past nine months of injury and injury rehab has taught me that I do not need running to be Claudia, I am a decent enough person without it in my life. The difference is I want running to be a part of my lifestyle and that is the way it should be. The period of having a no-expectation outlook on my training helped me overcome feeling like running was a chore, but something I truly love and look forward to as part of my day to day life.

When I started getting back into structured running it was from square one. It hasn’t been easy, but I am now starting to see the positive sides to this journey, and I am gradually making progress again. Two weeks ago I had my first cross country race in what felt like forever and it felt amazing to be back in the mud. I have my second cross country of the season tomorrow which I am really looking forward to. I am doing some of my training with my university, and the varied sessions are so good for building other areas of fitness, like speed and S&C. (If you would like to see my updated training week read A week In Training ).

Thank you for reading, and I hope this blog post will help anyone who currently has, or may have been through injury too. My main advice based only on personal experience for if you are with-injury would be:

1. Seek medical advice, informing yourself of the problem is the best way to find the appropriate treatment (avoid googling all of your symptoms)

2. Take a step back and lower your expectations of yourself.

4. Reconnect with your other interests, and use this time to try new things.

5. Fully invest in your injury rehab, it will be challenging but it is worth it.

6. Ease yourself back in slowly.

7. Try to stay positive, but allowing yourself to feel upset sometimes is normal too.
That’s all for now!

Claudia 🙂

New Beginnings

Hello everyone! Long time no blog post. Today I am going to write about where I’m at after a rather hectic few months.

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I feel like I have been travelling at a million miles an hour for the past nine months to get to where I am today. After returning from university last December, I was in a pretty bad way in terms of my health through a lack of self-care and major stress, and there was a time shortly after returning home that I felt very angry with myself for not making it work. This gap year has been a massive step for me in terms of life lessons, maturing and grasping that it is ok to hit pause and finding a good balance of work : life : sport, and others : self.

Here are some of my achievements from the past 9 months:

  1. Receiving an offer for a place studying Physiotherapy
  2. Applying to the Great British Bake Off, and getting through to stage 3 of interviews
  3. Finally getting some answers on my very long term back problems
  4. Getting a major promotion at work
  5. Doing a ride leading qualification to take groups of people out cycling
  6. Getting my hair cut every 6-8 weeks
  7. Doing my own nails at least once a month
  8. Implementing a daily facial skin-care routine
  9. Reconnecting with my Mum
  10. Reading over 10 books that were just sitting on my shelf waiting to be read
  11. Going for coffee with my dad and I even enjoyed cake with it (more than once!)
  12. Joining a different gym with a close friend, and enjoying weight/core training to build strength alongside the cardio I already did
  13. Sorting out my clothes, selling and giving those I don’t wear to charity, and treating myself to new ones

Big or small, these are all achievements that matter to me, I am proud of myself for making self improvements, and developing my ability to enjoy the small things in life, without feeling like I am doing something that isn’t 1000% necessary or that the time or money could be spent more efficiently elsewhere.

Perhaps one of my biggest achievements has been throwing out my old GCSE and A-level work (in the recycling because it was A LOT of paper). This may be meaningless to most people, but the (now ridiculous) explanation I had given myself for keeping it all was as a trophy of my achievement for GCSE, and a reminder of my short-comings and underperformance at A level. It was putting massive limitations on my self worth and confidence, and by getting rid of it all I feel like a weight of self hatred has been lifted.

At the moment I am relaxing in Spain on holiday enjoying a break. I am one of those people who finds it hard to relax without feeling like there are important things I should be doing instead of ‘selfishly’ relaxing. Taking some time off work is very important to me before I start at university, because I don’t want to be stressed and run down when I get there, I’d rather be well rested, excited and ready to work really hard at a subject I have grown a great passion for.

I am still learning, and there are still more areas I would like to improve in, especially when I return to university which includes:

  1. Making and developing more friendships
  2. Get back into a structured running routine
  3. Being open minded, making spontaneous social plans
  4. Joining a club and some societies at uni and making sure I stick to the commitment
  5. Preparing healthy and nutritious meals, and taking the time to enjoy them
  6. Being the best physiotherapist that I can be
  7. Asking for help when I am struggling

This post has been a really useful reflection for me, I would recommend writing achievement and aspiration lists like this for everyone to boost positivity and your outlook. That’s all for this time, I won’t leave it as long until my next post!

 

Claudia 🙂

Cranberry & Pistachio Biscotti

Dunked into a big mug of coffee, or crumbled on top of ice cream, these biscotti are one of my favourite things to make and share with friends.

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Ingredients

(In brackets are the alternative ingredients to use if you would like to adapt this recipe to be suitable for vegans)

225g plain flour (or quinoa flour)

225g Light Brown Sugar, Sifted

1/2 tsp Baking Powder

2 eggs (OR 2 tbsps Flaxseed mixed with 6 tbsp water, let sit for 10 minutes)

100g Dried Cranberries

100g Pistachio Kernels

1/2 Orange Zest

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees fan.

2. Sift the flour and sugar into a bowl together and stir until evenly distributed.

3. Add in a pinch of salt and the baking powder and stir.

4. Beat the eggs and add it in a tsp at a time to the dry mixture stirring as you add and in between additions. You may not need all of the egg, and only add enough until you have a firm dough that is not at all sticky.

5. Roughly chop the pistachios and cranberries then incorporate them into the dough by hand.

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6. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface very gently. Split the dough in half and roll out into 2 logs of 4cm diameter.

7. Place the logs on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper at least 5cm apart and place in the oven to bake for 33-35 minutes.

8. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tray for 12 minutes until firmer, then move to a chopping board.

9. Cut the logs diagonally 2.5cm thick, then put them back onto the baking tray and back into the oven for a further 17 minutes. Turn the biscotti over and return to the oven for a further 17 minutes until crisp.

10. Cool completely on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Why not substitute the pistachio and cranberries for these other delicious flavours:

  • The zest of 2 lemons, 35g poppy seeds, 2 tsp of lemon juice.
  • 100g dried chopped apricots, 100g whole chopped almonds, 1/2 tsp almond extract.
  • 50g good white chocolate melted, 10og macadamia nuts chopped, 85g dried raspberries.

There are so many different ways to flavour your biscotti so use this as a chance to get creative!

Claudia

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Essential Kit List for a Triathlon

Now I’m not sure whether this is a post I am qualified to write, seen as I have a bit of a reputation for forgetting (or almost forgetting) essential bits of kit to most races (like bike shoes). However, I don’t see a rule book for blogging anywhere so I’m just going to go ahead. This post is about what kit I think should be making an appearance in your kit bag for a triathlon race.

Essentials

1. Trisuit

You won’t regret buying a trisuit, it saves valuable time in transition not having to put shorts and a t-shirt on.

2. Goggles

Swimming is a clear and obvious part of the triathlon, and unless you plan on swimming with your head out of the water, goggles are a must.

3. Wetsuit

In the UK it is compulsory to wear a wetsuit if the water temperature is less than 14 degrees, and many people would sensibly still wear one if the temperature was between 14 and 25 degrees.

4. Swim cap

These are usually given out at races so they have coloured caps by start time and wave number.

5. Bike

Regardless of whether you have a road, hybrid or mountain bike you’ll struggle towards the middle of the race if you don’t take your bike with you.

6. Helmet

Compulsory.

7. Bike Shoes

If you have clip-in pedals on your bike you’ll need to remember these shoes, otherwise you can just wear the same trainers you’ll run in for cycling.

8. Trainers

Bare foot running is a thing, but why make the triathlon any harder than it needs to be? I strongly advise you remember your trainers.

9. Race Belt

Safety pins will do, and are often given out in the race pack along with your race number , however I’d recommend buying a race belt, they are really good value for money when you can keep using them every race and not ruin your beautiful trisuit by poking safety pin holes in it.

10. Race Number

Usually given on the day (or the day before) at registration for the event. If you get your race number by post (which some races do) DO NOT FORGET IT.

11. Paperwork

You may need to take a conformation email along with you to race registration.

12. BTF membership card, or £5

If you don’t have a BTF (British Triathlon Federation) license, you will be required to buy a day pass (only £5) on the day of your race to cover the insurance.

13. Water

You’ll regret not taking any.

14. Recovery food

I will do a second blog on my opinions on pre/during/post race fuel, however now I will say make sure to stick a banana and a snack bar in your bag!

Top Tips, and my essential extras:

1. Flip Flops

I always take flip flops with me so I can leave my bike shoes with my bike and my trainers in transition, so that when I walk down to the swim I don’t go barefoot and flip flops are easy for my fans to hang onto while I race.

2. Maintenance Kit

A small hand held pump and a spare inner tube are really smart things to carry on your bike so that if you do disastrously get a puncture, you are at least equipped to deal with it (I had a puncture during a race once and still finished because I had the kit to repair it).

3. Tech

A race watch or bike computer are by no means essential, however I find mine really useful to track my speed and times, to see if I am on target for how fast I want to complete the triathlon.

4. A Slave

The person to carry your food, warm clothes, extra drinks, hold the ‘GO YOU!’ banners and be your personal photographer.

5. Sunglasses and Suncream, or Hat, Gloves and Coat

Living in the UK the weather will probably require you to pack the latter, but make sure you think carefully about the weather, because you are likely to either be stood round in the boiling sun (and racing in it) so you don’t want to get burned, or stood round in the freezing cold (and racing in it) so you don’t want to get frostbite / hypothermia.

6. Pack the night before

Packing the night before is a good idea so you can sleep on it and have any nightmares about forgetting certain bits of kit and then prevent forgetting them by adding them to your race bag in the morning on race day.

I hope this post is useful for all levels of triathletes, and that I haven’t forgotten to mention any other vital pieces of kit. That’s all for now!

Claudia 🙂

A week In Training

Thank you to @a.runners.diary of Instagram for requesting this blog post. I am currently at university, and I am enjoying training for distance running and cross country. Below is a rough insight into a week’s training.

Monday usually consists of a circuits session. it is usually 2 hours long, starting with 30 minutes of dynamic stretching, then we do a circuit or two of a large gym with 20-25 stations of exercises to work different muscles.
Tuesday I do a speed session for running. I go to the track and start by running ~2km nearby as a warm up before doing 20 minutes of 100 metre drills, then into a main set of reps on the track. For example this week we did 600m, 300m recovery jog, then 4x 300m with 100m recovery jog. Cool down.
Wednesday I go to the gym and do an indoor run on the treadmill of around 10-15km depending on what week it is and what races are coming up. All at an easy pace.
Thursday I do my hills session. Warm up in 10 minutes jog down to the hill, then attempt the hill in 60 seconds, and wherever I am at that point, I turn round and jog back to the bottom as an active recovery before going straight back into it. Repeat this 6-7 times before jogging back to the start point as a cool down .
Friday is for resting and refuelling!
Saturday I sometimes have a race, if not its a grass session, practicing good running form and consistent splits around a set of fields near home.
Sunday I may have a race, if not I do some cross training, like swimming, a long walk, or a bike ride.

I hope this post is interesting! Please get in touch with any other posts you’d like to see up on the blog soon.

Claudia 🙂

 

Life as a Barista

In line with my previous post ‘change’, I left university in December, and 6 days after arriving home I had managed to secure a job….at Starbucks! I joined the Starbucks team before Christmas so I got to wear the red apron and learn how to make all of the Christmas beverages which was very exciting!

Within a week and a half I was trained and ready to be on shift as a working barista. Training wasn’t just about learning how to make all of the complex drinks (although it was a large part of it) I also had to get to grips with using the till, cleaning procedures and customer service.

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My training involved mastering the art of Latte, Cappuccino and Caramel Macchiato as well as all the other drinks on the Starbucks Menu!

In all honesty, I am loving my work, my job gives me purpose, interaction with people from all walks of life, going about all sorts of daily tasks. I love being able to make my customers happy when I hand-craft their drinks.

I am now training to become a Shift Supervisor, which means I can lead the shifts I am on. I am really excited for this next stage of the job and although the work is tiring with either early starts or late finishes, I don’t think I could think of a much better job for this year.

That’s all for now! Claudia