Where do You See Yourself in Five Years Time?

Well? Any thoughts?

I seem to have found myself unintentionally living my life by this mantra:

“Map out a plan, but do it in pencil.”plan on a napkin

Five years ago, my current job title didn’t exist. With things changing around us so rapidly, it’s hard to plan ahead. Whatever ideas I conjure up are bound to be obsolete by then anyway. Now my plans for the future are much more abstract.  All I know is that I want to keep moving forwards. I don’t like staying still for too long.

So for now, my answer to the question is really quite simple: “somewhere new”.

What about you?

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Spicy Pork Shoulder Steaks

The other night I made a some spicy pork shoulder steaks for dinner that were rather good, if I say so myself! Shoulder steaks are not only cheaper than pork loins, I personally think they’re tastier and more succulent. This is mostly because of the fat that runs through the meat (as opposed to the large rind that you’ll find along the edge of a loin) which keeps it juicy when cooking.

A couple of hours before cooking the main meal, I mixed up a speedy marinade of garlic, salt, pepper, turmeric, curry powder, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of balsamic vinegar.  Unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly what was in the curry powder (as I got it in an unlabelled jar from my mother-in-law!) – but I think any of your favourite type will do, or even just some garam masala.  In the past I used to just use malt vinegar in my marinades, but using balsamic tends to give a greater depth of flavour.  Once done, I coated the pork steaks in the marinade and set aside in a baking tray to absorb. For even better results, I would leave this over night.

Half an hour before dinner, I seared the steaks in a very hot frying pan. I didn’t use any extra oil as the pork was already coated in some from the marinade. Once brown on both sides (which didn’t take very long!), I popped them back in the baking tray and into the oven to finish off cooking for another 20 minutes or so.

I served this with some white basmati rice, drizzled with some of the cooked juices packed full of flavour.  I also made a fresh and crunchy salad with watercress leaves, baby spinach, rocket, white cabbage, red onions and tomatoes – tossed in a lemon juice and olive oil dressing. And because we were feeling particularly peckish, I threw in some roasted new potatoes too, just for good measure!

spicy pork shoulder steaks


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Let Toys Be Toys

Not too long ago, someone told me that one of her 4 year old daughter’s favourite pastimes was to go shopping…”just like her mum!”.  I did wonder at the time why a 4 year old would love shopping – shouldn’t their favourite things to do include playing, drawing and making stuff out of old washing up bottles? I’m sure that’s what I did when I was 4.

We’ve all seen it before, little girls and boys being moulded by everyone around them to fit into a particular gender role. For example, the 4 year old in question at the time had mostly pink toys – including a baby with pink clothes, pram, cooking utensils, a pink wand and fairy wings. Not forgetting the pink throne.

At this point I should say that she is quite a lovely, well-behaved, clever and entertaining girl. And also that I’m not blaming her parents for slotting her into this particularly girly, pink box – they’re probably not even aware that they’re doing it.  Not to mention that I have been just as guilty of buying presents for neices, nephews and other kids that do the very same thing. That’s the trouble with stereotypes.

Here’s the definition according to the Oxford English Dictionary:

Pronunciation: /ˈstɛrɪə(ʊ)tʌɪp, ˈstɪərɪə(ʊ)-/
1 a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing

It’s no secret that the way toys are marketed is heavily gender-stereotyped. Typical toys packaged up for boys tend to be related to engineering or science (cars, trains, chemistry sets) and toys marketed towards girls tend to be linked to domesticity (cooking, cleaning, babies). And it seems to be getting worse. I remember playing with gender neutral toys like this >>>

Don’t get me wrong, I had my fair share of Barbie dolls, but I also had a doctors kit and a Nintendo (which I could only really talk about with the boys in my class at school). That being said, I think one of my favourite things to play with was actually a large, empty cardboard box.  Which just goes to show that kids will play with almost anything, as long as it captures their imagination.

As we get older, we get less and less imaginative – but children know no boundaries! They don’t need adults to package up toys in a particular colour because that’s what they should be playing with. They are free and boundless, until we sadly come along and change all that by placing limitations on them. Boo.

So that’s why I’ve signed this petition to stop UK and Irish retailers from promoting toys as gender-specific, and encourage you to do the same. The petition is being run by Let Toys be Toys. I just came across them yesterday and think the work they’re doing to make a change is fantastic.

You can follow them here:

Let Toys Be Toys on Facebook

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The Rise of the Emotionally Intelligent

Too often, I feel that emotional intelligence gets overlooked.  It’s sometimes treated like the poor cousin of academic intelligence. But for me, it’s really the star.smarty pants

According to the good people at psychology.about.com:

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while others claim it is an inborn characteristic.

The best people I’ve had the pleasure of working with demonstrate a certain level of empathy, which I think comes from being emotionally intelligent. However, those people are few and far between. Perhaps it’s the world of high tech that I’m immersed in, but too often, it feels like people are lacking in empathy and the ability to read others. For me, this is critical to both leading and working in a team. If you can’t relate to someone and understand what motivates (or demotivates) them, how can you expect to get the best out of them? That doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with what motivates them or how they think, but it does help you to see the world through their lens – and that is a very powerful thing.

It seems to me that truly successful leaders are not just smart, they are also emotionally intelligent.  Keld Jensen goes one step further over on Forbes.com by adding moral and body intelligence to the mix:

Moral intelligence deals with your integrity, responsibility, sympathy, and forgiveness… Keeping commitments, maintaining your integrity, and being honest are crucial to moral intelligence.

Body intelligence reflects what you know about your body, how you feel about it, and take care of it… It may seem like these matters are unrelated to business performance, but your body intelligence absolutely affects your work because it largely determines your feelings, thoughts, self-confidence, state of mind, and energy level.

Body intelligence can be learnt, and to an extent perhaps moral intelligence can be too. But emotional intelligence? I’m not so sure.  Maybe there are actions you can take to hone your emotional intelligence, but it feels like something that cannot be taught. It’s more of a quality, intrinsic in nature. And a very powerful one at that.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

It’s October and the nights are drawing in… which means it’s time to start making all those delicious, comforting and warming meals that make you go nom, nom, nom (for those of you who aren’t aware, that’s the official term used for when something is truly scrummy).

So last night, I thought it was finally time to put that buttner squash I’ve had squirrelled away in my cupboard for months to good use. Cue: roasted butternut squash and sweet potato soup.  Here’s the recipe:

Leaving the skin on, I cut the squash in half length ways, and again into quarters. I did the same with two sweet potatos, seasoned with salt and pepper, and drizzled with some good olive oil before popping in the oven to roast for about 20-25 minutes. Unfortunately I didn’t have any garlic (this in itself is a rare thing!), otherwise I would have added a few cloves into the mix too.

Meanwhile I peeled and chopped two white potatos and put them on the hob to boil.  Once the roasted vegetables were soft, I scooped out the flesh and added to the boiling pan along with one Knorr chicken stock pot.

And now for the kick. Whilst bubbling away, I added some additional spices: black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and cinnamon.  Once it was all cooked, I whizzed it up with a hand blender until it was velvety smooth.

With a dollop of creme fraiche and a warm hunk of crusty bread, it’s perfection:

roasted butternut squash and sweet potato soup

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