Tag Archives: Weekend Photo Journal

Christmas 2013 Holiday Highlights

As of today, the Christmas holidays are officially over in our house. For me and the boys, the holidays have been total bliss. All the usual busyness of daily life stopped in our house and we enjoyed two weeks of ‘down-time’ together

Like many parts of the world, we’ve been experiencing freaky weather patterns these past few weeks, including frequent spells of torrential rain and gail force winds. Our local meadows (pictured in my top banner) transformed into a big lake.

Bathampton Meadows Flooded Christmas 2013

On Christmas Eve, we awoke to find our garden completely submerged under water. The water levels were the highest that we’ve ever seen them before, reaching the top of Lil’ L’s slide. While the water did eventually drain away, as soon as we had more heavy rain, the garden flooded again.  Fortunately, our house is on higher land, so there’s no risk of it flooding.

Flooded Garden Christmas 2013

For Christmas Day, we headed over to my mum’s in Dorset. We were having such a nice time that we ended up staying five days!

Christmas 2013

We played games, watched films, and went on some lovely walks with the dogs. Father Christmas brought Lil’ L a laser gun set, and he and M had lots of fun and laughs running round the house and forest shooting each other (boys eh?)

Lil L in Verwood Forest Christmas 2013

Using the weather tracking tool on our mobiles, we were able to time our walks to avoid the worst of the rain. Most days were dark and cloudy, but Boxing Day was exceptionally bright and dry, so we headed to Bournemouth.

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_1

It was utterly glorious!

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_4

We took a long walk along the promenade, played with the dogs on the beach, had coffees on the pier, and played the tuppence slot machines in the arcade.

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_2

I find it so invigorating by the sea this time of year. It’s great for clearing the old cobwebs away!

Boxing Day on Bournemouth Beach 2013_3

Love these colourful beach huts on Bournemouth promenade!

Beach Huts at Bournemouth

Food-wise, by far the best meal of the holidays was the Christmas dinner. My mum made the nut and lentil roast on Christmas Eve so, on Christmas day, we simply needed to prepare the veggies and gravy. Lil’ L said it was the best Christmas dinner he’s ever had! He even tried the Brussel sprouts and, though not keen on them on their own, he loved them mashed in ‘Bubble and Squeak’ (which we served on Boxing Day with the Chestnut and Mushroom Jalousie).

And thank you SO much for all your lovely comments about the Cranberry Glazed Red Lentil and Cashew Nut Loaf recipe. I was over the moon to hear how much you liked it!

I admit I’ve eaten far too much these past couple of weeks but I’m not worried about it. This week I’ll get back into my usual eating and exercising habits and, by the end of the month, I’m sure I’ll back back to my usual weight.  For me, this month is all about quick prep, low cost, tasty, healthy meals. I’ve got some really easy recipes to share with you, plus some awesome giveaways.

Time for me to officially bid farewell to 2013 and embrace the New Year.

Here’s wishing you all a very happy 2014 xx

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Filed under Holidays, The Garden, Walking & Hiking

Winter Solstice 2013 at Glastonbury

This year, the Winter Solstice happened to fall on a Saturday, so we took the opportunity to head to one of our favourite landmarks – Glastonbury Tor – to watch the sun set. It was a close call as the sun was already on its way down as we drove into the town.

With no time to spare, we headed straight up to the Tor…

Walking up to Glastonbury Tor

And we made it just in the nick of time!

Glastonbury Tor 400

For days, we’d been experiencing torrential rains and gail force winds here in the South West, and it had rained for most of Saturday too. However, just as the sun was setting on the Winter Solstice, the rain stopped, the clouds disappeared and we experienced the most beautiful sun set. It truly was a magical moment

Winter Solstice at Glastonbury 2013 1

As soon as the sun was down, the clouds came over and the heavy rain returned!!

We carefully made our way down from the Tor, trying not to get blown over in the gail force winds! Back in the town, we stopped for a warming drink and a quick browse in the The Speaking Tree before it closed. All three of us came away with a beautiful book…. mind you, it’s very hard to come away empty handed from that shop!  As we made our way back to the car, we stopped to admire all the amazing window displays.

Glastonbury Shops

Glastonbury Shops - December

Glastonbury Shops - December 5

Glastonbury Shops - December 2

Glastonbury Shops - December 3

Glastonbury Shops - December 4

I loved that little hedgehog!

Well, it’s Christmas Eve now and I still have a few more things to finish off, including Christmas cards and decorating the Christmas Cake, but I’m nearly there!  M and Lil’ L have the next two weeks off, and I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with them. This will be my last blog post for a while, as I’m going to ‘unplug’ for the holidays to give the family my full attention 😉

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
I look forward to catching up with you in 2014 xx

 

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Filed under Holidays

Christmas has arrived in Bath!

First, we had the Bath Christmas Lights switched on by Mary Berry.

Bath Christmas Lights Switch On

Then there was the Bath Lantern Parade, filled with a huge array of paper lanterns which danced its way down Pulteney Street to the beat of Samba Sulis.

Bath Lantern Parade 2013 1

Watching Bath Lantern Parade 2013

The Bath Christmas Market has been in full flow for the past couple of weeks. It’s been bigger and better than ever this year!

Bath Christmas Market 2013 2

The Lantern Parade and official opening of the Christmas Market were even more special for me, as my mum and her best friend came to visit for the night

Bath Christmas Market 2013 1

My favourite time to walk round the Christmas Market has been during the evenings, when the crowds have started to subside. It looks so pretty lit up, with beautiful Bath Abbey as its backdrop.

Bath Christmas Market 2013 3

And last weekend, Christmas came to our house too!  M and Lil’ L headed to Colerne to buy a tree. When they returned home, they decorated the tree and the living room as a surprise for me!

Christmas Tree 2013

After all this activity, the boys definitely deserved a cup of hot chocolate, which I made with the Elements for Life Spiced Raw Hot Chocolate, and topped with some vegetarian marshmallows from The Vegan Kind‘s latest subscription box.

Vegan Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows

And now it’s time for me to treat three of my lovely readers with an early Christmas pressie   The Raw Chocolate Making Kit giveaway ended at midnight last night and the three winners, chosen at random by Rafflecopter, are…

93 Tamzin

339 Poppy

522 Jane

Congratulations to you all!  I’ll be in touch to arrange delivery x

And I must say a big ‘thank you’ to Elements for Life for enabling me to host such a fabulous giveaway!

Elements for Life has a fantastic range of chocolate-making goodies and super foods available from their online store. They’ve kindly given me a discount code which entitles my readers to 10% off any products on their website. Just enter BOTGS10 at the checkout. This code has no expiry date!

Are you feeling ‘Christmassy’ yet? Now we have a tree, I’m definitely starting to feel more festive 😉

Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? I only started mine yesterday!!!

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Filed under Holidays, Out & About in Bath

Lil’ L turns 10! and a Recipe for Scrumptious Vegan Chocolate Cake (Dairy-Free / Egg-Free)

At the start of the Autumn half term school holidays, Lil’ L moved into double digits. I’m still dumbfounded as to how my boy grew up so fast. Seriously, where did all those years go?

His day kicked off with present & card opening. I love watching his facial expressions as he opens presents!Lil L 10th Bday Morning 2013

Another sign that he’s growing up is the lack of toys on his birthday wish list. Instead, he wanted new wheels for his scooter, a skater helmet and books (so glad he still enjoys reading!)

We spent his birthday at Longleat Safari Park. We were able to use my Tesco vouchers, which meant we could enter the park for free (saving us over £70!)  There’s so much to see at the Park, including a whole bunch of cool Deadly 60 attractions that have appeared since we last visited.

Longleat Deadly 60 500

For me, the highlights of the day were seeing the penguins, taking part in the Deadly 60 challenge with Lil’ L, and watching a male lion playing with his cub. The highlight for Lil’ L was going on the simulators. It was the first time he’s been on a simulator and he found it thrilling (whereas I just felt incredibly sick & kept my eyes shut the whole time… I’m such a wimp!)

In the evening, we went to Lil’ L’s favourite Indian restaurant in Bath – Rajpoot on Pulteney Bridge.

Rajpoot Bath

The birthday celebrations then continued for the next few days (one of the perks of having a birthday in the school hols!) and included a Laser Quest party; a trip to Dorset to visit his Nan; walks in the forest; and bike rides with his Dad and cousin. What a lucky boy he is!

Lil L 10th Bday Activities 2013

As usual, he requested a vegan chocolate cake for his birthday. This year, I made a very simple chocolate victoria sponge sandwich cake, which worked out surprisingly well. It was moist, held together well when sliced, and wasn’t too rich or sickly sweet.

I was all set to use cashew cream frosting (which I prefer a million times over to regular frosting) … but then had a change of heart. This cake wasn’t for me, it was for Lil’ L and his friends. Rather than impose my preferences on them, I ditched the cashews and dug out an old box of icing sugar from the back of the cupboard. I even went to the shops and bought some sugar sprinkles.

Vegan Chocolate Victoria Sponge Sandwich Cake 400 copy

The cake got great feedback from the family (including my mum!) as well as Lil’ L’s friends. I was particularly surprised when Lil’ L’s best friend came up to me after the party to tell me how much he’d enjoyed the cake. This meant a lot as he isn’t normally a ‘cake person’ (you’re much more likely to seeing him diving into a fruit bowl or tucking into roasted nuts and seeds!)

Vegan Chocolate Cake 2 copy

The cake was super easy to make. Here’s how I did it:

Products used in this recipe
Morrisons 23cm Non-Stick Springform Cake Tins – These are made in the UK, cost only £4 each and have a 5-year guarantee!
Salter Aquatronic Electronic Kitchen Scale – These scales are great as you can weigh everything directly into the same bowl. As an added bonus, they come with a 15 year guarantee!
Tesco Chapatti Flour – I use this flour in all my baked goods. It’s a very fine wholemeal flour and super cheap too!
– Dr Oetker Sugar Stars and Sugar Strands – Purchased from The Co-Op; also available from Tesco

Vegan Chocolate Cake 3 copy

For those of you that dislike the traditional Christmas fruit cake, I think this would make a great alternative. You could even add some festive sprinkles!

 

Please note: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links – if you click on the link and purchase something I will receive a small percentage from Amazon which will go towards the development of Bit of the Good Stuff. Thanks in advance!

 

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Filed under Baking & Desserts, Holidays, Treats & Sweets

Goult, Provence, Summer 2013

Last month, we were lucky enough to visit the beautiful region of Provence in France. We travelled by car, stopped overnight in Fontainebleau, then headed to the historical village of Goult, which was to be our home for two weeks.

Goult Provence France 2013 2

We stayed in a sweet little cottage, which we rented from Eva, a very kind and welcoming Swedish lady that had lived in Provence for many years.

The cottage had everything we needed for a comfortable stay, including a fully equipped kitchen.  Whenever we stay in France, we tend to prepare our own meals. It’s way cheaper (we would easily have spent £60 per day if we’d eaten out), plus I’ve found it near-on impossible to find vegan cuisine outside the big towns and cities.

La Joliette Goult Collage

I did bring a few supplies from England with me (mainly bags of raw nuts as these tend to be expensive in France). We bought fresh bread, salad, fruits and veg from the shops in Goult and did our main grocery shops at the hypermarche in Apt. The big supermarkets often have a ‘bio’ (organic) aisle which stocks health foods, wholegrains and ‘free from’ products. We found non dairy milk (including Alpro) in the long life milk section, and soya yoghurts (such as Sojasun) on the chilled yoghurt aisle. We also found big tubs of ready-made houmous, much to Lil’ L’s delight 😉

Lil L at La Joliette, Goult France 2013

All the meals we prepared were quick and easy. For lunch, we’d have big plates of salad and crudites, served with freshly baked ‘6 cereales’ bread. We also found Heinz baked beans on the ‘International’ aisle of the hypermarche, which made a tasty quick lunch served on toast.

For evening meals, I’d stir fry a big pan of veggies with spices, then use them as a basis for Mexican fajitas, Moroccan couscous or Indian curries. We also made tomato & basil pasta dishes, red lentil dals and French bread pizzas.

While we were out and about, the boys did eat the odd ice cream, crepe or patisserie but I stuck to nuts, seeds and dried fruit snacks. My stomach appreciated it.  Normally on vacations my stomach feels very unsettled but not this time. I didn’t have a single stomach ache whilst we were away 🙂

We enjoyed so many activities on this vacation! In the mornings, there was tennis playing and frisbee throwing in Goult; swimming at nearby St Saturnin; exploring in the Foret des Cedres in Bonnieux; paddling in the crystal clear waters at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and plenty of biking 😉

Provence Activity Collage

After lunch, we would often go exploring by car, hiking up to hill-perched ancient remains…

St Saturnin Provence France 2013 4

and visiting nearby towns and cities, including the historical and vibrant Avignon.

Avignon Summer 2013

Back at the cottage, we would chill out in the ‘cave’, reading, drawing, playing cards and watching films.  Early evening, I also enjoyed going for runs up and down the hills round Goult, taking in the beautiful scenery 😀

Goult Provence France Summer 2013

Biking was a big part of our vacation this year. We took our own bikes (strapped to the top of the car) and enjoyed exploring Goult and the surrounding countryside. We cycled past vineyards, olive groves, lavender fields and through cedar forests. It was such a feast for the senses!

Lil' L Biking back from Bonnieux, Provence, France 2013 2

Often, in the mornings, we would cycle to neighbouring villages, which tended to be perched on top of a hill.

Bonnieux Provence France 2013 3

It was challenging at times for Lil’ L …

Lil' L Biking in France 2013

… and there was the odd injury :/ …

Lil' L Biking Injuries in France 2013 3

… but it was worth it.  In addition to the great sense of achievement he felt at having ‘conquered’ another hill, there were the rewarding refreshments at the village cafes…

Lil' L in Roussillon France 2013 2

and spectacular views to take in

Me Biking in France 2013

I also took on my own challenge this year and decided to ride a section of Mont Ventoux.  I hadn’t done any hill training on my bike this year, so I knew I wouldn’t be in shape to ‘conquer’ Ventoux, but I thought I’d at least attempt the last 6.5km section.

I left M and Lil’ L eating nutella crepes at Chez Reynard…

Lil' L eating crepes Summer 2013

… and set off on my Marin full suspension mountain bike (much to the amusement of the ‘roadies’) ….

Me on Mont Ventoux Summer 2013 2

… praying that my 13 year old gaffer taped shoes would hold out!

The final 2km seemed more like 20km, but I eventually made it to the summit.

Me Cycling Mont Ventoux

It was a fantastic experience. I’m so glad that I did it!

The two weeks flew by and it was soon time to pack up and head back home, feeling refreshed, revived and fitter than when we’d arrived!

Lil' L leaving France Summer 2013

Provence is such a beautiful area of France.  Hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to return one day

Me & Lil' L in Goult France 2013

 

Do you choose to cook on vacations? If so, what are your favourite dishes to make? Do you have any tips for quick and easy meals?

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Filed under Biking, Holidays, Vacations, Walking & Hiking