A Trip to Lanzarote & a Buddhist Exam

Hi everyone!  I’m back at long last!  I hope you all had a wonderful Spring Break. 🙂

And thank you so much for all the lovely comments you left while I was away. I really appreciate them, and can’t wait to catch up with you guys!

I’m sorry I’ve been away from the blog for so long, but we ended up going away for a couple of weeks.  Then, four days after my return, I had a 3-hour written Buddhist exam.

I’ve treated the last 3 weeks as a bit of a ‘retreat’, spending lots of quality time with the family and studying hard.  I’ve really valued this ‘down time’. It’s been wonderful to escape (briefly) from the busyness of daily life, switch off the phones, computers, TV, and just ‘be’. It’s been bliss!

Here are a few of the highlights of our Spring Break…

For 14 nights we stayed in an apartment on the outskirts of Costa Teguise, on the volcanic island of Lanzarote.

To reach the main resort, we walked along a beautiful coastal promenade, which had some handy exercise equipment which we had fun using every day. I’m in serious need of some upper body strength!

We first visited Lanzarote a couple of years ago and loved it so much that we wanted to return.  The volcanic landscape is magnificient.

For six years, commencing in 1730, there were continuous explosions, tremors and lava flows in west-central Lanzarote, and at least 23 hamlets were buried.  The centre of the volcanic activity was in Timanfaya.  Since 1974, a surface area of 542 square kilometres has been designated as a National Park, and you can explore it by coach or camel.


It’s an incredible experience!  You really do feel like you’re on another planet!

Another of our favourite sites on Lanzarote is the Cueva de los Verdes.  This is a section of the largest known lava tube in the world, created during the eruption of Monte Corona.  After walking along a twisty-turny labyrinths you come to a truly spectacular site.  Our photo doesn’t really do it justice.

Another section of this great lava tube can be visited at Los Jameos del Agua.  In 1968, the artist Cesar Manrique worked on this site, turning it into a beautiful architectural attraction.  There’s a lava cave with a lake, in which live a rare species of small, blind, albino crab.

The site also has beautifully designed cafe areas, an outdoor pool, exotic garden and volcanic education centre.

Sitting in cafes studying for my exam was a common sight of me this holiday 😉  I really appreciate how supportive M and Lil’ L were. They gave me all the time, space and encouragement I needed to revise for my big exam.  One day, Lil’ L returned from the shops with a little Buddha statue that he’d bought me with his own money!

A section of cave at Jameos del Agua has been turned into an auditorium with seating for 600 people.  It’s such an atmospheric place.  I’d love to see a concert there one day.  I bet the acoustics are out of this world!  When M and I entered the auditorium cave, we found Lil’ L sat on one of the seats meditating!

After his meditation, he went back outside and resumed his climbing adventures….

… and seeing how close he can stand to the edge of water without falling in. (He didn’t actually fall in this time, which makes a nice change!)

We also loved spending time at the Jardin de Cactus, another attraction designed by Manrique.  My Dad was a huge cactus fan and I wish he’d got to see this garden.  He would have loved it!  I’ve never seen so many cacti… and some of them were seriously huge!  It was a great place to spend the afternoon and there was another stylish cafe for me to install myself in 😉  The view below is actually from the cafe.  Isn’t it amazing?

As well as the volcanic landscape, another reason why M and I love visiting Lanzarote is to see the legacy of artist/architect Cesar Manrique.  His style is so distinct, and clearly influenced by his love of the natural landscape.  He was involved in the design of all the major attractions on Lanzarote.  Since his death, his home has been converted into a museum.  It’s one of the most incredible houses that I’ve ever visited.  It’s built in a lava field, and some of the rooms are actually lava bubbles!

How cool is that?

Lil’ L found himself some nice little spots to sit and read.

This is the first holiday that he’s really been into reading.  It was so nice to see him enjoying books (even if it is the Wimpy Kid!)  He must have got through at least 5 ‘fat’ books (as he calls them) during the 2 weeks.

Wimpy Kid is not my thing at all, but I did love Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which he read to us every night 🙂

And finally, no blog post of mine would be complete without the mention of FOOD!  We ate really well this holiday, except for a minor blip on our first day when we went to the nearest cafe we could find and ended up eating a ‘junk lunch’ of veggie burger and chips.  M and I felt so rubbish after this lunch that, from then on, we avoided the junk food.

Most lunch times, we returned to our apartment, and prepared simple lunches of salad, Spanish tortilla and freshly made baguettes that we bought from the local supermarket, followed by a dessert of fresh fruit, nuts and yoghurt.  We even found soya milk and soya yoghurts in the local supermarket, as well as British rolled oats for our morning porridge!

We really enjoyed these lunches and felt a million times better after eating them, compared to our first day ‘junk lunch’.  They left us feeling feeling full of energy and ready to head straight out for an afternoon of site seeing 🙂

There were lots of great restaurants in Costa Teguise which had veggie options on their menus, and we ate out most evenings.  We also came across this lovely little veggie cafe, tucked away in a corner of Costa Teguise on the strip of beach known as ‘Las Cucharas’.

It was run by a friendly German guy, who would cook stir fries and other delicious dishes using fresh produce from the local market.

This week, Lil’ L has kept telling us that he wishes he could go back to the Surfer’s Veggie Cafe and have one of their Mexican wraps.  He really loved them… even though they were filled with lettuce which he normally doesn’t touch with a barge pole!  I must have a try at re-creating them at home.

My favourite dish was the wok stir fried veggies, accompanied by rice and toasted sunflower seeds.  So simple, yet so tasty!

I can’t wait to have a try at re-creating this dish too.  The flavours were amazing!

So that’s what I’ve been up to these last 3 weeks.  My time in Lanzarote gave me the chance to take a ‘breather’, check where I am in my life and ‘realign’ myself back onto the path where I want to be.  I’ve made some big decisions about my future, which I’ll tell you about in another post.  It’s all very exciting (and a little bit scary!)

My weeks away have also renewed my enthusiasm for cooking plant-based meals and this week I’ve made a couple of simple, new dishes that Lil’ L has described as ‘winners’.  I’ll be posting the recipes shortly.

I’m also really looking forward to catching up with my wonderful friends, and that includes you guys out there in blogging world.  I can’t wait to see what you guys have been up to!

I look forward to catching up with you all very soon xx



Spring is in the air! The Joys of Blossom… and Living in the Moment!

Hi everyone! I hope you had a great weekend! 🙂

On Saturday we had glorious weather in Bath, so I took the opportunity to get out into the garden and do some tidying up.  It was so warm that we even managed to eat our lunch outside 🙂

It really does feel like Spring has arrived in Bath.  The crocuses and primroses are popping up everywhere in our little garden…

along with the daffodils and cute little narcissus 🙂


One of my favourite things about Springtime is blossom.  Trees look so severe in Wintertime without their leaves, but come Springtime, their bare branches are covered in the most delicately coloured, beautiful flowers that are an absolute joy to see.

One of my favourite types of blossom is found on the japonica tree. 

This tree is situated outside Lil’ L’s bedroom, and it’s such a nice sight to be greeted with as  I open his curtains first thing in the morning.

To reach school, we have to walk up a very steep hill.  Even though I consider myself to be pretty fit, I’m totally out of breath as I reach the top!  But what I focus on as I’m climbing (and huffing and puffing!) is the cherry tree that marks the end of the hill.  This tree is absolutely glorious at the moment… 

with the most beautiful blossom 🙂

And check out how blue the sky was on the school run today!

 In last week’s Wednesday Workshop (a little primary school Buddhist class that I teach each Wednesday) we read the story of the Four Princesses and the Kingshuk Tree (a beautiful story!) and I used the example of blossom to teach the children about impermanence and the importance of living in the moment.  Most of us are so busy in our lives, with our heads filled with a million and one thoughts and plans, that we risk losing sight of all the beauty that surrounds us in our natural environment.  When we do live in the moment, everything becomes brighter, clearer, more beautiful.

Time to enjoy the blossom… it’ll be gone before we know it!

Has Spring arrived where you live?  What’s your favourite thing about this season?


My Little Saviours

Okay, time to reveal the source of the ‘challenges and opportunities’ (known to others as ‘frustration’) that I encountered Tuesday night and Wednesday morning…

Here it is…

It looks so innocent doesn’t it?  Some might even call it ‘beautiful’.  Before it arrived in the post, I was even referring to it as the ‘Sexy Salsa’.  Now I just call it the ‘smartypants’ phone :-/

I thought it was about time that I embraced the new technologies of the 21st century and get myself an ‘android smartphone’ (I don’t have a clue what that means!)  This upgrade (£13.50 p/m) is actually cheaper than my old phone deal, so I should add it to yesterday’s ‘Big Budget Challenge’ post.

Well, it turns out that the ‘smartphone’ is way too smart for me.  I didn’t have a CLUE how to use the thing.  I was chuffed when I finally worked out how to turn it on after 5 minutes of fiddling… but it all went downhill from that point onwards.

The phone had automatically ‘synced’ with Facebook and my phone contacts list was then filled with the phone numbers of Facebook ‘friends’, rather than my regular friends.  I pressed the first name that appeared at the top of the screen to see if I could edit it.  To my horror, the phone started calling the person… Esther in Canada!!!  It took me ages to work out how to end the call (because I’m so thick when it comes to new technology).  THEN, I accidentally rested my finger on the phone… and it started ringing Esther in Canada again!!! aarrghhhh!

I gave up and decided to have another try in the morning.

M asked me if I’d read the manual.  I checked the manual and no, it doesn’t mention how to make a phone call or send a text as it ASSUMES that everyone already knows how to do this.  The manual just talks about ‘Facebook Chat’, ‘Snap, tag and share’ and other things that I have NO clue about.

I finally worked out how to send a text, but my fat fingers seem to press about 5 letters at once.  A 2 sentence text took me about 5 minutes because I had to delete every other letter.  I can’t wait to let my mum have a go (mind you, she can’t do worse than me lol!)

My second ‘challenge’ on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was an attempt to move my blog to a new host.  My new hosting provider has a ‘1 click install’ which is described as being so simple that even a 4 year old could do it.  I’m sure a 4 year old probably could do it… but I failed miserably. It’s still not sorted, but I’m hoping that my wonderful tecchie friend ‘E’ will be my saviour on this one.

So after a rubbish Wednesday morning (which I’m happy to say wasn’t a complete waste of time as it’s been a great source of amusement for my friends), it was a relief to leave the house, the phone, the computer, and go to teach my kids’ meditation classes.

The kids were little stars as usual. Just watching them meditate filled me with such a sense of peace. Apparently, Lil’ L and some of his friends had been meditating during playtime, before I’d even arrived at school.  It was a very chilled, rewarding afternoon.  This carried on after school too.  I sneakily took a picture of Lil’ L meditating in the garden…

And here’s a pic of another 2 of his classmates meditating Wednesday evening (emailed to me by their mum).

Don’t they look so peaceful?

And finally, here’s a beautiful picture that another one of Lil’ L’s friends drew on Wednesday afternoon.


What a beautiful way to end a crazy day!

I’d love to upload these images onto my new smartypants phone but that’s one step too advanced for me.  Maybe I’ll ask a 4 year old 😉

Have a wonderful weekend everybody! xx

Have a star!

If you knew what I know about the power of giving,
you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.

I can’t believe that I’ve been teaching ‘Wednesday Workshops’ for a whole school year.  The time has flown by!  I thought that it would be a nice idea to end the term with a workshop on ‘Giving’.  It was a wonderful afternoon, with the children far exceeding my expectations in terms of their understanding and reflections of the virtue of giving.  

For the last meditation, the children imagined that they were wish-fulfilling jewels, giving everyone in the world something that would make them happy.  We then sat in a circle and imagined that we were giving the person sitting next to us something that they would really like.  I wondered if the children would pick some crazy gifts just for a laugh, but they were incredibly sensitive and, with no prompting from me, decided to give gifts such as diamonds, friendship, love and a cuddle!  

For our arts and crafts, most of the children chose to make mala bracelets to give to friends/family as presents, while one of the boys chose to make ‘friendship’ badges, which he was going to give to the children in his class. 

All in all, it was a wonderful end to the term and I’m incredibly proud of all the children.  I awarded certificates in recognition of how well they’ve done in their meditation practice, and gave each of them gold stars and a treat 🙂

A baked treat that’s popular with these children is my dairy-free shortbread stars.  One time I made 40 shortbread stars for the children and within a couple of minutes they’d all been eaten!  These stars are also popular in our house as snacks and lunchbox treats for both Lil’ L and M.  Here’s the recipe.

Sesame Shortbread Stars (Dairy-free)

Dharma 4 Kids Festival

This weekend we went to the Dharma 4 Kids Festival at the Nagarjuna Buddhist Centre in Kelmarsh, Northamptonshire.  We had a fantastic time there and met some wonderful people! 

The event was really well organised, with lots of fun activities including art, drama, football, table tennis, table football, snooker, bouncy castles, as well as fun sessions on Buddhism.   

Lil' L playing gladiators with his new friend

There were quite a few teenagers at the festival and it was great to see activities specifically targeted at their age group.  They even had their own teenage marquee!  In the evening, there was a karaoke disco party in the teenage marquee which was invaded by a number of parents… including us.  I’m still not feeling 39!!

Larking about on the bouncy castle

I loved the relaxed atmosphere at this festival.  The place felt very safe so I was happy to let Lil’ L come and go as he pleased.  I think he really enjoyed having some freedom!  At one point I went looking for him to remind him that the kids’ Buddhism session was about to start, only to find that him and his friends had already taken themselves off to the meditation room.  That impressed me!  

Kids session with Kadam Bridget

The weekend felt like a real break for us.  The cafe and shop were open throughout the festival, which was a plus point.  I loved the soya lattes served in the cafe. (M and I had lots of them!)  Luckily, there were enough breaks in the rain for the lunches and dinners to be served on the front lawn. 

Lunchtime and the sun's come out!

Lil’ L made some great new friends this weekend, which he’ll hopefully see again next year.  I spoke to some of the teenagers who said that they’d been coming to the festival for the past 5-6 years and looked forward each year to catching up with their festival buddies.  I also made some great new friends and hope to see them again next year!

Monkeys and Ducks

For this afternoon’s Wednesday Workshops, I chose a re-telling of the Jataka Tale ”The Monkey King’.  On You Tube, I found footage of adults and children at an NKT Festival re-enacting the tale in a very amusing way.  I thought it would be fun to show the children the NKT’s version, then we could re-enact the tale ourselves.  I quickly drafted the tale as a play suitable for the age group I’ve got this term (5-7 year olds), grabbed the laptop and mangoes and half walked / half ran to school (tight for time as usual), lugging my ridiculously heavy bag up and down the hills (this is my exercise for the day). 

The children seemed to love the play.  During play time, a few of them started to make costumes and props and they’re hoping to perform the play in front of their class.  I was very impressed with the reading skills of the children; there was one Year 1 boy in particular whose reading and acting skills blew me away!

It was swimming lesson night for Lil’ L and his friend Lil’ S.  On the way, I stopped to post a letter at Batheaston post office… and discovered 4 mallard ducks waiting to cross the High Street!  There were cars coming from both directions and a bike speeding down the hill.  I jumped in the road to try and stop the traffic and let the ducks cross safely.  The ducks weren’t paying any attention to my lollypop lady hand signals so I ended up dashing behind them and herding them across the road.  The guys outside the pub cheered and gave me a clap.  Cheeky things. 

As always on swim night, Lil’ L wanted spinach pancakes for tea with roasted butternut squash and pine nuts.  I thought I’d experiment with the filling tonight and make a white sauce.  Lil’ L took one bite, burst out crying and shouted “THIS IS RANK!!!!!”  It did make me chuckle as I’ve never heard him use this expression before… or look so disappointed with his dinner!  I think it was the mountain of wholegrain mustard in the sauce that did it for him.  Needless to say, I won’t be publishing the recipe.  I, on the other hand, loved the sauce and ate it all up 🙂