Me and My Blog are 1 Year Older

Today, my blog is officially one year old! ūüôā¬†I can’t tell you how much I’ve¬†enjoyed blogging this past year.¬† I know my posts are a bit random at times, but I’ve really valued the opportunities I’ve had to document all those special little moments in life that I’d normally forget.¬†¬†

Something that¬†isn’t forgettable though is the fact that yesterday¬†was the end of an era for me.¬† Yep, I said goodbye to the 30s, and (slightly begrudgingly) turned¬†40.¬† I’m¬†still in shock¬†that I’m actually that number¬†now.¬†¬†I still feel so young at heart!¬†

I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to all my beautiful friends and family for making my¬†birthday so special.¬† I had the most amazing (long) birthday weekend, which started off on Thursday night with a trip to Dorset to see my mum, sisters & niece.¬† On Friday, M and I went to stay at¬†the¬†Carey’s Manor Spa Hotel in Brockenhurst.¬† I absolutely loved spending some¬†quality 1-2-1 time with him, chilling out in the spa and¬†drinking jasmine tea in the Zen Garden ūüôā

On my actual birthday, we decided to take a quick trip to London to visit the Kensington Roof Gardens open day. The Roof Gardens, which cover an area of 1.5 acres, are hidden on top of the old Biba department store.  There are over 100 trees, three distinct gardens, a stream and, unbelievably, a pond with flamingos and Mandarin ducks!

Here are a few shots we took at the Roof Gardens, including my obligatory birthday shots ūüėČ

 

 

When I was at the¬†Roof Gardens, I realised that they were right next door to Whole Foods and the Saf Restaurant, which are housed in the old Barkers building.¬† Obviously, we¬†had to¬†visit both before¬†heading home ūüėȬ†

Lil’ L was totally in awe of the chocolate aisle in Whole Foods.¬† It’s so neat and colourful isn’t it?¬†

We ended up buying a bar of the ‘Seed and Bean Organic Coffee Espresso’, which was on special offer.¬† It was totally lush!¬† One of the best shop bought chocolate bars I’ve ever tasted ūüôā

After gawping at all the beautifully displayed food aisles in Whole Foods, we headed up to the Saf restaurant.

We ordered a few savoury dishes to try and, while we waited for them to arrive, Lil’ L looked for Wally ūüėČ

The menu had changed since I last visited Saf and, to be honest, I preferred the savoury dishes on the old menu, but the desserts were as amazing as ever!¬† I had the white chocolate jasmine tart with cacao nib crust, caramelised apricot sauce and espresso syrup.¬† Oh my gosh this was good!¬† The waitresses delivered it to me with a lighted candle and rendition of ‘happy birthday’!

Next time I visit Saf, I think I’ll skip on the savoury courses and just work my way through the¬†dessert menu instead ūüėČ

Well, the first couple of days of being 40 have been wonderful.  Long may it continue!

Have a wonderful week everyone¬†ūüôā xx

Jubilee Weekend Highlights

Hi everyone! 

Wow, that has got to be the longest weekend I’ve ever had… it lasted from Friday (when Lil’ L had a TD/INSET day off school) through to Tuesday (our bonus Bank Holiday for the Jubilee).¬† We had such a good time, and managed to fit in lots of fun activitites.¬† Here are some of the highlights…

On Friday, we planned a surprise trip to Legoland.¬† It was only when we turned up at the car park that Lil’ L realised where he was going.¬† He was overwhelmed by the whole experience and¬†it was a joy to see him getting so much pleasure from it ūüôā¬†

Fortunately, I’d managed to use Tesco¬†vouchers to pay for the entry, so it only cost us ¬£23 in tokens¬†rather than ¬£120 in real money!

After Legoland, we popped to Surrey to visit Nicky, Sophie and Amelie.  It was so good to see them!

Unfortunately, Jubilee Sunday¬†was a very rainy day for our local street party.¬† Nevertheless, we joined in the celebrations, before heading to¬†the¬†Bathampton Mill.¬† Here¬†we took up residence on a comfy sofa and watched the Jubilee River Pageant streaming live on their TV, whilst drinking coffee and eating chilli nuts ūüôā¬†

[Source]

On Monday, we visited Southmoor, near Oxford, where Lil’ L took part in a Falconry Experience (a Christmas present from his aunt & uncle).¬† He’s really interested in birds of prey at the moment, so this was¬†a great present for him.¬† He really enjoyed the day!

In the afternoon, we visited Oxford city. I loved walking round the old university buildings.  M & I could actually smell old books as we walked past one of the libraries!

I wish I had a lawn like that! ūüėȬ†

On Monday night, we watched the Solsbury Hill Jubilee Balloon Glow.  We had the perfect viewpoint from The George car park in Bathampton.  It was a truly magical experience!

[Source]

On Monday night and Tuesday morning, from the comfort of our sofa, we watched the Diamond Jubilee Concert, which took place just outside Buckingham Palace.  Gary Barlow & team sure did an amazing job at putting this spectacle together.  

I asked Lil’ L to name¬†his top three favourite¬†performances and he picked a great selection..

– Tom Jones singing Delilah (that guy just seems to get better with age!)

 

 РThe Commonwealth Band, brought together by Gary Barlow.

 

–¬†and Madness… performing ‘Our House’ on the roof of Buckingham Palace.¬† Amazing!

 

 And finally, on Tuesday, we went to see the Jubilee Bath Illuminations. 

They should illuminate the Weir all year round.¬† It’s looks magical!

It was a fantastic weekend.¬† One we’ll remember for a very long time to come!

Lil’¬†L¬†has got the rest of the week off, so¬†the fun will continue¬†for us ūüôā¬†¬†I hope you all have a great week too xx

 

Bath City Goes Red, White & Blue. It’s Jubilee Time!

Bath is all set for the Jubilee celebrations.¬† There’s bunting everywhere and the shop fronts are filled with red, white and blue merchandise.¬† It really is an incredible sight!

Last Sunday, I thought I’d liven up a¬†shopping trip¬†for Lil’ L by setting him a challenge.¬†¬†I brought along his digital camera and sent him on a mission to capture the Jubilee spirit by taking red, white and blue shots of Bath.¬†

As usual, his photos were way better than anything I could have taken!¬† It was a fluke that he managed to capture the reflection of Bath’s Georgian buildings in the shop windows, but I thought it was a great effect!

Here are a few of my favourites…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

¬†I don’t think Lil’ L has ever had so much fun during a shopping trip.¬† And it kept him occupied the whole time we were out ūüėČ

Have a great weekend everyone!¬† I hope you have lots of fun ūüôā xx

London, Whole Foods, Saf & Raw Chocolate Pecan Bark

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

I was lucky enough to start my weekend a day early, with a trip to London on Friday to spend the day with¬†my gorgeous¬†friends Helen and Naomi, and Naomi’s beautiful 9-month old daughter.¬† It was really¬†good to see them, and I had such a great time! ūüôā

I met them in Kensington and we headed to Whole Foods which is located in the historic Barkers Building on Kensington High Street.

I’ve heard so much in blogging world about Whole Foods and I never thought that I would actually get to go there myself.¬† It was health food heaven!!!¬† It was so beautifully laid out.¬† Just visiting the store was an incredible experience in itself!

[Source]

But just as I thought the day couldn’t get any better, we hopped in the¬†glass¬†elevator and went upstairs to¬†the Saf Restaurant.¬†¬†‘Saf’ stands for ‘Simply Authentic Food’ and also means ‘Pure’ in Turkish.¬†You can find out more about their mission and philosophy on their website.

I just couldn’t¬†believe my eyes when I saw the menu.¬† It was 100% plant-based!¬† That means I could eat anything¬†on the menu!¬†¬†That is seriously¬†a first for me!

Everything sounded so¬†delicious that I wish I could have tried it all.¬† To be fair, I did manage to get through quite a lot of the menu ūüėȬ† Between the three of us, we ordered a range of dishes to sample, which included the following…

Curried Kale Crisps – Raw marinated and dehydrated Kale crisps flavored with curried coconut flakes

Saf Cheese Trio – A selection of their¬†signature, olive, herb and smoked paprika ‘cheeses’, served with flax crackers, raw quince jam and drizzled with herb oil

Spinach and Date Gyoza – Organic madjol date, spinach, caramelized onion and chive dumplings, served with black vinaigrette

Saf Banh Mi РKentish flute baguette with their trademark vegan mayonnaise, kimchee, roasted aubergine, maple glazed tofu and torn fresh mint and coriander

Vietnamese Wrap РRice paper wrap with pickled daikon radish, maple glazed tofu, mixed salad leaves and their own miso-sambal sauce

Saf Burger РSeasonal vegetable patty, grilled onion, gherkin, tomato, gem lettuce with homemade tomato fig jam and special tarragon aioli served on a wholegrain bun

… plus 3 different salads!

I was totally blown away by the food!¬† I don’t think I’ve tasted anything like it before.¬† So, so tasty!

After a breather to let our meal¬†go down, I couldn’t leave the restaurant without trying one of their desserts.¬† Well, two actually ūüėČ

Chocolate & Orange Torte – Raw cocoa & cashew cream ganache with cocoa nib & cashew crust served with orange bubbles

Butternut Cheesecake РButternut & cashew cheese with a coconut & lemon zest base served with champagne sabayon

I nearly didn’t try the latter because the name put me off.¬† Butternut cheesecake?¬† Mmm, didn’t sound very appetising but I was intrigued.¬† It turned out that the cheesecake was absolutely stunning.¬† Probably the best cheesecake I’ve tasted in my life!¬† I would so love to try and re-create it at home.

Saf has an Iphone app which provides the recipes for a selection of their dishes.¬† Unfortunately, I haven’t got an Iphone myself but hopefully I’ll be able to borrow a friend’s or ask a friend to download the recipes for me.

In summary, Saf is a fantastic plant-based dining experience in a beautiful environment.¬† If you’re ever in London, you must check it out!

After a wonderful day in London with my friends, I returned to Bath fired up with enthusiasm for plant-based cooking and experimenting with new recipes.¬† Not least because I was armed with a brand new cook book that Naomi had bought me for my birthday called ‘Veggiestan’. Thank you Naomi!

The author writes a blog under the same name, which is really worth checking out.

My family loves middle-eastern food, so I can’t wait to start trying out Sally’s¬†recipes.¬† The book is¬†beautifully designed and¬†makes¬†a great read.¬† I actually started reading it in bed on Saturday morning with a cup of coffee.¬† Is that sad or what?¬† Please tell me I’m not the only¬†one that sits in bed reading cook books!!

So,¬†all fired up, I spent this morning in the kichen creating a variety of baked goods for this week’s lunchboxes and some raw chocolate goodies.¬† As well as making some goji¬†hearts¬†to send to Becca (the winner of¬†my¬†giveaway ūüôā ), I also made¬†some raw chocolate pecan bark. Using raw ingredients allows the chocolate to retain all its¬†wonderful antioxidants and other nutritional qualities.¬† I also opted to use Sweet Freedom Fruit Sweetener instead of sugar.¬† The result? A home-made chocolate bark that’s packed with nutrients, low GI and suitable for diabetics.¬†¬†Happy days! ūüôā

It also tastes scrumptious!

And¬†it’s super quick and easy to make!

Fancy having a go?

Here’s the recipe:

So where can you buy raw chocolate making ingredients?  Some local health food shops stock them.  In Bath, you can buy them from Harvest, on Walcot Street.  I also buy my ingredients from Elements for Life, which has on online shop.  For those interested in trying out raw chocolate making, the Elements for Life Raw Chocolate Making Starter Kits are great.  They include raw cacao butter, raw cacao powder, Sweet Freedom fruit sweetener and a heart silicone mould, all for just £14.99.  These also make great gifts for dark chocolate lovers.

Lil’ L absolutely loves raw chocolate and, given its fantastic nutritional profile, I’m happy for him to eat it on a regular basis.¬† In fact, I would even encourage it.¬† As well as the raw chocs, I also add raw cacao powder to his smoothies and use it in desserts.

Since visiting Saf, I’m fired up to try making more raw desserts and treats.¬†¬†I’ve already got a few ideas for new recipes, so I’ll test them soon and¬†let you know how I get on.¬†¬†Are you a fan of raw desserts?¬† If so, what’s your favourite?¬†¬†Please send me¬†links¬†to your favourite recipes so I can check¬†them out.

Have a great week everyone!  The Olympic Torch arrives in Bath tomorrow, so you can imagine how buzzing the city is at the moment!

 

 

A Trip to Essex, My 100th Post & a Raw Chocolate Giveaway!

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

We had a couple of important birthdays to celebrate this weekend so, on Saturday,¬†we decided to take a road trip back to our home town of Essex.¬†¬†It’s the first time we’ve been back to Essex¬†this year, and it¬†was really¬†nice to catch up with family and old friends. ūüôā

On Saturday night, we celebrated M’s Dad’s birthday at the Strada Italian restaurant at Lakeside.¬† We had a great night and the¬†food was really good.

 

On Sunday, we headed to M’s best friend’s in Hertfordshire to celebrate his 40th birthday.¬† It was really good¬†to catch up with the¬†gang and¬†their off-spring (all of whom have grown incredibly since we last saw them!)¬† To mark his friend’s special birthday, M had sprayed¬†a unique piece of graffiti art for him.¬† (The lettering spells out his friend’s surname!)

 

Before we left for the party on Sunday, I¬†managed to squeeze in a visit to see my best friend from school.¬† It was so good to see her!¬†¬†We met each other on the first day of school and¬†we’ve been friends now for 35 years!¬† I still can’t believe that we turn 40 in a few weeks time!

 

So, after a busy Bank Holiday weekend, I’ve finally managed to sit down and write a blog post and… guess what…. it’s my 100th¬†post!!!¬† After nearly a year of blogging, I’ve finally made it to¬†the big 100!¬† It took a while didn’t it?

 

[source]

To celebrate reaching my¬†100th blog post, I thought I’d make some¬†celebration raw chocolates ūüôā¬† I’ve made one batch of goji & almond raw chocolate hearts, and one batch of¬†raw chocolate orange segments.¬† Do you fancy sharing them with me?¬†¬†If so, just leave me a comment below and I’ll choose a winner at random next Monday, 14th May.

Good luck everyone!

And finally, before I sign off, I¬†must announce¬†the winner of my¬†‘Be the Change’ book giveaway.¬† The entrants were placed in chronological order, and a winner was selected at random using random.org.¬†

I am pleased to say that the lucky winner is…..

Candy @ Healthy in Candyland!

Congratulations Candy!¬† The book will be flying its way across to you very shortly! ūüôā

Have a great week everyone! xx

Bluebells Galore! & Lil’ L’s Top Eats of the Week

Hi everyone!¬† I hope you’re having a great week so far ūüôā

We’re doing okay, although the weather is a bit of a drag.¬† It’s just rain, rain, rain here ūüôĀ¬† I mustn’t complain though as we’ve had beautiful weather for weeks and the country’s¬†got a water shortage.¬†¬†¬†

Although I¬†definitely don’t fancy¬†going out on my bike in this weather, I am¬†happy to walk about in the rain.¬†¬†In fact, it can be pretty refreshing.¬† I love the smell of¬†fresh rain and, providing you’ve got a big umbrella, it can be quite cosy and fun.

On Saturday, we decided to take a trip to West Woods¬†in Wiltshire to check out the beautiful bluebells.¬† It rained on and off, but that didn’t matter.¬†

If anything, it made the trip even more magical as we were pretty much the only ones there.  It was so peaceful!

The bluebells were truly stunning! 

We noticed that there were quite a few bridleways through the forest so, as soon as the tracks dry out, we’ll take our bikes¬†for a ride round.

The market town of Marlborough is not far from the woods so, after our walk, we popped there for a coffee.  It was market day so before we headed home, we managed to bag ourselves some great value fruit and veggies, including 10 bananas for £1!

WIAW – Lil’ L’s Favourite Eats of the Week

Since our return from Lanzarote a week and a half ago,¬†I’ve been enjoying cooking¬†some of the family’s favourite meals.¬†¬†Just for a change,¬†for this week’s WIAW party, I thought¬†I’d¬†ask Lil’ L to list¬†his favourite breakfast, lunch, dinner and¬†dessert¬†that he’s eaten since we’ve been home.¬†

Here’s a¬†rundown of his favourite eats:

Breakfast – Banana Pancakes
I made a batch of these on Saturday morning and Lil’ L had them for breakfast on both Saturday and Sunday.¬†These are his number one favourite pancakes.¬† I’ve recently¬†updated the recipe to bring it into line with my other pancake recipes.¬†They are so simple to make; you just throw all the ingredients into the blender and pulse it a few times.

At the weekend, we topped the pancakes with chopped pecans, walnuts, sliced almonds, ground linseed and a drizzle of agave syrup. 

Lunch – Scrambled Tofu Pitta Pocket
Since¬†returning from¬†our holidays, we’ve been on a mission to liven up¬†lunch boxes.¬† Lil’ L mentioned¬†that he would love to try scrambled tofu in a pitta bread for his school lunch.¬† On Sunday, we made¬†scrambled tofu on toast for¬†our¬†lunch and then¬†saved some for¬†packed lunches on Tuesday.¬†

This time round, in addition to the tofu and spices, we added a few veggies – finely chopped red onion, red pepper, sliced mushrooms and flat leaf parsley.

Lil’ L absolutely loved the scrambled tofu pitta pocket and¬†said it was one of the best packed lunches he’s ever had.¬† We’ll definitely be making this one again!

Dinner РHome-made Pizza, Mexican Fajitas & Vegetable Korma
Lil’ L had difficulty choosing one favourite dinner as we’ve had three of his favourites this week, so he asked whether I could feature all three.¬†

On Sunday we had¬†the home made ‘confetti’ pizza¬†(which we ate whilst watching the very bizarre film ‘Coraline’)

On Monday,¬†we had Mexican veggie fajitas.¬†¬†This dinner only takes 8 minutes to make!¬† It’s perfect for Monday nights when Lil’ L has to eat an early dinner before cubs.¬†

To make them, I stir fried¬†bell ¬†peppers, courgette (zucchini), mushrooms, baby corn,¬†avocado, julienned carrot sticks, roasted broccoli (a left over from the weekend)¬†and pumpkin seeds in a little oil and a sprinkling of¬†fajita spice mix. I also added half a packet of¬†Fry’s Vegetarian Chunky Strips (bought¬†from Holland and Barratt).¬†¬†We¬†served them in warmed tortillas, and¬†M and I chose to spice ours up with a¬†drizzle of Linghams Chilli Sauce.¬† Delicious!

Yesterday, my mum came to visit us for the night, so we decided to cook one of the family’s current favourite meals – Veggie Korma with home made chapattis.¬† This time round, we used 7 different vegetables in the curry –¬†red onion, garlic, celery, carrot, parsnip, savoy cabbage, and mushrooms, along with cashew nuts and sliced almonds. ¬†Lil’ L enjoyed it so much that he asked for seconds!

Dessert – Chocolate Banana Chia Pudding
This was our dessert from Monday night.¬†¬†Another really¬†simple¬†recipe which takes¬†about a minute to prepare, providing that you’ve remembered to pre-soak the chia seeds.

It’s been another week of great eats¬†ūüôā¬† We’ve had lots of old family favourites¬† and I’ve also been trialling some new recipes which I’m looking forward to sharing with you…. especially the home made veggie pasties, which are totally lush!¬†¬†

Right,¬†time¬†to head over to¬†the¬†WIAW party to¬†check out this week’s¬†delicious eats.¬†¬†¬†Thanks as always to the¬†lovely Jenn for hosting this great event.¬† I hope to see you there! ūüôā xx