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. 🙂

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?

 

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To celebrate reaching my 100th blog post, I thought I’d make some celebration raw chocolates 🙂  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! 🙂

Have a great week everyone! xx

A Trip to Hay-on-Wye & Arthur’s Stone

Hi everyone!  I hope you all had a great weekend! 🙂  And thank you so much for all your kind comments and words of encouragement following my last post. I really do appreciate each and everyone one of them 🙂 

For us, it was yet another weekend of rain, rain, rain…. and gales.  Lots of rivers have now burst their banks, including the Avon where I live.  The Canada Geese and sea gulls are enjoying floating around on the flooded fields!

Despite the bad weather, on Saturday we decided to brave the elements and go on a road trip to Hay-on-Wye  to have a look round the infamous ‘town of books’. 

On the way, we drove through Tintern and saw the beautiful remains of Tintern Abbey.  A few years’ back, I did a research project on Tintern and its abbey, but never actually went there, so it was great to be able to see it first hand at long last!

(c) Tom Pennington

For those of you unfamiliar with Hay-on-Wye, it’s a small town located in Powys, Wales (on the Welsh-English border), with a big reputation for second hand and antiquarian books.

There are about 30 booksellers in total, and some of the main buildings in the town, including the cinema, have been converted into huge book shops.  Even a section of Hay Castle (to the right of the picture below) has been converted into a book shop!

 Lil’ L is really into books at the moment, and he loved browsing all the old second hand children’s books and comics.

 

After a couple of hours of book  browsing, we headed to the Old Stables Tea Rooms for a spot of lunch.  This establishment has been named Wales ‘Top Tea Room/Cafe 2011/12’, and has won a multitude of awards, including ‘Great Taste’ awards for its chutneys, marmalades and cakes.  It even has a ‘Loo of the Year award’ (and yes, we did check it out!)

From what I could tell, the tea rooms seem to be a downstairs conversion and extension to a residential house.  I’ve never seen anything like it before!

Below is the entrance to the tea rooms. 

It was similarly decorated inside, with objects covering the walls and every available surface.  It was a fantastic place to play ‘I Spy’ 😉

For lunch, Lil’ L and I had jacket potatoes, while M had the brie on ciabatta, with award winning chutney and marmalade.  M and I also tried the ‘dragon roasted’ (Welsh?) coffee.  It was all delicious. 

We were planning to head back to the tea rooms later in the day for afternoon tea and to sample some of their award winning cakes but, unfortunately, we missed out as they closed at 4pm.   

As everything was closing up, we decided to head back to England, stopping off on the way to visit ‘Arthur’s Stone’ in Herefordshire – a Neolithic chambered tomb which is over 5,000 years old.  Lil’ L had a good look, but he couldn’t see any dead bodies!

This is yet another prehistoric monument that has been associated with King Arthur.  That King sure did get around! 

Back home, we had a super quick tea of Linda McCartney sausage sandwiches.  While the sausages were cooking, I whipped up some sun-dried tomato humous, with slices of cucumber and red pepper for dipping, and roasted some almonds and sunflower seeds in soy sauce. 

Our mini feast only took 15 minutes to make, and we had fun eating it as a ‘picnic’ on the lounge floor whilst watching ‘Ip Man’ (Lil’ L was only allowed to see excerpts).  It’s such a cool film! 

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So, despite it being a very cold, wet weekend, we still managed to have fun 🙂  And I hope you did too! 

Here’s wishing you a wonderful week  xx

Spring Break

Hi everyone! 

Just a quick post to let you know that I’m taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks.  Lil’ L breaks up from school tomorrow and M’s taking 2 weeks off work.  I’ve decided that I’m going to leave the computer and internet switched off for these 2 weeks and spend quality time with the family with no distractions 😉

I look forward to catching up with you all on my return to blogging world.

I’ll leave you with a beautiful picture, drawn by two beautiful girls during my last Wednesday Workshop of the Spring term.

Have a wonderful Spring break everyone! xx

Weekend Photo Journal – Beautiful Walks, Bike Rides & the Bath Half!

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

We had a pretty active weekend, kicking off on Friday night with Lil’ L’s first experience of scuba diving at his friend’s ‘Bubblemaker’ birthday party.  What an incredible treat!  We didn’t get back home till gone 10pm but Lil’ L was still buzzing from the experience and not tired in the slightest!

 On Saturday, the weather was glorious, so we decided to walk along the Kennet & Avon Canal into Bath, hop on the train, and spend the day in Bristol.  The canal was a hive of activity, with lots of people out walking, running, cycling, boating and kayaking.

I love the way that a spell of good weather brings people outside 🙂

We did a lot of walking on Saturday.  We did six miles to and from the train station, and walked for about 2 hours round Bristol.  By the end of our canal walk back home, our feet were feeling a bit tingly and worn out, so we stopped at Bathampton Mill for a drink.  The weather was still so good that we sat outside on the decking next to the beautiful Bathampton Weir.

Back home, we decided that we definitely had earnt a movie and pizza night 😉  I made a portobello mushroom pesto pizza (drizzled with truffle oil).  Totally delish (and healthy!)  I promise I’ll write up the recipe soon!

Sunday was the Bath Half Marathon.  While I wasn’t competing myself, I wanted to go along and cheer on all those brave people that were running, and to soak up the atmosphere.  We decided to give our feet a rest and hopped on the bikes 🙂

We found a good location to chain up our bikes and watch the race, just outside the Holburne Museum.

 We watched the race on the final bend before the finish line. 

I felt really emotional watching the guys running past as I could sense their feelings of agony, relief and triumph as they entered the home strait on Pulteney Street. 

Well done to everyone that took part.  What an incredible achievement!

After the race, Bath was totally buzzing. Such a great atmosphere!  We decided to buy some food and sit in the beautiful Pulteney Gardens. Lots of people were in the gardens, making the most of the good weather 🙂

 

Here’s Lil’ L busy sketching in his new note book.  He’s really into drawing funny little cartoon characters at the moment.  Those filthy, muddy boots to his right are M’s.  He’d already been out on a 2 hour mountain bike ride before we went into Bath, and was covered head to foot in mud! 

Every time I point the camera at Lil’ L, he pulls a face.  You really have to catch him off guard if you want to get a decent picture.  I eventually managed to get one of him laughing  in between the face pulling!

 See what I mean?

By the time we’d finished lunch and headed back to Pulteney Street to find our bikes, the Bath Half was completely finished.  The streets were being cleaned, and the finish line banner was coming down, ready to be packed away for another year.

Time to head back home!

It has been a wonderful weekend in Bath, thanks in part to the beautiful weather.  Long may it continue! 🙂

What was the highlight of your weekend?

 

 

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?

 

A Weekend of Treats, Rounded off with a Raw Chocolate Orange Chia Dessert!

Hi everyone!  I hope you are having a great week so far! 🙂

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday but I was busy all day taking photographs for “the book”!  My aim is to get all the photos finished by Easter, which isn’t far off considering how quickly the weeks are flying by!

So how was your weekend?  For us, it was a weekend of “treats”!  Lil’ L had the treat of going to stay for a night with his lovely nanny in Dorset, while M and I went for our belated Valentine’s night away at Carey’s Manor in Brockenhurst, Hampshire.

This place is pretty special…

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and has the most beautiful Thai-style spa with hydrotherapy facilities.

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Okay, I’ll stop the photos now 😉

This was our first ‘date night’ in months and it was nice to go somewhere special and spend some quality time together.  We reduced the costs as much as possible by staying on the Friday night (thus avoiding the Saturday night supplements), and we also took advantage of the hotel’s special free evening meal offer.

We were booked into the hotel’s Manor Restaurant for our evening meal, and I can happily report that the chef rose to the challenge of meeting my dietary requirements 😉  I didn’t take any photos as it wasn’t the type of restaurant where you can whip out your camera and start snapping the food , but here’s a quick run down of what they served me:

Entree – strawberry sorbet (M was given a white onion cappuccino which sounds bizarre to me, but apparently it was really nice!)

Starter – beetroot carpaccio with mushrooms, rocket and a balsamic dressing.

Main course – wild mushroom risotto…which they made with soya milk for me!

Dessert – pineapple carpaccio with shredded basil and coconut sorbet.

All courses were totally delicious!  I really want to have a try at making both the beetroot and pineapple carpaccios as they were stunning!

After our meal, M and I stayed in the lounge until 1 in the morning chatting.  We haven’t had an opportunity to do that in a long time.  It was really nice! 🙂

The next day, we met my mum and Lil’ L in Burley.  Every time I visit this village, I have to stop at the Old Farmhouse Tearooms for a soy cappuccino and slice of their ginger cake.  That cake is dairy free and gluten free… and totally scrumptious!

We then took a circular walk on the common to walk off our cake.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue, it was warm enough to not wear a coat.  Is this really February?  The crazy weather continues!

Along the walk, we saw lots of this beautiful yellow gorse…

We warned Lil’ L that it’s really prickly but you know kids.. they have to find out for themselves 😉

We also came across lots of these beautiful little New Forest ponies.  So cute!

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.  Lil’ L loved his time with nanny and, since M and I rarely go on dates these days (perhaps 2-3 times a year?), we really cherished our night away.  M has suggested that we do it again later this year and I’m totally up for that!

As you can imagine, I did very little cooking this weekend …. but I did make a raw chocolate orange chia pudding!  I’ve only recently started to buy chia seeds as they have been hard to come by in this country.  Local to me, they’re now available from the Harvest Health Food shop in Bath.  I also purchase them from online stores including Healthy SuppliesElements for Life, and Earthfare.  I find that the cost of chia seeds can really vary from one store to another, and at different times of year, so I always make sure I shop around.

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These seeds come from the beautiful chia plant, which belongs to the mint family (salvia hispanica).

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I’ve read so much good stuff about them on the Internet.  Here’s a quick rundown of its nutritional profile:

  • Chia is a very rich source of omega 3 essential fatty acid
  • It is a good source of protein, and contains all 9 essential amino acids.
  • It is high in dietary fibre.
  • It’s easily digested and absorbs more than 9 times its weight in liquid when soaked, helping to regulate blood sugar and hydration.
  • Chia is a good source of minerals, notably phosphorus, manganese, calcium and zinc.

They sound like another “super food” to me!

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The seeds have been eaten throughout Central and Southern America for thousands of years, and were part of the staple diet of the Aztecs and Indians.  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that chia seeds have a history of safe use as a food.  However, for some reason (which I’m yet to fathom out) these little seeds have been classed as a “novel food” under the EU Novel Food Act 1997.  This means that when you buy chia seeds in Europe, they have a big label on the packet that they can only be consumed as an ingredient for baked goods comprising a maximum 5% of the content!

Since I haven’t read anything on the Internet about chia seeds being harmful and, on the contrary, have read time and again about the health benefits of this little seed, I’ve joined my fellow American and Canadian health foodie friends in eating chia seeds raw 🙂  If you bake them, you lose the omega 3 content which, to me, defeats the object of eating them in the first place.

And in their raw form, chia seeds make the most AMAZING chocolate desserts!  Chocolate orange is my current favourite flavour, but I’m looking forward to trying mocha and hazelnut versions.  The possibilities are endless!

It’s so simple to make.  Here’s how I do it:

Do you eat chia seeds?  If so, what is your favourite way of serving them? Please add links to your favourite recipes in the comment section below as I’d love to try them out!

What do you think of the EU law on chia?  Do you think it’s right to class chia as a ‘novel’ food when it’s been around for thousands of years? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great week everyone! xx