What we got up to in Italy

As promised, today I’m going to show a few pics of what we got up to in Italy.

Poffabro, the village where we were staying, is situated on the edge of the Friuli Dolomites Nature Reserve, so we enjoyed lots of hiking. Some routes could be accessed directly from the village…

 … whilst others began a short car ride away.

The terrain was much trickier than anything I’ve ever experienced before, involving steep, uneven climbs and sharp descents on scree. I was often way behind the other two, but I just took my time and concentrated hard on each step so that I didn’t fall. Can you imagine breaking your ankle out here? I have no idea how you would access help!

At times I had to resort to climbing on all fours (very elegant), while Lil’ L’s favourite way of descending was skidding on his bottom. It was very effective, but I’m amazed he didn’t wear a hole in his shorts! 

Some of the paths were no more than a foot’s width… right on the edge of a crag next to a sheer drop. It was a bit scary, very challenging, but all good fun and we thoroughly enjoyed it 🙂

 We also visited some beautiful villages and towns within the region, including Pordenone, Spilimbergo and Barcis, with its stunning lakeside promenade.

We took a day trip to Venice, which was only 1 1/2 hours from Poffabro.

It was beautiful to see but, for me, the Venice of today seems to have lost its ‘heart and soul’ to tourism. After a quick walk round the crowded city centre, we were happy to spend the rest of the day walking round the quieter backstreets.

We also took a day trip to the beach at Lido di Jesolo, where Lil’ L had hours of fun playing in the sea. Have you ever seen a boy wearing socks and crocs in the sea? Well you have now. 

Lido di Jesolo was absolutely buzzing with people and I’ve never seen so many sunbeds in my life. They seemed to go on for miles!  The Lido was only a 2 hour drive from Poffabro, but what a contrast in scenery!

Closer to Poffabro, we found a hotel in Fanna that had a fantastic swimming pool and  beautiful gardens.

For a small fee, non residents were able to spend the day there. We must have gone there at least 5 times. In the morning, the pool was pretty quiet, but it steadily filled up as the day went on. 

We all did a lot of exercise this holiday. As well as the hiking and swimming, M and I did a fair amount of running. Poffabro is situated on a hill and I would run down to the bottom of the village and back up, then back down and up again. The ladies sitting outside the church found this pretty amusing and would wave and call out to me each time I passed them.

Of course, being in Italy, there was a lot of ice cream eating to be done. I believe Lil’ L had an ice cream every day… that’s 15 in total! His favourite flavours were pistachio and bacio (nutella).

Apart from the ice cream, we ate pretty healthily on this break. We ate pizza for the first couple of days but, by day 3, we were all craving something healthier (even Lil’ L was asking if he could have vegetable soup instead of pizza!) From then on, we made our own simple vegetarian meals.  The fresh produce tasted out of this world! We thoroughly enjoyed our home cooked meals and they weren’t a chore at all to make. As well as leaving us feeling good inside and full of energy, they also saved us a small fortune.  

And finally, in addition to all these wonderful activities, we had lots of time chilling out, reading, drawing and, for me, Dharma study & practice. Total bliss! Lil’ L loved to meditate for 10-20 minutes every night before he went to bed and I often joined in. 

After such a refreshing break, I’m on a mission (again!) to ‘declutter’ my daily life back in England. I’m pretty sure I start this mission every time I come back from a break yet, within a week or two, I’m on the slippery slope back to ‘busyness’ (a lot of which is self-created). Time once again to seek the ‘simple life’ (well, as simple as life can be with school runs, lunches to pack, after school activities, uniform washing & ironing, and so forth) 😉 

Summer’s over. It’s time to embrace the new season. And what a lovely season it is 🙂 Have a wonderful September everyone xx

 

School’s Out! Planning Summer Activities on a Shoe-String Budget

The school summer holidays officially start for us today. I can’t believe that another school year has finished already. These years are flying by!

I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with Lil’ L over the next six weeks. However, as I’m not working at the moment, I need to make sure that we keep spending to a minimum. 

We did lots of great free/ low cost activities last summer that we’re hoping to repeat or improve on this year. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far…

– Bike Rides
Inspired by the Tour de France, we’re going to devise our own ‘Tour de Bath’ where we explore different areas of the city by bike and record our ‘stages’ on a map, noting the distance and time.

– Hiking
There’s so much local countryside that we’ve yet to explore.  We’re going to pack some sandwiches, binoculars, a map, and waterproofs, and hike along footpaths and bridleways in the hills around Bath. Luckily my ‘smartphone’ has got GPS, just in case we get lost 😉

– Photography
Lil’ L loved the challenge I set him over the Jubilee weekend of photographing red, white and blue images. This summer I’m going to set him some more photographic challenges and show him how to edit photos and make online albums.

– Creating in the kitchen
Lil’ L has already devised a list of 15 new smoothies and milkshakes that he’d like to try making. During the holidays, we’ll work our way through his list, photograph the successes and blog about them.
I’m also really looking forward to teaching him how to make other treats, such as granola bars, chocolates, ice cream sundaes and so forth.

 

– Summer Reading Challenge
Last weekend, the children’s summer reading challenge was launched in Bath by Olympic Gold Medallist Amy Williams. It was such a pleasure to meet her! I didn’t get to hold the Olympic torch (like my mum did!) but I have now held an Olympic Gold Medal. It was beautiful… and way bigger and heavier than I imagined it would be!

The library reading challenge has really fired up Lil’ L. The first thing he wanted to do when he broke up from school today was to go to the library and borrow some more books!

– Maths Challenge
To keep our ‘maths brains’ ticking over, we’re going to take part in Carol Vorderman’s Online Maths Factor Summer School (I need this as much as Lil’ L 😉 ). The school costs £15 but is so worth it. Carol Vorderman has got to be the ultimate Maths teacher. Not only is she fantastic at explaining maths, but she actually makes maths fun. Her online schools are perfect for kids like Lil’ L who are yet to develop a passion for numbers.

– Summer Diary Writing
Lil’ L has recently started to get interested in writing and his stories are way more creative than anything I’ve ever written! I’d love to encourage him to keep writing over the holidays, maybe in the form of a summer diary or scrap book. As well as writing, he could add photos, ticket stubs, drawings and so forth.

– Family Activities at Local Museums and Galleries
There are lots of drop-in activities on offer at the museums and galleries in Bath which are free for residents, and I’m planning to make the most of them!  Does anyone fancy investigating Roman gods and goddesses and making Minerva’s wise owl? Or how about learning some Roman language and make a Roman book mark? I know I do! 🙂 
If you’re planning to be in the Bath area over the school holidays, you must check out the family activity programme. Here’s the link.     

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– Play Dates
It’s really important that I arrange some play dates for Lil’ L so he gets to spend time with his friends during the summer. I need to do this ASAP as I know diaries get filled really quick.

– Quality time with grandparents
Lil’ L rarely gets to have one-to-one time with his grandparents and this is something that he mentioned he would really like this summer. Next week, he’s going to spend a couple of nights with his nan and her two dogs in Dorset and he’s really excited about it! Hopefully, at some point during the summer, he’ll be able to have some one-to-one time with his other grandparents too.

– Family quality time
The three of us (me, M and Lil’ L) are really looking forward to spending a couple of weeks’ of quality time together during the school hols, which means switching all the gadgets off (phones, computers, etc) and giving each other our full attention. We really value our quality family time. For me, it’s priceless 🙂

– Buddhist Festivals and Daily Meditation
There’s lots of Buddhist festivals in the UK this summer, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to attend at least a couple. As well as inspiring teachings and meditation sessions, there’s always lots of fun activities arranged for the kids. Lil’ L made some great friends at the festivals last year and hopefully they’ll meet up again this summer.


I’m also hoping that we’ll get into the habit of daily meditation, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. With Lil’ L’s help, I’ll set up a dedicated ‘meditation space’ upstairs. We’ll make it cosy with cushions and blankets, and light incense and candles. It’ll be great 🙂

 So that’s just a few ideas of what we’ll be able to do this summer on my shoe-string budget.  I can’t wait to get started!

I wish you all a wonderful summer. 🙂 xx

p.s. If anyone’s got a bit of sunshine to spare, we would really appreciate it if you could send it over here. Thank you 🙂

‘Waterscapes’ Weekend Photo Journal

Hi everyone!  I hope you had a great weekend! 

The glorious weather continues here in the UK 🙂

We went for some beautiful walks by the River Avon and Kennet & Avon Canal on Saturday and Sunday.  Here are a few of my favourite sights from the weekend.

 

 

   

   

What was the highlight of your weekend?  I’d love to hear about it!  

Have a great week everyone! 

I hope the sun is shining wherever you are 🙂 xx

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

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

We’re doing okay, although the weather is a bit of a drag.  It’s just rain, rain, rain here 🙁  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 – Home-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 🙂  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! 🙂 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?

 

 

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