Getting juiced

I’ve never been that good at being healthy. I’ve never found an exercise routine that keeps me motivated and I’ve never been good at eating in moderation. And I’ve got a sweet tooth that would have been delighted if Marie-Antoinette had told me to just eat cake. Bring. It. On.

Over the last four weeks, I’ve been on gardening leave. That’s another story that can only be told five months from now. Prior to that though, I’d think nothing of having a croissant at 9am or a large packet of Minstrels to myself in the afternoon after a gigantic baguette and a packet of cheesy Wotsits for lunch.

However, being on gardening leave has made me realise that my life is far too sedentary to maintain this sort of diet and that I really need to focus on what I’m putting into my body unless I want to buy a forklift truck to move me from sofa to fridge in the future.

I’ve just entered the last year of my 30s which has been a particularly indulgent decade and I’m keenly aware that if I don’t start making some changes now, getting older is not going to be a fun process – and after the year I’ve had, I’m desperate to bring the fun back.

Inspired by a green smoothie a friend made for me when I visited a few weeks ago, I’ve been spending the last few weeks getting healthily juiced. I haven’t completely cut out all the sugars and any Instagram followers will know that I’ve eaten a heck of a lot of cake recently (birthdays innit) but a daily juice or smoothie has helped me feel much more energised and able to take on the world.

Below are a few of my favourite recipes which are easy enough to replicate. I find it peculiar writing ‘recipes’ there as there’s no specific amounts of each – ‘a handful’ or ‘a few’ is about as detailed as it gets. To be honest, don’t really think any of these are particularly mind-blowing, they’re just good to try if you, like me, feel you need to stop eating crap and care about what’s going in to your body.

Pear, kiwi, plum and ginger juice. Recipe exactly as the name. Really simple but utterly delicious and if you do them in the juicer in an order, you end up with a pretty rainbow as per below. Admittedly, slightly sludgy in colour after you stir and pour.

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Cantaloupe melon, celery and ginger. 

I love celery, I like its weird alkaline flavour and slight tang. It’s the perfect foil to a melon that may or may not have been much too ripe because it had been forgotten about in the fruit bowl. Coupled with the ginger, it took away the sweetness and made for a much nicer drink. I used three sticks of celery for a whole melon but use to your own taste.

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Strawberry, banana, raspberry smoothie. 

This was my first smoothie, made from fruit that was about to go off with a dollop of yoghurt added for bulk. And it was possibly my favourite so far. I usually only like bananas as actual bananas (for example, I hate banoffee pie) but they work so well in smoothies and means you don’t have to add honey for sweetness.

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Today’s smoothie, that I’ve yet to make, will include kale, ginger and I’m not sure what else yet. I’m hoping to find inspiration from the gorgeous Leon smoothie recipe book that I got as a birthday present, but would love to hear what you shove in the blender of a morning!

 

 

Struggling with being age appropriate

I’ve been struggling for a couple of years with being age appropriate, particularly as next year sees a ‘life begins at…’ age hitting (which is weird, as I still feel like I’m 24 most of the time). Whilst I love seeing amazing women in amazing outfits at any age and wearing what makes them happy regardless of what the media says they should wear, I’ve taken a bit of  confidence knocking in the last few years and this has very much been reflected in the kinds of clothes I wear.

In the past, I loved dressing up and finding and creating unusual outfits. This post was in part inspired by a denim skirt I made once that I recently remembered. It was made by unpicking the inner seams of a pair of old jeans, resewing them up the front and then I created a bustle/train thing out of some old fabric I found lying around. I loved that skirt, it was terribly sewn, the fabric was rainbow striped fake silk (it was the 90s, don’t judge me), I’d wear it out clubbing and the train would be grubby with sweat and spilled drinks (and I don’t like to think of what else), but I loved it. Similarly, I had a dress from a charity shop (back in the day that charity shops had actual vintage finds) from the 1960s, a purple shift with a golden embroidered bib that I’d wear with Converse or DMs to lectures, the pub and anywhere else my world would take me. And there was the period of patchwork skirts, crochet tops and rubbish dreadlocks too, that I’d rather not revisit.

However, in the last couple of years, it’s rare you find me in anything other than jersey or denim or knitwear and usually quite muted. And rarely in pattern. And whilst I’m probably not going to go back to my early 90s hippy revival (goddamn you Glasto), I think what I need to do is start being braver with colour and bring that joy back into dressing that has been a little lacking.

So here are my favourite picks of this season’s high street and online- and I promise, I’ll keep off the shades of grey and black.

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This is firmly out of my price range but I love the bright and muted tones mixed in the faux fur, would be a lovely occasional winter wear.

I’ve always loved Irregular Choice shoes – the heels are wearable, the shoes are striking and fun. This season, I’m really liking its new range of slip ons – these ones in particular.

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Big fan of a bright coat and this one from ASOS is affordable and orange – two of my favourite things.

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This skirt is perfect for the party season (or every day – with a black jumper. Sorry). And you can’t go wrong with shiny things.

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Deliciously slutty brownies

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I work in Camden (you can read my Camden musings here) and right across the road from my office is a fantastic creative space called The Camden Collective that hosts pop up stalls from up and coming designers and foodies. It was my favourite place for presents last Christmas – I’d say at least 30% of Mr Bon Bon’s presents came from there. And I’ve recently treated myself to a lovely bracelet and earrings and all sorts of other accoutrements. Basically, I love it.

I may have mentioned earlier, I fancy myself a relatively OK baker – I once had a pop up bakery with some friends (awesome fun, bloody hard work) and the main thing I learned through that was it’s so much better to make a bloody good cake than it is to bake a crap cake and cover it with glitzy icing. I’m sure I’ll write again about my particular hatred for cupcakes but I hate cupcakes. Hate the icing to cake ratio. Hate the cutesy girliness of it all. Hate that it turns grown women into jibbering wrecks. It’s a cake for crying out loud, it lasts minutes and shouldn’t cost a fiver. In fact, Sophie Heawood said it best right here.

So, last Christmas, when popping by Camden Collective for an amazing Black Sheep coffee, I happened across Dub Plates Kitchen and her fabulous slutty brownies. In a nutshell, she’d taken a brownie and made it incredible with toppings and a pie base. I have dreamed about this brownie and so, a couple of weeks ago, with #CakeFriday at work and my niece and nephew staying for the weekend, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try my own version of slutty brownies. Rather than a pie crust base (mostly because I’m hugely lazy and couldn’t be bothered to), I decided to make a biscuit base (like on a cheesecake) and used all sorts of stuff that I had in my cupboard as the toppings. And I made them in muffin cases, because I thought that’d help them bake more evenly, not because I had any cupcake desires. Have I mentioned how much I hate cupcakes?

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The basic brownie recipe was inspired by one for chilli chocolate brownies, on the beautiful Del Sole blog. I didn’t chilli them this time though. Recipe below, with some pictures. If you make them, I’d love to see how they turned out.

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Slutty Brownies – makes 15-20 muffin sized brownies

For the base:

8 x digestive biscuits
5 x ginger nuts
50g butter melted

For the brownies

200g unsalted butter
450g dark chocolate
150g strong flour
6 large eggs
400g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt

Toppings:

Whatever you like really – I used mini-marshmallows, Smarties (although the colour ran so maybe try M&Ms), Maltesers, salted pretzels and honeycomb but if you like nuts and chocolates, peanuts or walnuts could work well. Next time I’m going to try wasabi peas, I think that’d be a rare treat.

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Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees and line a muffin tray with cases

Crush the digestive biscuits and ginger nuts to crumbs. Mix in to the 50g melted butter and spoon a couple of spoonfuls into each muffin case. Set aside to cool.

In a pan on low heat melt the butter. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir the chocolate until fully melted. Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl combine eggs, sugar, salt and spices and mix with a electrical whisk for 5 minutes or until the mixture falls from the whisk in ribbons.

Fold in the melted cool chocolate into the egg mixture. Do so gently to avoid deflating the air in the mixture.

Sift the flour in the mixture and fold in with the spatula.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases – 2-3 tablespoons per case as it will rise a little. Grab a handful of whatever toppings you’re going for and throw them onto the top – the thing with slutty brownies is that they don’t have to look perfect, they just need to taste delicious.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until the top of the brownie is a little cracked.

Troubleshooting

If you go with the loaf option, turn the heat of the oven down – I didn’t and ended up burning the top whilst the middle was a little undercooked

Smarties lose their colour in the heat – maybe try M&Ms

If you don’t like toasty marshmallows, then add them onto the top halfway through the cooking time

 

Wilderness 2014

Last weekend, we hit the road to get our glamping on at Wilderness Festival.

We’d agreed that given my less than outdoorsy nature, we’d go for the boutique camping experience, despite the faintly ridiculous cost (we could probably have done a week somewhere exotic and luxurious for the same price…) But it was quite something, turning up to Charlbury on a sunny Thursday afternoon and being greeted by rows of yurts, tipis, wigwams, Airstreams and Touregs – as the husband said, it was like being in the Hobbit shires. Complete with free copies of the Times, The Telegraph and HuffPo water bottles obviously.

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Nestled in amongst ancient oak trees and set back from the main festival ground, our yurt was at the far end of the boutique camping ground so noise from the main site didn’t travel to our tent. People in the yurt next door singing The Thong Song at 4am though, we could definitely hear that.

My festival highlights were definitely Arcola Theatre presents Boy on the Wilderness Stage on Friday lunchtime – a beautiful, moving dance performance to commemorate WW1 which made me cry like a baby at the futility of war. Despite the rain, Metronomy on the main stage on the Friday night were amazing but possibly even better was the mad dash to escape the rain into the Secret Forum, where we watched Future Shorts – nothing like a Tibetan movie about a photographer to make you realise how lovely and random and peculiar the Wilderness experience is. The mobile disco we stumbled across on the Saturday night, which was 8sq foot of joy that danced around the fields between Hix and the bandstand brought a smile to all our faces.  And the food – the food was spectacular, from breakfasts by the Breakfast club to dinners from Moro. We didn’t book any banquets, but we’ll definitely do that for next year, the food looked incredible.

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As always, some lowlights and mostly around the cost vs benefit of boutique camping. The event organiser in me couldn’t quite work out why checking in to our yurt, with only four people checking in ahead of us, took around 1.5 hours, particularly when there were a lot of staff just hanging around… Similarly, having spent £300 on tickets + double that on the yurt, we expected a little more than a futon mattress, a duvet and a side table. Just a couple more little touches (camping chairs, lamps) would have made the experience infinitely better.

The Breakfast Club, which is without a doubt one of my favourite places in London, couldn’t make the festival service work – at one point on a Saturday morning, the queue for boutique breakfasts was about 10 people long, yet wait time was 2 hours. For a bacon sandwich. Not ideal for a group of hungover campers. And the fact that the boutique bar closed before the main festival site did – would have been nice to be able to grab a drink for the tent on the way back.

However, having said all that, we’ll definitely go back again – it’s one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever been too, the foodie in me had a lot of jealousy at those better organised who had booked banquets and feasts. Bring on Wilderness 2015.

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A year goes by…

And what a year it’s been. 2014 has not been kind to me or those I love- family lost through evil illnesses, friends lost because it became too much for them to keep on keeping on, limbs lost in road accidents (not mine), relationships feeling on the edge of brokenness but trying SO HARD to be fixed. All in all, I (rather dramatically) feel I’ve lost the very essence of me, this year has been throwing bricks at me to see which one would send me collapsing into rubble.

So I’m taking a break and taking some time to fix myself and stop all the emotions in the world living in my throat, just waiting to break free at any moment in time.

Rather than making this a big ole ‘poor me’ post, I’m writing this to say that over the next few months, I’m going to make a concerted effort to write more here – but not about misery and woe, mostly about food and drink and drinking and eating.

Watch this space. I’m bringing the joy back and it’s starting with writing. Hopefully.

Rainbow shelves

Two months ago, we bought a house. We owned property before, but going from a small one bed flat to a 3-bed house has left us both feeling spectacularly like we’re playing at being grown ups (I don’t think I’ve had to go upstairs to go to bed since I last lived with my folks 12 years ago. It’s very strange, but kinda fun).

The house we’ve bought actually used to be my parents place. They’ve downsized and we’ve upscaled. All in all, it’s been a very topsy turvy house purchase with a world of emotions attached. Thankfully it wasn’t my childhood home so I’m not attached to the green carpets in the lounge or the four different coloured and patterned carpets upstairs (honestly, what is wrong with old people?!) so now we’re in, we’re working hard at changing the bits that need changing and working out how we can afford to do the more extravagant building work (like a brand new kitchen….)

Our weekends are taken up with painting walls, weeding the garden, browsing furniture blogs and websites and visiting antique markets to drool over lovely mid-century furniture we can’t really afford.

One of the things we hated about our old flat was the lack of space to display books and memories. I’m a prolific reader and had hundreds of books (and I’m sure I’ll write a post on my love of my Kindle soon), the husband also likes to read but a bit more slowly than me) and came to our relationship with many books that he’d inherited from family and friends over the years. So we knew we wanted to have a space to display our books and intersperse them with knick knacks and thingiemejigs that we’ve collected on our travels. My lovely friend Kate, who has an awesome interiors blog that showcases her fabulous home, has a bookshelf in her home where she’d colour matched the spines of her literature to form a literary rainbow so in the spirit of interior theivery, I stole her idea.

Using Ikea’s Billy bookshelves as a basis (you cannot go wrong with an Ikea basic!), we built five bookshelves and attached them to the wall in what is now referred to as the library (because we’re fancy). And then the fun started….

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Or at least the organising did. I love to organise everything from making sure that the glasses match when I load the dishwasher to lining up shoes in order of heel height so having a wall of empty bookshelves appealed to the obsessive compulsive in me. And as you’ll see from the below (and my cover image), the result is a slightly dishevelled but rainbow matched shelving unit. I even went so far as to match vases and ornaments and pebbles and pennies to the different coloured sections (this was the point when the husband went upstairs to put his head in his hands and sigh!) It’s not perfect but it’s very much us and it’s probably the only bit of our new home that feels like it’s imbued with our spirit (so far! We’re working on the rest of it).

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(sort of) Wishing fate had dealt me a different hand…

At a formative age, I read somewhere or heard someone say about an elderly American lady from the Deep South that she liked to listen to her stories whilst eating bon bons. This sounded like a fantastic way to spend an afternoon or a lifetime and I’ve since strived to make my life one filled with bon bons and stories.. However, as I’m not actually 80 and I don’t have a terrace on which to while away an afternoon listening to my stories on the wireless, it’s sometimes easier imagined than done.

And I’ve never spent an afternoon with a quilting bee.

All in all, my dreams of being an elderly Southern gentlewoman are shot down by being a middle-aged British/Sri-Lankan living in working in grey and cold London town.

Not that life’s at all bad. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s bloody good fun. I’ve got a job, a house, a cat, a husband, great friends and family. So this blog will record the stories we make when we play together and the bon bons we share when we eat together and hopefully one day they’ll be tales we tell when we are all old and wrinkly and have terraces on which to while hours away.

Story telling, bad dancing, much eating.