Monday, 28 February 2011

Kitchen Tile Stickers!

I fear I have been chatting too much about food recently (what with it being my new obsession and all) so I thought I'd write about something else that I have done recently.

You see, as I live in a rented apartment, it goes without saying that there will be something hideous. That, my friends, is in my apartment in the form of kitchen tiles.

Errrrr. Gross. They remind me of summer houses in the Mediterranean. Not a good look in England.

But back when I was at university, I revamped my hideous kitchen with some groovy tile stickers. So I figured I'd do the same here!

First I got out some leftover stickers (because I do save things like that for 2 years...) and tested them out to see if Matthew would give me the thumbs up.

And he did! But not in pink. Our place is far too girlie as it is, and it's a bit harsh on the boy to have almost everything feminine, so I chose green as a good colour. That would tie in well with the cupboards and cream walls (who designed this place?!) and make it feel a bit more 'funky' in there.

I only needed one packet so it cost me a grand total of £9! Woo! £9 to update a kitchen? Er, yes please!

So okay, it's not a drastic makeover or anything, but it feels a bit more contemporary in there now. Who chooses 'bumpy' tiles in the first place is beyond me, but hey - I did the best I could. And looks totally cute with the scales.

And here's the whole kitchen in all it's new green mosaic glory!

An improvement, don't you think?

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Muesli with Rhubarb

I usually eat my breakfast at work. I eat Eat Natural Muesli with Buckwheat with a dollop of natural yoghurt and some honey. And it works for me. Oh, does it work for me. But on Friday night I dropped in at Infinity Foods on the way home from work to pick some up and there was none left! I wasn't very happy.

So this morning I had to improvise (I had some fruit yesterday but there was none left this morning). Initially I was going to go without breakfast - something I never do - but I didn't want to eat anything I shouldn't. Nope - no milk for me this morning! And then I remembered a blog that Cherry Menlove posted the other day and it got me excited. Honey Oat & Rhubarb Breakfast. I had gluten-free oats. And a few nuts and seeds. And rhubarb. I'd initially wanted to just put rhubarb on my breakfast at work, but I could make this from scratch today!

It wasn't exact. I threw in whatever I had in the cupboards, but my goodness it was lovely. I did use honey, I'll admit - but you could easily substitute with some other form of sweet syrup. I've substituted natural yoghurt with Alpro Soya Plain Yoghurt, and it tastes fantastic - seriously, it's good stuff. The rhubarb was perfectly tangy and delicious and it was a great breakfast.

Check that beauty out!

This vegan thing is easy! If I can eat like this every day then I am happy. And I'm now seriously considering making a huge batch of muesli myself instead of buying it. That will probably be cheaper and I'll know exactly what's going in it and match it to my own personal taste! The huge batch of rhubarb is just staying stored in an airtight container in the fridge. I'm sure that won't last long - not because of shelf life - but because I'll gobble it all up!

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Kind Diet

My book finally arrived!! Last night, I spent over 3 hours reading it when I got home, as well as reading it on my lunch break as soon as I got it, and whilst waiting for the bus this morning (it was raining – I normally walk) but I was quite happy to get to spend that time reading.

Look at it, happily sitting on my desk at work.

It’s such a good read – and hard to tear your eyes away from. I found myself questioning the things I was eating and if I was to blame for my bad health? I wouldn’t say I ate badly,  I stayed away from processed things because I knew they were full of rubbish, but I didn’t actively seek out good things, either. I didn’t think about why we needed to eat our greens, and the importance of adding extra ingredients into our food in order to hit our dietary requirements.

I’d snack on chocolate bars – but why wasn’t I snacking on dried fruit? At least that way I’d still be snacking but getting some goodness from it.

So as of today – I am going 90% vegan for a month. I say 90%, because I’ll still be eating fish. Fish is the easiest ‘meat’ product for the body to digest – and hopefully that should help the phasing in process – going 100% hardcore might push the cravings a tiny bit and I don’t want that. Also, the fish dish I’ll be cooking is salmon, brown rice, and vegetables so it’s still good and healthy and something I cook rather often – great for the one night of the week when I need to not be concentrating on what I’m cooking too much!

So because of this transition, I had to shop online. I usually go to the Tesco down the road, but it isn’t a huge supermarket and doesn’t stock everything I’d like. Instead, I logged on to Asda online and bought my shopping from there. Vegetables, yoghurt, brown rice, salmon, spices, maple syrup and a few other treats. I tried to get organic wherever possible and was waiting for the huge bill at the end when I saw this:

Can you see that there? Probably not because it's tiny, but it says "£32.12" Can you believe it?! Just over £30. For organic vegan food. £32.12 for a week’s shopping!! I try and get in budget of £40 when I normally shop and more often than not I do not hit target. Sometimes I end up spending as much as £60-70 if we have a week free of veggie meals (which I’ll admit we haven’t been doing since Christmas!!) so a £32.12 shopping bill was a wonderful surprise. Even with the £5.50 delivery charge – I think I’ll be doing my shop on a Thursday evening more often to save both pennies and precious time on a Saturday!

So to break down the bill: here’s what I bought:

1 Mange Tout & Babycorn £1.50  
1 Clipper Fairtrade Green Tea £0.86  
1 Organic Salmon fillets £3.47  
1 Billington's Fairtrade Natural Golden Granulated Unrefined Cane Sugar £1.48  
1 Rhubarb £2.97  
1 Organic Red Kidney Beans in Water £0.55  
1.0kg Butternut Squash £0.97  
1 Courgettes pack £1.00  
1 Lemon £0.23  
1 Easy Cook Brown Rice £1.26  
1 Whole Earth Crunchy Peanut Butter £1.50  
1 Organic Watercress, Spinach & Rocket Salad £1.24  
1 Celery Sticks £1.00  
1 Garlic Granules £0.58  
4 Organic Chopped Tomatoes in Tomato Juice £2.28  
2 Alpro Soya Plain Yogurt Cultures £2.00  
1 Ground Coriander £0.32  
1 Vermont Canadian Maple Syrup £2.50  
1.0kg Sweet potatoes £1.18  
1 Curly kale cabbage £0.97  
1 Eat Natural Free From Almond Bars £1.98  
1 Morinu Silken Tofu Firm £1.00  
1 Strong & Absorbent Kitchen Towels  £1.28  

And with all this I shall be making:
Spicy Chick-Pea Stew with Brown Rice
Brown Rice Penne with Tomato Sauce, Kale & Salad
Kale, Sweet Potato & Peanut Stew with Brown Rice
Salmon, Brown Rice & Vegetables
Brown Rice Spaghetti with Courgette & Lemon
Butternut Squash & Chilli Stew

I bought some Alpro Soya Plain Yoghurt to go on my gluten-free muesli for breakfast, and I snapped up some rhubarb which I’m going to make into a compote by simmering it down with some organic unrefined sugar. This will probably make a lot of compote and if I have too much I’ll just bring it in to work to share with the girls.

Speaking of which – me chattering on about healthier eating has spurred on some of the others in the office to try it along with me! It’s great having the support of other people - especially when there so many negative connotations surrounding veganism.

And I hopped on the scales this morning – I’ve lost 4lbs! In a couple of days of not even trying and not even cutting it out altogether. Just eating salads at lunch time and snacking on healthier things. I’ve not had a glass of wine in over a week.

So I am completely sold. I’m feeling better, I’m losing a few pounds, and I’m saving money – what’s not to like?!

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on this journey as I go along and I hope to inspire some of you to consider even becoming a part-time vegan to make some pretty good improvements.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Cheap and Easy Green Salad

On the subject of eating healthier I would like to share a wonderful salad that I just made for lunch. It's worth buying a bag of prepared salad to give you less hassle in the mornings (which then makes you not want to bother, so you leave for work without lunch in hand, and have to spend a few pounds on something less healthy and more expensive). As well as other things that are easy to throw together.

This is a 'throw together' salad, and it was delicious.

a handful of salad leaves (I like watercress, spinach and rocket - all in the same bag)
a good large handful of sugar snaps
a handful of other beans or peas (such as edamame, broad beans, runner beans)
half an avocado
half a tin of tuna

Throw it all together on a plate and it's done. No dressing, no nothing. The tuna is the perfect accompaniment to the avocado and the sugar snaps have the best crunch ever. There is no need for anything else.

And there is a fair whack of food on that plate - so by the end of it I felt nicely filled up! And happy with myself as I looked down and saw a plate of green. No beige foods for me there!

I've been snacking on some unsalted nuts, dried fruits and seeds so I'm never starving when it comes to lunch time - definitely a good thing for me as my eyes are far bigger than my stomach and I buy lots if I go out and I'm hungry.

I'm already full of energy and think I can definitely power on through to the end of the day, now. There is really something to this.

Flirting with Veganism

So this weekend I've been sat reading cookery books. There's a bookshop near me that is closing down and all the books are less than half price, so I figured that now would be a good time to stock up on some as I'd be saving a bit of cash (as I'd no doubt by them at some point anyway).

I picked up some Jamie Oliver books, Gizzi's Kitchen Magic (which looks absolutely incredible) and another book which I didn't really look at properly before buying, but it looked good so I bought it anyway.

This book was Skinny Bitch, by Kim Barnouin. I got home and started to flick through it when I realised that all the recipes were vegan. No big deal - I quite like going veggie sometimes as it saves a bit of money - but I've never actually bought a vegan cookbook before. I haven't even got a vegetarian cookbook, so this was quite a new read for me.

The book starts off by explaining the ecological benefits of eating vegan and organic... and I lost interest and put the book down. I hate to say it, but I'm just not drawn in by the whole 'save the environment and save our animals' argument. I'm selfish and if I enjoy eating meat, I won't feel bad because it's an animal. I've known this all my life and haven't felt bad - so why would I change now?

But I picked up the book again. Why? I think it was because I'd been eating a lot of salads that week and fancied reading some light recipes, but I got hooked into the text. This bit wasn't about the environment - this was about health. So I kept reading.

When I found out I would have to eat a gluten-free diet back in September last year, I didn't find it that difficult. Sure, for the first couple of weeks I missed pastries, and I would occasionally indulge in the odd office birthday cake, but then feel my poorly tummy and realise that it was a silly thing to have done. But I got through that and now I don't really miss it. I've had fun experimenting with different brands of gluten-free foods and finding my favourites. Good. Really good. Bad. Awful. There are lots that fall into every category and it's proved to me that by experimenting and trying different things, I could find something both my palate and body agreed with.

Unfortunately, the stomach cramps started again and I spoke to my doctor. Apparently my gut hasn't been working properly for years and it's going to take a rather large diet change to get it working again. My determination to feel better again has seen me eat an incredible amount of fruit and vegetables this past week. Gluten-free muesli with natural yoghurt and honey for breakfast, salad and a portion of fruit for lunch, dried fruit and nuts to snack on, and a home cooked meal for dinner. No alcohol for the latter end of the week (Monday was Valentines, Tuesday was spent finishing off the super expensive champagne...) and only one slice of cake.

I have felt amazing.

So I carried on reading. And I found a page that mentioned Alicia Silverstone, and it had an address for her website, The Kind Life. Naturally, of course, I picked up the laptop and had a bit of a look.. and a bit more of a look.. and a bit more.. and before I knew it, I'd spent the past two hours looking around this site and watching youtube videos of Alicia and her book, The Kind Diet. I also went as far as buying the book from Amazon because I was so impress with what I'd seen.

Skinny Bitch is a little bit more... judgemental than what I've read and watched from Alicia. She suggests 'flirting' with veganism to see how you find it. She doesn't judge those who take on the diet for health benefits, and instead she is happy to see anyone take steps towards any form of vegetarianism as no matter what the reason, it's doing some form of good for the world and the animals that live on it. This is an approach I like.

I want to save my body. Of course saving the environment and being kinder to animals is a definite bonus, but ultimately I want to save me. I want to be healthy again. I want to consciously think about each item I put in my body. I already do this to an extent as I hate cheap meat, processed foods and any kinds of crap already so I can't imagine it'll be difficult for me.

I am so excited to get this book next week, and I definitely see that I'll be taking a step forward to a healthier me.

(please take a look at the video of Alicia talking about the book and the health benefits of changing your diet)

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Valentine's Gifts

It has been so nice to have a weekend that has been relaxing! I bought two books this afternoon and I intend to curl up in the reading nook and get stuck into one of them this evening whilst Matt is out playing a gig tonight.

Last weekend, however, was another story. It's a tradition in my house to always make some sort of treat when it's an occasion, and Valentine's is no exception. This year Matthew cooked a delicious 3 course meal and as he was in charge of the food, I didn't have to worry about it and could focus all my energy on treats for the office - and boy did it need energy.

My first attempt was a pathetic failure. My idea of making pink marshmallow rice krispie cakes seemed so simple! But the marshmallow mixture was such a sticky mess that I could not cut them into a heart shape (as I desperately wished). So on to attempt number 2: chocolate rice krispie cakes. These wouldn't be sticky, right? And I'd seen so many tutorials online about how easy it was to cut them out with a cookie cutter - surely they wouldn't lie to me?


Once hardened, the cakes just broke apart. Far too delicate for me to give as gifts and I wasn't risking them crumbling over everyone in the office. I tried it many different ways - cutting them out (broke apart) packing them into cookie cutters and then pushing them out (broke apart) and pushing them out of the cutter at the perfect temperature (worked! yippee!! - but blatantly not spending all that time and effort ensuring the perfect temperature for over 40 cakes).

This is the only heart I managed to create. The heart in the cutter broke. Bummer.

So I had to get my thinking cap on. By the time I'd completed my two disasters it was Saturday evening and I had to think of something that I knew would work - something I was confident making. But cakes and biscuits were out of the question. Since going gluten-free, I haven't yet perfected baking where I'd be happy to give the end result to other people. I'm still learning, and I wanted to be able to hand out a little treat that I knew they'd enjoy. Especially as the Christmas Puddini Bonbons went down so well at Christmas.. I needed to keep me reputation up high!

And finally, it hit me. The chocolate florentines! I'd been making these almost every week and could easily whip up some more. Not only are they really cheap to make and naturally gluten free (which is by all means a good thing when giving food to people who aren't coeliac) but they easily cut into heart shapes! (I knew this as I had a batch in my fridge at the time and tested it out - perfect.)

I set to work making the florentines and added a couple of drops of red food coloring to the mixture to get a pinkish tone. Popped them in the oven, the freezer to let them cool down a bit, and started to cut them out. I made two batches in total - enough to make just over 20 large and 20 small hearts.

They were so cute.

But the task wasn't over. I couldn't just take them in in a tin. Oh no - I needed to take them in in a wicker basket, all wrapped up with ribbon. So I spent Sunday evening on the floor surrounded by cellophane and pink ribbon. But it was worth it.

Aren't they adorable? And the basket was almost as exciting as the finished treats themselves! I spray painted this bad boy a couple of weeks ago and it was so perfect for this occasion. I'm thinking of buying a few more to decorate, as they only cost £4 and make all the difference when it comes to presenting gifts.

Everyone at work loved them. Some asked for more (always nice to hear!) and other's took them home to their girlfriends as an extra present (though how they'd pass them off as their own is beyond me, as we obviously don't have a cooker in the office).

But it was great to be able to put a smile on their faces. That's why I do it - sure I like making things, but I like to see the happiness it can bring when others realise that there are people in the world who like doing nice things.

Monday, 7 February 2011

My New eBay Store

This Friday just gone, I had my wisdom teeth removed. All four of them. It wasn't a scary experience by all means - the nurses were super friendly (the anesthetist was my favourite - he said working in a hospital is just like how it is on Green Wing) and everything went swimmingly!

But because I was having an operation under general anesthetic I needed someone to look after me for at least 24 hours after. Matt had work on Saturday so he was out of the question - so cue my Mother!

My mum makes me laugh... a lot. She's recently made a new *like soul mates* best friend and they are always hunting for bargains here there and everywhere. Margaret practically lives in TK Maxx and she's driving my mum down the same path.

When she arrived on Friday night she told me a story about how the two of them were searching for sale items in a home store, and were grabbing up everything they could find for 30p - they each left with 2 huge bags full for a grand total of £10.

The reason for this madness? My mum was thinking of her brand new addiction: eBay selling. It started at the beginning of the year when the family were clearing up old toys to make way for new things after Christmas. My 13 year old sister brought down bin bags full of old clothes, toys, games etc and my mum couldn't throw them out. Their nextdoor neighbour had recently made £800 by selling unwanted items on eBay so if they could do it... so could she!

Less than a month later, and she's already made an incredible £80. All by selling little things that my sister was going to throw out! Any that don't sell are just re-listed and if it becomes obvious that they won't sell, then off to the charity shop they go - but it's been so worth a bit of time and effort to actually make some money out of it.

This weekend my mum has been constantly checking her eBay account to see what's sold and what hasn't - so much so that me and Matt have got the bug, and we've been convinced to sell some of our old clothes.

I've had a pile of jeans waiting to be gotten rid of so tomorrow I'm taking photos and putting them up! But that's just the start. At the beginning of the year, I said that I wanted to sell at least one thing that I had made - so I'm on a mission now to get creating things to sell on an eBay store. It'll be a bit of a hobby, and a way to make a few pennies on the way.

I've even already started to make my shop!

Does anyone have any tips?

Friday, 4 February 2011


I'm going into hospital today to get ALL FOUR wisdom teeth removed.

It isn't going to be... pleasant.

So whilst I mope around in discomfort, eating lots of jelly, ice cream, yoghurt and soup, I don't think I will be getting up to anything interesting enough to blog about. And if I do (I have a sneaky feeling I might have to make some super awesome jelly to give me something) I will write when I stop feeling like a sad, giant hamster.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Send Happy Cards!

What a week! Not only did one of my friends get engaged, but so did another - and a baby arrived!

Congratulations to all the happy couples!

When I hear wonderful news like this, I must express my happiness by sending a card. Everyone likes post, especially when it's lovely post, and I like my friends to know I am thinking of them throughout these exciting times.

So I nipped down to malarkey (my favourite card shop - ever) to get something lovely for the soon-to-be-wed couples. But I had a little bit of time to prepare for the arrival of baby Samuel so I made a handmade cross stitch card!

What a beauty! It took 3ish hours to make (I'm new to cross stitch - though thoroughly loving it) but it's so worth it! It was also pretty darn easy to make - and quite relaxing to sit and copy a pattern on a Saturday afternoon... or on a train, as I did with the majority of this... there were a few looks. *ahem*.

I just like the thought that they'll know my time and effort went into it and hopefully that should make it an even nicer card than it already is!

I like putting myself out there for occasions. People will always remember who has been thoughtful at these times and a kind gesture is always appreciated.

Never underestimate the power of lovely post!
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