Friday, 30 January 2015

Happiness is an organised workstation



As "operation declutter" continues, I managed to buy some useful storage boxes and a new waste bin in the sales last week-end (Store Twenty One if you're interested -  I got 5 different items for just over a tenner).  

There is not only space being cleared in my work area but there is also a system developing, and it feels good.  



There is still some clearing to do so I'm not prepared to show my whole work area just yet because there's still more work to be done, but these photos are a little taster ....

But what made me happy was that with a cleared workspace, I was ready to get stuck in and get creative again and this week have started work on some stacked gemstone bracelets.





I don't have a plan with my jewellery making but just go with the colours and patterns I'm drawn to at the time.  Interestingly, for the browns/oranges bracelet I used zebra jasper for the first time and it wasn't until I'd finished the bracelet that I looked up the said healing properties of this gemstone and that it is supposed to help overcome apathy, bring motivation and energy and jasper in general is said to help organisational skills - well it does seem I chose the best gemstone for the job!




I'm linking in again with Planet Penny's Happy Friday


planet-penny-happy-friday

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Use It Up and Wear It Out

A scarf about to be rehomed ...


With the words of the 80's disco hit ringing in my ears, this has basically been my theme tune for January - in order to clear the clutter I need to Use It Up and Wear It Out - or get rid of it.  Yes, I've felt the need to have a serious declutter and, in particular, my creative space which also doubles up as the spare bedroom (or is it the spare bedroom that doubles up as my creative space?) has become a bit of a dumping ground over the past few weeks and its seriously been getting in the way of my creativity.  Feng Shui experts believe that clutter is stagnant energy that has knock on effects both physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Apparently junk and clutter can hold us back and by clearing what is not needed, we can transform our lives.

To make my task less daunting, I'm tackling things a little at a time, in fact it may even take me all year, because I am a bit of a hoarder and hate to throw anything away which might just come in useful one day and I also hate sending anything to landfill.  But now I'm starting to realise that if I nolonger have a use for something, then perhaps someone else will.  So this is my new goal for the year as I'd like my life and home to feel more streamlined from now on.

I started by getting rid of all the clothes that are too big for me as I'm a dress size smaller than I was this time last year and I don't intend to put the weight back on again.  It feels good to have given other people the benefit of my unwanted clothing via the charity shop and the clothes bank.





I'm going through the cupboards and seeing if there's anything I really need to hang on to - so decisions are now being made - use/repair/e-bay/give away etc, etc.  This is where "use it up and wear it out" comes in - suddenly I'm lighting candles every day (how come I've stock-piled so many?!).





I've even managed to recycle one of the old candle jars as bathroom storage now for my lipstick and lipgloss collection.

I've been rummaging through the kitchen cupboards and I've also been out in the garden and started clearing weeds, dead plants and anything that doesn't need to be there.  Its a big garden and lots to do but half an hour's effort here and there and I'll be making progress.  One of the veggie growing areas was cleared last week-end and new compost added but looking a little too inviting for the cats who may be tempted by a "just outside the cat flap" toilet facility in the cold weather, I felt the need to fill the space with cat deterring obstacles.





with the weeds cleared and new compost added, the back door veggie beds are full of new energy and ready to do their job of providing home grown veggies in the spring - I just need to decide what to grow in this space this year ....

newly dug and composted soil with cat deterrents




Saturday, 24 January 2015

Sunrise and Chocolate



A couple of Fridays ago on Planet Penny's Happy Friday I shared some photos of winter sunsets but this week I was taking in the wonder of a winter sunrise over the local harbour. The sky glowed orange and the sun looked absolutely massive, like a giant bubble popping out from the chimney of the power station.


But what made me really happy this Friday was the arrival in the post of a book I've been waiting ages for.  It would have made an ideal present for my birthday last month but unfortunately didn't get published until January and so I've had to wait patiently.  The new publication from Chocolate Covered Katie whose recipes I'm a big fan of (they are very friendly towards my gluten-free, dairy-free diet).



Katie started with a small food blog 6 years ago, based on healthy recipes for chocolate lovers and those with a sweet tooth to provide healthy alternatives so that you never feel as though you're depriving yourself.  Her blog and website have gone from strength to strength and this is her first book which has chapters covering cookies, brownies and bars; healthy breakfasts, ice-creams, milkshakes and smoothies, pies, cakes and cupcakes. 

I'm looking forward to testing out some of the recipes but in the meantime, here's a link to her chocolate guinness brownies which I made last year and, I have to say, tasted amazing.

Fudge Brownies
Chocolate Guinness Brownies from Chocolate Covered Katie




Chocolate Guinness Brownies
 (my version - don't look as good as Katie's but still tasted pretty good)
 
planet-penny-happy-friday

Monday, 19 January 2015

Comfort Food on a Cold Day - Vegetarian Toad In The Hole

Today its been the coldest day of the year so far and we're heading for a cold night too.  I think a hot water bottle will be called for tonight and my big winter parka coat with the (fake) fur-lined hood (which I never got to wear last year because it didn't get cold enough) will be dragged out of storage for wearing out tomorrow.

But this evening it was time for some winter comfort food in the form of my vegetarian Toad In The Hole.  




Vegetarian Toad In The Hole

Ingredients:

(serves 4)

65g plain flour
100ml skimmed milk or soya milk
1 medium egg
1 teaspoon of rosemary
1 teaspoon of thyme
half a level teaspoon of salt
half a teaspoon of ground black pepper
4 vegetarian sausages
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (or 180 C for a fan oven)
  • Sieve flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle - pour the milk into this.
  • Add the eggs, herbs, salt and pepper and whisk, starting at the liquid centre and gradually incorporating the flour from the sides until there are no lumps.  Set to one side at room temperature whilst you prepare the sausages.
  • Prick the sausages (if they are in a "skin") and lightly coat in olive oil.  Place in a medium sized cooking dish and put in the oven for 15 minutes to brown.
  • Then remove from the oven to pour the batter into the dish and return to the oven for 30 - 35 minutes or until the batter is golden brown.

Great served with some fresh vegetables and onion gravy (lower calorie version) or a small jacket potato and baked beans (extra comfort version!)

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Curling Up With A Good Book



With the stormy weather we're having this month I'm finding it a real pleasure in the evenings to curl up with a good book and a glass of wine as the wind and rain beat against the windows.  

I'm currently reading The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse, a collection of atomospheric and ghostly short stories, perfect for a winter's night.  I particularly like that the stories are rooted in the elemental landscapes of Sussex (the English county where I live) and Brittany and the Languedoc, 2 areas of France that I feel connected with.

Its stormy again tonight, so looking forward to the next installment with background atmosphere provided by mother nature...






I'm sharing this happy moment from this week on Planet Penny's Happy Friday

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Easy, Healthy Comfort Food



For one of our wedding presents last year, we were lucky to receive this cheerful chicken serving dish, just the thing for serving up some delicious comfort food on a cold winter's day.

We were inspired by the rustic Italian cuisine on our honeymoon in Italy and this recipe reminds us of some of the food we ate on our travels.  It uses just 4 ingredients (yes, just 4), very little preparation and is fast cooking to make a quick and nutritious meal.  

Cheesy Gnocci with Spinach and Beans



Well I'm not exactly the greatest of food photographers but this definitely tastes better than it looks and is well worth a try ...

Ingredients:

1 x 400g pack of fresh potato gnocchi
160g of baby spinach (or other greens, such as chard leaves)
1 x 400g tin of butter beans (or chickpeas or flageolet beans)
30g of Gruyere (or other cheese of your choice)


Method:

  1. Pre-heat the grill and cook the gnocchi in hot water according to instructions (usually takes 2 - 3 minutes).
  2. Steam the spinach/greens in a steaming pan over the gnocchi to soften up at the greens at same time.
  3. When gnocchi is cooked, drain and gently stir in the tinned beans  (pre-cooked so its just a case of heating them up) and spinach.
  4. Season and sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
  5. Grill until the cheese is melted and golden
A substantial meal for vegetarians but for meat-eaters, works well as a side dish to pork or sausages.









Friday, 9 January 2015

A Bit of Pampering Courtesy of Lush



Last month I mentioned my shopping trip into Brighton and my mood-enhancing purchases from Lush.  Well I've now had a chance to try them out so here's the verdict on my 3 purchases:-

Wiccy Magic Muscles Massage Bar


Lush describe this product as "a warming blend of cinnamon and peppermint essential oils that are said to stimulate the circulation to warm and loosen up stiff, achy muscles. These essential oils are blended with Fair Trade organic cocoa butter and shea butter as well as organic jojoba oil and extra virgin coconut oil to sink into the skin. Use the smooth side all over the body, then turn it over and use the knobbly aduki beans on any particularly stubborn knots."

Well I can't argue with that, and I think their massage bars are great because just the warmth of your hands when holding the bar releases enough of this product to rub onto the skin (or you can rub the bar directly onto the skin).  The shop wrapped the bar in some pretty greaseproof paper but that's the only packaging that's required, so its very eco-friendly. I store it at home with my clothes so it doubles up as drawer scenter too. 

Due to a medical condition, I do tend to get stiff and aching joints, particularly after walking even just a couple of miles, and this product is advertised as "aches and pains be gone".  I have found it definitely does soothe my aches and pains and I love the warming and comforting cinnamon smell that is released when using it.  I really like this bar and would definitely buy it again.


Christmas Eve Bubble Bar


Described by Lush as "Mounds of soft, frothy bubbles and the heavenly fragrance of ylang ylang and jasmine absolute. Sink into the warm, blue waters, softened with corn flour, Irish moss powder and baking soda. Little ones love this one too; just crumble one in the tub and let the soothing fragrance calm their excitement and send them off to the land of nod. You'll soon find out why Christmas Eve has become a returning favorite since it first launched a few years ago!"

I prefer their bubble bars to bath bombs as you can crumble them up and use as much or as little as you like at a time.  The design of the bar represents the moon in the blue night sky.  As I usually find myself working on Christmas Eve for at least part of the day, I find a soak in a hot bath with some fragrant bubbles once I get home helps me unwind and switch into relaxed festive mode.  

I chose "Christmas Eve" as thought it would be pretty Christmassy but should have realised that jasmine and ylang ylang are not Christmas fragrances at all (more exotic and tropical) so a little disappointed really as the fragrance didn't match up to the description.  Ah well, gives me an excuse to try out some other bars in the meantime ...

New Shampoo Bar



Described as "A solid bar with cinnamon, clove and peppermint to stimulate your scalp. Cinnamon leaf, bay and clove bud essential oils combine with peppermint to boost blood flow, stimulating the hair follicles. An infusion of nettle and peppermint helps to stimulate the scalp and promote healthy hair. Rosemary soothes, calms your scalp and adds a glorious shine to your hair. "

I've used Lush solid shampoo bars in the past and had forgotten how good they are. Particularly useful when travelling - I've been on cycle holidays in the past and have needed to travel light as carrying everything needed for the week on the bike, these bars are multi-tasking for cleaning hair, body and clothes and yet take up so little space, they really earn their keep!  

However, I've not used New before but have to say I love the way it makes your scalp tingle when you use it.  Even after just one wash I've noticed my hair has more body and shine. With no packaging it takes up so little space in the bathroom and apparently you can get 60 - 80 washes out of one of these beauties so very good value too.  I've decided once all my other shampoos have been used up, I'll just be sticking to Lush shampoo bars in the future!


Keeping with the happy theme, I'm going to try and link up every Friday now with Planet Penny's Happy Friday and choose one special moment from the week to highlight on Friday - this week I'll be reflecting on my glorious sunset pictures



Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Winter Sunsets




Sometimes I think the season of winter can offer more contrasts than any other time of year. Some days can just appear to be grey, other days it never seems to get light properly and then just when we're not expecting it, a wonderful burst of colour appears out of the blue.  On the few days when there's a clear sky at sunset, I've noticed that the colours are pretty awe inspiring and find myself hanging outside the top floor window, trying to capture the best photos I can ....





Sunday, 4 January 2015

Happy New Year



Happy New Year and welcome to 2015.  New Years Eve here was a little on the cold side but as it was my birthday, it didn't stop us from enjoying a bracing walk along the seafront into Brighton and then lunch at one of our favourite eating places, Wagamama .  The food is mainly Japanese based with other Asian dishes also on the menu. The tasty and healthy ingredients are always freshly cooked to order but due to the efficiency of the Wagamama system, you never have to wait too long for your food to arrive.

Usually diners are seated at one of the long, canteen-style tables but we were fortunate enough to be offered a booth by the window and could sit and people watch.  Its interesting how the buildings and general light outside seems to turn grey in the cold but just about everyone in the street seemed to be wrapped up in their most colourful winter clothing and accessories - probably trying out their new Christmas gifts such as earmuffs, colourful gloves and animal inspired hats.

We've found than whenever we feel a little under the weather, if we eat a meal at Wagamama its like an instant remedy - it seems bugs and viruses don't stand a chance when they get a sudden attack of so many superfoods in one hit, such as onion, garlic chilli, ginger and other spices.  Herbs and spices have a long history of providing natural remedies for a large number of ailments and so we try to recreate Wagamama-style stir-fries at home to maintain our health throughout the winter months.




Mr Cocopopia enjoyed a chicken curry dish whilst I chose a noodle dish with tofu and peanuts (with a stray piece of extra hot chilli in the middle taking me by surprise and bringing tears to my eyes). We shared some Korean dumplings which were great and finished with some coconut ice-cream to bring our temperatures back down to earth again!

I love how such tasty food can be so healthy and nutritious - feeling inspired now so off to cook tonight's supper the Wagamama way...