Well!

Well. Nearly five months since my last post!

Looking back to two or three years ago, I was posting just about every day but for the last year, it can’t even have been an average of once a fortnight.

It’s for a lot of reasons. When I started this blog, I wasn’t as busy at work. I now work late every Monday and Tuesday and by the time I’ve ridden on the other days, I often don’t get home till 8.30pm or later and I have to get up at 6am.

Plus, since I bought THWNN, and particularly since the summer, I’ve been out competing every weekend. This is the first for ages I won’t be out… something had to give and it had to be this :-)

Talking of THWNN – who eventually was called Boycie – I realised by the autumn that I wanted to jump a lot more than he did. So I found him a lovely home where he’s going to do dressage and, although I hadn’t expected to find another one so quickly, the very next day, this lovely girl was mine:

She’s a five-year-old Belgian warmblood and she’s a star :-)

And she’ the subject of my traditional horse-on-Christmas-Day picture, you can see how wet it’s been!

I’m not complaining though, this has been the mildest winter we’ve had for years and I’m all for that :-)

She came to me on December 15 and we’ve already been out to two shows, where she’s been brilliant.

So there won’t be posts from me as often as there used to be (dry your eyes folks) but I will be posting, and reading other blogs.

And before I go, I need to share these:

I was sent some of the Nature’s Path granola to try in the summer and let’s just say I responded with alacrity. Both the one with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries with  yoghurt chunks and the other, with pumpkin seeds, almonds and raisins and cinnamon, were delicious but I think the almond one just edged it in my opinion… both were really crunchy and moreish – the only warning is that if you’re like me, you need to pour some out and then lock the rest away… ;-)

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Golden days

I’ve been rubbish at blogging lately.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence though that it’s been the best summer we’ve had for about seven years.

Bright, blazing, beautiful days, gold and green, under vast skies, the bluest you’ve ever seen, fading into long, soft evenings. The scents of honeysuckle and new hay and warm rain on hot ground; short quiet nights with the windows wide open, bright shimmering mornings which promise heat – I wish I could keep it all safe, against the winter.

I’ve just had a week off work, which was perfectly timed as far as the weather goes! But even though it still feels like summer during the day, it’s chilly at night, the light’s gone sooner; autumn’s on its way.

I’ve been doing loads with THWWN, going to shows again, which has been brilliant. He looks so shiny and well, and is loving living outside 24 hours a day – but he also seems to love rolling his forelock up in giant burrs to do a unicorn impression:

And of course, I’ve been doing some baking, including this:

A Mickey Mouse cake for my goddaughter’s third birthday. I used this sponge recipe, adding 2tbsp. cocoa mixed with 4tbsp hot water, filled with buttercream with melted white chocolate added and iced with this icing. I drew Mickey’s face, traced it on to rolled-out white icing and used black icing and food colouring to decorate.

I’ve been making the most of the raspberries, blueberries and mulberries grown by my mum and dad, as well as runner beans, courgette and other veg – my food shopping costs so much less in summer!

How have you been enjoying these beautiful days?

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Flaming June

Flaming Nora, more like - what’s this weather about??

A friend of mine said last week at least it was sunny (that day) but I’d rather have no sun and no fecking gale force winds than both!

There have been some nice days though, which the horses have been enjoying:

THWNN loves a good roll without his rug on:

Bless him :-)

And because it is summer, however much the weather doesn’t agree, the countryside is looking beautiful:

And of course there’s lots of lovely British fruit about, including these strasberries:

It didn’t say on the packet what they were – but a sixth sense tells me they might just be a cross between two types of fruit… melons and bananas, perhaps…

They were nice but nothing to write home about, to be honest; I’m sticking with the normal strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, with yoghurt and oats for breakfast; nicer – and cheaper!

Slightly less summery – and less healthy- is this lot:

I wanted to make something for a friend who’s been helping me with THWNN and in doing so, have come up with the best, in my humble opinion, brownie recipe ever. Be warned, these are possibly the most addictive thing you’ll ever make.

Preheat oven to 180C and line a 29x20cm roasting tin with baking paper.

95g good quality dark chocolate

165g unsalted butter, cubed

335g caster sugar

75g plain flour (I used Doves Farm white gluten-free blend)

3 eggs, beaten

1.5tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

100-120g milk or white (or dark) chocolate drops, or chopped chocolate (You might think it’s a travesty to have brownies without chopped nuts, in which case fold in 100g-ish at the same time as the chocolate drops – but I prefer them without)

Melt the butter and dark chocolate together in a microwave or double boiler till the chocolate’s almost all melted. Stir till smooth, then add to the rest of the ingredients (except the chocolate drops) and again stir till smooth.

Fold in the chocolate drops (and nuts, if using), pour into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, till there’s a crust on top but the middle’s still really gooey. Leave to cool, then cut into squares.

These are rich, chocolatey and so gooey, they’re almost molten in the middle, just as I think brownies should be. And they might just cheer you up if you’re suffering from Lack of Summer Syndrome- or at least that’s a good excuse :-)

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Wooooosh!

That’s the sound of the last month passing – or this year, come to that!

I can’t believe it’s June already. It’s just so flat-out at work, and being on early shifts has meant I haven’t even had time to read anyone else’s blog, let alone update my own.

So I was pleased to be offered a guest post, written by Tom Channell, on healthy lifestyles. Enjoy!

Life can get crazy sometimes. There are meetings to run to, appointments to attend, deadlines to meet, and obligations to fulfil. This means that life is often chaotic and hectic and that your lifestyle might be a little bit more pressured or stressful than you want. If you want to improve your lifestyle, it only takes a few minor adjustments to how you’re living now. Here are some tangible (and easy) ways to thrive and embrace life to the fullest.

1 – Sleep more;

Not getting enough sleep severely affects your quality of life. If you are feeling exhausted all the time, it’s time to make some adjustments to your sleep patterns. More sleep will give you greater stamina and creativity throughout the day. Studies have even shown that people who regularly sleep longer hours live longer, have lower amounts of stress levels, are at lower risk for depression, and have healthier weights.

2 – Set goals; If you don’t know where you’re headed in life, how will you know how to get there? Setting goals in life shouldn’t be too frightening. Setting goals, no matter how big or small, can be beneficial for you when it comes to making decisions or remembering necessary information. It can also help motivate you when you’re feeling discouraged or uninspired. Setting goals gives you a sense of ownership about your life, even a sense of power, because you know what you want and will make deliberate steps to get it. Then, when you look back at your life and the decisions you made, you will be able to measure success in a new way, with a new perspective.

3 – Be kind; So often in our daily routines, it’s easy to be self-absorbed, looking and focusing only on what we need to do to cross off items on our to-do list, forgetting that there are others around us hurting or in need. So, in short, be kind.  Be grateful and let your thankfulness for your life exude in your words and actions.  Rethink situations in a positive light instead of dwelling on the negative. Kindness, positivity, and benevolence towards the rest of humanity will go a long way in helping improve your own mindset, while also giving your spirit peace and newfound strength.

4 – Take holidays;

Taking regular holidays is hard to do sometimes. They require you to plan, take time off work, and can be an expense. But the importance of holidays is just that: important. Take regular time away from the day to day routines – even if it’s just one day added to the weekend, or a week away every few months.  It doesn’t have to be an exotic, tropical destination  Even taking a break at home for a few days can be helpful – just be sure to avoid regular distractions that might hinder you from completely relaxing.

5 – De-clutter; A good reorganisation or de-cluttering session in your home or office will do a world of good for your life.  Ask yourself what you truly need and go from there. Get rid of unread magazines, books, or newspapers. Clean out your fridge, donate unworn clothes or have a garage sale with the extra items sitting around in your garage or attic. Once you get started on purging excess belongings, you’ll love all the space you will find.

6 – Listen more, talk less; Let’s face it: a person who is continually talking or dominating a conversation can be draining and annoying to be with. Be attentive to how you interact in conversations and consider what ways you can improve in your interactions. Are you interrupting or interjecting your own thoughts, opinions, or stories all the time? Are you distracted, and only listening with your attention divided?  This is frustrating for someone on the other end and making sure that you spend more time listening than talking is important to establishing fruitful relationships. Having solid relationships with others is one way that you can improve your life, but that first starts with you being an active and engaged listener and friend.

Setting out to make positive changes to your lifestyle doesn’t have to be a huge, overwhelming process, in fact, it is quite the opposite. With just a few small changes, you can see enormous measurable results, in your health, your frame of mind, your relationships – and your overall happiness.

I definitely agree about the sleep! And I really like this: “If you don’t know where you’re headed in life, how will you know how to get there?” What do you think of the above?

Article brought by Freedom Health Insurance. 

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The darling buds of May

They’ve definitely been shaken by some rough winds so far, it’s been freezing! Nice this afternoon, but there’s talk of, guess what, “high winds” again by next weekend. Hurrah.

It’s also been so flat-out, I can’t even think about posting on here during the week. Last week was better because as well as the genius that is a bank holiday Monday, I had Thursday off, because it was my birthday :-)

The morning didn’t go according to plan; I wanted to go for a lesson on THWNN but the $*%$ing lorry wouldn’t start. I rode anyway, then went for lunch and shopping with my best friend and goddaughter, followed by yoga and a lovely roast chicken dinner courtesy of my friend’s husband in the evening, all good.

I got some lovely presents including some horsey things and this lot:

The lovely travel mug from my goddaughter, plus some chocolate raisins and Denby rice bowls from my mum. I had four of the bowls originally and used them for everything (other than rice), whisking eggs, holding ingredients, even baking things like my breakfast apple crumble – but I managed to break all four of them; Hopefully these four will last at least slightly longer :-)

And yes, from my colleagues – an actual dinosaur cake tin, isn’t it brilliant?! I’ve told Mike at work, whose birthday’s next, that whatever cake he gets, it’ll be dinosaur shaped…

Talking of cakes, my mum made me one:

Delicious, made using ground hazelnuts and with a raspberry jam ricotta topping and filling. Those raspberries on the top didn’t last long either as I shovelled them in pretty quick – they were amazing!

I’ve been back to my summer breakfasts, on that note, as the fresh fruit’s now cheaper and British:

With full-fat yoghurt, which keeps me fuller than anything else; definitely the way forward for the mornings!

Have a great week :-)

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Spin, spin sugar

Forget about spring – we’ve just had our summer.

Going by the last couple of years, this weekend was probably it, but it was lovely. I spent much of it outside playing ponies, plus meals out on Friday and Saturday nights – and lots of work to try to minimise the deadline Tuesday after a bank holiday Monday stress - which was partially successful :-)

It’s amazing to see how fast everything’s reacted to some warmth at last; greenness everywhere, blossom appearing on every other tree, country lanes seeming half the width because of the growth of the hedgerows and verges. May and June are my favourite time of year.

But to go back to my post title, I went to my first spin class last week.

The gym near me has changed hands and the new owners have canned the Monday night zumba, which I’d been going to every week, and replaced it with spinning. A friend of mine had just started coming to zumba and we agreed we’d try spin instead; although I was slightly worried I’d end up collapsing in a knackered heap halfway through.

I enjoyed it though, in an I think I’m going to pass out-type way. You get into the rhythm of it, although it’s disconcerting to have the instructor bawling “Turn the resistance UP!” or I said FLAT OUT!” every other minute :-)

My legs felt like chewed string afterwards but didn’t ache the next day at all – and it beats zumba into a cocked hat in terms of exercise! I’m definitely going back.

As far as the other bit of the post title goes, there’s been lots of baking.

There were two recipes in a book I’ve got that I had my eye on so I tried the first, a pecan, chocolate and caramel cake, for my best friend’s birthday last week. Unfortunately, it sounded a lot better than it was. So instead, I made a basic sponge cake, using brown instead of caster sugar, and folded in some milk, dark and white chocolate chips. I dolloped half the mixture into  my fancy ring tin, spread on a layer of dulce de leche bought for the original cake, then put the rest of the mixture on top. I baked it for 40-ish minutes at 160C, then topped it off with my caramel icing.

Please ignore the slight collapse, probably owing either to my putting the caramel layer too near the top of the cake/bottom of the tin or to my being impatient and taking it out of said tin too early – schoolboy error :-)

The second recipe I liked the look of was a white chocolate and raspberry cake but when I came to make it for a girl at work’s birthday, I realised I didn’t have all the ingredients. I ended up making another sponge, but replacing half the butter with melted white chocolate, folding in about 110g chopped white chocolate and 75g chopped toasted hazelnuts and baking in two ring tins at 180C for 20 minutes.

Inspired by the roasted raspberries in the batter of the original recipe, I drizzled 1tbsp agave over 100g fresh raspberries and roasted them for about 20 minutes at 180C, till soft, then drained off the juice and used them to fill the cake. I also filled and iced it with buttercream made with 50g butter, 35g (light) Philadelphia, 25g melted white chocolate and 170g sieved icing sugar.

Neither cake was my finest hour in terms of not-falling-apartness but, although I says it as shouldn’t, both were delicious. Chocolate and caramel is always a winner and so is white chocolate and hazelnut – add the tangy raspberries to the latter and it’s a match made in heaven. In my humble opinion :-)

But, of course, having sampled both cakes and toppings at every point along the way, I now feel the need for another few spin classes…

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Same difference

No more firewalking, sadly :-)

Although one of the organisers of last Friday’s event did say that next time, they’re thinking of doing a broken glass-walk instead – and I’d be up for that too!

No, this is all about breakfast, and me finally getting out of a porridge/toast rut.

First up, and only because I’d run out of the aforementioned porridge/bread, so I can’t take any credit for getting out of the aforementioned rut, was this:

I suddenly remembered how good chia puddings are. This was with almond milk, banana and peanut flour and was really good, especially with a separate bowl of blueberries, and really filling.

And talking of filling, and different breakfasts, I was lucky enough to be asked to become a Danio ambassador a while ago, and try the new Danio yoghurts.

The point is that they’re really high protein (12g a pot) and although they’re fat-free, they’re really thick and creamy – and that’s no lie:

Strawberry – and a cool Danio spoon :-)

Apparently, they use more milk and Danone’s milk-straining recipe to get that thickness, which is amazing, like the texture of clotted cream (but nicer in my opinion, I’ve never liked clotted cream!)

They make strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, peach, cherry and passion fruit flavours and although I couldn’t find the passion fruit, I liked all the others; I much prefer the natural yoghurt with the fruit puree than fruit flavour throughout.

My favourite was the peach:

I ate them for breakfast, with oats and fruit, and they were really filling as well as tasting good, which might be owing to the protein content.

It’s cool to be part of the “ambassadors” scheme too. It was a shame I was at work when they did the official launch, with Olympic gymnast Louis Smith among others, but there’s a forum with health and fitness tips, etc, which looks interesting.

Plus, it was good to have a quick option for breakfast this weekend. I was on a horse-related course in Essex so it was long days, long drives – and not much time in the mornings! It was great, although freezing standing around in the cold wind, and now I’m back at work for a rest… :-)

Have you tried the yoghurts – and do you find that mainly protein or carbohydrate for breakfast keeps you fuller for longer?

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Something different

Sunday was definitely different.

Not just sun but actual warmth (as long as you were in a sheltered corner) – I even got a triangle of almost-sunburn! Not that sunburn’s cool, kids, don’t go there…

It was different again yesterday in that it was cold again, and apparently we’re going to get frost this weekend – so moving smartly on to something else different from normal:

When I saw my mum last Monday, she was cooking something leeky, garlicky and oniony and it smelt so good, I had to do the same at home. It was just warming a tiny bit of butter, adding onions and garlic, then loads of chopped leek and leaving it to sweat until beautifully softened.

My mum had also given me some cooked gammon, which I chopped and added to the pan at the end. It was lovely, especially with the spinach mixed with soft cheese on the side. So lovely, in fact, that I had almost exactly the same thing the next night :-)

Also different, and in a much more exciting way, was this:

I walked on actual fire – at 1,236 degrees Farenheit – on Friday night!

I posted last January that I hoped to do a firewalk but it never happened. So as soon as I found out they were holding it this year instead, I hot-footed it (geddit?) to get my name on that list.

It was truly such a brilliant thing to do. There are physical reasons why you don’t get burnt (you walk briskly so your feet aren’t in contact with the coals long enough for heat to transfer, wood’s a poor conductor and the moisture of your skin evaporates to form a tiny bit of protecting steam) but standing in front of a 20-foot burning pathway, knowing it’s hotter than the melting point of aluminium… I don’t think you’d just run up and do it.

So they do a two-hour Learn or Burn (seriously) workshop beforehand, using neuro-linguistic programming techniques, basically positive visualisation, etc, to get you into such an up-for-it mood that by the time you get out there in front of all those cheering people, you’re desperate to do it.

My legs were like jelly afterwards but in such a brilliant way, it was amazing.

And, it has to be said, much more different than gammon, however nice that dinner was :-)

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About time

Finally!

What a beautiful afternoon. After a horrendous Saturday, of driving rain, wind and cold, and a miserable start to today, the end of the day was lovely; we seem almost to have skipped the spring-that-wasn’t and ended up with what was close to a summer’s day.

It’s just so weird because the plants haven’t dared catch up yet so all the tree branches are still bare and the blossom’s only just starting to come out.

But it was lovely today; I spent hours giving THWNN a good brush (his winter coat’s coming out with a vengeance) riding and generally pottering about.

This post is also about time, ie there’s never enough of it! I didn’t get in till about 8.45pm at all last week – and how has this weekend gone so quickly?! At least I’ve recovered from some weird hip injury, sustained from falling off THWNN last Saturday (it had to happen at some point!) so can hopefully go to zumba tomorrow, which I couldn’t last week.

Nothing else major to report at the moment; owing to a lack of time for creating any culinary deliciousness, but I thought I’d share some of the amazingly creative spam comments which have floated my way recently… enjoy!

Penis enlargement: “excellent release, rattling advisory. I think why the another specialists of this sector do not asking this”

Penis enlargement 2: “I’m solace acquisition from you, but I’m trying to achieve my goals. I utterly bonk reading all that is posted on your site.”

Penis enlargement pills (Are you sensing a theme here?): “Nice berth.”

And my personal favourite, from Rubjentee: “I’m mad and that’s a fact I found out animals don’t help Animals think they’re pretty smart S*** on the ground, see in the dark.”

Innit.

Have a good week :-)

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Easter

This is the view that greeted me on Easter Sunday:

But I’m not going to complain about the weather because I do it all the time – and today, this afternoon in particular, was much more like it :-)

And at least the snow on Easter Sunday didn’t hang around for this:

The annual duck race in the village, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Hundreds of ducks are tipped into the river, some normal, some “super”. Each is numbered and “bought” by someone and whoever bought the first of each sort of duck across the line wins some of the cash, while the rest goes towards a new sports pavilion. everyone’s a winner.

Loads of people come, it’s brilliant.

Also at Easter, I took full advantage of being able to eat chocolate again, making a fair-sized dent in the Hotel Chocolat slab and providing a good home to a lot of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs *drool*

And there was some baking, including these (don’t laugh)

I used this recipe – but obviously used a different sort of butterscotch chips, ie exploding ones.

But like my other exploded pecan biscuits, they actually tasted delicious.

Whereas I can’t say the same for this:

Because I didn’t try it! Another banoffee cake, although instead of using tinned dulce de leche for the filling, I made caramel, out of butter, brown sugar and condensed milk, so it would be firmer, and used the topping from my caramel apple cake.

It was for my colleague’s birthday but as we didn’t get round to giving it and his presents to him till late, he took it all with him… he said his mates gave it a double thumbs-up though – and I can vouch for just how good that caramel tastes… :-)

But better than any caramel is the clocks going forward, beautiful daylight till 8pm, and the sun even showed its face today, happy, happy days!

Have a great week.

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