Sunday 27 May 2018

This Past Week [+ Friday Favourites]

   So. Seeg and I got married last week, and it's been so strange changing my name everywhere. I've been updating records and official things, though a few important ones are still to go through, and as the post has been coming in over the past few days it's been taking me a rather long moment to work out who it's for - me or Seeg.

   Anyway, we've had a wonderful time this past week. In case any of you forgot, Seeg and I are full-time carers, which is an exhausting task in its own right, and one that becomes especially difficult when it's your own mother you're caring for. But my dad took her on holiday for a week last Saturday, and that's given Seeg and I the opportunity for an at-home honeymoon. We have a place booked up and I am so excited about it, but it's a year from now, so this has been a welcome stand-in.

   Sunday we spent time together, had a romantic duck dinner and a dessert of homemade brownies and chocolate ice cream (yum). We watched Star Wars The Last Jedi for the first time since the cinema, and it was no better the second time around. We have so very many issues with it. We also exchanged our wedding gifts for each other - I got Seeg some Old Toby for his functional replica of Gandalf's pipe, two limited edition Sea of Thieves coins and a Kratos hoody; he got me a Legend of Zelda dressing gown and a book of Scandinavian folk creatures called Vaesen which I've had my eye on for a couple of years. I got the two of us a joint gift of a Falconry Experience Day, and I also ordered in a few boxes of chocolates from the German Lindt website because they have all the pralines and nougat and really good stuff. The UK just doesn't seem to want anything beyond Lindor, which is delicious but repetative. The Creola box is the best - pralines with cocoa nibs, yum. - and the nougat comes in at a close second. So a box of pralines and nougat wins every award conceivable. They also have make-your-own chocolate bars, so I had a milk slab made for Seeg topped with biscuit balls, pistachios, sliced almonds and chopped hazelnuts, named it 'Nuts About You' and added the wedding date beneath it on the label.

   Monday I spent a lot of time in the kitchen - I made a few things from the World of Warcraft cookbook, especially the steaming goat noodles for lunch, and prepped a few things for Tuesday's plans. I also made Just One Cookbook's baked katsudon for dinner, and we had a slice of wedding cake that night, too - oh yes, dessert every day this week.

   And Tuesday's plans were fantastic. Or, fantastical. We are both huge fans of The Lord of The Rings - it was after watching the first film when I was 12 that I decided I wanted to be a fantasy writer - so we finally committed to watching the whole extended version of the trilogy back to back. We began at 9:30 in the morning and it went on until midnight. Seeg smoked his pipe during an intermission - did you know you're not actually supposed to breathe pipe smoke into your lungs? - and I made Middle Earth food: a Hobbit's fry-up for breakfast of sausage, egg, bacon, sourdough toast and tomatoes at the start of The Fellowship of The Ring, a lunch of Dwarvish spiced lamb with The Two Towers, and a dinner of wild pigeon breast with red wine and juniper sauce fit for the halls of Gondor with The Return of The King, followed by a late dessert of simple loaf cake - honey and spices - and cream. It was yum. It was also an exhausting day, but it was really wonderful. We're both very glad we did it. And with a new TV, sound bar and reclining sofa (which isn't new but its comfy features are very rarely utilised), it was our best ever viewing - though Seeg saw it in the cinema when it came out. I saw it on video about a year after its release.

   Wednesday, we made gyoza together for lunch, then played Sea of Thieves with Sam and Duco and did our first skull fort, which was great fun (and tense), then we ordered our favourite pizza for dinner - Domino's Meateor. Then another late dessert of a sundae - 1 scoop of Ben & Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie, 2 scoops of Green & Black's vanilla, caramel and hazelnut ice cream, some maltesters, chunks of homemade praline (left over from the wedding cake), cruncy toffee sprinkles and whipped cream. It was epic.

   Thursday was our first day with no plans, so we chilled - I wrote, he played State of Decay 2 - we had more gyoza for lunch (well, he did, I had my left-over pizza) and we made okonomiyaki for dinner. I cheated with the noodles on mine, though, and opted for trying shirataki noodles rather than yakisoba to reduce the carb and calorie count. It worked a charm. Okonomiyaki is such a festival of tastes and textures that swapping ordinary noodles out for more glutinous ones didn't mar the finished dish - it was nowhere near as noticable as it would have been in a ramen dish or something similar - and it knocked off 250 calories. And, as they have no flavour of their own, they really absorbed the flavours of the mirin and okonomiyaki sauce.

   Friday was our last day, and again we had no plans. We chilled again, but together this time, and I made gorgeous (and filling) Korean barbeque beef udon for lunch, then ventured back into my Warcraft cookbook and made Dirge's Kickin' Chimaerok Chops for dinner. It was yum. Then my lightweightedness reasserted itself and after one glass of white wine I was pretty much on the floor, which was both ridiculous and wildly entertaining.

   Throughout the week we also received wonderful wedding wishes and gifts, including an ice cream maker, a beautiful bunch of Wild & Bloom flowers, a handmade bunting banner & exclusive Sea of Thieves pin, and a mysterious gift of a Hotel Chocolat milk to caramel sleekster and small bottle of Prosecco, though from whom, we do not know. There was no name on the card and no one's come forward to take credit.

   Now, however, it's back to normal, and I welcome it. Last week was busy, but the week before was, too - what with wedding prep and cake baking. Now it's back to filling Etsy orders, prepping for my art exhibit next month, and working on my book cover so I can get it published by the end of next month. It's the very last thing I need to do, and then it can be unleashed. OH! And I sold a copy about a week ago! I'm terrible at advertising, so every single sale of my book is remarkable, and so exciting!! I have plans in place for my next, so I'm hoping I can get it more publicity. It's definitely deserving of it.
   I'm also going to get to work on making a wedding scrap book - pictures, keepsakes, recipes etc - once everything else is taken care of, of course. Fun!

   So here's this week's favourites, meshed into this post!

Billy Connolly's World Tour   ♥   Cookie Monster pyjamas
Vaesen   ♥   Lindt Creola

Friday 25 May 2018

We Got Married.

   I couldn't sleep. No surprises there. I was getting married the next morning. I didn't wake up feeling tired, though. No. I was excited. And very nervous. Certain, but nervous. It felt kind of like Christmas - I was looking forward to it so very much, and I had been for ages, but as it arrived I felt suddenly unenthused - exhausted, even. But I recognised the feeling, and I understood it. So I ignored it.
   I showered immediately and towel-dried my hair. I'd been wrestling with the curlers for weeks and was beginning to get the hang of it, but I didn't want to put my hair through any unnecessary heat until that point. So I dressed down and headed off to find breakfast.
   I had a chocolate and peanut butter Mighty Muffin - I wanted something small, knowing the cake that was waiting later that day (yep, even on my wedding day I worried about my waistline), but I wanted something delicious, too. Then I sat around for a while, calming myself down. I still had to get ready, but it doesn't take much to dress me up since I never wear make up or do anything with my hair, so I didn't have to start until 11. It felt wrong sitting around, playing World of Warcraft (because that's how cool I am) on my wedding day, but I had time to kill. Everything else was ready.

   I was so excited when 11 o'clock came. My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking, and I eagerly I did my make up (I used Barry M eyeliner pencil and LOC One & Done shadow stick in Rock Steady which I'd gotten in a Birch Box earlier this year) and got into my dress. It took all of 15 minutes. I didn't want to curl my hair too soon because I didn't want the curls to fall out, so I waited around watching Friends until it struck 12, when I immediately got the curlers out. That only took 20 minutes. And Lucy wasn't due to get here until 1. So again I sat around, waiting, nervously waiting, drinking a shaky cup of tea.
   My dad, looking very smart, then gifted me a lovely bunch of flowers, told me I looked wonderful, and then Lucy arrived and told me the same. She, too, looked wonderful. We had agreed, because it was so small, that it was going to be smart casual; formally informal. She wore a lovely mint green dress with silhouetted trees. Seeg had opted for smart trousers and a navy shirt - he always did look good in shirts - and while he closed the top button, he also rolled up his sleeves. That, right there, is the definition of smart casual. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks - I think he looked wonderful.

   We left at 1:20 for a 2:30 wedding, expecting it to take 30 minutes to arrive. We knew the roads, the traffic, we knew what was usual, and we were confident that we would have 30-40 minutes to spare. So we hopped in the car, and off we went.
   But when we approached the M32, the glitter began to fade.
   The traffic across the bridge in front of us was at a standstill. An accident had happened minutes before we arrived - the people involved were not all right, either. It had happened too recently for the radio to announce it, and the police were just moving into position to close the roads as we reached the junction. We'd already decided to take another route, however, and texted a warning to everyone else, as we'd left ahead of them. Then we trundled along on our way. And, naturally, got caught in all the diverted traffic.

   Lucy felt awful. I felt awful for her. It wasn't her fault, but as she was the one driving, she carried the blame (all of which she imagined). But she was a star. She did all she could, took all these clever routes and turns and loaned me her phone to call the House to tell them we were going to be late. Seeg, meanwhile, was in touch with everyone else. They had all arrived. And though only by 10 minutes, we ended up late to our own wedding. I was laughing in the car because, truly, you couldn't make it up, and there was nothing at all that any of us could do about it. Seeg was unruffled.
   We were supposed to be there at least 10 minutes before the ceremony for legal arrangement, and instead we arrived 10 minutes late. But when we finally got there, the staff were so friendly, so helpful, and their relaxed attitude really, really calmed me down. They'd assured our families that it would be fine, too, and that things could be juggled around if it got to that point - whatever happened, we would be married that day.
   So we arrived, glossed over greetings and gratitued for coming, and got straight down to business. And then, with a change of shoes and much-needed glass of water, the glitter returned.

   Nero began. 22 seconds later, we stepped, together, into the 125 year old room, bathed in afternoon sun, adorned with flowers, 18th Century paintings and gorgeous reds and deep walnut, while our families watched and smiled after us. It was all so small, so simple, and it was perfect. It was then, as we walked slowly along, that I almost cried. Somehow, I managed not to. As did my dad. And Seeg's dad. No one else felt the compulsion.
   The ceremony passed in a blur. I recall only that I remembered my ring words perfectly, that my mouth was dry and didn't say Seeg's full name properly, and that the faux registry book they put in front of us for pictures at the end (for legal reasons they can't photograph the real book) had the marriage certificate for one Rachel Green and Ross Geller.
   Seeg's dad took the ceremony pictures, then we stepped out onto the House steps together as husband and wife. Confetti had slipped everyone's mind but Seeg's mum, who had brought several bottles of bubbles. My dad took the pictures on the steps, and we mingled for a while outside. Then we started the troublesome journey home. And this time, Lucy, myself and my new husband arrived before everyone else. After a couple of custard creams, everyone else turned up.
   Then came cake and drinks. And the cake was delicious. Two thick, dense layers of chocolate hazelnut sponge, glued together with a layer of hazelnut praline and another of chocolate almond cream, coated as a whole in chocolate hazelnut ganache with pistachio 'moss', Oreo cookie 'dirt' and Oreo cream toadstools (I'd been scraping Oreos clean at 7am the previous morning). I had made everything but the Oreos from scratch. I was, and am, so proud of it.
   Two thirds of the cake served everyone, including two slices for my grandparents who couldn't be there, which I posted the next day. We made a toast, then received a few gifts, including a lovely luxury picnic basket complete with blanket, plates and lots of yummy goodies. I'd always wanted one, but could never justify it.
   Then, after a few hours, everyone left, and we had a small, delicious dinner of duck and wild boar cassoulet with Chantenay carrots and rosemary cavolo nero.

   Despite the traffic, it was the most perfect day. The only thing I would change is that my sister could have stayed longer. Truly, I can't believe how well it went. But it was all so small and so simple that there was little room for things to go wrong, and the traffic was truly out of our hands. And it had been so smooth up until that point that I hadn't suffered any Bridezilla stress. So I was due a little bit of panic. And this, at least, was for good reason.

   I am so happy. A week on, I still can't stop smiling.

Here are a few more pictures
A glimpse of the very small and private affair ♥

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Light Alfredo Pasta with Spinach and Peas

   This week. Crazy. And for all the best reasons. Just today I spent my whole afternoon in the kitchen making our wedding cake - crossing my fingers at every step because I can be extremely hit-and-miss when it comes to baking - and when dinner time rolled around ohhh I couldn't be bothered. I did, though, because I had to, but I wanted something easy. Seeg's parents landed in the country yesterday and came to see us for a few hours, and we got on to pasta and how it's so easy, that you can't get it wrong, and that after all the travelling, you really don't want to have to slave over the stove for a filling meal.
   So I turned to pasta this evening, but as I had no bacon, no soft cheese and no spare eggs, I couldn't rightly fall back on ever-reliable carbonara. But I did have coconut milk and spinach, and some turkey mince in the freezer. And as it turns out, that's all I really needed for a light alfredo pasta.

   This recipe, particularly the alfredo sauce, is much lighter than your typical recipe because it's lower in fat and calories. That's not to say, however, that it is fat-free. Nor is it saturated fat-free. But don't run off just yet! This is where we get scientific. A good deal of the saturated fat in this recipe comes from the coconut milk, but these particular saturated fats aren't 'evil' - they're dominantly in the form of the medium-chain fatty acid lauric acid, which is converted into energy much quicker than other saturated fats and is, as a result, far less likely to be stored as body fat. Lauric acid is also highly beneficial, converted in the body into monolaurin, a compound which is antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral.
   Despite the inclusion of coconut milk in this recipe, it does not taste like coconut. Not in the slightest. Seeg hates coconut and, to be honest, so do I, so believe me when I say we were both looking for the coconutty taste and neither of us found it.

Serves 4
500g lean turkey mince (or substitute for preferred alternative)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g spinach
200g uncooked wholewheat pasta
400ml light coconut milk
100g shredded light cheddar cheese
Italian herbs
150g garden peas

1. Heat the pasta according to the package instructions, but use your judgement. Heat for an additional 5-10 minutes if desired. Wholegrain pasta and rice both seem to take longer to cook and soften, no doubt due to the higher levels of fibre. If in doubt, make the pasta with an extra 10-20 minutes to spare; leave in the pan, covered, and turn off the heat if it cooks sooner than you're ready for it.

2. Fry the turkey mince or chosen substitute and crushed garlic for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently and breaking clumps apart.

3. Shake the coconut milk before opening to recombine it all, then pour over the turkey. Stir in the herbs, peas and shredded cheese and leave to heat for another 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, steam the spinach for 3 minutes.

5. Combine the pasta with the coconut turkey.

6. Spoon the spinach onto the plates, then top with the pasta mixture and serve.

• I used 7% fat turkey thigh mince
• I used Blue Dragon light coconut milk
• I used Tesco's own lighter cheddar cheese
• I cooked my pasta by bringing it to the boil, as instructed, and then lowering to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, as the packet said. I then heated it for an additional 5-10 to soften it further.

per serving
550 cals, 20g fat (11g sat), 43g carbs, 7g fibre, 40.5g protein

Friday 11 May 2018

Friday Favourites

Ill again!
I had a couple of days of reprieve where I was just fine - even increased the weights in my workout. But then, DOOSH. I kid you not, 15 sneezes in 3 minutes. I thought it was hayfever at first, the worst it had ever been, but given the weakness, sore throat, chesty cough and such that came the following day (and the awful night's sleep), I figure not so much. I'm really, really hoping it's better by tomorrow night. As it is for most people, it gets worse as it gets later - tired, worn out and your body has a harder time fighting it off. Thing is, tomorrow night Seeg & I are being taken out for the evening prior to the wedding - no hen or stag do's, just a small gathering of friends at a board game café in Bristol. I've never been; I am excited. But our table is booked for right around the time that I've started to slump. So I'm hoping that I'll be able to get over it quickly enough that I'll be able to handle the smells and potential heat/dry air inside. I don't know what it's like, and these aren't details you'll notice unless you're actually ill, you know?
So, despite the fact that we're not going until tomorrow, Chance & Counters has made it onto this week's Friday Favourites. I've also been craving sweets again because I've been ill, but I've been remarkably good. Instead the only thing I've found myself truly craving is popcorn. Specifically Proper Corn's sweet coconut & vanilla. I've had 3 bags this week.
And yesterday I took some time out to play Sea of Thieves with Seeg, Sam and Duco, which was my first real experience with the game - I tried it on my own for all of 35 minutes, sailed out, found my first chest, headed back to port to sell it and was immediately shot in the face and robbed by another player. Not impressed. But this time I was part of a 4-man crew on a galleon rather than soloing on a sloop and it went a lot better. We wound up in a skirmish and won, too. I patched many, many cannon holes. It was great fun!

Now, though, I have other things to focus on. The final few steps on some custom orders and then some wedding arrangements. I am so excited.

Chance and Counters   ♥   Propercorn Sweet Coconut & Vanilla 
Fabletics' Winn powerhold capri in Tidal Wave   ♥   Sea of Thieves

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Matcha Banana Porridge

   "It's an acquired taste." "You have to learn to like it." I can't get behind that when it's alcohol we're talking about. Why would I want to 'learn to like' something that tastes awful, feels awful and leaves me feeling awful. I can't even get behind it with coffee. To my mind, if it's not actually good for you, as in, if the benefits don't massively outweigh the taste, what's the point? To this day I still don't drink because I just hate the taste & feel of alcohol.
   Of course, when it comes to healthier things, I do learn to like it. Brussels sprouts, for example. I eat them weekly, and now I love them. Matcha is another. I hated it when I first tried it 3 years ago, but with all the hype about aiding weight loss, I stuck with it. I'm pretty sure these claims are bogus but I developed a taste for it, there are benefits to be had from drinking the whole leaf, and, in truth, I really do love it. I had my first Starbucks in Schipol airport just this month - it was a matcha latte, at 5:30am.
   Bananas are another. I hate them. The smell, the texture, the taste, the peeling - I would avoid them like the plague. Then I had a banana Trek protein flapjack and liked it. Then a Graze banana protein bite. Then a slice of banana chocolate cake in the local café. Then I put a banana in a smoothie, and then into pancakes. I basically realised that I like the taste after all, I just hated the rest of it. But it's also one of the best fruits you can have after a tough workout, so when I started amping up my workouts a couple of months ago and I figured out how to delay overripe bananas, I decided to toughen up mentally, too, and eat bananas.
   These kinds of things might not be an acquired taste for everyone, but they are for me, and so it was only after I put together this sweet and simple porridge recipe that I realised it might not be for everyone. Once upon a time, it really wouldn't have been for me.

   This banana matcha porridge is a great start to your day. High in vitamins and minerals, protein and fibre, antioxidents and the catechin ECGC, and about half the caffine of your morning coffee, it's  perfect for a speedy morning - especially if you mix it all together the night before, let it sit in the fridge and heat it up in the microwave the next morning. Easy. It's a terribly lazy and nutritious breakfast - and it counts as 1 of your 5 a day!

Serves 1
30g oats
20g whey protein
2g matcha tea powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
100ml skimmed milk
100ml water
1 ripe/overripe banana

1. Peel and mash 2/3 of the banana, reserving 1/3 to slice for the top if desired.

Overnight Oats
2. Combine oats, whey, matcha and cinnamon in a bowl (or shaker bottle). Add milk and stir (or shake then transfer to a bowl - I find this easiest to avoid whey from clumping).

3. Mix in the mashed banana and set in the fridge overnight, omitting water.

4. If desired, heat the following morning by stirring in 50ml water and microwave for 1x 1 minute, then 30 second bursts the next morning until satisfied with the texture. Top with sliced banana and serve.

Oats on the Hob
2. Boil 100ml water

3. Combine oats, whey, matcha and cinnamon in a pan. Add the milk slowly, stirring all the while.

4. Add the mashed banana and mix.

5. Add the boiled water, mixing again.

6. Heat over medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes until thick, then transfer to a bowl.

7. Top with sliced banana and serve.

• I used Pulsin premium whey
• I used Purechimp matcha
• I used 1 small banana at around 100g

317 calories, 2.5g fat (0.5g sat), 46.5g carbs (17g natural sugars), 5.5g fibre, 26.5g protein; 1 of 5 a day

Friday 4 May 2018

Friday Favourites

Ohhh this week hasn't been good.
Seeg and I managed to catch something on the weekend - we guess it came from our super-sneezy 3-year old nephew - so we've both been wallowing. For the first two days we had the same symptoms and the same severity, but afterwards it diverged. But we've both been pretty miserable. If I'm honest, it's been kind of nice. We've been moping together, watching TV together, and I've watched him finish off God of War (absolutely worthy of the immense praise it's been receiving). We've already broken into the Cote d'Or bonbonblocs we brought back from The Netherlands two weeks ago, and I spent all of yesterday in my pyjamas. Fortunately they're pretty and comfy as all hell, and that Victoria's Secret label inside makes me feel distinctly more pretty than I would in other jim jams.
Also, my dad got me a gift. It seems a little odd, especially when you consider how excited I got, but once you read my next book (due out this summer!) you'll see why the arenaria balearica has a special place in my heart. Also, look how comfy it looks to sit in! A crucial detail.

Victoria's Secret pyjamas   ♥   Cote d'Or praline bar
arenaria balearica   ♥   God of War

Thursday 3 May 2018

Wolf + Scott - Organic Pancake Mix Review

   Breakfast. If, by chance, you didn't happen to notice, breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. It's also the most important, and it's easy to see why. You've not eaten for probably about 10 hours, so your body is in need of fuelling; it provides the nutrients you need for your body to make the transition from night time maintenance to day time work. It sets you up for the day, both physically and psychologically. I know that when I have a crappy breakfast, be it burned or rushed, I'm not in as good a mood as I could be and that impacts my work - be it writing, working out, or just my general approachability. So I always make a point of ensuring a good breakfast.
   Seeg has suggested that another reason I love breakfast so much is because I treat it like a dessert. I always have fruity breakfasts, never savoury - not because I'm against it, just simply because it's what I want. Everything else I eat that day will be savoury, and dessert itself is a rarety.
   Most days I don't have the time to make something very exciting, but I have found overnight oats to be a winner (I love porridge) because I can get up in the morning a little easier knowing my breakfast is all ready and waiting for me as I stumble down the stairs. But when I do have the time, I like to reach for something different.

   Pancakes are apparently the only socially acceptable form of cake that you can have for breakfast. For some reason it matters if the mixture is cooked in a pan or in the oven. Go figure. But while it is a breakfast staple, it's easy for pancakes to become unhealthy. Overload them with sugar or syrups and, while delicious, it's not as healthy as it could be. I don't know about you, but if I have refined sugar in the morning, I'm much more likely to eat it again over the course of the day.
   So, I don't typically add any sugar, syrup or sweetener to my pancakes, though I may very occasionally add a little bit of chopped dark chocolate or high-cocoa white. Otherwise, I prefer to rely on fruit or yogurt for sweetness, but this also means that my chosen pancake recipes or mixes are suitable for savoury use too, should I wish to break away from the norm (I don't).

   Wolf + Scott is a new brand of pancake mix rising over the horizon - organic, non-GMO, vegan, high in protein, fibre and omega-3 fats. Win, win, win win win. For the moment, they have only two mixes - 'Dark Wolf' cacao and 'Howlin' Good' super seeds. Both are made of a mix of organic wholewheat flour, buckwheat and flaxseed, neither are sweetened and both are free of any refined ingredients. They're perfectly adaptable and, frankly, delicious on their own. But when I was let at them they did become a little bit more special.

   I usually add raw cacao powder to a plain pancake mix, but I found that Wolf & Scott's Dark Wolf pancake mix exceeded my usual recipe without any interference on my part, which is what we always like to see - especially when they're guilt-free. I did add some chopped dark chocolate and cacao nibs on top, however, which did add a little sweetness and another level to both the chocolate and the texture. In short, yum.

   The Howlin' Good seed mix was very fine - I had expected to see more obvious evidence of the seeds - and resulted in pancakes which were just as light as Dark Wolf. I added some honey greek yogurt, warmed blueberries and seed mix on top of this one - I was feeling cheeky that morning - and they came out just as deliciously. I have since made another batch with some banana slices and the subtle nutty taste came through wonderfully.

   Delightfully fluffy, though I have taken to adding a scoop of protein powder to the mixture and that, as it often can, does result in a denser pancake. But I quite enjoy them that way, which is why I persist in doing so. Each 250g pouch can make 10-12 pancakes, and each 25g serving is just 80 calories. It does, of course, depend on how big you make them - I opt for small ones, about 4-5 inches, and even then only a stack of 4. I get there using either 50g of mixture, or 25g of mix with 20g additional whey protein powder, and 70ml skimmed milk. Both result in a small 4-5 piece batch at 180-200 calories, leaving the perfect amount of room for fruit, yogurt, seeds, nuts and chocolate, should I feel so inclined.

   Buy directly from Wolf + Scott - and don't forget to use my reader-exclusive discount! Add the code ABE25 to your order for 25% off of all Wolf + Scott pancake mixes!

Disclaimer: I was sent this product to review by the brand itself. The quantity and precise products sent were their choice, not my own. All opinions and images are my own, and all appropriate research has been done by myself from a range of sources rather than relying entirely on the product's website, especially where health products are concerned. I do not accept a product to review if I do not believe it is safe or worth my own time, regardless of any kind of reimbursement. I trial the products for an appropriate amount of time before writing reviews to check for wear-and-tear on physical items and side effects from edible (be it supplements or food). If I have negative points to voice, I will voice them, and I never, ever accept product reviews or reimbursement on the promise of a positive review. My reviews are and will only ever be honest.

Wednesday 2 May 2018

The Art of Learning How Not to Give a F*ck

   Please pardon my language. Usually, I severely disapprove of bad language, especially when it's typed. A sudden verbal outburst is one thing, but taking the time to actually type it out and hit send in a game - or in this case on a blog, where I've had more than enough opportunity to change my mind and delete it - is quite another. But right now, it is appropriate and, to a degree, a teensy bit necessary.

   I'll come right out and say it: I can't ride a bike. And I must jump immediately to my parents' defence and state that they did try to teach me, really quite hard, but I was the stubborn one. After riding with stabilisers, my parents finally took them off when they thought I was ready and took me out to learn properly. My dad had a hold of the back of my bike and when I was doing well, he let go - like any parent would. He said nothing because otherwise I'd panic. Instead, I was going quite fast, looked back in excitement, found him a ways back up the path and I panicked. I veered off the path, fell and hurt myself. I actually broke my skin - there was a bit of blood and it hurt for hours.
   My parents tried to get me back on but I refused. I was about 7 or something. I'm 27 now.

   Now comes the 'learning not to give a f...udge' bit.
   Last week while in The Netherlands, we went to the Hoge Veluwe, a nature reserve full of wild deer, boar and sheep, as well as smaller critters. The Dutch are big on cycling - you'd never guess - so his parents wanted us all to go out for a ride there. They know I can't ride, however, so they spoke to the bike rental office and were told that, among bikes for disabled people, they had one single tricycle - it had a saddle, gears, brakes, the lot, with the only difference being two wheels at the front. They reserved it for me.
   Now, most people would have said "no, I can't ride, I'd rather do something else - perhaps we could go but take a walking trail." Others would have declined it all together. I did the last time they suggested tandem.
   But this time, I didn't. My options were: don't go and miss all the wildlife, go and take a hiking trail and get shin splints and cover less ground, go and use a tricycle and get laughed at by everyone else, or go and try to learn to ride a bike.
   I opted for those last two.

   I had my tricycle - you can see me looking really rather epic on it while Seeg and his brother regressed about 20 years and started climbing trees - and we rode for about 2-3 hours, stopping three times to go on small hiking trails before looping back around to the bikes. I was laughed at by kids and adults alike, in a country full of people who are pretty much born on bicycles, but I kept going, and we stopped a couple of times so that I could have a go on someone else's bike.
   The trouble there, though, was that, while these saddles could be adjusted ridiculously low (yay), the bikes had no gears, their brakes were back-peddling, and they were heavy. But I tried. And everyone helped. Seeg held the back of my saddle, Hanke did, Ron did, and gradually I was getting better - to the point that Ron was the one who let go of my saddle (it's a dad-thing, I think). And for two glorious seconds, I was riding a bike.
   Then I wobbled, veered again and leapt off into a bush because there were no brakes and I didn't want to go down with the bike.

   For three hours, I rode along popular bicycle trails in a country full of cyclists while riding a tricycle. I was laughed at by all kinds of people. I ended up with very sore sit bones and, the next day, sore glutes. I could have stayed at home or just gone walking instead, preserved my dignity and had a very good day.
   Instead, I swallowed my pride and had an amazing day, and one of the most memorable for a long, long while. And now I'm thinking about buying myself a bike and some stabilisers and learning like I'm 5 again. Because I loved the sensation of gliding along the road, I loved the burn in my thighs, I loved the appreciation for smooth paving and rough gravel, and going down hill, at least with three wheels, was so enjoyable.
   Tell me who else my age - 'too old to learn' as I used to say - would be willing to do that? And honestly?

   Nothing touched me, no laughing children, no laughing adults, no strange looks from the people at the bike shed, because I decided it wasn't going to. I used that thing and I had immense fun (until my bum started hurting). And we covered enough ground to see loads of deer, and 10 wild boar - two adults and eight piglets.

   Swallowing your pride is not easy - but as one old and very wise tea connoisseur once said: 'pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.'
   By severing the association between pride and honour and ridding yourself of the former - and I am aware how new age-y this sounds - you can really free yourself and truly open yourself up to enjoyment. Because what does it mean to anyone else if my bike has three wheels instead of two? Everyone I was out with that day pinched it and had a go as soon as my bum was off the seat, so it can't be that shameful!