Roasted Carrot, Lentil & Cumin Soup with Kale Crisps

The other day I was really craving something comforting for lunch, and I had a bunch of carrots that were getting a bit old so decided to try making a carrot and lentil soup. It was a bit ‘make it up as you go along’ but I loved the end result, a nice hearty (and healthy!) soup for a drizzly English Summer day. I served mine with some kale crisps and a slice of brown sourdough, but you can add whatever you fancy.

soupandkalecrisps

For the Soup:
1. Preheat the oven to 190c. In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of puy lentils to the boil and gently simmer for 20 mins or so until tender.
2. Whilst the lentils are cooking, chop up 5-6 small-medium sized carrots into chunks (I had quite a mixed bunch, but it really doesn’t make too much difference if you add a little more or less) and par-boil.
3. Once par-boiled, pop the carrots on a baking tray, sprinkle with salt, cumin and olive oil and roast in the oven until golden.
4. Once the lentils and carrots are cooked, transfer both to a blender. You can keep a few of the roasted carrots aside to add some texture to the soup if you like, or if you prefer, whizz them all up in the blender.
5. Pour 1/2 – 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tsp of Marigold Vegetable Bouillon and add a little at a time to the blended mix, whizzing up to combine. It’s really up to you how much of the bouillon you add, depending on how thick or thin you like your soup.

For the Kale Crisps:
1. Preheat the oven to 160c.
2. Wash a good handful or two of kale and shake off the excess water, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, toss the kale around to get it fully coated. Be careful not to over-oil or the kale will just burn.
3. Line a baking tray with foil or baking parchment and spread the kale out over the tray, try to space it out as much as possible or it may go soggy.
4. Bake in the oven for about 5-10 minutes. You can toss halfway through if you like but it’s not essential. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Time For Exercise

I don’t have a very good relationship with exercising. The most I can remember ever enjoying exercise was when I was in junior school, I was quite a tomboy back then and loved to play football, was always on the climbing frames and running around with my friends.

I quickly grew out of that, I guess probably when I started secondary school, any interest I had in exercise of any kind quickly evaporated. I did the least I could get away with in sports class and what I did do was always half hearted.

Unfortunately that’s a philosophy I brought with me into adulthood, and it really hasn’t done me any favours. I went through a very bad period of ill health a few years ago, I look back at that time as my year of hell, and it really was a horrible time for both me and Jamie, but one that definitely made us stronger. Luckily, things did start to improve and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and not long after Jamie proposed.

I had a vision for the type of wedding I wanted, and my plans for my wedding day didn’t include me being unwell or not feeling quite myself and not looking healthy with it too. I’ve always been super slim but still healthy with it. My weight has never really fluctuated by much, but my year of hell hit me hard and I was down to my slimmest and lightest. Honestly, I really didn’t look well, let alone feel it! I don’t like looking back at any photos of me from that time, but it’s a really good reminder that health and happiness has to come first.

So in the run up to the wedding, I did something totally out of character and pretty unthinkable to me…I joined a gym. At first I hated it, Jamie had to practically drag me there kicking and screaming. Our local gym is literally a 2 minute walk from our front door so I had no excuses, even when the weather was bad, not to go. Now I’m so glad that I did have someone pushing me to get up off my ass and get down to the gym, because it totally paid off. It was hard at first but the more I went, the easier it became, and the more I found myself starting to enjoy it, even wanting to go. Who knew, right?

The hard work was all worth it, I didn’t feel unwell at all before or during our wedding day, or even the week after when I was expecting my body would just crash out with exhaustion. I felt the best I had in ages and I looked so much better too, I’d put the weight back on that I’d lost, built up a little muscle and definition to my legs, arms and stomach, which gave me so much confidence, something I have always been lacking.

Unfortunately, like a lot of brides who go into overdrive before their wedding trying to get fit, once the wedding was over I had no target to aim for, I went to the gym less and less, and when my membership expired, I didn’t renew. Before I knew it winter had set in and I was in hibernation mode, nothing was going to move me from under the blanket on the sofa watching a nice Christmas film.

At the beginning of this year I realised how far I’d come and how much I’d slipped into old habits and how lazy I had got. I didn’t feel great and I didn’t feel like I looked as good anymore either. I knew I didn’t want to go back to being unfit and unhealthy, and potentially allowing myself to get really unwell again. So I started very slowly exercising at home. At first I just did some weight training, then I started building in some cardio and other strengthening exercises using the 7 Minute Workout ‘Seven’ app.

This was perfect for me as I could fit it around my work, I couldn’t avoid it as it was only 7 minutes out of my day, and it felt like a good workout without knocking me out.

Then a few months ago I saw a little yoga pose illustrated in a magazine which explained how doing the pose regularly was really good for rounded shoulders. I’ve always been a slumper, rounded shoulders and bad posture, thanks to years of working at a computer and being addicted to chatting to friends on MSN messenger when I was younger! So I came home that day and did the exercise a few times. It felt like I was really stretching my shoulders out, which I loved, so I did a little googling and found more.

Soon enough, I found a whole load of videos on YouTube and after trying out a couple of the Yoga with Adriene videos, I was hooked. I started doing yoga pretty much every day, even if it was just a little, and I was loving it! Within a few weeks I was already seeing and feeling the results and it felt great to be being proactive about my health and fitness again. There are still times when I have a few days off and then find it hard to urge myself to get back into it again, but I know it will be worth it and I know my future self will be grateful that I took the time out to work it out!

So, I really urge you, however unfit or unhealthy you are, to start doing something, anything and find what works for you. It could be running if that’s your thing, it could be tennis, pilates, swimming, weight lifting or working out at the gym..or even just 7 minutes out of your day using some kind of exercise app like I did. Whatever it is, and even if it’s not much, it’s something and trust me, your body (and your mind come to think of it) will thank you for it. Mine definitely is!

Love x

Songs That Define My Childhood

An eclectic mix of songs that I feel define my childhood. I’m sure I’ve missed some integral songs here, there’s a good dollop of teen angst and childish folly amongst some absolute classics. I guess this explains my strange collection of CDs and MP3s, but I still love these now.

What are the songs that define your childhood?

Love x

Holiday Fever

HolidayBooked After a lovely holiday in Croatia and our anniversary break in the Cotswolds, we decided we really wanted to book another holiday this year. We didn’t go abroad last year as we never got round to booking a proper honeymoon (we had a week in Norfolk after our wedding which was basically our honeymoon) so I guess we’re making up for it this year!

We’ve just booked a week in Sicily for later in the year. We’ll be flying London to Catania and then renting a car and driving down to Syracuse in the southeastern corner of Sicily. We’ve rented a lovely looking apartment on the island of Ortigia with beautiful views out over the sea so I’m really looking forward to spending some time relaxing in the sun on that terrace and wandering round the streets of the old town.

Image credit: dicasainsicilia

Image credit: dicasainsicilia

There looks like there’s lots to visit around that area so I’m glad we’ll be renting a car to go exploring some of the stunning beaches and interesting little villages and towns. If I’m honest though, the thing I’m most excited about is, of course, the food. I can’t wait to try the traditional cannolo, gelato, pasta alla norma, granita, sicilian lemons, pistachio pesto, not to mention all the fresh fish. Food lovers heaven!

Do you have any favourite holiday destinations you’d like to recommend?

Blog Slacker

I have been seriously slacking on the blogging front lately. I make excuses like I’ve been too busy with work and I don’t have enough time but I think maybe it’s more to do with a lack of inspiration and direction for my blog.

My lovely husband bought me a special present for Christmas last year, a place at the Blogcademy, a two day workshop in London next month. I’m excited as I’m hoping this will give me the boost I need to ramp up my blogging, as well as help me figure out which direction I want to take this little blog and where I might be able to go with it. I’ve never really met any fellow bloggers so it will be a great chance to meet like-minded people too which I’m really looking forward to.

What do you do to re-energise and re-inspire yourself when you’re going through a blogging slump?

Our First Wedding Anniversary

I cannot believe it’s been a year since our wedding already. Where does the time go?? To celebrate our first wedding anniversary we decided to book a luxurious little getaway. It took a bit of time to find the right place just for us, without spending a fortune, and without being too ‘posh’, but in the end we found The Wheatsheaf Inn and knew it was perfect.

WheatsheafInnUs

After a stop off in one of our favourite Cotswold villages, Burford, for lunch, we drove onto the village of Northleach. We arrived to a beautiful Cotswold stone coaching inn, covered in ivy and absolutely packed full of people for Sunday lunch – always a good sign!

We had booked Room 1, a beautiful luxurious room with a bed that looked almost double the size of our spacious king at home, with double doors opening onto a huge bathroom with a gorgeous double ended cast iron bath and big rainfall shower. Bliss!

WheatsheafInnBath

We ended up eating at The Wheatsheaf both evenings as the food was so good the first night. We had the Cote De Boeuf for two on our last evening which I think was probably the best I’ve ever tasted. They have a great cocktail menu which was fun to try and there’s lots of space in the bar, restaurant, lounge areas and beautiful garden to relax and unwind in. The staff were fantastic throughout our stay, really friendly, chatty, welcoming and super helpful. We’d like to go back again next year as we had such a lovely time!

We didn’t spend all our time there though, as hard as it was to pull ourselves away from that wonderfully relaxing and romantic bathtub and comfy, spacious bed, we travelled over to the Cotswold Farm Park/Adam’s Farm and had a lovely time feeding baby goats, stroking rabbits and holding little tiny chicks. What’s not to love? On our way back we stopped off at another favourite of ours, Bourton-on-the-Water, for lunch sitting outside by the river.

AdamsFarmChick

We also went over for our first visit to Bibury, a very quaint little village famous for it’s little row of houses overlooking the river, Arlington Row. Very pretty but I did wonder what it would be like to live in one of those little houses, with coach-loads of visitors wandering around and poking their noses through your window. As picturesque as it is, I’m not sure it’s quite as peaceful!

For more photos from our anniversary break come and find me over on Instagram, and search #firstwediversarycotswolds to see more.

Our Croatian Adventure

We’ve been getting back into the swing of work this week after our week away in Croatia. We had an amazing time, very relaxing and just what we both needed.

We flew from London to Split, and after a week of fretting about the flight (I’m a terrible traveller!) the flight over there actually went really smoothly and I was pleasantly surprised. We were greeted at the airport by our airbnb host, Maja, who was very friendly and gave us lots of information on everything we passed as she drove us to our little apartment on Ciovo Island.

FlightToSplitCroatia

We were staying just over the bridge that connects Ciovo with Trogir old town, another little island that is connected to the mainland again but bridge. We arrived late evening so after a quick tour of the apartment, Maja left us to it and we freshened up and headed out into Trogir old town with our stomachs rumbling.

We walked along the promenade, the water sparkling in the evening light, and found a plethora of restaurants and bars. After a difficult choice we picked one and sat down outside with a beautiful view of the water. The food was good, as we found with everywhere we ate whilst there, good but not exceptional. The one thing we did really love was the pastries though, their version of chocolate croissants were delicious, and we were lucky enough to have a couple of great bakeries within a few steps of our front door.

MealinTrogir

We didn’t hire a car on this holiday and I’m so glad we didn’t, it was lovely just to spend our days wandering around the old town, dining out, visiting the daily market and relaxing on our terrace in the lovely sunshine. We had fantastic weather while we were there, aside from one thunderstorm the day after we arrived, and it was nice to just soak up the sun and really relax. I think we both really needed that kind of holiday.

We took a taxi one day to a nearby beach on Ciovo Island, Okrug Gornji. The water was crystal clear and inviting, a little chilly but we both braved it and went for a dip. It was lovely to see all the fishes swimming round our feet, the water really was beautiful.

JamieonOkrugGornjiBeach

Neither of us wanted to leave by the end of the week, we had heard such great things about Croatia and I’m so glad we finally got to experience it for ourselves. This holiday seemed to strike a chord with both of us as we realised we really don’t do this enough. Whilst Maja was driving us back to the airport to catch our flight back home, she was telling us how they rarely holiday anywhere but home anymore as they have young kids now, and she passed on some words of wisdom, to make the most of our time together before that stage of our lives begins, that have been ringing in my ears ever since.

Ready to plan the next adventure now!

CloisterinTrogir

For more of our holiday snaps come and find me over on Instagram, and search #ourcroatianadventure to see more.

For The Love Of Copper

Some of you may be over the whole copper obsession, I however, am not. I still can’t get enough. I even bought some copper spray paint and sprayed an old vase copper a while back, with plans to spray paint pretty much everything else in sight!

There’s something lovely and warm about copper. I think it’s at its best when just used in touches and hints across a room, as much as it pains me to say it – less is more!

Here are some of my favourite copper finds from across the tinterweb…

Copper

1. Karlsson Clock 2. Isaac Iron Armchair In Copper 3. Copper Vase 4. White & Copper Bowl 5. Metal & Wood Ceiling Light 6. Copper Clock

Copper Love x

My Week Of Sugar Free

I’ve never been on any kind of diet in my life, aside from a couple of weeks dairy and wheat free for medical purposes. I’m very lucky that I’ve never had a need to diet, to lose weight or otherwise, but given my experience a few weeks ago I’ve discovered dieting of any kind is definitely not my thing.

I am a sugar addict. I guess without even realising, I was in denial as to quite how much of a sugar addict I really am. Trying to go without sugar is hard. It sounds easy, how hard can it be to just avoid a little sugar for a week or two? It’s just cutting out chocolate, sweets and fizzy drinks, right? Well no, once I started looking at the list of ingredients on everyday items, it started to dawn on me that this wouldn’t quite be the walk in the park I first thought. Sugar is in everything! I’m talking tomato paste, lots of canned goods, breakfast cereals, yes even supposedly ‘healthy’ cereals like Museli and Weetabix. Huh?

So I became a label-scanner for a week. Checking everything before I ate it for added sugar, which really starts to suck the joy out of food after a while. It’s also kind of sad how many products had added sugar that, to me, really didn’t seem necessary.

I started reading up about sugar free diets and recipes online and my mind became a frenzy of conflicting information. I had read that fructose (the natural sugar found in fruit), although naturally occurring, could actually be bad for us in large amounts too. To add to that thread, many sugar alternatives such as Agave Syrup, are so super high in fructose that they could be worse than the thing you’re trying to avoid in the first place. I started to despair.

I battled with myself in the evenings when I would usually be raiding the goodies cupboard for chocolate biscuits, bars of Dairy Milk and sweets. I scoured the web for sugar-free recipes to find some kind of sweet treat that would give my sweet tooth the fix it needed, but it was tricky having read about sugar alternatives not actually being such a great alternative after all, I was left wondering what to substitute and what not to!

So I jumped in and started baking what I could, trying to use natural sugars such as bananas which are so naturally sweet anyway…but each time, something was missing. Everything I mashed, mixed and baked just wasn’t the same as a lovely square of sweet and smooth milk chocolate. All my recipes lacked a key ingredient: sugar. I realised the reason that sugar is in everything, because it makes things taste good! Just like salt, it enhances flavour, and without any sugar at all, everything tasted kind of…bland.

And then, just as I was beginning to think my head was going to explode from reading up so much and spending hours baking what can only be described as cardboard, came the next thing a lack of sugar had to offer me: mood swings. My husband can probably attest to this better than I can, as he actually had to live with me during this period (and yes, it was worse than a period ladies) but I was ratty to say the least. I was several days in and my whole body was craving sugar by this point. I was practically dreaming of the stuff. I couldn’t believe how much cutting one little thing out could affect my mood, and it reaffirmed to me so much more just how dependent I had become on my sugar fix.

By the end of the week, I was tired, fed up and definitely in need of a bar of Galaxy. As much as sugar might be bad for you, I’m not sure feeling miserable because you’ve cut it out can be any better. I was very grateful for those first few squares of chocolate, baking things that had flavour again, and basically feeling a lot happier for it too. I don’t regret my week of sugar free, as hard as I found it, because it did teach me that although I don’t feel like I could ever give it up for good (nor would I want to) I definitely do need to cut down on my sugar intake and be more mindful about how addictive it can be, and how bad that must be for me!

So I’m limiting my sugar intake as much as I can and feel willing to. If it doesn’t absolutely need sugar adding to it, I won’t add it. If I use sugar myself, I avoid refined sugars which are supposedly the worst kind (if what’s written on the internet is to be believed, which it probably isn’t, but that’s another battle for another time) and I try to use naturally occurring sugars where possible.

Are you a sugar addict too? Would you ever consider cutting it out of your diet?

Sweet love x