Things I always do and always regret. No 1: Eating my lunch before 11.30am.

Cry. I’ve done it again.

I thought to myself, just one little mouthful of that delicious luncheon sitting lovingly prepared in your bag can’t hurt.  You will be good this time.  You will put the lid back on your smart little tupperware and save the rest for later.

Lies.

Once again, I ate all my lunch at 11am this morning and now I’m really hungry and there’s nothing I can do about it.

So many regrets.

Yoga Stops Traffick

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On Sunday I went to a charity yoga event called Yoga Stops Traffick, which is in aid of an amazing charity, Odanadi which helps rescue women and children from human trafficking (slavery).

It was genuinely one of the best experiences I have ever had, but oh my goodness gracious me – it is now Thursday and my hamstrings still feel like they have been ripped to pieces and then stuck back together clumsily with super glue.  Not only are they sore, but I cannot touch my toes. Or sit down without wincing.  What a baby!

Yoga Reading ran the event and made the dance studio we were practicing in very pretty indeed.  Lots of fairy lights and incense and happy throws.  And, of course, happy people.

We completed our 108 sun salutations, (yes, that’s right – 108 sun salutations), and then relaxed with some yin yoga and yoga nihdra, which was like floating on a cloud.  This was rounded off nicely with more cake and chai tea than anyone knew what to do with.  I could not stop grinning.

Over £700 was raised from this one event – and there were hundreds of yogis all across the world putting on similar events all at the same time. Magic!  I can’t wait to find out what we raised in total for this wonderful charity saving lives in Mysore, India.

It was the happiest way to spend a Sunday morning, and I would thoroughly recommend anyone and everyone to participate next year.  Or at least have a look at the charity website :)

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Balsamic and Garlic Sauce

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Neither language I have a decent grasp of could express how delicious this gnocchi is, but I will give it a good shot.

English: Mmmmm, bloomin’ marvellous! Oh my! Get in my greedy belly!

German: Lecker! Ach, echt echt lecker! Viel viel besser als Späztle… Nur einen Scherz – nichts ist besser als Spätzle.

So, get cracking.  There will be no regrets, and because it is dee-lissshhhh-ussss the calories don’t count. Promise.

You will need:

About two hours.

A large-ish sweet potato.

Some flour of your choice.

An egg.

Ground cinnamon.

Ground nutmeg.

Sea-salt.

A large enough space to get dirty, and nobody around to get angry at your mess.

Balsamic vinegar.

Rosemary (or sage).

Olive oil (or butter).

Garlic.

A decent film to watch while you are waiting for things to get done.

An apron.  Expect flour in your hair.

To make the gnocchi friends:

  1. Stab your sweet potato and put it in the microwave for 10 mins, if you have one.  If not, put it straight in a hot oven (approx 180 degrees).  If you put it in the microwave first, put it in the oven after.  Bake until it smells like heaven and is squishy when you poke it with something.
  2. Cut the potato in half and scoop its insides into a large mixing bowl.  Leave to cool for as long as you can tolerate.  I put mine outside the front door because it is freezing out there, and I am horrendously impatient.  I wouldn’t recommend doing this.
  3. When the potato is cooled, mix in your salt, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.  I put a fair bit in mine ’cause I like things spicy. Ha.  Then mix in your egg.  You should now have a gloopy old mess.
  4. Now, the really scientific bit happens.  There is no precise measurement for the flour because I just kept adding it until it looked right.  From previous experience, if you use a set amount of flour, it almost always ends up too much and the gnocchi results in being bullet hard, and not the desired downy soft.  So, gently pour in a small mound of flour and fold into the mixture.  Keep doing this, baby step by baby step, until you get a malleable dough which doesn’t leave an imprint when you poke it with your finger.  It should be very soft, but not so sticky that you can’t turn it out onto a worktop and do things to it.  Ultimately, the more flour you put in, the stodgier the gnocchi will be once you cook it.
  5. Once you have your desired dough, turn it out onto a very floury worktop and shape into a ball.  Cut into 4.

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6.   Gently roll these dough-lumps into long sausage-like strips about the width of your thumb.  Use as much flour as you need on the work surface and your hands so that it doesn’t stick everywhere.

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7.   Cut the dough-sausage into pieces at regular intervals, then use a clean fork to lightly press them.  These little grooves will make you look like a pro, and make the gnocchi hold onto the sauce better.  But mainly make you look like a pro.  As you can see, I am far too impatient to do this stage very well, so I haven’t reached pro-status yet.

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8.   Boil a large pan of water (or a small pan if you only have a small pan.  It doesn’t make an awful amount of difference), and then put your gnocchi babies in to cook.  This has to be gently gently gently or they will all smoosh together.  Cook for about 3 minutes, and then remove with one of those strainy type utensils that I don’t know the name of.

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Yeah, one of those.

9.   Now you are the proud creator of some gnocchi-of-dreams, leave it in a bowl/pan in eye sight so you can lovingly admire it every now and then.  Meanwhile, slug a decent amount of oil into a deep frying pan, or similar.  Finely chop the garlic and whack it in with the oil, heating until the garlic has a nice brown tinge.  I added my rosemary at this point, but I also think sage would go down a treat too.

10.  Put your gnocchi in the pan with the oil and garlic and leave it sitting there happily for about 2 minutes while it browns itself.

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11. Turn the heat off and stir in a healthy swish of balsamic vinegar.

12. Eat.  Only share with people you really love, or want to impress.  Put the most on your own plate.

I served mine with the scrag ends of some kale we had lying in the fridge.  It was good, but fresh spinach would be better.  Or rocket.

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Please send me any recommendations you have to improve this recipe.  I am interested in creating a vegan option, so keep your eyes peeled…

Enjoy! And don’t blame me for the monumental mess in your kitchen.

Get off the table, Carlos.

Positive Procrastination

So, after months of blog-neglecting I have decided to write again.  Why? Positive Procrastination, of course!

Sitting in this very chilly library on a Saturday afternoon, surrounded by red-bull fuelled, desperation sweating, bleak looking students I have been inspired. I don’t know what that says about me…but there you go.

Quite a lot has changed since last September, it has to be said.  For one, I got accepted by Teach First to become an Early Years teacher (3-7 year olds for the people not so familiar with education sector jargon).  Half of me is proud, the other half is terrified.  I plan to document my TF experience in a separate blog as to not bore the pants off any old unsuspecting reader not interested in phonics or the development of major motor skills.

And, I am nearly at the end of my degree! It’s taken long enough, and now the end is very much in sight.  Fourth year has been far harder than I ever imagined it could be, and I have very nearly lost the plot entirely, but 9557 words into my dissertation, I have the sneaking hope creeping up in me that I may actually be able to do this.  Boo-ya.

Most importantly, we got a cat.  He is called Carlos, naturally, and I am looking forward to summer so we can host a tequila night and dress him up in a mini sombrero.

Now – down to business.  The topic of my title-piece.  Positive Procrastination has not been writing this, but reading the fabulous blog of a family friend who is cycling 2710km to Spain to raise money for MNDA and to support another family friend who lives with this disease.  Un-bloody-believable effort.  Read all about how fantastic this is here.

Unfortunately, I cannot join in with any of the festivities, or go and cheer them over the finishing line in Spain, as I am furiously studying for my finals.  But, this does not mean that I will not be there in spirit.  I am so inspired by their sheer determination to try and defeat a disease which can only be described as devastating, and I am so proud to even be able to call them ‘family friends’.  (Argh. Am in serious danger of crying. Blame it on the stress.)

Anyway. Back to what I’m meant to be doing, so I can finish degree-land and progress to amazing post-grad land where I can dedicate some time to being as awesome and inspirational as Howard, Andy and Dave are.

I’ll leave you with a picture of fat-cat Carlos. Just because.

Carlos Saturday Chillin'

Cheers William (Blake)

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The Sick Rose

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

Don’t be the sick rose today pals. When you encounter your invisible worm, tell it to poke it, whatever or whoever it may be.

I hope you enjoy the September sunshine on this beautiful Thursday evening!

Love ya,
Jo

Workshop Wednesday: Coffee Tables

We all know that one of the most important things in life is coffee.  

So, it therefore goes without saying that coffee tables are an absolutely essential piece of furniture for any self respecting human being.  Even more so if you are in your early twenties when you wish to portray yourself as:

a) really grown up and having some sort of grip on your life;

b) completely financially secure and not having to stash gin in your handbag on a night out because you can’t afford bar prices;

and

c) an extremely cool young thing who prefers nights out to nights in, and doesn’t wear bed socks (coffee table magazines work wonders for your street cred).

With this in mind, the day we moved into our new house we decided that it was time we invested in a coffee table.  Before we had even thought about unpacking, cleaning, or food shopping – it was that important – we trundled along Broad Street in Reading, perusing every charity shop that came under our radar for our new coveted living room essential.  Alas, we were unlucky and went to Argos to buy a kettle instead, where, like divine providence, a battered and bruised runt of the litter coffee table was there ready for us to rescue.  Because it was so ugly, it had been reduced from £100 down to £25, but it was completely functional and made of solid pine.  We snapped that beauty up and Sam had to carry it on his shoulders  through throngs of bemused shoppers, the mile back to our house.  Totally worth the weird looks.

And this is where the fun started.

In poundland, we bought some paint brushes, and although they are not tippety-top quality, they did they job just fine.

In homebase, we bought some furniture paint. It took a whole half hour to decide between three different shades of white.

In TKMaxx, we bought some door knobs.  They are really fun and make me happy.

Whilst Sam was at work, I set to work shining this minger of a table into something chic-ish.  Being completely over-excited and impatient I firstly made lots of mess…

Silly girl, remember your 6 P's

Silly girl, remember your 6 P’s

…and then I discovered the virtues of newspaper.  I would recommend covering everything you own, including yourself, in newspaper.  Try to paint evenly and smoothly, and not flicky (even if it makes you feel like you are on Changing Rooms), because you will end up with paint all over the sofas and in your hair otherwise.

I knew The Daily Mail could be useful for something!

I finished my fast track to adult life with the shiny new door knobs (once the paint had dried, of course).  They came in a pack of four, so I am excited to find a use for the two left over.  Suggestions very welcome!

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The finished product.

IMG_2610This little beacon of adult life is now bedecked with candles, a scrabble board and a couple of well placed magazines, just in case any one decides to drop by for a coffee. And if they don’t like coffee or pop culture, we could always drink cheap cider and dance to Kasabian instead.

Saturday breakfast deliciousness

This is a good day already.  I made myself a bowl of happiness to kick start what is going to be 24 hours of very messy smiles, dancing, drinking and catching up with family and friends.

And, it’s Grandad’s 89th birthday! Happy birthday Grandad!

My favourite human

My favourite human

So, I present to you my BulgarWheat-Quinoa-Oat-CoconutMilk-Honey-Lavender-Cranberry PORRIDGE!  A big ol’ bowl filled with creamy, sweet yum (which is more like pudding for breakfast, than healthy for breakfast).

Breakfast!

Pretty colours to guarantee a smile :)

Delicious treat ingredients:

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Coconut milk (super bargain!)  

Bulgar wheat and quinoa mix (no Tesco publicity intended.  Sainos do a perfectly good mix too.)

Bulgar wheat and quinoa mix (no Tesco publicity intended. Sainos do a perfectly good mix too.)

Cranberries

Cranberries

Honey

Honey

Lavender from Grandma Williams' garden

Lavender from Grandma Williams’ garden

How to make these delicious treats:

  1. Measure your desired amount of quinoa and bulgar wheat mix, and a splash of oats if you wish, into a pan.  Then pour the right-ish amount of coconut milk over the top.  I am incredibly lazy and never ever measure.  If it starts to look too runny, add more oats/quinoa; if it starts looking too thick, add more coconut milk.  Eeeeez-eh.
  2. Cook on a low heat for 20-ish minutes, until the connection starts to resemble thick, creamy porridge.  Stir the whole time, or you will end up with a washing up nightmare.  Ain’t nobody got time for dat.
  3. Pour your yum into a bowl.  The prettier the better.
  4. Add a generous spoonful of honey, a handful of cranberries and sprigs of lavender on the top.
  5. Eat.
  6. Smile.

Clearly, you can add whatever you like on the top, but this is just what we had in the cupboard (because we cannot be bothered to go shopping).  I think blackberries would also be a yum option, but hurry hurry!  They are on the turn and you will not be able to pick them in the hedgerows for much longer.

I hope you have a beautiful Saturday!

Love ya,

Jo

Lovechock

Seeing as I am a self confessed chocoholic, but also a wannabe healthy human, I have been battling huge standoffs between carrots and Cadburys, and have been finding it increasingly hard to stay away from the brown stuff.  Because it is good.  Because it nurtures my soul.  Because it speaks to me in languages only my heart understands.

And then, voila, like a gift from the Gods, Instagram guided me towards Lovechock, and it was fabulous.  Raw chocolate, with no sugar; milk, soy and gluten free; certified healthy credentials; eco-friendly and fair-trade?! Urm, yes please.  Get in my greedy little mits.

Okay, I am an absolute sucker for packaging and this little bundle of joy serves to do nothing but make you smile.  The bright, swirly designs might make you think you’re being naughty, but even the ink is organic.  Under the cardboard outer, the chocolate is wrapped in a compostable foil, which you could put on your compost heap along with your carrot peelings if you so wished.

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I will not describe to you the joyous pleasure of eating this deliciousness, as I could not do it justice.  To put it simply, I love dark chocolate and there is not an exception here.  It is beautiful.

‘Happiness Inside’ is what my little brown box told me, and inside revealed that Cacao was the ‘food of love’.  I want to be happy and I want to love.  Full stop.  This is medicine, not a treat.

A letter of thanks to my Mother

To my darling Mum,

Where to begin?  One whole year has passed since I got to talk to you last.  A whole year since you told me to “stop being annoying” whilst I clambered all over your bed, and a whole year since we had naughty lines of chocolate together.  A year since you plaited my hair for the last time, and since you last watched an episode of Holby City.  It feels like yesterday that you laughed at me because I was training for a half marathon, yet here I am a year later, having not heeded any of your warnings about arthritis in my knees, training for another half marathon, but this time in your name.

You are beautiful.  Easter 2013.

You are beautiful. Easter 2013.

And, in only one year, it seems as though everything has changed.  I am not the same person you left standing at your bedside.  Our family are not the same wild things they always were (Dad learned to cook – and rather well, too!).  But you will always remain the same.  Forever you will be wonderful.  Not one breath of time can corrupt the darling memories of you in our hearts, and that is truly fabulous.

You and Dad in Innsbruck.

You and Dad in Innsbruck.

When you left, everybody told me how sorry they were for losing you.  But, they are wrong!  I don’t recall ever having lost you last year – not like that time I lost you in Homebase when I was six and hid in the cement section crying, waiting for you to come and find me.  No, we didn’t lose you; we couldn’t mislay something so precious as you.

Reppin' the 1998 cool

Reppin’ the 1998 cool

And how could you possibly be lost when I see you so clearly about me in everything I do?  What those people don’t know is that the reason I don’t wear makeup is because you told me it was pointless.  And that the perfume I wear religiously every day smells of you.  You are there when I wake up and eat weetabix, and when I climb into bed at night with a good book.  It is because of you that I have such a profound respect of diamonds, and that I wear sunscreen every day for fear of damaging the good skin genetics which you gave me.  I treasure the fact that you taught me that it is okay for women to drink pints of beer, and how to always get what you want in the end, without stamping your foot.  Even my dissertation oozes your personality – Greek Mythology and poetry – you introduced me to that world of wonder first.

Gal pals

Gal pals

I want to thank you Muma bear on this anniversary of me seeing you last, for always being a shining light in a very confusing world.  Thank you for your excellent taste in music so that I may have a soundtrack to see me through the very many uphills of life.  Thank you for not caring about fashion so that I could see past the superficiality of our contemporary world.  Thank you for being so naturally beautiful so that I may always be content in my own skin.  Thank you for the painstaking cooking lessons and onion chopping masterclasses (I will never be able to recreate your olive bread).  Thank you for your never ending kindness and good humour so that I can remember in my brattish strops what I should really be doing.  Thank you for putting every human on this planet before yourself and protecting us with your love.

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Even though you are not here with me, every day you continue to teach me something new; I am only sorry that I didn’t listen to you sooner because life would have been a lot easier.  You will be glad to know that I now understand your love of torrential summer rain.  Feeling warm raindrops splash against your face and neck and arms and clothes and legs, and not caring about how wet you are getting, is great.  Even better is that I have also discovered your food-shopping-whilst-the-world-cup-is-on trick – AMAZING! You are a genius!  And you are right, England are pants at football anyway – there’s no need to watch it.

Holiday fun.

Holiday fun.

My only request in this coming year is that you never stop teaching me new things.  You were right about everything (annoying as it is to admit), and your advice would go down a treat when we don’t know how to work the boiler in our new  house, or when I’ve broken six consecutive needles in your sewing machine in under half an hour, or when I’m poorly sick and need some magic medicines only Mums know the recipe to.

But, most of all, thank you for telling my stroppy ten year old self, who was annoyed with her siblings and wanted to go to boarding school, that although you couldn’t pick your family, you should cherish them with all you possess, for one day you will need them more than the air that you breathe.  You couldn’t have predicted a truer future.

You are the best things.

You are the best things

I miss you.

Love,

JJ

 

Good genes run in the family.

Good genes run in the family.

 

Seeing in 2013 together.

Seeing in 2013 together.