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Remembrance: #WOTW

Remembrance display at a local school
The word remembrance may seem an obvious choice for Word of the Week this week, with Remembrance Sunday being this week. But through the week I've been pondering various thoughts that all fall within the topic of remembrance - 

My eldest son's school always holds a Remembrance assembly each year and whilst we've been aware of it happening, we've never thought anymore about it other than J coming home and reporting on how many kids fainted each year as the whole school squeezes into the hall for it and remains standing for the whole assembly. But this year the school sent an email to parents to explain the essence of the message that they will be sharing during Remembrance assembly which I found myself feeling impressed by - Impressed feels the wrong word but I felt proud of the school for what they were doing and the way they were approaching it.  

Essentially they emphasized that this is not about glorifying war. The school itself has experienced losses to war over the years with the house groups being named in honour of pupils that served and lost their lives in the first world war to losses more recently in the second Gulf War. Young men who are remembered by current teachers at the school. 

I also learnt something I did not know before about how the generals responsible for the signing of the Armistice liked the sound of the poetry in it if the Armistice came into effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. So despite it actually being signed at 2am in the morning and the time it came into effect at 11am that day, over a thousand men lost their lives as the fighting continued. That is added to the nine millon military personnel who lost their lives in the first world war and the sixty to seventy million soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in the second world war. The numbers are almost too big to even begin to comprehend in my mind. 

They went on to explain that this is not something about remembering the past but that there are people within the school community who currently have family members on active tours of duty in conflict scenarios. 

That leads me onto sharing the poem that I find most poignant at this time of year: 

Why are they selling poppies, Mummy? Selling poppies in town today.
The poppies, child, are flowers of love. For the men who marched away.

But why have they chosen a poppy, Mummy? Why not a beautiful rose?
Because my child, men fought and died in the fields where the poppies grow.

But why are the poppies so red, Mummy? Why are the poppies so red?
Red is the colour of blood, my child. The blood that our soldiers shed.

The heart of the poppy is black, Mummy. Why does it have to be black?
Black, my child, is the symbol of grief. For the men who never came back.

But why, Mummy are you crying so? Your tears are giving you pain.
My tears are my fears for you my child. For the world is forgetting again.

Author unknown

It is that last sentence that brings tears to my eyes every time. Yes it is horrendous what has happened in the past. Yes as a nation we made a commitment to those who lost their lives to never forget with Remembrance Sunday. 

But we are forgetting because war continues out there. 

After feeling so deep in thought, it almost doesn't feel right to move onto another topic but the word 'Remembrance' has been in my mind this week for other reasons too...

How quickly we can forget... I found myself feeling irritated at buggies and pushchairs being in the way on the school run this week. I had to catch myself in thought and deliberately remind myself that I was that person not all that long ago when my own children were in pushchairs and more recently when T was using a wheelchair. 

We found ourselves avoiding the train carriage full of children the other day when heading up to Stylist Live and again I remembered that my kids have been the ones causing a disturbance in the past. 

I mention these examples only to remind myself how quick we can be to judge or feel hostile and how easy it is to forget that we too need someones kindness, compassion or understanding at times through our lives.

This week as I've continued to struggle with my back pain, I've also come to realise that our bodies also remember - Since my hip replacement in January, I've worked incredibly hard on my physiotherapy and hydrotherapy excercises in order to build up muscles that had not been properly used in 30 years. I've tried to gradually increase the range of movement in that hip in the hope that it will work independently of my back rather than the repeated strain and injury it keeps causing my back. And yet my body remembers. It remembers the pain of 1987 and how the arthritis literally crippled me, leaving me unable to walk or even move into a position where I could lie in bed at night (I spent around a year sleeping in an upright position on our sofa in the living room when I was 10 years old). 

My body remembers how I had to put pretty much all my weight through my right leg since then when standing. It remembers how I needed to spend as little time as possible putting the weight through my left foot when walking and so my steps were imbalanced. It remembers how my left leg became shorter than the right leg through both the damage caused to the hip joint and how my body distorted itself in order to compensate for the pain and discomfort felt through the left leg causing me to limp for 30 years. 

And now I'm faced with an ongoing daily battle to try to get my muscles, joint and ligaments to forget the pain and the bad habits it caused in the way I walk and sit and move. And whilst I had hoped that it would be a case of mind over matter, it turns out that actually when your hip has not physically been able to move in a certain way for such a long time, that it gets to a point that it physically cannot be made to do so. So I'm desperately seeking answers and ways to get myself beyond this. 

I don't want a new hip that leaves me no better off than the old hip. I don't want to have gone through that hideous surgery only to find it was for nothing. The back pain was the main reason I made the decision to have the hip replacement and the back pain is still there. 

Finally I want to finish on a more positive note. As my husband left with the kids for church this morning, he said to me to 'remember to do something I enjoy first' before tackling all the chores. So I chose to write this blog post. Because I enjoy blogging. And it is something that I'm gradually remembering how much I enjoy because over the past couple of years, blogging took a bit of a back seat as I found that I didn't make time for it in the busy-ness of life.  

I think that is a lesson we all can learn - to remember to make a little time for ourselves each day and ringfence some time for something we enjoy. Easier said than done - I know!


My top 5 stands at Stylist Live 2018

Just a quick post today to share some of my fave finds at Stylist live 2018 which is on this weekend at Olympia. 
I didn't have long to spend there so had to prioritise my time. Even though I deliberately didn't wear make up or do anything to my hair, the queues were already long for the hair and make up places so ended up giving it a miss - But if you do have enough time to queue, there is the opportunity to have hair and make-up done at various places there. 

Instead I enjoyed finding new products and brands and finding out more about some of the brands I already love. 

There are lots of gorgeous items for sale and fabulous foods to try. 

Here are my top 5 stand out stalls to visit:

1) Aruku

Aruku are a recently launched brand making the most stunning backpack-style bags which are smart and stylish enough for the workplace. I totally felt in love with these bags because of my long-term back problems related to my JIA (which my hip replacement earlier this year sadly hasn't resolved), I always need a bag that balances across my bag rather than a 'handbag' style bag. That is the case also for workdays where ordinary backpacks can look rather scruffy. So these bags really fill a gap in the market.

The reason I have this as my number one stand-out stall is the passion that oozed from the founders and creators of the Aruku bag as well as the product being so incredible in itself too!

2) So Just Shop

So Just Shop stock a large variety of items ranging from jewellery, to homeware to accessories and gift items. Everything is handmade and ethically sourced from small artisan producers often in vulnerable communities around the world. With Christmas around the corner So Just shop is the perfect place to find thoughtful gifts.

3. Maya Njie

Maya Njie makes high quality perfumes by mixing scents together drawing on her Swedish and West African roots. There's a fun competition on this stand to guess a mystery fragrance too.

We stopped to watch Dr Rangan Chatterjee's talk on the grow stage. We are big fans after watching him on the BBC series Doctor in the house, then reading his 4 pillar plan book and listening to his podcasts and you tube videos online.

4. Divine Chocolate
I first came across Divine around 20 years ago when I was at University in my module around ethical business and sustainability. I've been a fan and customer ever since and have loved watching them go from strength to strength.

There latest range of organic chocolate in the most delightful flavour combinations was truly amazing. Loved the quinoa and blueberry in particular!

There were loads of brilliant food stalls upstairs that it is hard to choose just a couple of favourites.

For example, I loved the little sample packs of Hippeas as it was great to try a different flavour to what I had previously tasted.

5. Remedy kombucha

But for my final pick in my top 5 at Stylist Live, I'm going to chose Remedy Kombucha. I love kombucha and even occasionally brew my own. It was just so generous of them to be giving out a full size bottle to try for free! I chose the Apple flavour and Richard chose the Raspberry lemonade flavour - both tasted amazing!

So that is my pick of my top 5 from Stylist Live 2018. If you are visiting this weekend, I'd love to hear your favourites. 


Guest posting at Britmums

I'm very excited to have written a guest post for Britmums which you can read here.


GBBO BLOGGERS 2018 - WEEK 10 final - Landscape Bake showstopper

So here we are at the end of GBBO 2018...and that means the final week of #GBBOBloggers2018. I'm so thrilled that I've managed to bake along every week this year. Although I nearly had to miss this final week as my back pain resulting from long-term JIA has really flared up for the past 3 days. Thankfully it is first thing in the morning that it is at its worst and luckily has eased through the morning.

I really really wanted to make Choux pastry at some point this year. It's a pastry that I don't often make but I really do love it and enjoy making it when I do get around to it. I have made some really great profiteroles in the past - beginners luck - without even knowing how they turned out so well.

So the only bake that could possibly lend itself to including Choux in the final this year was the showstopper. Yet my mind drew a blank about what landscape to attempt.

Then I bumped into a friend who had done a road trip this summer - a road trip to Iran (I have Iranian roots so have always wanted to go there) and they had visited the stunning Cappadocia in Turkey along the way.

I've seen photos of Cappadocia online in the past and it is a bucket list destination of mine - So I knew that is what I wanted to attempt. A Cappadocia-like landscape.

I knew it would have to have at least 3 elements to it so I decided upon Choux pastry profiteroles and 'structures' as the main element, shortbread as the base and surrounding the 'pool', with almond praline and a 'caramel' pool of water made from my own alternative version of Caramel. So 4 different elements.

So firstly I made the Choux pastry as follows:
Ingredients for choux pastry:
60g butter
95g flour
120ml water
1 teaspoon caster sugar
pinch of salt
2-3 eggs

To make the profiteroles, pre-heat the oven to 200C. Line a tray with baking paper.

Melt the butter in a pan with the salt, sugar and water. Once it is bubbling add the flour and stir vigorously. Keep on the heat for a minute or so longer whilst doing this. Then take off the heat and keep stirring it to cool it down.

Then the eggs can be added one at a time and beaten in well. I used two and a half eggs. I didn't want the mixture to be too runny.

Then I piped them onto the tray. I wasn't worried about flattening the tips down as I thought it would add to the effect of what I was aiming for if some of them were pointy. I also made a couple of longer ones which I would later stand up as taller structures.

I baked them in the oven at 200C for 15 minutes and opened the door to let steam out and then baked  for a further 15 minutes at 180C. Once cooked I slit the bottom of the profiteroles with a sharp knife and left them to cool slowly in the top oven (oven was off but a little warm).

Once cooled these can be filled either by cutting in half and filling with cream as I did previously or piped through making a little hole in the bottom as we did this time. I left some of them empty for display purposes as we were in a hurry to go out and I didn't have room in the fridge for storing all of the profiteroles once they were filled with cream.

While the profiteroles were cooking and cooling, I made the shortbread:
Ingredients for shortbread:
175g plain flour
175g butter
88g caster sugar
88g semolina

All blitzed together into a crumblike mixture (butter and flour first, then semolina and sugar) then pressed into a tin and cooked.

This ideally needs 30-35 minutes at 160C but as the oven was hotter whilst cooking profiteroles I reduced the cooking time to around 20 minutes.

To make my 'pool' I used a cheesecake ring to cut a circle into the shortbread and place it in the oven like this so it would cook with that ring in place.

My kitchen was a right mess by the time I'd finished - this is just one part of the production process!

Next I made the alternative caramel sauce. I love making a healthier version of caramel by heating together cashew nut butter with coconut oil and maple syrup but as I had some sunflower seed butter that I needed to use up, I decided to change the recipe to 50g sunflower seed butter, 30g coconut oil and 50g set honey. I found it tasted similar to halva so I made the almond praline to complement it.

The almond praline was made by heating coconut sugar until melted and mixed with roasted flaked almonds then left to cool (20g of each).

I wanted my backdrop to be made from edible ingredients too so I mixed together some icing with food colouring and made a backdrop of a sky filled with hot air balloons like so many of the photos of Cappadocia that I had seen online:
Cappadocia balloons; image from www.hurriyetdailynews.com

Finally it was assembly time. I've used a couple of cocktail sticks for the profiteroles but I was pleased that the two taller Choux towers were able to stand just using a little of my 'caramel' at the base to hold them in place.

The crumbs from the shortbread sprinkled on top helped add to the sandy-looking landscape too.

Linking up with Mummy Mishaps and Casa Costello for #GBBObloggers2018 and #GBBOBakeoftheweek:

Mummy Mishaps

My previous 2018 GBBO blogger bakes can be found as follows:
Week 1 - Biscuit Week - Cornish Fairings
Week 2 - Cake Week - Cardamom, Pear and Caramel Traybake
Week 3 - Bread Week - Lemon Marmalade Chelsea Buns
Week 4 - Dessert Week - Triple Raspberry Meringue Roulade
Week 5 - Spice Week - Ma'amool
Week 6 - Pastry Week - Sweet and Savoury Samosas
Week 7 - Vegan Week - Vegan Lemon and Poppyseed cake
Week 8 - Danish Week - Alternative Aebleskiver
Week 9 - Patisserie Week - Free from madeleines


Bloggers Brunch at Three Little Birds

Last Saturday me and D set off to Clapham to Three Little Birds, the newest venue opened by April Jackson following the success of her first Jamaican inspired restaurant Three Little Birds in Brixton.

Located on Battersea Rise, the venue is easy to find not far from Clapham Junction station. It must have been the coldest day so far this Autumn and so we were relieved to arrive and find a warm sunny spot by the front window.

I was welcomed by the lovely Calia with a little taste of Appleton Rum.

I have a habit of arriving early...so it meant I could snap some photos of the bar before the crowds arrived.

We got introduced to Don Papa Rum and OMG it was so sweet and delicious with those caramel flavours. 

April herself brought round several of the dishes. Here she is introducing us to the Avo Crostinis.

We also got to taste Ackee Spoon as well as the traditional Jamaican dish Ackee and Saltfish. 

Ackee is a fruit, which is actually poisonous before it ripens. I'd never eaten it before and it had a soft scrambled-egg like texture.  I didn't try the Ackee and Saltfish because I've not been eating meat or fish since May this year - but D did eat some and enjoyed it. 

It was banana pancakes next. These may have been small pancakes but were totally delicious little bites!

D also enjoyed Mini Jerk Chicken burger (which again I couldn't try because of the meat). With the jerk seasoning, these were on the spicier side but I was told by those around me that they were also very tasty. 

And finally the tastiest carrot cake ever! 
Carrot cake has to be one of my favourite types of cake and this was actually the best carrot cake I have ever tasted for sure. So moist and so flavoursome. I would have loved to know the recipe to attempt to recreate it at home.

So that brought us to the end of a fabulous foodie outing for me and D.

With many thanks to April, Cali and the team at Three Little Birds for making us feel so welcome. This really is a great spot to dine if you're missing the sunshine and want to soak up some sunny Jamaican vibes! 


GBBO Week 9: Patisserie Week - My Free From Madeleines

I can't believe that GBBO 2018 is coming to an end - which means that sadly #gbbobloggers2018 is also coming to an end.

Yet I'm really pleased that I've managed to bake along every single week thus far.

When I saw that the signature challenge was madeleines I fist pumped the air because unlike last week's aebleskiver, this week I did actually own the right type of baking vessel needed for madeleines.

A few years ago I bought 2 Madeleine tins which you can read about here and I attempted madeleines a couple of times until I had succeeded in making them.

So it was very tempting to reblog that recipe for this week's bake along. But I actually wanted to get more use out of the madeleine tins as I haven't used them since then. So I decided to make a new batch of madeleines and I really wanted to see if I could create a recipe that was gluten free and refined sugar-free. I made a last minute decision to use coconut oil in place of butter too so they also happen to be dairy free.

Ingredients for madeleine batter:

2 eggs
60g coconut sugar
100g free from fairy plain flour
Three quarters of a teaspoon of baking powder
45g coconut oil (melted) plus extra for greasing the tin

Ingredients for the white chocolate:
Cocoa butter
Vanilla powder
Himalayan salt
Coconut milk
Set honey

Freeze dried raspberry pieces to sprinkle on top.

Ingredients for the 'milk' chocolate:
Cocoa butter
Vanilla powder
Himalayan salt
Coconut milk
Set honey
Cacao powder

Roasted chopped hazelnuts to sprinkle on top.

1. Whisk together the eggs and the coconut sugar until thick and a little fluffy. It is harder to tell when it is ready as the coconut sugar gives it a light brown colour. With regular caster sugar it would ordinarily turn "pale and fluffy".

2. Carefully fold in the flour and baking powder then fold in the coconut oil.

3. Knowing how important it is to chill the mixture after my previous experience of making madeleines I placed the bowl of batter in the fridge. Probably for around half an hour. I began to preheat the oven to 200C at this point.

What I had discovered before was that the madeleines worked better when the batter was placed in the madeleine tins and chilled in the freezer for a short while before cooking. However there was no room in my freezer to do this today. I was also conscious that coconut oil solidifies very quickly when chilled so I didn't want to risk the batter becoming solid. So the short time the batter had in the fridge worked fine.

It is a pretty cold day today so as I greased the madeleine tins with melted coconut oil, I noticed that the oil was solidifying. I dusted the trays with a little gluten free plain flour then gave each one a short chill in the fridge before adding the batter to them.

4. I placed approximately a teaspoon of the batter into each of the scallop shaped wells in the tins. I had enough batter for 21 madeleines. It is really important not to overfill them as they do expand and so you don't want them to overflow and lose their shape.

5. Place in the oven at 200c for 6-8 minutes. It can be tricky to see when they are done as both the flour (being a lovely wholesome free from flour from the Free From Fairy) and the coconut sugar both make this a brown-looking bake. So I used a skewer to test when done.

6. I was thrilled that I got the scallop imprint AND a bump! I cooled them on a cooling rack whilst making the chocolate.

To make the homemade chocolate:

1. In a bain marie melt 100g of cocoa butter (either use cocoa butter drops or chop a block of cocoa butter into small pieces first)

2. Once the cacao butter has melted remove from the heat and add 40g of set honey, a sprinkle of vanilla powder and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt. Mix well.

3. Add 60g of coconut milk using mainly the thick creamy part from a tin of coconut milk.

4. Divide the mixture into two. In one half add 15g of cacao powder. This will become the milk chocolate. I also found this needed a bit more coconut milk - approximately another 40g added to it.

5. As it was a cold day I found my chocolate was quickly solidifying before I had dipped my madeleines. If this happens, it can be easily re-melted using a bain-marie.

6. I dipped the madeleines in the chocolate - some in the milk chocolate and some in the white chocolate and sprinkled with roasted chopped hazelnuts and free-dried raspberries respectively. Then placed them on baking paper for the chocolate to set. 

I had lots of spare chocolate left so poured it into little plastic moulds to make some chocolate 'bars'.

I'm used to eating bakes made with alternative flours and alternatives to sugar so to me they tasted great. But the kids said they would prefer normal madeleines. They did taste a teeny bit 'dry' so would be perfect with a jam, coulis or curd to eat with them for added moisture. Or if you're not too worried about sugar content then a drizzle made with icing sugar in place of the chocolate would probably add more moisture to them.

Overall I was thrilled with how they turned out because I had no idea if this recipe would work as I made it up as I went along!

Linking up with Mummy Mishaps and Casa Costello for #GBBObloggers2018 and #GBBOBakeoftheweek:

Mummy Mishaps