Thursday, 29 August 2013

Barbados: the little details


One of the things I love about visiting new places is the way my senses are awakened by the sights, sounds and smells of being somewhere other than home. From the moment we arrived on the Caribbean Island to the moment we left, I tried to take in those nuances of being in a different country, imprint them on my memory, so that even though the memories of our holiday will fade, perhaps a little bit more of the details will remain with me this time.

As we stepped off the plane and felt the tropical heat, I remembered how the thickness of the heat can feel enveloping, and there is nothing more refreshing than endless glasses of iced water, to contrast with the incredible heat. This was something I really appreciated about the hospitality and customer service in Bajan restaurants - you don't have to ask for water - they take it as a given that you will be drinking water, and from the moment you sit down, to the moment you finish your meal, they ensure your glass is never empty of iced water. As someone who orders a glass of water every time I go for coffee, and could happily drink water and nothing else, this service was divine.

I want to remember the rhythmic sound of the waves as they crashed on the seashore, the ever consistent pull of the tide being a paradox of calming consistency and a powerful force to be reckoned with. And the blue shades of the sea? It never ceases to amaze me.
I want to remember how quickly the sun sets, and how the sound of the thumbnail-sized frogs as they sung their evening chorus which welcomed dusk and continued through the night, belied their tiny size. Seriously, these frogs can make an incredible sound, and did so without fail, every evening.
John was quite skilled at finding these miniature wonders. They were not keen on light, so as soon as the torch light lit them up, they would stop singing. I liked the tenacity of this little one though - rather than being perturbed by the light - he simply turned his back on us and continued his singing.

One of the wonderfully unexpected aspects of this holiday was the turtles. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I was a little bit enamoured by the hundreds of baby turtles that were hatching on the beach by our hotel, almost every evening of our holiday. I may well devote an entire blog post to writing about them, they were that incredible, but for now, I'll share just one photo of them. I want to remember the way they reminded us of wind-up toys - as soon as they emerged from their nest, their flippers started paddling back and forth for hours on end, doing what came instinctively to them, and what was necessary for them to move from the land to the sea to begin their onward journey.
On our first night back at home, I was taken aback by just how quiet everything was. No gentle hum of the air conditioning, no chorus of miniature frogs celebrating their favourite time of day, no sound of waves lapping the shore. Just a silence which I had forgotten we lived with. I love that there is a peacefulness to be found in both the silence and the ambient sounds, and that this Summer, it has been a joy to relish in the tranquil sounds of nature, as well as being reminded of how much I love silence as I sleep. (I am fully aware that silence + sleeping are not exactly synonymous with having a baby, and I am ok with that too.)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

3 years of marriage

Today marks the anniversary of our wedding day. As I said my vows on the 28th August 2010, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my days with. And that certainty stands just as firm today, as it did back then. In fact, I would say that it is even more true now than it was then. Life brings with it so many different seasons and storms, and it is only as you weather each and every one of them that you can feel the reality of living out those wedding vows.
On our second wedding anniversary, as we anticipated what might lie ahead in our third year, we hoped that we might find a home to call our own, that would provide us with a bit more space to grow our family. Today, I am writing this blog post from the very home that we dreamed of, and can now call our own, along with the frequent kicks of our daughter, who is steadily growing inside me. Of course, these are not the only noteable changes that have taken place in the last year, but they have felt like significant milestones and we have learnt a lot about each other in the processes of moving home and growing a baby. I cannot wait to see how our lives will change over the next year of our marriage, as we navigate the unknown paths of parenthood, and all that that will mean for our marriage and learning to love one another well through it all. 

Monday, 12 August 2013

summer smoothie recipe

I have mentioned smoothies a number of times recently and I have been enjoying them as a great way to start the morning. Before I go swimming, I whip up a smoothie, or drink what is left from the previous day, and find that is just the right thing to give me energy to swim without making me feel full. For a long time, I used almond milk as the liquid base in smoothies, but have recently been opting for orange juice instead. In these Summer months, orange juice feels more refreshing than almond milk. I am drinking a glass of the Summer Citrus Smoothie as I write this, and thoroughly enjoying it, so thought I would share the recipe while it is still fresh in my head & zingy in my mouth!

Summer Citrus Smoothie (makes about 1 litre / 4 tumblers worth)
ingredents
1 banana
2-3 rings chopped pineapple
1 medium sized mango
juice of 2 oranges + extra 250ml of orange juice from a carton
juice of half a lemon
1 - 2 tablespoons chia seeds

method
Put all of the ingredients in a blender then blitz until smooth!

notes
+ Chia seeds are not essential but add a whole lot of goodness & you can't actually taste them

+ If I ever have bananas that have started to turn black, I peel them, chop them up and freeze them, ready to add to a smoothie.

+ I often buy pineappples when they are on offer at the supermarket or green grocers, but struggle to finish them, so freezing them provides the perfect solution, and means when you put them in a smoothie, you don't need to add crushed ice, because the frozen fruit is cold enough to chill the smoothie perfectly.

+ On this occasion I used a mixture of fresh oranges and ready-squeezed orange juice, simply because I had oranges I needed to use up before going on holiday, but not enough for the quantity of fruit I was using. It's entirely up to you whether you squeeze your own OJ or pour it from a carton.

Friday, 9 August 2013

adventure time

Well, dear friends, I am off on holiday with the King family. So all will be quiet around here for the next two weeks while we enjoy life in the Caribbean. It has been almost three years since John and I went there for our honeymoon, and I am thoroughly looking forward to enjoying Barbados once again. I absolutely love going on holiday abroad, from the time in the airport, to the feeling during take off, and the expectation of how the heat will feel when we step off the aeroplane. I am thankful that flying at this stage of pregnancy is totally feasible, and I am intrigued to see if Baby King's movements are affected by the flight. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you enjoy whatever adventures you have in the next couple of weeks. I'll be back soon to share snapshots of ours.
{view of Culpepper island from the helicopter tour we took on our Honeymoon. John adores the little hermit crabs that live on the tiny island.}

Thursday, 8 August 2013

pregnancy @ 25 weeks

{skirt made by my brilliant Mum in less than a day}

wearing stretchy skirts & vest tops

drinking plenty of water and smoothies

swimming every day (I am not a great swimmer but I'm quickly learning to love it in pregnancy)

enjoying the feeling of the mini King moving

dreaming slightly crazy dreams (last night, a giant moth featured in all of the dreams I had)

loving knowing that we will be having a daughter

grateful for Pilates and its power to relieve lower back pain

reading this article

excited about two whole weeks of holiday time with John 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

lemon curd

You know how we make strong memories and associations between experiences and our senses? Like, when you smell a certain perfume, it will remind you of a certain person or special occasion? Well, for me, lemon curd is synonymous with my Grandad. I remember eating his home made lemon curd for breakfast, and wondering how it was possible to make something so beautifully sweet and smooth from a fruit that had a waxy exterior and a bitter interior. His lemon curd was beautiful, and I know that I am not the only one to remember with fondness the lemon curd he used to make.

So, when I found myself with 6 spare egg yolks needing to find a home after making chocolate pavlova, I didn't need to think twice about what I would use them for. It had to be lemon curd. Every time, this is the recipe that wins out over making fresh custard or protein heavy omelette, with the leftover yolks.
I like to think of lemon curd as sunshine & summer wrapped up in a jar. The sweetness & citrus sing of summer to me, and the song tastes beautiful. 

ingredients (makes 2 jars / approx. 500 ml)
250ml / 1 cup freshly squeezed lemons (I used 6 lemons, but I don't have a good lemon juicer)
250g / 1 cup caster (or granulated) sugar
4 eggs
4 yolks
170g / 12 tbsp unsalted butter
2 clean, sterilised glass jars

method
1) Place all of the ingredients into a medium sized sauce pan, and heat over a low temperature, stirring continually with a rubber spatula to prevent the curd sticking to the bottom of the pan.
2) The curd is ready when it is the consistency of fudge, and leaves a trail when you drizzle some off the back of the spatula - you don't want it to reach boiling point.
3) Remove the pan from the heat and pour the curd through a fine metal sieve into a bowl to strain out any little bits of egg that have become scrambled in the heating process.
4) Decant the curd into your sterilised jars and enjoy immediately on some fresh buttered toast.

Monday, 5 August 2013

weekend roundup


Our-Weekends-Titled

Happy Monday, friends! It feels a little bit like August has crept up on us, and has taken off incredibly quickly, with one very busy weekend. As is often the case when life gets busy, my camera hardly got a look in, as I was too engrossed in enjoying all of the little moments. Here's the recap:

{1} On Friday night we drove to London, which took way longer than normal, due to road closures and crashes on the motorway. After five hours of driving, an enormous amount of rain, and an incredible array of rainbows, we finally arrived in Brixton to celebrate the birthday of one of our friends.

{2 & 3} Less than 12 hours after we had arrived in London, we left again. I love looking at all of the buildings and architecture as we drive out of London, and I particularly love the look of this little cupcake boutique, Storm in a Cupcake.

{4} Our next destination was a little village called Goring 60 miles outside of London, where John's grandparents live. It's a pretty little village with a lot of character and charm.

{5} The bumble bees absolutely love all of the flora in John's grandparents' beautiful garden. I would love to keep honey bees, and so we asked John's Grandad for some wisdom from his bee keeping days. Sadly, we learned about the plight of the honey bees in England, and he strongly advised us against attempting to try keeping bees anytime soon.

{6} John's grandparents are about to move out of their home, which has the most wonderful view of the River Thames (photo number 6 is the view from their garden), and we made the most of the snippets of sunshine after lunch, taking the time to sit in the garden by the river.

{7} After lunch on Saturday, we drove a little way to visit John's grandmother, who is currently in hospital, then drove back to Bristol to spend the evening eating a roast dinner with friends.

{8}This week marked a bit of a milestone in turning our desert into a garden. We finally saw the back of about about 300 bags of rubble, and started the process of laying soil to create foundations for growing some grass. I know our 'garden' looks incredibly unexciting at this stage, but it will be wonderful to look back on how far we have come in bringing life and beauty to it, over the next few years.

{9} By Sunday, we were back in Bristol, and I took a trip with a few friends to a car boot sale, where I picked up a whole bundle of children's books for £1 (those pictured are my favourites from the selection). I absolutely love buying children's books, and have built up a good little collection over the last few years. I love buying them even more, now that we have the prospect of children to share them with!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

on running in pregnancy

I have written about running a good number of times over the years that I have been blogging. Running is something that I have done since Secondary School, when the 1500 metre race felt like the longest running distance achieveable, and was the race that everyone hated. I always ended up doing it, not knowing that in the years to come I would learn to run for miles and miles. At university I wanted to keep fit in some way but could not afford the extortionate membership fees that my university gym charged, so I ran. I ran because I needed to stretch my legs, to feel the elements, to take care of my body in a way that cost me nothing but provided me with great gain that I had not anticipated.
{view on a run in St David's when I was 6 weeks into pregnancy}

During my running days at university, I found a running buddy at church - the mum of three young children who somehow had enough energy to come running with me before she took her children to school. In running together, we realised that we could run further than we ever thought possible, and so we trained to run half marathons together. I found that as I ran, God would teach me about all kinds of things. He would teach me about my character and my capacity; about His great beauty and the great strength He has put in our bodies. And I realised how much the physical process of running helped me to understand the Biblical principle of running with perseverance.
{Enjoying the sun on a run at 7 weeks}

While my running schedule has ebbed and flowed over the years, it has always served as a sweet form of release for me. Even on those runs that I have hated and struggled through, I know that they have helped me in some way. I have found that the way I feel when I run is often quite a good reflection of the state of my heart, and if things feel hard and sluggish, there is every likelihood that there are things going on in my life that need to be dealt with. Running is the form of exercise that I always come back to, time and again, and get a lot of enjoyment from filling my ears with music and my lungs with air as my feed gain ground in the physical sense, while my heart processes life and gains ground in an emotional and spiritual sense.
{running record over the last 7 months}

I knew from before I was pregnant that, should I ever find myself with child, I wanted to stay fit, for all of the obvious reasons around staying healthy in general, not just in pregnancy, but also to help physically prepare in some small way for the marathon of labour that awaits at the end of 9 months. Sadly, I have not been as disciplined as I would have liked in running throughout pregnancy. I found myself thinking around week 10 that I could have comfortably run the Bristol 10k, had I trained for it, instead of settling for running just a few short miles each time I donned my leggings and trainers.
{Running view at 13 weeks}

But, rather than focusing on what I haven't achieved, I am going to focus on what I have. I haven't managed to run any 10k races, but I have put on my running shoes, and got outside to run. In the first trimester, I was managing to run about twice a week, as well as continuing with the weekly Zumba and Pilates classes that I have been going to for the last 10 months. It has only been since about week 23 of pregnancy that my body has felt significantly different to how it did before. Bouncing along with a baby in utero puts pressure on certain body parts where pressure is not appreciated. Sometimes my muscles and ligaments tighten in a way that I am just not used to, and perhaps this would be resolved by doing more of a warm up, but either way, running has made me feel pregnant in a way that my every day life has not.
{Running at 17 weeks - it started to become a challenge to keep my growing belly out of the photo}

I am now in my 24th week of pregnancy, and while I feel like I have the mental capacity to keep running, I am about to go away for a couple of weeks to a wonderfully hot island, where swimming in the Caribbean will hold far greater appeal than running will. And by the time we come back, my bump will be that much bigger, so I might just have to call a rain check on running for the rest of this pregnancy. And if that's the case? I will be ok with that, and I will swim instead and think of Finding Nemo when Dorie sings, 'just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming', while I swim my little heart out for the rest of the pregnancy. Because I am weightless in water, and that is a wonderful feeling.
{Embracing the very obvious bump & running at 23 weeks}

Thursday, 1 August 2013

pavlova

Last week I developed a brief fixation on eggs as my ingredient of choice for baking with. I don't know why, but I couldn't get thoughts of whipping up egg whites into voluminous meringue out of my head. Oh, and coffee cake. I had a lot of thoughts about coffee cake too. I have no idea why - perhaps it's the way that Pavlova feels like the perfect Summery dessert - perhaps it's my pregnant body craving the protein that eggs give. And yet, the yolk is most full of protein, so it wouldn't make sense to remove them, if protein was what my body needed. Anyhow, I wanted to bake with eggs, and so I made an enormous chocolate pavlova on Friday to share with friends who were joining us for dinner.

So, I set to work, separating 6 egg whites from their yolks, and whisking them into a frenzy. I love the way egg whites transform from a gooey, runny mess, into an enormous white mountain of fluff that looks good enough to bounce on, in just a matter of minutes.
The addition of chocolate chunks to the meringue mix adds a lovely gooeyness and extra surprise when you bite through the lightly crunchy outer layers, to be greeted by little chunks of chocolate deliciousness. Of course, if you didn't want chocolate in your meringue, just leave them out, but chocolate felt like another necessity on Friday too, so I ran with it.
This dessert is completed with the addition of strawberries that have been gently macerated in balsamic vinegar and just a touch of caster sugar. The vinegar helps to draw out the natural sweetness of the strawberries. Trust me, it's true. Black pepper has the same effect, which I find equal parts brilliant and astounding.
ingredients:
6 egg whites
3 tbsp cocoa
2 tsp corn flour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
450g caster sugar

for the topping
500g strawberries
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
250 ml double cream / whipping cream
any other soft fruits that take your fancy
50g dark chocolate

1) Pre-heat the oven to 120C / gas mark 1/2 / 250f
2) Draw a 12 inch circle on a piece of baking parchment to serve as a size guide for the meringue, and place on a large baking tray.
3) In a large bowl (stainless steel is preferable), beat the egg whites until they become foamy (about 30 seconds).
4) Add the white wine vinegar, then continue to whisk the whites until soft peaks form.
5) Very gradually, add the sugar while whisking. It is important to give the sugar crystals enough time to disperse, as this affects the final consistency of the meringue.
6) After about 3 minutes, glossy peaks should form. Next, beat in the vanilla extract.
7) Very gently, fold the cocoa and cornflour into the meringue mixture until combined or marbled, depending on how you would like your meringue to look.
8) Gently fold in the chocolate chunks.
9) Pour the meringue mix onto the parchment paper, and use the back of a metal spoon to make a nest in the middle, creating an edge that will contain the cream and fruit.
10) Bake in the preheated oven for an hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off, but leave the pavlova inside with the door of the oven ajar, so that the meringue can continue gently cooking as it cools. Leave for about 3 hours.
11) Now comes the fun part of adding whatever toppings you would like! I melted 50g chocolate and drizzled it over the meringue, then added whipped cream, grapes and strawberries. Feel free to ad lib at this point and add raspberries, white chocolate, yoghurt, or anything you fancy.