Tag Archives: summer

I Did Ride My Bicycle

After thinking about it and finally signing up, on Sunday I was up with the lark to drive to Woburn Abbey to cycle with 600 other ladies at Cycletta. I was feeling a little nervous but it was bright and sunny and with my padded knickers and cycle helmet on I was ready to give it my best shot.

The atmosphere at the start line was fantastic, there was some group stretching and everyone was chattering. The woman next to me was doing the ride as part of her training to cycle to Lands End later in the year which is 300 miles over three days and certainly put my 60km goal in perspective…

As we headed off, the first 15km was much more hilly than I had expected from the flat course that had been described and I started to question whether I had bitten off more than I could chew as scores of women overtook me. But at the treat stop after the steepest hill, I was relieved to hear that was the worst of the hills over with.

The scenery was breathtaking, the yellow rapeseed fields were glowing in the sun and contrasting beautifully with the lush greenery courtesy of the recent rain. On the flatter sections of the course I was able to look around and really enjoy it. There was a nice sense of camaraderie with women shouting ‘Pothole!’ to warn those behind them, ‘Treat stop in 100m!’ to keep everyone going and ‘Coming past on your right!’ to let you know they were there.

As I began my second lap of the course at around 32km there wasn’t another cyclist in sight. Just when I had convinced myself I’d gone the wrong way I would see one of the friendly marshalls or one of the motorcycle ride rescue crew, so I was left thinking that all the other cyclists had finished. I had expected to finish last so I wasn’t too upset, I was just hoping that they hadn’t packed up the finish line by the time I got there.

Then about 15km before the end I started catching up and even overtaking a few ladies and when I stopped to grab some water and a Jaffa Cake 13km before the end, I saw loads of women catching their breath at the treat stop. It was all the motivation I needed to hop back on my bike and carry on.

When I got to the finish line and saw my husband and daughter cheering, and the look of surprise on their faces that I wasn’t pushing my bike, I felt elated.

My Cycletta Medal

I finished the 60km course in three hours and twenty-six minutes which is by no means fast, but I came in 52nd place out of 76 cyclists. I’m so pleased I cycled all the way, as I’ve mentioned before I’m not naturally the sportiest of people and I’ve never spent three and a half hours doing anything physical in my life (barely even in labour).

Now my knees have almost stopped aching I’m hankering to sign up for another Cycletta ride this year.

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Swimming in Cherries

Even though it doesn’t feel like summer here in the UK yet, it’s the time of year to brave the shops in search of a swimsuit. No matter what your body is like, swimsuit shopping is generally a depressing experience but I may have found one that doesn’t induce you to tears in the strip-lit changing rooms.

I don’t normally like skirted swimsuits but the Tummy Control Cherry Print Skirt Swimsuit ticks quite a few boxes…

Tummy Control Cherry Print Skirt Swimsuit - Marks & Spencer

Tummy control. Tick.

Gorgeous print. Tick.

Bum coverage. Tick.

In my opinion the only thing that’s missing is a little bust support. It’s £39.50 from good old M&S.

You might even get away with not waxing your bikini line… Double tick.

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My Skinny Love

I have a new skinny love.

Not skinny jeans, they’re pretty unflattering on me and inspire people to exclaim “Isn’t your bum getting fat!”. Not skinny lattes, the caffeine in them has me bouncing off the walls. But THESE skinny heels…

REIM Super Skinny Sandals - TopshopI love the bright clashing colours that will go with so many outfits.

I love the strappiness of them and as they’re 100% leather there should be a good amount of give in them so they won’t cut in to your toes.

I love the £45 price tag.

I love the super skinny heels on them. Let’s look at the back…

REIM Super Skinny Sandals - TopshopWell done Topshop!

I don’t love that I’ll have to wait for the rain to stop so I can wear them though. I trash shoes but I’d try my best not to trash these so my skinny love could last the year.

Are you a skinny or chunky heel type of girl?

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Preserved Lemons

I’ve meant to write this post for a while but now the sun is departing for however long, I thought the sunny Moroccan flavours from these preserved lemons would at least keep the sun in our mouths, if not on our faces.

Ingredients for preserved lemons

To make preserved lemons you will need:

  • A sterilised mason jar* and enough unwaxed lemons to fill it to bursting point. (I used a large mason jar and 9 lemons)
  • Enough sea salt to pack each lemon and liberally layer between the lemons in the jar (I used a 500g packet and had some left over)
  • Spices of your choice (I used cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks & white peppercorns but you could also consider coriander seeds, chilli or star anise)
  • Enough lemon juice to completely submerge the lemons (I used another 6 lemons)

Partially quarter lemons & pack with saltFirst wash your lemons, then top and tail them to remove the stalky bits.

Cut them into quarters leaving a couple of centimetres uncut so they are still joined at the bottom. Then pack the lemons with sea salt.

As you cut and pack the lemons, place them in your jar and squash them down a bit to release the juice. Layer the lemons with the spices and more salt.

When you can’t fit any more lemons in the jar top up with lemon juice until the lemons are completely submerged.

Preserved lemons

Turn the jar every few days and after about a month they will be ready to use. They should store for about 6 months, I keep them in the fridge to be on the safe side once opened.

Preserved lemons are so versatile. You could tart up a roast chicken by putting a couple in the cavity before you put it in the oven. Cook up some chicken thighs with green olives and preserved lemons. Make a marinade that goes beautifully with chicken or fish from rose harissa, olive oil and preserved lemons. Create a zesty sauce from chopped green olives, preserved lemon rind and fresh parsley. Or experiment by using preserved lemons in place of a fresh lemon in your cooking.

Give them a wash before use though and remember that just a little will impart quite a strong flavour. Some people recommend just using the rind and discarding the salty flesh but I think it depends how you’re using them.

How do you use yours?

* To sterilise jars, first wash well and let them dry in a preheated oven at 140c/Gas Mk 1/275F for about 10 minutes. Remember not to put anything cold in them until cooled or they may break. Nigella says in her Christmas book that getting them straight out of a hot dishwasher is as good as sterilised too.

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Bag of Sunshine

The hope hanging in the air at this time of year and this beautiful sunshine we’re having has me hankering for bright colours.

Since my bag insult I finally bought a springy green leather bag but I’ve been kicking myself ever since I saw this gorgeous sunshine yellow bag from H&M. It’s such a lovely colour and is so soft.

H&M - Yellow Bag

You can get it in bronze or beige but I think this colour is the winner by miles. It’s faux leather which explains the disparity between its softness and its price of £24.99.

Is it just me or are you all adorning yourselves with colour now spring has arrived?

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Dresses Fit For a Church

After I wrote about the beautiful Junkaholique dress, a lovely reader asked me to keep my eyes peeled for a shorter dress suitable for her daughter’s christening. I’m not altogether au fait with what a mother should wear at a christening but I’ve found a few dresses that I think  are smart and elegant but not too sexy for the church. If you’re attending any spring or summer weddings they’ll work for them too.

This navy lace pencil dress from Dorothy Perkins is really pretty and only £30, there are also grey, blush and lavender versions.

Navy Lace Pencil Dress - Dorothy Perkins

I think this bubble pink Suzie Wong draped silk dress is really special and teamed with a little shrug might be perfect for a spring christening or wedding. On ASOS at the moment it’s down from £365 to £125. With the draped front you could eat several plates from the buffet and not have to hold your tummy in all day.Suzie Wong Draped Silk Dress-ASOS

Ele Horsley’s Jubilee Dress is very elegant, I love the floaty sleeves and the square buttons on the waist band. At £210 it’s not cheap but it’s timeless and no-one else will be wearing it.

Jubilee Dress-Ele Horsley

This dress by Oasis is £65 and is available with a pink or blue skirt and belt. The back has a lovely draped section and although it has a shorter under-skirt I think the longer pleated over-skirt keeps it suitable for a church.

Pleated Drape Back Dress-OasisWith the Sophie dress Coast give you monochrome, a halter neck, bow (which I thought was a butterfly) and ruffles. What more could you want? A discount? That too, it’s half price at £75.

Coast Sophie Dress

This tie neck knitted dress is my wildcard choice from Anthropologie. The style is demure but the colours make a bold statement and I love the forties feel to it. It’s £128.

Tie Neck Knitted Dress - Anthropologie

Now I’m not really one for hats but I think this would look great with a wide-brimmed hat. I know hats are traditional at weddings but do people wear hats to christenings?

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One Love for Baby Ceylon

Reasons I shouldn’t hanker after this One Love dress from Baby Ceylon:

a) It’s £230.

b) Spaghetti straps mean no bra, with my bust that is not a good look.

c) The colour will either make me look naked or like corned beef.

d) The dropped waist will sit just on the widest point of my child-bearing hips.

e) It’s winter.

Baby Ceylon One Love Maxi Dress

But I am hankering after it.

The broderie anglaise detailing on the bust is beautiful, the 1930s feel is so elegant, the gorgeous drape of the fabric, the colour. I also love the gold jewellery Baby Ceylon have styled it with. I’m having visions of wearing this whilst sitting side-saddle on a horse galloping along a beach with the sun setting and my hair flowing out behind me…

Ahem… Fantasies aside, maybe one of you ladies with a perkier bust, smaller hips, warmer complexion and imminent holiday will have more success?

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Hendricks & Cucumber Tonic

How better to finish off the week which started with ‘Blue Monday’ than with a tonic?

I was flicking through Leon: Naturally Fast Food Book 2 and saw their Cucumber Cooler recipe which looks lovely, refreshing and healthy. However my brain saw the word ‘cucumber’ and told me to replace the water with tonic and add Hendricks gin. So on New Years Eve that is exactly what I did.

Hendricks & Cucumber Tonic

  • 1 litre tonic water (I used Schweppes tonic with lime)
  • 450ml Hendricks gin
  • 1 cucumber
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ice

Add the ice and Hendricks to a large jug. Peel the skin off the cucumber and discard, then continue peeling the cucumber from top to bottom into the jug until you reach the seeds in the centre. Squeeze the lime into the jug and top up with the tonic water.

If you’re on a January detox just omit the gin, and if you like, replace the tonic with water.

This drink might be more suited to summer but in my mind there’s never a bad time for a G&T. Enjoy!

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Rainbow Styling

I’ve mentioned Mixko before and their dreamy cloud necklace but the item that first drew me to their Etsy shop was this unique and smile inducing Here Comes the Sun necklace.

Here Comes the Sun necklace - Mixko

I wasn’t sure if in the flesh the quirky plastic dove would look tacky and the delicate ribbon rainbow too delicate. But when it arrived (very speedily) the classy packaging reassured me that Mixko know design. Their necklace is delicate and light but very well made, the dove elegantly flies across your neck and the ribbons sit perfectly one underneath the other. The final piece of wonderful design is the ‘last drop of rain’, a single blue Czech crystal bead that hangs down the back of your neck from the clasp.

Here Comes the Sun necklace - Mixko

This necklace brings a splash of colour and character when worn and has been admired by everyone I’ve seen when I’ve worn it, even my goth daughter!

When I ordered this it was supposed to be a present but I guiltily kept it for myself. I’ll have to order another for the original recipient, but at less than £20 it’s affordable and as Mixko give 20% of their profits to victims of the Japanese earthquake I can feel that by nicking someone else’s present, I am in fact doing good.

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Hendricks Tea Set

I love gin and I particularly love Hendricks.

I had been hankering after this Victorian inspired tea set ever since my husband and I enjoyed a Gin Punch for Two at Kopapa in Covent Garden a few months ago.

Henricks Gin Tea Set

My husband is very good to me; he willingly sat in public drinking a gin cocktail (he hates gin) out of a dainty china tea set and even extended his pinky finger with me – now there is a man secure in his masculinity.

These limited edition tea sets were only sold commercially so I kept an eye on EBay and my fingers crossed. I found two or three sets but bidding was fierce and they all sold for around £160, I didn’t want one that much. But then I saw a second-hand set with an unpopular auction end time and, probably as I was the only person awake, I got it for much less than £160. Even better, when it arrived there were 7 cups instead of 6!

My Hendricks Tea Set

Hendricks Teapot

I love the quirky design in the sage green. I think originally my set must have come from two different sets as the green is a slightly different shade on some of them and there are a couple of minor chips to the cup bases, but it just adds to the quirkiness of the set.

I had a go at recreating Kopapa’s gorgeous ice-cold Gin Punch for Two with some success, although I fiddled about so much with the quantities that I ended up with a massive pitcher full of the stuff and a sore head the next morning. I didn’t keep track of the measures to post the recipe here, but if you’d like to give it a try the ingredients are:

  • Hendricks gin
  • Chamomile tea
  • Cloudy apple juice
  • Gewürztraminer

If you’re interested in a tea set of your own there are a couple on EBay at the moment.

There’s also a limited edition Hendricks ‘Time for Tea’ gift pack with a bottle of the good stuff and a similar style cup and saucer to the set above. I found it for £34 at Harvey Nichols.

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