In Hel’s Kitchen #2

Here is what we have been scofing down lately –

  • As I work until 8 pm on average four nights a week, We eat this meal quite often. Its a favourite in our house because its quick and easy to prepare, foolproof and super tasty. (I never bother adding the extra 1/4 cup of water BTW). We eat one meal of this with brown basmati rice and freeze the other portion to have on Tacos Tuesdays!!! Thank you Instagram for introducing me to this institution! Shove some lettuce then shredded salsa chicken mix into a taco shell and top with cheese, bite into it and then pick up the broken taco pieces off your top, the table, the floor and eat them up. Messy food on Tuesdays is the best!

    Wow, look at my food styling and photography skills. Salad still in the spinner, cheese in the box grater, taco shells still on oven tray and bowl of un appetising looking slop. Wow, just wow!

    Wow, look at my mad food styling and photography skillz. Salad still in the spinner, cheese in the box grater, taco shells still on the oven tray and a bowl of brown unappetising looking slop. Wow, just wow!

  • When I first left home, before I started worrying about processed foods, I cooked a lot of frozen things covered in breadcrumbs. The only thing that I really miss eating from those days is Spicy Bean Burgers (and maybe chicken Kiev’s, a guilty, trashy, food pleasure of mine!), so I have been on the hunt for a good homemade bean burger recipe for a long time. I have made a few duds over the years, let me tell you! I find that veggie burger recipes that involve breadcrumbs just taste bland with a horrible, overpowering soggy bread flavour. Yuck. Plus there are loads of over complex veggie burger recipes out there – like this one that involve hours in the kitchen and tons of washing up! I finally hit the bean burger recipe jackpot with this one from Moosewood Low Fat Favourites. Its so easy and tasty. Win, win! And wowzers, Rob does not complain about the lack of beef in his burger! I just fry up my onions etc, then bung all the ingredients (halved, using just one can of kidney beans) into my food processor, wiz it up, shape them and fry them, then enjoy them with salad for tea and the left overs for lunch the next day.beany babies
  • This recipe here from the Moosewood resturant (again) was very easy to cook and the most hippy chow type meal that I have made in a while. I felt some serious good vibes from all those greens, legumes and grains (I served ours with bulgar wheat) man. Sorry, I forgot to take a photo. I was too busy making peace signs and sticking it to the man, man.
  • This tamale bean pie recipe pictured below, that I tore out of the Sainsburys magazine ages ago, and now cannot find online or anything like it. Although this recipe here has similar ingredients and what not, but is done in the slow cooker with the cheese in the bottom, rather than the top like mine (so not at all like it then!). This is yummy, proper, stodgy comfort food that deserves its very own post. I will sort one out eventually. By eventually, I mean next year probably!

    Yet more of my award winning food photography

    Yet more of my award winning food photography

  • On my never ending quest to make the perfect sugar free oaty energy type bar, I made these healthy apple flapjacks. Which were not quite as good as this favourite bake of mine. I felt they were missing something. Maybe a little butter or marg and some sugar maybe? But still, it was an healthier acceptable alternative and I used up some apples that were about to turn.

Its Meat Free Week this week and Rob and I are taking part as I love a challenge! I always do dry January, Sober October and took part in the blog every day thing a few years back, and not forgetting my upcoming 35 mile bike ride (which I might have mentioned once or twice on here!) Are you taking part in meat free week? I will do a little blog post about our week and reveal if we have made it all the way. Or rather, if I make it all the way, as Rob has already cracked and eaten a ham and Philadelphia wrap for lunch!*

*Amendment – I stand corrected. Rob is not taking part. He didn’t crack at lunch time because he is not taking part.

Update 13/05/15 – I ate no meat for a week and a half in the end. I would have been happy to carry on indefinitely, but Rob wanted a chicken curry and I could not be bothered to cook two meals. We still have meat free meals 3-4 times a week though.

I Want To Ride My Bicycle, I Want To Ride My Bike

Disclaimer – This post about cycling will not be your typical lifestyle blogger post about bikes. I will not be posing in a cute outfit on a cute bike like this. This is real life peeps. You will not be jealous of my lifestyle!…..And I am not trying to sell you anything!

I want to write a post about cycling and what I have learnt since I acquired my bike nearly a year ago. This will not be a post that offers a lot of advice, as I am still very much a beginner. I just want to share what I have learnt so far and my thoughts and feelings from a female perspective in what is a very male dominated hobby and sport.

I live with a MAMIL. Rob is a fully fledged bike nut, who owns far too many bikes (apparently he needs both a winter and a summer road bike?!?), regularly enters 50 mile bike races for fun and dreams of being a bike mechanic. The staff at our local bike shop know him by name, in fact some of the other regular customers in the shop also know him by name (!?!) as he spends far too much time (and money) in there.

He also spends far too much time talking to me about gears, cranks, lightening his bike and other stuff I have no interest in. To be fair, I bore him going on about what Princess Monster Truck and Lil’ Bub are up to on Instagram, so we are evens Stevens really!

For years Rob had been trying to convince me to join him riding. But I am not an active, sporty person in the slightest, and I try to avoid doing anything that involves any effort and getting out of puff! As documented on my blog here, I eventually relented, hiring a bike at a  local country park, and I actually enjoyed it! The good stuff out weighed all the bad stuff, in the end. Just about.

I would like to say now, that if you can, buy a your next new bike from your local independent bike shop. I don’t like to mention this kind of stuff on here, but we had some shocking customer service when we bought my bike from Halfords. They resolved the issue and gave us some money back – so all’s good. Your local bike shop will offer much more knowledge and advice and will fit and service your bike better. The staff in our local bike shop live and breath cycling, its their passion and they take pride in their work. And learn your name, let you hang out there and give you doughnuts apparently!

I think from a beginners perspective cycling can seem intimidating. It is like this cult with its own language that only men (sorry to say, but its true) seem to belong in. Unfortunately cycling is a little more complicated than it looks and there is some technical stuff involved, but the basics are easy to master. If I can do it anyone can!

An image I pinned. Original source unknown. Sorry!

An image I pinned. Sorry original source unknown.

Another thing that puts some people off cycling is the clothes. Middle aged men in lycra are an easy target for jokes and irreverent articles from the Daily Mail. But as Rob pointed out, people have no problem wearing swimming costumes to swim in and gym gear when exercising, so why do they have such an issue with cyclists wearing cycling clothing?

My personal beef with cycling clothing is that a lot of the cheaper female options only come in pink. Come on cheap sports clothes manufacturers, use your imagination more!

Male or female, it is worth investing in a pair of cycling shorts/trousers/leggings, as the padding does help (thats help, rather than stop) with the saddle soreness, even if you do feel like you have a massive incontinence pad between your legs! I have a couple of cheap 3/4 length trousers, which might not flatter my tree trunk legs, but they are comfortable to ride in.

Well, one pair of my cycling pants are comfortable at least. My second pair that I bought recently from Aldi and wore in the New Forest, are my correct size, but an odd fit. The crotch piece was almost halfway down my legs, and when I sat on my bike it kept getting caught up on the saddle. I looked like I was packing more down there than Jon Hamm! I must have confused a few ponies that we passed!

If you are going to wear the trousers, you might as well wear the rest of the kit, I say! I have a couple of cheap tops from Sports direct and a jacket from Aldi. Cycling tops are cut lower at the back to keep your bum warm, to stop them from riding up your back while you are riding and have a handy zip pockets to keep your essentials in. And they are made in breathable fabrics that are quick drying etc. So basically they make life easier, so why wouldn’t you want to wear them? Don’t worry, not all cycling gear looks like the Colombian female cycle team!

Image from telegraph.co.uk

Image from telegraph.co.uk

I also wear wrap around sunglasses on brighter days. They stop me squinting and the flies and dirt going in my eyes. On one of our first rides together Rob lent me a pair of his glasses. I took them off and popped them in my back pocket, only to forget about them and sit on them while messing around with my nephew going down a slide at Bedgebury. Oops!

Forgetting the fact that I shouldn’t have been on the climbing equipment etc, Rob was not amused that I broke his fancy glasses! Now I only wear his cheap ones. We have bought a couple of pairs for £3.99 in Lidl with inter changeable lenses (budget supermarkets are so good for this kind of thing) which will hopefully last me a while!

Its me!

Its me!

If anyone reading this is worried about their ability and looking stupid pushing up hills in front of the more experienced riders on cycling routes etc, try not to let it stop you from having a go. I will admit that I have turned down invites to ride in a mixed group that Rob has organised because I did not want them to wait for me to catch up. I am not very confident in my abilities, but I know that the more I get out on my bike, the better I will get at cycling. So just go, don’t be silly like me! You will catch up with your friends eventually. Even if it is in the car park! Cycling is for all ages and abilities.

While we were on holiday last week, we went biking every day. I went from thinking that I would never be able to do this sponsored 35 mile cycle race that I have signed up for in June, to thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could manage it, if I train more towards it….eek!

From my Instagram @helshelshels

From my Instagram account @helshelshels

Right, I have waffled on far too much in this post (as per usual), so its time for some bullet points on what I have learnt!

  • You need to clean and maintain your bike regularly to keep it in top notch condition. Much like a car it will need a service and parts replaced from time to time. You local independent bike shop will help you with this. And always clean the mud off after rides to prevent rusting etc.
  • One thing that I always wear while riding are gloves. They help you grip your handle bars better and I don’t have to worry about having an attack of the clammy hands while I am panicking going down hills fast (I got up to 28 miles per hour downhill on gravel paths last week!). Again, mine are pink cheapies from Aldi.
  • I always thought that a bike is a bike, that they are all the same really. But I have learnt that like most things in life, you get what you pay for. The cheaper bikes will be harder to ride, you will feel every bump that you go over and the bike is more likely to break as its made from cheap materials etc. So get the best bike that you can afford.
  • Make sure that you get the correct type of bike for what you will use it for. Do not be seduced by looks. Pretty pastel bikes with baskets are fine for short leisurely town and city journeys. But if you want to commute on your bike you will be better off with a much lighter road bike or a more practical hybrid. My sister has one of these vintage style type of bikes with a basket and luggage rack on the back. On our family bike rides we all give her our jumpers and bits n bobs to carry and she looks like a pack mule, the poor thing! She is planning to sell her bike and buy a more practical mountain bike for the country parks we ride in, as she finds it too heavy and difficult to ride (and thats without carrying all our crap).
  • BTW I would like to point out that you do not have to buy a female specific bike if you are a girl, you can have any bike you want as long as it is the right frame size for you. And you like it of course!
  • Lets talk gears. I still struggle with mine and need to get to grips with them more. I often find myself peddling away and getting nowhere fast going slightly uphill as I am in a too high gear (or is it low?). Practice, practice, practice is the only thing I can say (and what I need to do more of). Cycling is all about keeping the momentum going and using your gears to do so. Rob told me something that helped me click (boom, gettit!) with the gears – that I need to feel like I am putting the same effort in with my peddling all the time, no matter if its flat, uphill or downhill ground, and that I should use my gears to do so. I hope that makes sense!
  • When you are going downhill fast use your back wheel’s brake more, rather than your front wheel’s break to prevent you from going over your handlebars.
  • Seat height matters, even a centimetre either way can make a difference in the comfort factor with your ride. We are constantly adjusting mine (luckily Rob carries a small tool kit with him on rides) as it seems to sink down after a while.
  • As for female cycling role models, in mountain biking there is Rachel Atherton. But look no further than these girls in Afghanistan. Truly inspirational stuff.
  • And finally, just look at this status from Rob. Bless him, he is such a big kid when it comes to bikes!Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 11.34.19

 

New Forest 2015

Rob and I have just got back from a short mid week break to the New Forest!

We had been itching to get away somewhere on holiday ever since the new year, and discussed many options of were and when to go. We did consider a city break in Europe, and we got very close to booking a short break to Copenhagen (I wanted to see the SAS hotel and other Arne Jacobsen landmarks, the Finn Juhl house and go to the design museum etc), but in the end I chickened out because I did not want to fly! Another factor that contributed to our decision was the cost. We are very lucky to own a camper van, and so we want to enjoy it as much as possible. We much prefer to have lots of budget mini getaways rather than one big indulgent holiday!

Saying that though, last week we stayed in a caravan at Sandyballs holiday park. Its far too cold for me to camp! I am a bit of a diva when it comes to what time of the year to camp. For me, a large part of the camping experience is sitting around outside your van/tent in the evenings eating, drinking and talking rubbish. In early March the evenings are chilly, the nights still draw in quite early and the mornings are damp and dewy. We do know people on the VW scene who camp all year round, but I am not that hardcore. Instead I enjoyed the gas fire and central heating in the caravan!

The aim of this holiday was to get away from home and work, and to relax and enjoy some hiking, biking, swimming, eating and drinking. We certainly did all of that!

We had a lovely time, it was out of season so the park was nice and quiet, we lucked out with the weather (for once it didn’t rain!), we got out on our bikes every day, saw lots of ponies (including two who were very interested in our picnic lunch!) and just enjoyed our van – even though we didn’t camp in it, its still nice to explore the beautiful surroundings in it.

Here are some pictures, all taken by Rob, from our break. Warning – I hope you like lots of pictures of ponies!woodsstreampath

there was no way I was going to pedal up that hill!

There was no way I was going to pedal up that hill!

It might have been best to go through the gate. Hindsight, eh!

It might have been easier to go through the gate. Hindsight, eh!

birdydeerserniemossgull

Lymington harbour

Lymington harbour

tired ponyred ponywhite ponyvan and ponypony pony

Do You Like Pyrex? Then You Will Love These Links!

Hot on the heels of my ‘Do You Like Mid Century Modern?‘ round up two years ago, its time to do a little round up of Pyrex blogs and websites.Pyrex 1

That Retro Piece – A great resource site for JAJ (British) and Agee Crown (Australian Pyrex) patterns.

Hot For Pyrex – Another great site about your favourite vintage glass casserole bowls. Mostly about American Pyrex, but also has a great section on JAJ and Agee patterns etc.

Pyrex Love – A blog which is no longer updated (sob). But has a great Pattern Reference page and articles. Did you know that in 2007 Britain stopped making Pyrex up in Sunderland?

Check out the info pages on Pyrex on In Color Order!

And Corelle Corner! Which has a great list of all the American patterns.

The Pyrex Collective I – A blog mostly about American Pyrex written by various Pyrex enthusiasts around the world.

The Pyrex Collective II – More of the same goodness.

The Pyrex Collective III – Ditto.

The Pyrex Collective IIV – And again. Of course I follow all four collectives on Feedly!

Flickr is a great resource for images and information written by enthusiasts in various groups.

Pinterest is also another way to lose a few hours looking at pretty pictures of Pyrex. Here is my board!pyrex mugs 4

And finally, a few links to other bloggers who are Pyrex enthusiasts, and some random blog posts all about about my favourite vintage obsession  –

What Do You Make of My Cake – Jo bakes wonderful cakes, sews her own amazing clothes, is the proud owner of a milk glass cake stand, collects Utility China and loves Pyrex. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of her blog!

Pyrex Adventures – A blog about (you guessed it) Pyrex, quilts and other vintage pretty stuff.

I love this post on Pyrex and other milk glass by Southern Plate. I check for part 2 every few months or so, but no joy. I am eagerly waiting to see more of this ladies collection!

A sweet little round up on why vintage Pyrex appeals to so many from The Vintage Knitter. Those two books have been on my wishlist for so long!

Pyrex 2001 Casserole Bowls

In my three years of blogging I have talked about my love of vintage Pyrex on here occasionally. And there always seems to be a parallel, the more that I think and blog about Pyrex, the more I want all the Pyrex!

In the last year or so I have been trying to cool down my collecting and buying stuff that I don’t need in general (no I haven’t read this book). So hence the lack of Pyrex and vintage posts on here. But for the next few posts I am going to go full steam ahead and talk about my favourite obsession and try not to let this happen in my kitchen!

I mentioned in a comment in my last post that a couple of years ago I bought a lot of Pyrex online, and the Pyrex that I am sharing today was bought from Ebay. Some might call that cheating. I just wanted a nice collection to display in my kitchen quickly and cheaply. I never pay above £10 (inc postage) for a piece and the two dishes I am blogging about today were well below that sum. If you are patient and lucky you might still be able to snap up vintage Pyrex for around that figure, but I have found in the last few years that more and more people are collecting Pyrex, and the prices have shot up considerably both in charity shops and online (sob).

I also wanted to buy some pieces that if I ever went off of Pyrex (heaven forbid), I could sell on and not lose money. So I made a point of buying the 2001 casserole bowls as an investment.

And because they are pretty of course!

I do love bold colours and graphic prints and the 2001 dishes appeal to me because of this. Unfortunately, because the pattern is on the top of the lid I have not figured out a way to display them on my shelves. Doh!double pyrex

The Pyrex 2001 dishes were launched around 1970 in two different colours, with a wooden stand and with a guarantee until December 2001 that they would not wear out. I guess the new millennium sounded far off and futuristic in the 70’s! And indeed back then, a lot of people thought that the 2001 Pyrex dishes might end up as collectors items, because its quite easy to find them still in their original boxes and unused fairly cheap online. So much for my investment!

My orange 2001 dish came with its original box (sorry not pictured, its up in the loft) and a wooden stand and is in mint condition.orange pyrexMy teal 2001 has a few small marks on it, but I am happy to have it to own the pair.teal pyrexI think they look rather cool together with their retro flower power graphics and seventies colours.stacked pyrexnice pyrex

The Ever Evolving Shelves Of Kitschen Glory #2

So I got my (fake) milk glass cake stand. I admired it. Took photos of it. Blogged about it. Thought about making a epic chocolate cake to display on it. But then stashed it away in a kitchen cupboard, only to come out again on special occasions.

No, I thought to myself, its far too pretty to be hidden away. So it was time to rearrange the ever evolving shelves of kitschen glory!

Before on 03/03/15 –kitchen shelves3.5 hours later on 03/03/15 –shelves afterPhew, is all I can say! I often try not to snigger when I see people describe themselves as stylists. I think how hard can it be to arrange a few nik-naks and hang a few decorations up? And people actually pay them money to do this?

But after hours of indecisiveness and faffing around, I finally settled on the current arrangement of vintage Pyrex goodness, kitschy animals, soup cans and knock off cake stand above. I am not 100% happy with the set up, but it will do for now. And most importantly, I will no longer be a mean girl rolling my eyes at stylists and now give them the respect they deserve!

Springing Forward

Its March already and almost springtime. And time for me to officially start looking forward to summer!

Those statements might seem obvious, but I have come a long way over the last few years as I never particularly enjoyed the summertime until recently.

Where as most people (bloggers) moan about January and enduring winter, I am the oddball who likes winter and dislikes the hot, balmy, summer days.

Let me explain. I am fair skinned, so I burn really quick and hotter months in the South East of England usually mean stifling humidity. Close, sticky, uncomfortable days are not my idea of fun. Bleugh.

Here's a photo I took earlier...last spring

Here’s a photo I took earlier…last spring

I think the shift in my thinking and outlook towards summer changed when we finally got our camper van on the road and my work routine changed three years ago.

Back when I worked full time, 9-5 or thereabouts, five days a week, my experiences of the seasons were on my commutes to and from work. I loved seeing the leaves turn colour, the early morning frosts, my foggy breath and feeling the nip in the air. In the summer months however, I did not enjoy my walk to work in the heat (or sitting on a hot, airless, smelly bus) at all. I would arrive at the office (shop) all hot and bothered, only to have to sit in a poorly air-conditioned room wearing a horrible polyester uniform with socks and shoes on (sandals etc were not allowed) for 9 long hours. Then finish work and step out of the building (shopping centre) into what felt like an oven, and then get even more hot and bothered on my journey back home! Phew.

Granted, I would book some of my annual leave in the summer and I would get away to a festival, go on holiday, or stay at home and relax for a week or two each year. But for me the hotter months of the year always felt like something that I had to endure rather than enjoy.

I never knew how to dress for the warmer weather either. I always try to cover up as much as possible, avoiding too much skin exposure because I burn so easily, and covering up is much easier than slathering on loads of factor 50. Plus I have bingo wings! So I just wore the baggiest clothes I could find, but I felt awkward and uncomfortable and I longed to wear my jeans, coats and scarves again.

These days, I now look forward to summer. Because summer means camping and festivals of course! Rob and I have been excitedly talking about where we want to holiday in the van this year and have just bought our festival tickets!
If you are a fan of camping have a gander at this feature on Buzzfeed and try not to get too excited about the upcoming season. Food! Fire! Smores!Ernie

Thanks to the change in my working pattern I can now relax in the mornings and not rush from A-B on a crappy commute, wear more comfortable clothing of my choice in the daytime and I get to hang my washing out on the line more! I now embrace the warmer weather and enjoy the longer days and the extra serotonin.

Last year was a good summer. Despite me working most weekends, we went to a festival and had some lovely days out and camping trips in Ernie.

This year I don’t know how many weekends I will have off, but we have vowed to try and do a few mid week overnighters at local campsites. We just want to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors, nature and the elements. Lets hope 2015 brings us lots more happy memories!