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& nurturing Mother Nature.

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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, and consuming with a conscience

March 25, 2016

Chicken Thigh Curry & Cauliflower Rice

Hello you wonderful people! Today, I thought I'd share with you a favourite meal in the Amy & Matt household and it is, of course, something spicy. This is the first ever meal Matthew cooked for me when we started dating and it has been a favourite ever since. You know those meals when someone said you're having that tonight that just make you go *yaaaasss*? You betcha, it's one of those.

This chicken thigh baked curry might not be the most convenient of curries as its not out a jar, but its definitely worth the extra effort - it tastes amazing. We tend to have it with cauliflower rice so it's not too bad for you. Matt cooked it up and I tried to get some photos and details from the chef himself to give you some guidance on what you're supposed to be doing. It's a recipe from River Cottage but has been tweaked here and there!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour

What you'll need:
- 2 heaped tsp cumin seeds
- 2 heaped tsp coriander seeds
- 1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp ground fenugreek
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 large green chilli, roughly chopped
- 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
- 3-4 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil
- 4-6 chicken thighs (depending on how many mouths you're feeding)
- 400g tin of tomatoes
- 400ml tin of coconut milk
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

... The beer is totally optional ingredient that goes straight to the chef, of course.

To prep & cook:
1.) Toast the cumin, coriander, and fennel seed in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes max until they leave the kitchen smelling delish. Then throw them into a pestle and mortar and grind them up until a rough powder is formed then mix in the turmeric and fenugreek.

2.) Next, blitz the onion, garlic, green chilli, and ginger in a food processor. It should create a thick coarse paste and keep it to one side. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat and add the chicken thighs. Season them and make sure the skin is fully brown all over. Then transfer them to a large roasting dish or chilli pot and make sure they're lying skin-side up.

**Masterchef Matt's pro tip: If you're trying to de-skin fresh root ginger,
use a teaspoon to scrape off its coat - it'll make your life easier!**

3.) Whilst those are sitting waiting, reduce the heat your frying pan is on and add the spice mix from the pestle and mortar to the leftover juices and oil from the chicken. Lightly fry the mix for a minute or two then add the paste from the food processor. Fry for about 5 minutes and stir occasionally until the paste is soft and reduced slightly. If the mixture sticks to the pan at any point, don't hesitate to add a little more oil!

**Masterchef Matt's pro tip: heating up your dry spices in a dry frying pan helps wake up the natural oils in them and therefore creates more flavour. Adding a teaspoon of coarse salt to the mix also helps whole spices break down easier to release more flavour**

4.) Next, preheat your oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4, ready for the chicken. Add your tinned toms and coconut milk to the unclean food processor and blitz it together. Add this to the frying pan mix and leave it to simmer - don't be alarmed if its quite pink to begin with! Stir the sauce constantly and add a teaspoon of salt and some pepper before pouring the sauce over those chicken thighs you have waiting in your roasting dish/chilli pot. Make sure the sauce has coated all of the chicken pieces but also make sure there's not too much sauce sitting on top of the chicken - if you can't see the chicken skin then it won't go nice and brown in the oven!

5.) Place the chicken dish into the preheated oven and let it bake for 1 hour or until the chicken has browned nicely on the top and is cooked through. Make sure you don't cover the chicken (e.g. with a lid or tin foil) and baste the chicken a couple of times during its 1 hour cooking time, just to keep it juicy. Lastly you need some rice ready to soak up that lovely sauce. By all means use your usual basmati, but if you want a slightly healthier, less carby version, grate or food process a whole cauliflower (depending on your portion sizes, a whole cauliflower will suit maybe 2-3 people. If you're having naan or poppadoms, go ahead and make it stretch to 4). Add a teaspoon of oil to a pan on a medium heat and throw the grated cauliflower in there. Move it around until it crisps up and fries - and there you go - healthy rice without any rice in sight!

And there you have it! This recipe is a goodie if you're cooking for a group of people or even if you're just making it for yourself - the sauce keeps for a couple of days in the fridge or just put it in some tupperware and stick it in the freezer so its quick and easy to make the next time. Thanks to Matt for being the superstar chef for this post!

- A.
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March 18, 2016

Beamish Museum: Part One

During the February half term, I decided to visit home and see family and friends whilst I knew I had free time to burn. Whilst I was home both my mama and brother were off work and school too so we decided to spend a day at Beamish Museum.

Beamish Museum is literally 10 minutes away from where I grew up but believe it or not, I can only ever remember visiting the place once and that was on a school trip many moons ago. It's a huge open-air museum which has little villages, farms and high streets set up to make you feel like you're actually wandering through history. The park consists of areas ranging from the early 1800's to the 1940's and have staff and volunteers working and acting throughout the museum. You can wander into a 1900's dentist and talk to the dentist himself about the procedures and equipment, or you can go and pet the pit-ponies and ask the farmers about how they used to go down the coal mines and help lug the coal to the surface. It's such a surreal place because it does make you feel like you've entered a time warp. The museum doesn't have a lot of areas that are laid out like your stereotypical museum - e.g. with notice boards of information. This means you have to rely on interacting with the staff and volunteers if you want to find out information or are particularly intrigued in anything. This is great especially for kids as they get to talk to someone rather than be bored trying to read endless amounts of text. You can have a 1900's style lesson at school, visit the village hall and listen to an old mining band, or you can sit and get warm by the fire as you listen to 1940's radio play. It's definitely an experience I'd recommend.

Beamish Museum TransportTram StopBeamish BusWaiting for the TramGeeseDanny BoyWee BirdsMetal ScrapsHay ThereBarrelCattlePiggy

The greatest thing about Beamish is that tickets are annual. Once you've paid, your ticket is valid for 12 months and you can visit as often as you like. The museum has a range of different things on each month so the park is never boring to visit. I can't wait for summer because I'll definitely head back to take advantage of the picnic areas and the gorgeous views. That's really what this post is all about as despite the grey, freezing cold, overcast weather, I did get a few photos that I thought truly showed how lovely the place is.

TractorBarnCarBeamish Home1940's HomeShelter

As I said, I had a really great visit and so much so, this post is going to be in two parts. When writing this post, I was trying my hardest to whittle down the photos I chose to add but I just can't - I really want to add to this blog how wonderful this place is, so if you're interested and I haven't bored you to death, stay tuned for part two which will being coming soon!

- A.
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March 16, 2016

Lush: Bella Fruta

I think it's always a safe assumption to make that all of us on the internet love a good Lush product or two and we all certainly love a good haul - so here's a little post to fill that bath bomb shaped void that you may have been experiencing lately. Today's post features a gift set box from Lush which I received way back at Christmas from Matt's familia. As soon as I was handed my gift bag of goodies, I could smell something powerfully sweet and had my fingers crossed it was some Lush-ness (and low and behold, it was. Matt's mum is a gift-giving queen). I received the Bella Fruta set which is a set I've never seen before so I was intrigued to find out what it included - guessing by the packaging, I knew it was going to be citrus-y, fruity, and summery all rolled up into a few products.

So, let's get down to the individual products and I'll start with the only soap in the set - Layer Cake. You get a 120g bar (approx. £3.50 to buy separate) and having tried this product before, I was happy to see it in the set. It's a soap made from 5 real fruit juices (white grape, orange, pinapple, blueberry, and raspberry) and has a very berry and zesty scent to it that I imagine most people would find pleasant to use - especially those who may struggle with or not like floral scents. I've never thought any of the Lush solid soaps are anything to write home about, but they're nice to use and always smell good. So far so good.

Next up is the bath oil, You've Been Mangoed. This wee £2 product is deceiving as you think it won't *do* that much but boy oh boy, "good things come in small packages" certainly applies to this. Run this little solid oil under your running tap for a bath and watch it melt away to create a buttery soft soak which leaves your skin feeling pampered and nourished. As you can imagine with a bath oil, it can make your hair greasy so if you're not wanting to wash your hair afterwards, keep it pinned out of the way, but other than that, the combination of different butters (ranging from shea to avocado) and the zesty lime scent, it's a lovely little cheap product that can make a bath feel just that wee bit more *special*.

Keeping with the avocado butter theme, the next product - and one of my faves to see in this set - is the Avobath Bath Bomb which is available individually for around £3.50. This is one of my all-time favourite bath bombs from Lush but I think it is often overlooked by many people as it's not all sparkly and multicoloured but don't let it's Plain Jane ways fool you. Although I mention time and time again about my oily skin, my body skin (if you can even call it that) tends to lean more to the dry side due to being constantly exposed to products to fight acne. Therefore a bath bomb like Avobath is a welcoming treat as it helps dry skin feel nourished and hydrated once again with its ingredients of avocado butter and olive oil. It also smells insanely good. As a girl who sways to the sickly sweet side of the scent spectrum, no one is more surprised than me that a bath bomb which smells of lemongrass and bergamot is actually one of my faves I've ever tried.

Probably the most pleasant surprise and favourite product in this gift box is the Brightside Bubble Bar. Retailing at £4.95 for the full size, this mini offering was a good chance for me to try a bubble bar I'd never paid much attention to in store. First off, this smells amazing. It essentially just smells of oranges but there's just something about it makes it smell delicious. As I've said, I tend to love the more sickly sweet scents, but this is such an uplifting bright scent I think most people would love it. The bar creates a great amount of bubbles and it also turns your bath water brighht orange - how much more sunshine and happiness could you ask for in a relaxing bath can I ask?

Another surprise love from this set is Fun in the shade Red which is apparently an online exclusive colour! This stuff looks like the greatest thing for bathtime for children but it's also kept me very happy, too. This isn't particularly because I am a big kid (although, that might be part of the reason,) but really it's due to the fact that it again, smells amazing and zesty which a great pick-me-up for your mood and it is a great option for creating bubbles for baths or for using as a shampoo. Although it is aimed at kiddies and is essentially playdoh for the bath, don't overlook this £5 product because I guarantee if you buy it, you will use it and you won't be disappointed.

Okay now lastly let's discuss the product that doesn't quite float my boat - the African Paradise Body Conditioner. This product is usually almost £20 for a 225g tub and I'm not entirely sure I'd ever repurchase it. The idea behind Lush body conditioners are exactly what they say on the tin; you smooth them over your body whilst in the shower, rinse, and then you're left with soft and silky skin much like your hair feels after a conditioning treatment! The idea behind them are great (especially if you're a lazy Lizzie like me and can't really be bothered to daily moisturise your body!) as they are very rich and plump the skin up so dry skin or dull skin sufferers, these guys will definitely sort you out. Although the idea and effect of it is great for an indulgent skin treament, I just couldn't agree with the smell. A mix between floral, sweet and spicy is just not something my nose particularly likes so if you like more mature smelling scents instead of those bubblegum candy teen scents that I still adore, this may be the one for you. The alternative body conditioner, Ros Argan is a little cheaper (at £16.50) and is yep, you guessed it, jam-packed full of argan oil and rose scents therefore this may be a one for me to try!

Have you tried any of these products? What did you think of them?

- A.
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March 11, 2016

Johanna Basford's Enchanted Forest

We've all seen the hype around adult colouring books and I for one lapped-up the hype and couldn't wait to get my hands on one. I've come from a family who love a good colouring-in session - my grandma was notorious for buying a new colouring book for me and when I flicked through what I expected to be a fresh untouched book, there would be the odd coloured in page with the "by Grandma" signature next to it; the cheek of it. My mam has always done the same too and naturally, I followed the ladies in my fam.

Now I'm older, colouring wasn't something I did in my free time. I've always been into art and drawing/painting when I have the time to, but lately I haven't had enough time to dedicate to it or simply haven't had the confidence and enthusiasm to do it. So that's where colouring comes in. The big hype around these intricate colouring books has been because they're recommended for anxiety and for calming the mind. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I would say for me personally they heighten my stress levels because I turn into a perfectionist so the tiniest mistake can make me react like the world is ending, but they certainly keep me focused and most importantly, calm whilst I am focused. So they are certainly doing something right.

I received this Joanna Basford Enchanted Forest book for Christmas and had been waffling on about it for an age before then. It is a gorgeous, luxurious book which is perfect for gifting to someone. It's quite large so it's wonderful to colour, and the illustrations are rich and varied in their design and complexity. This is great because some days I want to colour but not get into a large and heavily detailed illustration as I will need to finish it, so the "easier" pages are great for those days. Even just colouring this first titled page in the images above took me a whole day - what a great amount of detail! It is also extremely good quality so if you're someone who prefers to colour using felt tips or other sorts of pens rather than pencils, the paper is great quality and thick so you won't have any colour transferring!

This book in particular would also be great for younger years, too. Although it is aimed at an older audience, there is a little game in the book which requires you to find animals/items which are hidden amongst the detail of the pages. Finding these hidden "Where's Wally/Waldo" types help "unlock" a "secret" in the book, so this would be a perfect book to work through as a family. I'm no where near finished filling it in, but I would highly recommend picking up one of Basford's books in particular. The market for these adult colouring books is big now and there's a lot of choice out there, but I will always argue that Joanna Basford's books are the most beautiful to complete.

- A.
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March 04, 2016

Bude Beach

It's been a little while since the new year started, but I thought I'd share with you some photos from my New Year trip away. For those of you who follow me on instagram, you may have seen that I spent my New Year in a cosy cottage in Devon, visiting areas around Devon and Cornwall with good food and good friends (and the cutest wee puppies). We had a lovely time despite the torrential weather warnings thanks to incoming storms, and one day we even managed to go to the beach. Bude seems to be a popular place with tourists and wave-seekers and from the look of it - even on the grey day we went there - it was a lovely place. The beach was pretty great despite the tide being in so there wasn't that much to explore. Its really dog friendly and there were hundreds of dogs there so if you have a fluffy pal in your life, this beach is the one for you.

You would not believe how quickly the weather turned sour so after a big fry up English breakfast, we headed back to the cottage, soaked through. Luckily we saw the beach in the winter sunshine before it all went tits up!

- A.
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