lactose free loves: mince spies 

The most frustrating thing I find at Christmas time (as well as other times throughout the year) is the lack of free from options for all the lovely treats. So much so that my mum actually mentioned it to the Manager in M&S when she couldn’t find a single cake in the shop that was free from dairy.

She and I both bake at home, and know how easy it is to swap some things around to make it lactose free. So why is it so difficult for M&S (who you’d think would be up on this stuff) to stock a single cake?

I really dislike food shopping at the best of times; I hate trawling through aisles of food that I know would make me really sick. I usually tend not to do it, and if I do I’ll just run around quickly for the basics which I know I need.

Going down festive aisles full of lovely treats and food which I would have once been able to eat just makes me so sad. (Seeing my mum put it in the trolley for the others makes it even worse!)

So, post-frustration, I came home and found myself in the kitchen, adamant I was going to make something I could actually eat.

So I made some mince spies (as we call them in our house.) The lactose free recipe is below for anyone else who struggles at Christmas.

(And M&S, if you’re reading this, it’s piss easy!)

Ingredients:

pastry:

4oz (100g) flour (and a little bit for rolling)

20z (50g) lactose free butter

a pinch of salt

3 table spoons of water

 

filling:

mince meat (I used 75g however this depends on how big you make your pies)

one shot of rum (for extra flavour, am I right?)

 

method:

1. Preheat the oven to 185 degrees. Rub together the flour and butter until small breadcrumbs are made. (If you have a food processor like I do, you can bung it all in there and it will do the hard bits for you!) Pop a hole in the middle of the crumbs and add the water a little bit at a time until the mixture forms a dough.

2. Roll out the dough on a floured surface (mine was roughly 5mm thick) and use cutters (or a knife and an imagination) to cut out twelve circles. Pop these into a bun tin. Then with the remaining pastry, cut out smaller circles (I did stars) for the lids.

3. Put the mince meat into a bowl and add the rum. Mix together and then add one teaspoon to each pastry circle. Top the filling with the pastry lid.

4. Cook them in the oven (at 185 degrees) for 22 minutes (or until lightly golden.)

5. Coat in a dusting of icing sugar to make them look nice, and enjoy!

love sophie

 

 

one hand wonder: a silver lining

So, to top off having a delightfully painful shoulder surgery (not just a little hurt, A LOT OF HURT) I got my arm trapped in a door for added shits and gigs yesterday.

Spoiler alert: NOT FUN!

(Post op, would not recommend leaving the house unless you have a large selection of body guards in tow, or after several G&Ts to take the edge off. I had neither.)

It’s most frustrating because it’s really bashed my confidence (and pain threshold) to the point where now I get anxious on buses and in busy crowds. Not good for someone relying on them for transport to uni or to get home for Christmas.

I’ve gone from being stuck inside unable to go anywhere, to being stuck inside too anxious to go anywhere.

Since my op in November, I’ve been *attempting* to manage with one arm since one is, for the near future, trapped in a sling. It’s not easy. I found it was the things I thought that would be easy, or didn’t worry about, that turned out to the the things I struggled most with.

And everything takes aaaaages! I could be pulling on my jeans for at least ten minutes. Or brushing my hair for half an hour (even longer if I had to wash it!)

Which is why I’m trying to find a hilarious silver lining to help me through recovery.

Behold: ‘A list of five things that are difficult with only one hand.’

  1. slicing bread.

You’d think I’d just buy sliced but it just isn’t the same. Picture the scene: I’m stood in the kitchen, delighting in the fact I managed to reach the shelf with the bread on in the first place. Then I get the bread knife and, with one hand, attempt to saw a piece off.

Spoiler alert, it ended with crumbs everywhere, and the bread acting like jelly and going all over the place (I think it even landed on the floor at one point.) Safe to say I gave up and wedged the packet between my legs and pulled a piece off in anger. It was much more effective.

On a general, cooking is really difficult. Lifting heavy pans full of food is impossible, even with the good arm. As is getting things in and out of the oven. The microwave is just about possible because you can slide things in and out straight off the counter.

I’d recommend a balanced diet of biscuits ( although you might have to get someone to open the packet), houmous and carrot sticks, raspberries, and pasta.

And that’s without me even mentioning cutlery.

2. ‘doing’ my hair.

As a general, I didn’t really care what I looked like for the last few weeks. I was at home, everyone was AWOL so I spent most of the time under a blanket on the sofa with a cuppa and the television. I didn’t do much, and when I did it was so cold I’d just shove a hat on or wrap my scarf around my head to cover it all up.

One thing I love to do (if I’m just doing nothing all day) is having my head on top of my hair in a might big bun. It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing thing in the world but it works for me.

A fun fact about me is that I really don’t like having my hair down. It gets frizzy, especially in the latest arctic temperatures, and never does what I want it to.

So this factor was a nightmare! I had to compromise with a weird twirled up bun which I’d make with one hand and just tuck the end result into whichever top I’d managed to pull on. Voila!

3. making a brew.

I mean, seriously. I’ve just had a lovely operation and now I’m tortured with the fact I can’t even make a cup of tea without some sweat.

Step one is boiling the kettle. But I couldn’t lift the kettle. And I definitely couldn’t lift the kettle and work the tap at the same time. In the first week, what I’d do was put the kettle on a tray which I’d carry across to the sink with my good arm and then put in the sink to fill, carrying it back the same way. Tetris.

Step two is getting the tea bag. It’s alright if you’re already in the packet, but if you’re unfortunate like me you have to go and acquire assistance from a neighbour. It is really hard to pull packets apart if you’ve only got one hand.

So the brew is on the go, but how am I going to carry it whilst turning off the lights as I go, and then put it down within easy reach. Impossible.

In comes my grand invention of the swirly chair tray. You put a tray on a swirly chair and slowly (you don’t want to waste any tea) push the tea to it’s desired location. (Yet to be approved for stairs.)

4. reading.

So I’ve sat down with my cuppa, finally got warm from the frost outside, and I’ve got a new book I’ve been looking forward to reading.

But all I can do is hold it. I can’t flick the pages over (you have to rest it down to do that) and you can’t hold it for too long otherwise it feels like you might need an operation on your other shoulder.

And that’s before you mention wanting to sip on your tea at the same time. Not even a straw will reach that far.

It’s the most frustrating thing because in the end, you don’t want to read the book. You just give up and drink your tea (or at least attempt to.)

5. writing.

I’m a writer.

I study it. I read about it. I do it.

So there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to.

Whether it be the brain mush that occurred in the weeks after my op, or just the tediousness of typing on a keyboard with one finger, my writing took a real hit this past month. I’m back now, and although I still struggle I’m getting there. But it was the hardest thing for me to have to deal with.

I could live with tucked in hair and botched bread, but losing my creative vent was difficult. Even when I had an idea, my brain would sieve it out before I even got round to finishing the first paragraph.

…until I discovered dictation. And oh my goodness what a wonderful thing that is!

It saved me from many creative meltdowns and made sure my brain (all be it mush at this point) was still trying to chug away.

 

I’m much better now, I’m doing more and more each day and I’m finally starting to feel myself again (who knew it would take eight weeks!) I’m appreciative of the time I got to just be by myself and mindful. It was actually nice to have a change for a bit (even if I did have to rearrange life to accommodate it.)

For anyone in a similar situation, you’ve just got to take it as it comes. Don’t get disappointed if you can’t do something you could before. Just be creative. It doesn’t last forever (and I think I could make a killing with my swirly chair tray invention!)

loce sophur

ho ho no

I’m twenty one. I’ve done my fair share of believing in Santa and do enjoy the wonderful festivities that arise when it gets nearer to Christmas. But, this year, I’m simply not feeling it. (I don’t think the week I spent trekking in the desert really helped!)

I’ve tried. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been to the German Market’s in Leeds (twice), and I even came back to Bath just in time to see the Christmas Market’s up and hustling with crowds of eager shoppers. And I’ve attempted several excursions into torrents of other desperate shoppers to finally get some presents.

But somewhere along the way, I’ve found it’s lost it’s spark.

There used to be something so magical about it all.

When we were younger, my siblings and I used to buy all our gifts from the school Christmas fayre. We’d have a pocket full of loose change and be given the freedom of walking alone around the school hall for half an hour, going to every stall. I’d spend ages deliberating over what I thought my family would really want and put lots of effort into picking the presents for them, looking forward to seeing the excitement on their faces when they opened them. I always thought it was something they would really want and I’d have picked it for a reason. I’d get home and hide them straight away (probably in a really obvious place) and ask Mum for some wrapping paper so I could put them out under the tree in the lounge.

That magic just doesn’t happen anymore.

I don’t like Christmas shopping – I feel like it’s turned into a commercial holiday where you get bashed around and stressed out because everyone’s hard to buy for and already have everything they want. And with the added stress of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I question if the materialistic takeover is actually worth the effort.

I fear that I’m sounding old and cynical but it’s just a shame to see how much my perspective on it all has shifted.

Last Christmas, I decided I wasn’t going to do big presents. I’m the youngest of three and we all have what we need. If there’s something we want, we’re all old enough to go out ourselves and buy it. I limited myself on how much I was going to spend, partly because I was a student, but also because I didn’t want to get trapped into the saga of meaningless gifts.

Take my mum, for instance. A woman who has everything. What do you get for your mum? She has jewellery, candles, bath sets. She doesn’t want things. She’s said previously that she’d like to be given the gift of time with her, but I don’t think I’d ever thought about it properly. Instead I’d go for a photo frame or scented candle.

But last year, I decided to write her a letter instead of buying her something that I knew she would neither want, nor need.

We have a tradition in our family where ever since we were little, Emily and I have received a bauble every year for Christmas from my Dad’s Aunt and Uncle. And Jonathan would get collectable stamps. This went on until I was eighteen. It was a really lovely tradition and I used to love them arriving in the post and unwrapping beautiful glass, ornate baubles to add to the tree each year. It is definitely something I’d like to continue for my children.

Mum would joke that one day, when we left home, she’d have no baubles on the tree. Now, wherever I go, I bring a bauble back for her so she has her own collection.

As well as the letters, I bought her a small glass heart decoration for the tree.

In the main letter I expressed my thoughts about the year that had just gone. I explained what I enjoyed, what I didn’t enjoy. I shared some of my challenges, some of my accomplishments, and my hopes for the coming year.

Along with the main letter, I included six smaller envelopes. One for every other month after Christmas. These included things I’d like us to do together that month or ideas of ways to spend time together.

Although we weren’t able to realistically live up to all of them, with me being away at University for most of the year, she really appreciated the idea and the thought behind it and I hope it starts another tradition and allows us to spend more time together.

We get so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life, buying excessive amounts of food we wouldn’t usually eat, spending hundreds of pounds on gifts people might not ever use, and forget to actually take the time to appreciate the people around us.

This year, it was suggested that instead of buying each other presents, we should all just put the money towards flights for a family holiday. Something we haven’t actually had chance to do in years.

Although I don’t think that’s the plan this year, I like the idea of it, and hope that maybe next year we might decide to jet off somewhere nice together.

It would be a nice excuse to steer clear of the pedestrian traffic, and chaotic few weeks that December brings.

loce sophur

 

 

soundtrack series: november

Along with my classic playlists (those ones you can rely on for awkward car journeys or as background music for a cuppa with someone you don’t really know) I’ve ventured out this month.

I’ve listened to quite a varied selection. With prep going on for the my trek, and the trek itself, I’ve been listening to a lot of upbeat and motivational songs. One of my fellow trekkers compiled a playlist for us all to listen to and I’ve been doing exactly that!

I’ve also just begun planning a big exciting Irish adventure for 2019 with my friend, Meg, which has meant listening to lots of Irish music to get me in the mood. (We had a good dance around the kitchen as a break from logistics.)

So here’s my top five picks for November. I’m not feeling as Christmassy as I’d like at the moment so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait till next month for a special Christmas edition (It’s a good one.)

  1. The Dubliners

I mean, come on. Is there any better band to listen to whilst planning an Irish adventure? I’m absolutely in love with all of their songs but there are a couple which can (do) end up on repeat. I also think they’re a bit of a toe tapper (or a full blown jig if you’re me and Meg.)

If you haven’t heard of them, I’d recommend listening to The Irish Rover (what a classic!) as well as Seven Drunken Nights (which is hilarious!!) I’ll Tell Me Ma is also a good one, but with only one arm I couldn’t dance to it properly so that’ll be one for when I finish physio!

2.  Keira Knightley

Before I went to Oman, I watched Begin Again (for the millionth time) after discovering it in summer. I absolutely love the film, and the soundtrack, with a lot of love for Lost Stars, and Like A Fool.

(The whole soundtrack and film are worth a listen/watch!) I’m a fan of Lost Stars when I’m writing or driving and need to concentrate a bit.

3. Heather Small 

Proud has been a common choice for backing tracks to the videos people have been making of our trek. It’s a lovely song, and very motivational. It is a hit with me, and a belter.

Great for those solo car journeys when you know (hope) no one is listening!

4. Dido

Whilst travelling to the airport, home from the airport, and everywhere in between, I listened to a lot of Dido. She’s a good one to listen to if you’re in need of a chill. I sang Sand In My Shoes as we were joking about having the desert dust in our socks and boots for weeks. And that was on the middle of a mountain.

I also love White Flag, one of my absolute favourite Dido bangers. And Life For Rent. They’re great to listen to when you need to concentrate too, and I often have them on in the background when I’m writing.

5. The Foo Fighters

When we got to the top of Jebel Qihwi in Oman, the final summit, we arrived to Learn To Fly, one of my favourite Foo Fighter songs, being blasted from one of the cars. We also listened to Everlong, amongst others, as we welcomed everyone to the top.

It was such a special moment and one that I’ll forever associate with The Foo Fighters, and I’ll always remember it when I hear their songs on the radio. How incredible.

 

That’s a wrap on Novembers soundtrack, but I’ll be back in December with my top five Christmas songs.

Happy Listening, let me know your thoughts!

loce sophur

 

lactose free loves: gingerbread Christmas trees

Just call me Nigella, or Mary Berry, seen as it’s baking, because my gingerbread trees are golden! (not literally – I could only find light muscovado sugar in the cupboard.)

And they were so easy to make (even one-handed!)

A great craft for all ages. They’d be particularly good to make as a gift for family members (a good bit of paper and a string ribbon would do wonders.) and for bigger kids like me who just like baking (and eating.)

A very simple, easy to follow recipe, that makes the most beautiful little star trees.

Just marvellous!

(Adult supervision may be necessary on some steps, especially the icing where there is potential to get slightly carried away. My kitchen ended up covered in a beautiful dusting of snow.)

So… without further ado, the recipe:

Ingredients:

125g butter (I used a dairy free alternative)

100g dark muscovado sugar

4 tbsp golden syrup

325g plain flour (plus extra for rolling)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tsp ground ginger

1tsp ground cinnamon

To decorate:

Icing sugar (I spilt most of mine on the worktop)

You will need a set of three different sized cutters, plus a small circular cutter (or a knife and artistic flare.)

Method:

Step 1:

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees, gas mark 3. Although my recipe told me to line two large baking trays with parchment, I’d say you might need a couple more or to do two trays at a time.

In a saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar and golden syrup on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat.

Step 2:

In a bowl, sieve the flour, bicarb and spices and give a little stir. Then pour in the melted mixture a bit at a time, stirring until a firm dough is formed. (I accidentally translated 325g into 9oz instead of 13 so this took a lot longer than it should have for me. For those using oz, it’s 25g to 1oz.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and have a roll. Careful not to get below about 5mm. I did and those ones caught the heat on the edges.

Step 3:

Stamp out 5 of each star size, and 10 of the little circles (these are to help the tree be a little bit taller.)

Place them on the baking sheets (make sure to leave lots of gaps between them so they don’t get stuck together.)

Step 4:

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown. If you use light muscovado sugar, not dark, be careful not to overcook them. The biscuits will be a lighter colour, so won’t necessarily be golden.

Once cooked, transfer to a wire cooling rack. Meanwhile, mix together some icing (I did 1 cup of icing sugar to 1 tsp of water and added more water if it was required.)

Step 5:

To assemble each tree, use the icing to stick one of the little round biscuits to the centre of the five largest stars.

Continue to build the layers. (I used one of each size but you could double it up to have a larger tree.)

Save the smallest stars for the top. Decorate this with icing/piping/silver balls/anything that takes your fancy, and then stick it on top!

Brush the tips of the stars with icing sugar (or if you’re me – the more the merrier!)

Leave them to dry before having a munch!

Happy Baking!

loce sophur

 

 

 

 

 

 

just another manic monday

From having my surgical stitches removed to sipping cocktails after a book signing, I’d say my Monday was pretty manic! (Expecially seen as I rarely do more than move between comfy seats at the minute.)

It started off with a wonderful trip to get my stitches removed *grimaces.*

As it was Em’s day off, and I can only travel by foot, we decided to make a morning of it. And what a hoot it was!

Step one was picking me up. Easy, right? Baring in mind I’d already told Em an earlier time, (just in case she happened to be running late) and she’d told me to be ready for when she came, I was hopeful we’d be on time to the appointment. I’d even managed to put my coat on and zip it up (huge accomplishments with only one working arm.) So she rocks up later than planned but it’s okay because I’m ready and waiting, as promised (I’ve even remembered the letters and things that need posting.)

So the next step was getting there. Now this is a pretty easy step because although we did come across an enemy line of traffic cones marking out their roadwork territory, we arrived with a good ten minutes before the appointment.

But wait.

We didn’t account for Em’s love for parallel parking, step three, which took approximately four different spaces, a zillion attempts, one hundred ‘no, I’m just going to turn round and find another space’, twenty ‘don’t forget I have a tow bar’, more ‘oh shucks’ than I could count, and nine whole minutes. But it was okay, because we had ten.

So we finally arrive, after hiking from the only parking spot Em was eager to slide into (approx. 5 cars long and 5 miles from the entrance) and sit our bums down on the waiting room chairs, happy they were running late.

After a speedy snip snip I was free, and as were the stitches! *hi fives air*

Then to stock up on painkillers (for me) and throat lozenges (for Em). We’re such adults.

It’s safe to say food was definitely next on the cards so, after much debate over what to eat, and a good mooch around the local shops, we decided to go to the supermarket and ended up making fajitas at home (lactose free loves recipe to follow!)

We spent the early afternoon catching up on The X Factor before Em put a load of washing on for me and then set off back home, leaving me to my work.

Work isn’t all that wonderful at the minute, what with the cocktail of pain relief I take daily and the brain mush that comes with it. So I started plot planning instead, trying not to get tied down to the fact I was struggling to write creatively.

Between sitting down to write, and making my ‘well done for trying’ cup of tea, I check Instagram.

Poop.

I’d completely forgotten that the book signing I was supposed to be going to is that evening and not Tuesday, and only remember after seeing Giovanna’s story which says she’s in Leeds.

What a complete brain mush.

After a mad panic that I hadn’t got any nice clean trousers, and that I couldn’t put my fuzzy hair up with one hand, I finally managed to don some jeans and mascara and run out the door into a taxi.

But, I made it!

And it was wonderful!

I sat next to a lovely lady called Tania and we got chatting about life and books until it all kicked off.

Giovanna came out and talked everything from her new book, Some Kind of Wonderful, (which is delicious) to Billy and Me, and body confidence. It’s very encouraging as a writer to listen to other writers talk about life before publication, and the writing process behind the first book, just as much as the book they’ve just published.

Giovanna described writing her first book as a luxury. There were no time pressures and she wasn’t thinking ‘so and so is going to read this,’ because she just didn’t know what was going to come of it. She went from napping in between writing to actually having to increase the hours she worked, doing double shifts whilst balancing in time with the kids, school runs, bath time etc. (What a woman!)

There was lots of laughter and she made time to speak to everyone, answering all the questions in the open Q&A. She was praised for her body confidence and for bringing such a positive light to what can be a very dark social media platform. She is a girl goal.

It’s so refreshing to see voices like Giovanna’s coming through on social media. It’s very clear why she has such a following.

A signing of the book was next on the cards and as I was at the back it meant waiting till nearer the end of the queue. This gave me and Tania time to natter whilst her other half went and patiently perused the books.

It was so lovely to see Giovanna, and listen to her talk books (and get a cheeky Oman shout out). What I presumed would then be a quiet night in turned into cocktails. What a treat. Definitely worth the busy day.

I’ll be sure to catch her again the next time she’s in Leeds!

You can grab yourself a copy of her new book, Some Kind of Wonderful, here! 

Book review coming soon!

(This should have been posted earlier but I’d say my Tuesday has been pretty manic, too!)

(And Em, I love you – thanks for taking me. Your parking cheered me up and I may have exaggerated some of the proportions.)

Happy Reading,

loce sophur

lactose free loves: teriyaki salmon

I’ve been lactose intolerant since returning from my travels in Africa back in September 2015. As I was already a pescetarian, I found it quite hard transitioning as the free from food on offer was rarely vegetarian. With most dishes containing meat, I was left to muddle through and make do, making it up as I went along with recipes from the vegan world of Instagram and the wonderful Deliciously Ella. I’ve added my own selections to the mix too, substituting classic recipes with ingredients which make it ‘Sophie safe’ to eat.

But boy do I miss it. Substitutes just aren’t the same.

I was never really a milk lover before, and I would rarely eat very creamy things as they used to make me feel sick anyway. But since discovering my bodies hatred towards lactose, I’ve also realised just how much it’s in, and how annoying it is for me.

This is why I’ve started my lactose free loves series. A selection of products/recipes/companies that I have found/made on my journey through lactose free life. And a lot of them I’ve come to absolutely love, often preferring them to what I used to eat.

So here is my Teriyaki Salmon For Two (minus the photogenic sesame seeds because I couldn’t reach them with only one hand.)

So…

What you will need? 

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp og ground ginger
  • 3 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 11/2 tbsp of golden syrup
  • 2 leeks
  • 50g frozen peas
  • 2 portions of rice noodles/egg noodles
  • sesame seeds (optional)

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees (If you’re like me and have the option of the little oven or the big oven, you only need the little side.)

Cut your garlic into small chunks (they don’t have to be minute, you just need it for the flavour.) In a deep plate or bowl, mix together your garlic, soy sauce, golden syrup and ginger. This is going to be your marinade.

Pop your salmon fillets into the marinade and leave to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Whilst it’s in the fridge, wash, peel and chop the leek. Put it in a pan with a bit of oil on a low heat, stirring occasionally. You don’t want them to brown, you just want to gently soften them.

Pop the salmon fillets into an ovenproof dish and pour over the remaining marinade. Put them in the oven for 10 minutes. Keep stirring the leek.

When the ten minutes is up, get the salmon out and spoon the marinade over the fillets. Pop the peas in the pan with the leek and turn the heat up slightly, stirring more frequently. Pop the noodles into a pan of boiling water to soften

Put the salmon back in the oven for 4 more minutes (or until the salmon turns light pink).

When the noodles are cooked, mix them in with the leek and peas before serving.

Once everything is ready, serve the noodles, leek and peas onto a plate with the salmon on top, drizzling the marinade sauce over to taste. If you’d like, sprinkle some sesame seeds to serve.

Et voila!

Bon Appétit

loce sophur

lactose free loves: Neal’s Yard Remedies

As a twenty one year old student, the answer to ‘what did you do last night?’ is obviously went to a Neal’s Yard Party, right?

Well, it definitely wasn’t what my mum expected me to say when I told her (even though the prosecco and G&Ts were in full flow.)

I was sat at home, revelling in my accomplishment of making teriyaki salmon with one hand – a wild Friday night, I know – when I got a text from my lovely friend Meg, inviting me to hers for a Neal’s Yard Party.

How could I resist? I popped my coat on and walked down to hers where I was greeted by the wonderful Caroline from Neal’s Yard, who told a small group of us about the business and products on offer.

Don’t get me wrong, I have heard of Neal’s Yard before; their Melissa Hand Cream has been a staple by our kitchen sink, and the Bee Lovely range is blooming gorgeous. But, I’d never been to one of their home events. And it was really lovely.

Caroline firstly talked to us about the ethics of the business. Did you know they were the world’s first health and beauty company to be awarded 100/100 for ethics? This means that as well as being eco friendly in their factories, they don’t test on animals and are Fairtrade. This includes their gorgeous natural and organic ingredients, as well as their packaging which is recyclable and from sustainably managed sources.

Now, although I’m not a vegan, I value companies that have strong ethics and think it is incredibly important. If one company can be 100% ethical, it makes me wonder why other companies can’t be. For a little bit more money you are receiving better products which are made with a lot more love. Sounds good to me!

After a brief introduction to the company, Caroline began explaining what her usual daily routine was for her face.

Now, I’m not one to shy away from saying I don’t do much with my face (and I’m probably not the only one.) I don’t usually have time. But Caroline showed us a simple routine that would take no more than a few minutes which left the skin looking fresh and smelling amazing.  I could really tell that the products she used were a good quality.

She started by prepping the skin with a refining moisturiser which she massaged in. She followed this with a Rejuvenating Cleanser which she sprayed onto cotton pads and gently circled around the face and neck. Whilst she was explaining the facial, she let us test lots of the facial serums and facial mists, as well as bringing out the beautiful Frankincense Toner which naturally works to tighten up the skin. She followed this with some gorgeous Orange Flower Facial Oil which smelt lovely. And then she finished by using a White Tea Toning Eye Gel which was a crowd favourite. The white tea is a natural antioxidant and research has found it naturally reduces wrinkles without any harmful chemicals found in most cosmetics.

She taught us that when going close to the globe of the eye, you should never rub in the creams or serums, but instead you should gently pat around the lower eyelid, keeping away from the socket as it can do more harm than good.

The skin around our eyes is very delicate so being rough with it and rubbing it too much can cause extra fine lines. You can find their organic eye make up remover here which gets through even the plastic mascaras.

It was really interesting to hear about the company and get a taste for a wider selection of their products.

She raved about the Wild Rose Beauty Balm which is something you can pop on in the shower and soak off with a flannel as you come out, as well as the Beauty Sleep Concentrate which is good for new mums or people who struggle to wake up feeling rejuvenated.

If you’re interested in ethical remedies and products, have a look at Caroline’s website. There are lots of gift ideas there too, and lots of minis so you can have a try before you buy big.

I’ve added a *few bits to my Christmas list…

*lots

loce sophur

 

a letter from: Belgium

Five weeks of my June/July were spent in Belgium this year, teaching and supporting children who were learning English as a second language.

Other than a good couple of books, my lightweight camera, and a light backing track on my phone, I didn’t take much with me.

I was so excited to be so isolated from the world again. It does wonders to just take some time out to be away from it all. Whatever ‘it all’ actually means.

A quiet walk alone around the winding path of the forest, or an evening playing cards with beer around the bonfire are great ways of feeling comfortable and just at ease (after hours, of course.)

As well as countless evenings spent playing beach volleyball under marmalade skies, I got to see the world. I travelled Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, France and Germany. My French improved and I got to speak it (questionably) to people who had patience and replied. I might have been working, but I gained a lot more than just a paycheck.

I met the three men in the picture, who I now call friends.

The moment I captured is at the very beginning of the five weeks, prior to a tonne of embarrassing moments, drunken laughs and wild (unforgiving) bonfire conversations.

We didn’t know at the time how well we would get on and how much laughter we would encourage in one another.

I like the thought of that.

love sophie

the proof is in the pudding (and what a tasty pudding)

I was very fortunate to land myself one of the beautiful proof copies of Sara Barnard’s Goodbye, Perfect and have thoroughly enjoyed worming my way through it. I was completely transfixed by the characters and am incredibly excited for it to come out in full publication glory in February. It was captivating, honest, and blooming fab! I love Barnard and don’t deny she is definitely my girl crush.

But seeing the proof got me thinking about how much goes into the publishing process and how long it takes for a story to go from being a blank word document to a bound and beautifully marketed book.

Once I finished the book and put it down (and after a ‘I’m-sad-that-it’s-over-but-feel-better-brew’) I sat for quite a long time just staring at it and then at my own word document which was open on my laptop. It made me realise that the book I’d just read was once a Word Document, being edited, read, reread, deleted. Just like mine.

We’re in the middle of NaNoWrMo at the minute (National Novel Writing Month) and, although I’m not taking part, I have been using it as motivation to try and up my word count.

I felt that the beautifully bound book I had in my mind was so far away, but looking at my word document made me realise it’s a lot closer than it could be (18,583 words closer to be exact.)

In November alone I’ve written 6,000 of these words. Now, to some people, that’s nothing, but to me, it’s huge (especially seen as I wasn’t actually in the country for one week.)

I realised, sitting between my unfinished manuscript and Barnard’s proof, that the key to writing is reading. It is such a catalyst to great words and great works. I struggled to keep on top of reading when I began my manuscript, especially reading for pleasure. I was too deep in thick research and books I would never usually choose to read that I lost my way with reading.

This year, since I’ve started the MA, I’ve found my way back. Although it’s not always for pleasure, I find that I’m reading a lot of good stuff which is helping to nourish my own work.

Reading Goodbye, Perfect made me realise that the challenge of writing really is worth it. That the pudding really is sweet and delicious and worth the trials and tribulations the process brings.

So, read. It doesn’t even have to be a book. Read the ingredients on the cereal box, read the road signs, read the adverts on the bus.

The words do wonders to your own.

love sophie