Making it through the summer – moving, stress and trying to be healthy

So, after a lame and failed attempt to come out of my blogging stupor about a few weeks ago, here I am, actually back to the blogosphere with some new recipes to post and tales about my recent life changes.

Summer, as it turns out, isn’t necessarily that chill.

Even when you’re waiting for uni to start in September and hence, technically, on holiday.

Although I’d comment that without a home to call your own, it’s kind of hard to relax.

For the past few weeks, I have been up to a bunch of stuff: I moved out, went to a WEDDING (Congratulations again, Sarah and Robin!), found a new flat for next year (finally!), and visited my family for a week in Normandy.

And am currently squatting my boyfriend’s house before we can move in, in about three weeks’ time.

The whole moving business definitely took more from me than I thought it would, probably because I had to move out of my house and had nowhere to go that I could call my own. Visiting a chain of cluttered, dirty flats (that we could afford) and lovely, spacious flats (that we couldn’t) didn’t exactly help, and I’ve got to admit I felt a bit hopeless for the first few weeks of July.

BUT we have now found a lovely, spacious and AFFORDABLE place to live next year and that has taken some of the pressure off. YAY.


Alright, so, time for some honesty: recent stress has definitely not helped me, the supposed HEALTHY Frenchie, feel or act healthy in any way.

Unfortunately, I tend to act out when I’m stressed – either eating everything in sight or as little as possible and feeding on body negativity.

Kind of the reason why I haven’t felt up to posting recently. Feels wrong to talk about nutrition and healthy living when I can’t live up to my own standards.

BUT, I am now back on the healthy track, ready to discover new recipes and enjoy the rest of the summer, stress-free.

My last salad creation and upcoming recipe:

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Smoked salmon, boiled new potato, shallot, radicchio, frisée and lamb’s lettuce salad with a soft-boiled egg

Tea discovery of the week: Revitalise, by Pukka Herbs

It was about time I published another tea review post, wasn’t it?

And I have just the perfect candidate.

I have simply been obsessed with this tea for the past few weeks since I found it in my local health food store.

I was originally looking for Pukka Herbs’ Cleanse tea, but when I saw this one, I just couldn’t resist.

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Cinnamon, cardamom and ginger? Three of my favorite spices all put together? It couldn’t be! And yet…

This tea is first on my list of favourites these days, firstly because it smells absolutely amazing as it brews, the scent of cinnamon floating in the air, mixed with ginger, cloves, cardamom and a hint of orange.

Despite the strong aroma, the taste is perfectly balanced. The name of this spicy infusion is flawlessly suited to its effect; I find it truly invigorating.

Best drunk in the evening or during the afternoon lull.

Here’s where you can find it online. The website also allows you to locate your nearest local supplier.

If you try any tea I recommend, let it be this one. An absolute delight.

I tried: Hello Fresh

So, as my last post stated, I recently received my first Hello Fresh box: after trying out Gousto last year, I had to try this second option. I’ve been busy cooking up the dishes they delivered these past few days. Here are my thoughts on the experience:

1. Delivery:

The box could have been delivered anytime during the day, but it arrived fairly early in the morning (around 11, I think). It was left on my front porch, exactly like I had specified – there were no issues with the delivery at all.

2. The Box :

IMG_3866The box looks simple: brown, with the Hello Fresh Logo on it. Once opened, the contents were very well organised, refrigerated ingredients on one side, fresh (vegetables and fruit) and dry ingredients on the other. Also included in the package were three beautifully designed recipe cards and a pack of Jordan’s Strawberry and Blueberry Granola, which I was delighted to see.

3. The recipes : 

First off, I should specify that I ordered the vegetarian box. Unlike Gousto, you cannot specifically choose which three meals you’d like to receive, as these are randomly picked for you. However, Hello Fresh do have a list of the different dishes available per week on their website (for the current week and the two following weeks).

While the “omnivore” box has a number of meal options (meaning you would only receive three meals out of about ten), the vegetarian menu only includes three items a week. Hence, you can know what meals you’ll be receiving in advance.

The three dishes I received I was, well, less than sold on at first. However, after having cooked and eaten them, I am absolutely bowled over! All three turned out delicious; the flavours were very well balanced and I’ll definitely be keeping some of these recipes in my belt for some other time.

This pasta dish was fresh, zingy and cheesy – I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Power Pasta of the Gods with Peas and Parsley

My personal favourite of the three? This amazing roast sweet potato, onion and tomato salad with spiced halloumi. I’m a big fan of Halloumi cheese and this was definitely a lovely new way of eating it – I haven’t tried spicing it up before and it was very tasty. I loved the Mexican spice mix Hello Fresh included with the recipe.

Mexican Tomato Jumble with Spiced Citrus Halloumi

This dish was the real surprise of the three: I left it til last because I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it quite as much. However, it was completely the opposite. I discovered freekeh, a roasted grain with a nutty taste. I love it already 😉

Springtime Freekeh Salad


My verdict? 

Overall, a lovely experience ordering from Hello Fresh. The recipes were easy to follow and delicious.

The downside? Generally, I wouldn’t be able to afford this: 3 meals for 2 for £36 (for the vegetarian box), although relatively reasonably priced, just goes beyond what I can spend by myself. I got a £25 discount voucher on my first Hello Fresh box from Amazon a few weeks ago and thought I’d take the opportunity to test it. I would definitely recommend trying it out for couples, though!

Hello Fresh delivery today – very excited!

Guess what I received today?

My first Hello fresh box.

I was saying a few weeks ago I wanted to try this one after having already ordered (and loved) Gousto a while back.

The box was waiting for me on my front step at lunch time, full of yummy, fresh ingredients for three vegetarian recipes. And a free pack of Jordan’s granola.

I’ve already cooked one of the recipes, a zingy, veggie pasta dish which was simply delicious. The two others look just as tasty.

Post of my cooking experience coming up soon.

Enjoying a bit of Nature

I’ve gone down to Surrey for the weekend to spend some time with The Boy on this wonderfully sunny weekend. I never get much of a chance to cook there or work on new recipes – for one thing, it’s not my kitchen and for another, I don’t have a lot of the tools or ingredients I would normally use.

However, I get to enjoy nature and its produce in a different way: The Boy is a horticulturist, so when I come here I can try my hand at a little gardening!

Last time I came here, we sowed some courgette, shallot and physallis (inca berry) seeds which we shall plant once it’s warmer out and they’ve sprouted – I cannot wait to eat/cook with the fruits of our labour, courgette flowers especially! They are so delicious and near impossible to buy anywhere. I’m hoping to be posting courgette flower recipes all summer!

One of the Physallis seeds just sprouted today, I am such a proud mama 😉

This time around, we (he) planted some new plants outside – a few ferns and euphorbias and others whose names I’ve already forgotten but can’t wait to see grow!

He arranged the plants and put them in the ground – he’s got the experience and I enjoy watching him work far too much, with the obligatory cup of tea in my hands, of course!

See the end result below: I do hope these plants flourish. I can’t wait to see what they look like in a few weeks’ time!

It feels really great to spend some time outside getting your hands dirty and learning a new skill (albeit slowly). Whether it’s to go for a walk, exercise, just get some sun or garden, I love being out and in contact with Nature on beautiful days like these!

What did you all do this weekend? Any memorable outdoor experiences?

Caffeine is not my friend: anxiety triggers and staying on the right path

A bit of a personal post today. 

 So, I had caffeinated coffee for the first time in, oh, about three and a half years yesterday. It was kind of by accident: it was warm out so I asked for an iced coffee at a cafe and simply forgot to mention that I wanted it decaf. By the time I realised my mistake, I felt silly and decided to just get on with it and drink my iced coffee.
 

Now, the reason I stopped drinking coffee in the first place was because it was having too strong of an effect on me. A few years ago, I realised that after drinking coffee, I always felt on-edge, antsy, anxious… It triggered a number of anxiety attacks at that point in my life and as soon as I put two and two together and saw the correlation, I decided to stop and never turned back! 

 Well, I turned back once, 6 months after stopping, and boy was it a bad idea! 

 Anyway, for the past few years, I’ve kept saying that one day, I’d have coffee again – when I’d have a day to waste, in case it didn’t go so well. I kept putting it off, because I didn’t really miss coffee. Tea is better anyway 😉 

 As it turns out, I suppose yesterday was that day! And it wasn’t that bad, considering. I felt the caffeine as soon as it hit my system, like an oncoming rush of…something… a heightening of sensations, a certain loss of control. I had to breathe deeply and talk myself into not freaking out. And I managed not to, although I felt very hyper and slightly agitated for the hours that followed. Finding sleep was particularly hard. 

 The lesson I learned from this? Coffee is not my friend. I’m no longer suffering from anxiety and I can deal with whatever life throws my way, but reintroducing anything in my life that can have such a noticeable effect on my psyche still seems like a stupid thing to do. At least it’s good to know what my triggers are. And I suppose that’s part of managing my health, as well: knowing what’s likely to set me off and staying away from it. 

 I’ll just stick to tea (green and white, mainly), thank you.

A few beginner facts about Bikram Yoga

Here’s a short post on one of my all-time favourite forms of yoga, one you should most definitely try out: bikram yoga, which you may have heard of as Hot Yoga. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to make this practice a regular part of my workout routine (mainly because it isn’t available where I live) but I would really love to have the chance someday. As it is, I go when I can – and love it every time!

Three facts about Bikram Yoga:

  • Created by Bikram Choudhury, this form of yoga is based on traditional hatha yoga poses.
  • All bikram yoga classes run for 90 minutes and consist of a series of 26 postures including two breathing exercises.
  • Perhaps one of the best known facts about this practice: bikram yoga is practiced in a room heated to 40° Celcius (104°F)!

Practicing yoga in such intense heat has a number of beneficial effects, according to studies: the main noticeable effects are an increase in flexibility and strength, if practiced regularly. I notice an increase in my flexibility after every session, and personally also feel like my mind is somehow clearer. It’s a great way to sweat out the negative vibes of the week and start fresh!

Now, I love going to Bikram yoga sessions, but don’t get me wrong, it is not easy: in such high heat, breathing gets a bit harder, and you really have to make an effort to keep breathing properly (in through the nose, out through the mouth). Also, there is a definite price issue: one stand-alone session costs 25€ in Paris, 20€ in Bordeaux and £20 in London. At that rate, it’s not an exercise you can easily afford. Of course, if you can go regularly, there are monthly subscription rates which are definitely more affordable – and can really be worth your while if you go more than once a week!


Here are a few things to remember if you’re planning on trying this sport out:

– First, be early: this can help you make sure you can get a good spot on the room, and that you have time to get accustomed to the heat before class starts.

– Second, HYDRATE: it’s going to get hot and you’re going to be sweating A LOT. You’ll need to hydrate during the session, so take a 1L water bottle with you.

– Third, bring the right clothes: as I’ve said, it’s going to get hot. Avoid wearing long trousers if possible and go for light, airy tops, or if you’re comfortable that way, just a good sports bra. Whatever you wear you’ll probably soak through anyway 😉

– Fourth, don’t push it: when doing the poses, do as much as you can, but don’t push yourself too far, too fast. Chances are, if you’re a beginner, you won’t be able to do the full version of every pose, and that’s ok. Focus on doing the simple version perfectly and move forward next time. Discomfort is to be expected, but if you feel any sharp pain, pull back from it a little bit.

– Not to be forgotten: avoid having a big meal beforehand. You don’t want to feel to heavy during this class. Have a light meal or snack two hours before the class and make sure to drink some water – but definitely avoid the full English breakfast!

– Most importantly, breathe! This really is key to making it through your first class. And if you do, not only will you have the best shower of your life afterwards (after being that hot and sweating that much, can you even start to imagine what a cool shower feels like?) but you will definitely want to try it again!


If you’re excited to try this, find a studio near you…then tell me what your experience was like!

Skinnymint Teatox verdict

After doing Skinnymint’s 28-day Teatox during the month of March, here are, as promised, my final thoughts on this product:

Taste – Taste-wise, no negatives on my part. The Morning Boost green tea was delicious, fresh and fruity, a perfect tea to wake me up in the morning. The Night Cleanse infusion was pleasant, despite using some of my least favourite flavours, lemongrass and liquorice – if anything, it managed to reconcile me with them!

Effects – This product boasts detoxifying and weight-loss effects (if combined with clean eating) without making any particular efforts on the side. Personally, despite eating clean on most days and living an overall pretty healthy lifestyle, I didn’t particularly experience either of those.

  • As I’ve pointed out before, I don’t really believe in detox as I think our bodies are designed to deal with waste perfectly fine on their own – I do, however, believe in minimising the crap that goes into your body, and I think the way I eat has more to do with that than a tea.
  • As for the weight-loss effects, I think you’d have to be eating clean and exercising regularly to see any effects. Whether this tea contributes or not is doubtful.

Verdict –  For £32.90 for a four-week programme, I find this teatox rather expensive and I don’t think I’ll be purchasing it again, despite the fact that I love their morning tea. HOWEVER, if we’re going to be mentioning price, I have to say that most teatox programmes are ridiculously expensive – Skinnymint, Bootea and Fruiteatox are all in the £30-£35 range, while Skinny Tea‘s 4-week teatox costs £49.95!!

My advice? Buy a really nice loose leaf green tea blend for the morning (I’m currently drinking Palais des Thés’s Thé du Hammam, described here), and Pukka Herb’s Detox or Cleanse teas for the evening. Ultimately, this would cost you less and still have the same antioxidant and detox effects boasted by any of these programmes.

Have any of you done a teatox before? Any thoughts?

Brunch in Bordeaux

So as I said last Friday, I spent last weekend in Bordeaux, France. It wasn’t the greatest time to be in the south of France, to be honest: grey skies, light rain – a far cry from the blue skies and heat I was expecting! No real change from the English rain, apart from the slightly warmer temperature.

However, it was refreshing to be elsewhere, to be in such a lovely French city and to be with a friend. And what’s the best thing to do with friends?

Brunch.

We looked it up: there are a lot of places to have brunch in Bordeaux. We sought the best value for money, but the prices did not differ much between 17 and 25 euros. So, we went to a small café my friend knew called Plume (meaning feather), situated in the centre of Bordeaux on rue de Cheverus.

We arrived at 10:00 on Sunday morning, and we were the first there: the small café was empty, filled only with nostalgic thirties music and two staff. The place was charming and small, with no more than 20 tables and a large counter displaying lovely fresh foods, cheeses, bottles of organic fizzy drinks and mountains of fresh lemon muffins.

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We were sat by a lovely, sun-bathed window and ordered the brunch menu, accompanied by a green tea with fresh ginger and a white tea with pomegranate. As we waited for our order, the small café filled up very quickly. Within minutes, the room was full: good thing we came early, half an hour later we may have had trouble snagging a seat!

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Our brunch arrived quite quickly, and my goodness was it appetising! Two moist cranberry scones, a lemon and pineapple muffin, butter and strawberry jam, homemade bread and Basque ewe cheese, fromage blanc (which is somewhat like greek yoghurt, only better ^^), amazing granola with fresh fruit, a fresh vegetable salad, baked beans and *cold* scrambled eggs.

Yes, cold.

They were seriously delicious.

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I couldn’t finish it all, but I enjoyed every little bit of it, and took a scone and a delicious muffin back home for dinner. For 20€, this brunch was well worth it – if I’m ever back in Bordeaux, I am definitely going back! And if you are, I seriously encourage you to try this brunch on for size: you won’t be disappointed!

April 1st

We are just a few months away from summer and it feels like that time of the year again: time to get IN SHAPE! And I am ready to jump on the bandwagon.

The truth is, for the past two years, exercise hasn’t been easy for me, and I admit, I haven’t made the necessary effort to make it past the physical hurdle facing me – more on that in a later post. I’ve tried to start being regular again but have found it difficult, always trying to push too hard, too fast and hurting myself, or going off track and giving up in some way.

Anyway, I have decided to give it another shot: starting today, I will be reintroducing exercise into my daily routine by doing Blogilates’ Flat Abs Challenge, Butt Lift Challenge, Thigh Slimming Challenge and Sleek Arms Challenge simultaneously.

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30 Day Flat Abs Challenge

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30 Day Butt Lift Challenge

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30 Day Sleek Arms Challenge

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30 Day Thigh Slimming Challenge

I love Blogilates’ Cassey Ho: she is so motivating and fun, and makes it easy to enjoy exercise! Her videos have been such a life-saver to me in the past when I felt like exercising at home.

My intent is to tone up and work on getting stronger and fitter, along with reintroducing regular low-impact cardio like swimming. I believe if I start doing this regularly I can start doing medium to high impact sports like running again. Fingers crossed (and sports shoes laced 😉 ).

What’s your fit for summer routine?