5 happiness tips from Dexter T Dog

5 happiness tips from Dexter T Dog

There’s a lot we can learn from our K9 friends especially when it comes to leading a care free and happy life. Here are some tips I try to take on board from my gorgeous dexter dog:

1) Know when to play and when to rest
I consider myself very lucky that Dexter is the K9 version of a lazy teenager, this dog knows how to sleep! He is happy to lay in with us on a Sunday and if I am up before 9am the only movement he will aspire to is getting from his bed to ours.
However when it is time to go for a walk he makes the most of it. Exploring his surroundings, running, playing and enjoying every second of it.
We dwell too much to on the guilt of being inactive and often make exercise more of a chore than it is. Embrace the balance by giving your all to the activities you do so when it is time to recuperate you know your body is getting what it needs.

2) Look forward
K9 interactions can often be hit an miss, as with humans you can’t get on with everyone! The key thing is the ability to walk away with nothing but a forward focus. Dexter wont spend the rest of the walk worrying about what that dog thought if him, feeling guilty for stealing her ball or considering a myriad of reasons the dog may have barked at him. The moment passes and the journey continues.
Rumination is a human trait that we would all be better off without; Why did that person look at me like that? How did I come across? Did they like me? How? Why? What if? We exhaust ourselves reviewing insignificant interactions when we should be leaving things in the past to focus on a positive future.

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3) Broaden your mind
Saturday morning is dog school and from the minute I wake up Dexter is pestering me to leave the house. He loves seeing all his friends, getting fed treats and having to engage his brain. Although the commands are often simple and ones he has done a hundred times before the mental stimulation keeps him active. As humans we tend to focus education on the young when there are too many other distractions going on to get the most from it. Without using the cliche about old dogs and new tricks it is important to learn new skills, broaden your mind and spend your time on this planet developing yourself.

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Dexter and his class mates at a recent trip to the beach 

4) Eat well
Being a dog, Dexters diet is not one I’d recommend to any human; although it will give you strong teeth and a glossy coat! However, his attitude to food is something we can learn a lot from. Yes he’ll sneak a treat here and there, even if a treat to him constitutes some cat poo or a mouldy banana skin! But each day when he is presented with a bowl of his dried dog food he greats it with such enthusiasm it may as well be a full roast dinner or hearty fry up. He knows it is sustenance & fuel for his body which gives him the nutrition and energy he needs to chase that squirrel or catch that ball. Granted he has little control over his diet and perhaps if we all had our own private chef a balanced diet would be easier to achieve. Only you are in control of what you eat so next time you look at a bowl of salad or a plate of greens appreciate it for the fuel it is and enjoy that you are giving your body what it needs rather than what your brain thinks it wants.

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Not a diet I’d recommend!!!

5) Be yourself
My favourite thing about Dexter is that he is truly himself (as are most dogs). Dogs don’t put on an act to get people to like them or hide their feelings for fear of rejection. He will try and lick your face no matter your size, religion or pay packet – you’re just another human that needs a kiss! Dogs have no perception of their size or breed, they meet each other and with a sniff and a bow they’ve made a new friend. Our preconceptions can hold us back as we convince ourselves that we wont fit in or we have nothing in common with other cultures. Instead take a moment to have a conversation, you’ll probably learn something and your life will be richer for it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog which is a fun way of thinking about the bad habits us humans come to form. What could you learn from your pets? I’d love to hear your stories and photos of your 4 legged friends. Take Care x

Chinese Tea Tasting

Chinese Tea Tasting

For any tea enthusiast China is a dream destination where days can be spent getting lost in tea plantations and tasting all the amazing brews on offer…..I can but dream! However my Aunty & Uncle were recently lucky enough to travel around parts of China and kindly brought back two types of tea for me to try.

So here they are in all their glory:

Pu’er Tea 

This is a black tea which originates from the Yunnan province of China. After a complex process of fermentation the matured leaves are pressed into cakes for storage and sale. These can range from 50g to 1000g  in size, shaped into bricks, balls or domes. My gorgeous gift tin is filled with individually wrapped mini cakes, the golden foil more familiarly associated with sweets and chocolate rather than our daily cuppa.

Just half a cake is required per brew and this can be reused 7 or 8 times. You don’t get that sort of value with your standard supermarket bag! The cakes are sturdy little things but with a snap in the middle I pop half in the pot to make my first cup.

The dried leaves have a strong peaty aroma which is released when dowsed in the boiling water. This is a grounding brew, powerful and earthy it’s not messing about. I fill my cup with the stunning russet liquid, like the embers of a camp fire smouldering away.

Thankfully not as ferocious on the palate as you may expect. It’s strength is contained in the fragrance which gently washes over your tongue to leave a smoky after taste. Cleansing and moreish I enjoyed this brew, not least for the health benefits it boasts; assisting weight loss, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.

 

Ginseng Oolong Tea 

Oolong is distinctive by it’s small, smooth pellet form. The leaves are worked through a process of bruising, withering and shaping to reach the desired texture. Falling between the gap of black and green teas, Oolong is the middle ground where many of the health benefits of green tea are present but the flavour is milder thanks to the longer oxidation period.

These leaves can also be reused, with the 3rd or 4th cup being rumoured to be the best flavour. It’s hard to believe the tiny green pearls are tea leaves but as they begin to steep the hot water entices them to unfurl and release their flavour.

This brew shines golden orange in the cup with a sweet honey suckle fragrance. It’s feels light and summery on the palate making it very easy to drink. The smooth, sweetness of honey is kissed with a subtle after thought of liquorice from the ginseng. No matter the weather outside the sunshines on you as you enjoy this brew.

I was aware that Oolong was readily available here in the UK but I am pleased to find that Pu’er (aka Pu’erh) is also available from most good stockists in either loose leaf or cake form. So next time you stick the kettle on why not try and taste of the orient and enjoy a little ceremony with your tea.

Lu Tong’s Seven Bowls of Tea 七碗诗 卢仝(唐. 790~835)

The first bowl moistens my lips and throat; 一碗喉吻潤,

The second bowl breaks my loneliness; 二碗破孤悶,

The third bowl searches my barren entrails but to find 三碗搜枯腸,

Therein some five thousand scrolls; 惟有文字五千卷,

The fourth bowl raises a slight perspiration 四碗發輕汗,

And all life’s inequities pass out through my pores; 平生不平事盡向毛孔散,

The fifth bowl purifies my flesh and bones; 五碗肌骨清,

The sixth bowl calls me to the immortals. 六碗通仙靈,

The seventh bowl could not be drunk, 七碗吃不得也,

only the breath of the cool wind raises in my sleeves. 唯覺兩腋習習清風生。

Where is Penglai Island, Yuchuanzi wishes to ride on this sweet breeze and go back. 蓬萊山﹐在何處,玉川子乘此清風欲歸去。

{Lu Tong, Chinese Poet}

 

 

Cake Diary: Camphill Cafe

Cake Diary: Camphill Cafe

With the weather being as glorious as it has been of late my other half and I decided to explore somewhere new to walk the dog. We headed up to Milton Keynes (the land of round abouts) to enjoy a picnic by Willen Lake. Amidst the sprawling housing estate that is Milton Keynes is this oasis where you can do as little or as much as you choose. There is an array of water sports on offer on the lake, from rowing to wakeboarding and most things in between, but as tempting as the swan pedalos looked we kept our feet (and paws) on dry land!
The park is vast and once within in you soon forget that you are in the middle of suburbia. We walked around the lake trying our hand at some of the exercise pit stops along the way (this challenge came to an abrupt end when I beat my other half on the monkey bars!). So to keep the peace we kept moving, meandering along the banks enjoying the sunshine.
In contrast to the sporty, fast paced South Lake the North Lake is home to a Buddhist temple and the first peace pagoda to be built in the western world. We clambered up the hill beyond the pagoda and found the “one world tree”, its branches heavy with messages of hope, photos of loved ones who have passed and ribbons of remembrance. We took a moment in this peaceful place, surrounded by cherry trees, to read some of the messages.

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Just a short stroll took us to the perfect spot to sit and unwrap our sandwiches, overlooking the labyrinth and the lake beyond. The dog was content playing fetch and returning in hope of a spare crust to keep his energy up. Hours could be spent enjoying this clean and open space but cake was calling our name and I had found somewhere nearby to satisfy this urge.
Just across the road from Willen Lake North and the car park for the peace pagoda is a wonderful place called the Camphill Cafe. Camphill is an organisation that offers support and development for adults with learning difficulties or disabilities. They run a community where residents live as independently as possible whilst being supported for their individual needs.


Co-workers live alongside the residents assisting them with day to day activities and as many of the workers visit from abroad the residents, in turn, assist them in practicing their English language skills. It is a partnership throughout and the residents are encouraged to take part in various activities and workshops that are available on site on site.
One of these workshops is the cafe where residents develop their social skills, customer service and food preparation knowledge. Serving seasonal lunches, hot beverages and cakes baked on site in the Camphill bakery. The bakery and gardens are other areas where residents can learn about growing plants and vegetable or making bread and baked goods, all of which go on to be sold in the cafe. The pickles and preserves the residents are taught to make are also sold in the community shop. It’s a hands on environment making the site essentially self sufficient, its great to be able to meet those who have hand made many of the products on offer.
As we arrived it was like entering a small village, peaceful and slow paced. The gardens are exquisite with the residents clearly taking pride in the pruning and planting. The shared accommodation wraps itself around a small green area, with residents milling about running errands or off to their scheduled workshops. The cafe is modern in it’s decor, pine furniture and simple table dressings. Every wall filled with art work for sale and murals of the community, the space is filled with colour and light. We took a seat outside in front of the lawns to enjoy the sun.
Our dog attracted a lot of attention as numerous residents came over to enquire about him and take an interest in our day. With our order taken we welcomed the interactions, finding out more about the residents and how they fill their days. Some, it seems, have a preference for working in the cafe whereas others like to mix it up by spending each day doing something different. It is clear that they all get a lot of satisfaction out of what they do and a real sense of independence.
The cakes and scones on offer all looked delicious and the slices were generous to satisfy the appetite we had worked up walking around the lakes. Today my slice of choice was coffee and walnut. Not being a coffee drinker I am often cautious when it comes to this flavour but to my delight the balance of coffee to cake was perfect; soft sponge with just a hint of coffee, complimented by the sweet icing and bitter walnuts. My partner in cake ordered the Victoria sponge which was equally healthy is size with a generous layer of icing in the middle.


We selected a pot of mint tea to accompany our cakes, I always find this brew more refreshing on a warm day as it is still palatable as it cools down. I was impressed that the cakes are baked on site and the residents should feel a great sense of pride in the products they produce. I am not encouraging you to visit Camphill out of obligation or to feel good that you have contributed to those who require support in day to day living. I am encouraging you to visit because the cake is delicious, the produce is fresh and seasonal and it is the epitome of locally produced. The fact you’ll meet some amazing people and support this fantastic charity is just the cherry on the cake.
Camphill Cafe, Japonica Lane, Milton Keynes MK15 9JY TEL: 01908 308738

Cake Diary: Petersham Nurseries

Cake Diary: Petersham Nurseries

Being a foodie people regularly recommend places which I may enjoy visiting for food, drinks and, of course, tea. A colleague of mine had been urging me to visit London’s Borough Market for some time, with stories of street food and fresh produce from around the globe, eclectic backgrounds come together for the love of food and the vibe of our great capital city. Several months ago we put a date in our diary so she could share this amazing place with me but sadly it was not to be. Just one week prior to our planned visit 3 men took innocent lives in this vibrant market place and with the Police working hard to investigate it the market remains closed at this time.

Despite the inevitable fear and caution I felt inside I knew that acts of terror must not deter us from living our lives. The closure may have caused us to change our plans but London would still be our destination. Even during world war 2 milkmen made their deliveries, we are British and no enemy, near or far, will stand between us and a brew!

London milkman, 1940
Photo by Fred Morley – Learn more here

The weather was kind to us as we left the Shires and headed into the city, first stop Camden Town. The streets were heaving with rivers of people flowing in and around the market stalls and we were soon swept away. My senses over whelmed with colours and sounds from each of the stalls. Bespoke handmade jewellery, scarfs and bags through to antique books, records and clothing. Truly something for everyone which is reflected in the clientele.

Our noses lead us to the food stalls where you can travel the world in just a few paces. When offered the world on a plate where do you start?! Thailand or Mexico, America or the Middle East? In the end I landed in Greece with fresh falafel and halloumi wraps drizzled in yogurt dressing, crunchy salad and topped with pomegranate it was the perfect lunchtime treat.

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Leaving behind the white water pace of Camden we hopped onto the water bus to head west. The dockside was lined with swinging legs soaking up the sun, passing them we meandered through Regents Park to our next stop, Little Venice. Tree lined avenues radiate out from the Grand Union and Regents canals with ornate barges decorating the waters edge, city life slows down to just four knots. You can re-fuel at the quaint floating cafe before walking the tow paths to explore this picturesque area.

Despite tea and cake being on offer this was not our destination de jour. A short tube ride from Paddington took us to Richmond where it is hard to believe you’re so close to central London. We walked along the Thames which was littered with rowers and paddle boarders, passed meadows of grazing cows in search of a hidden gem called Petersham Nurseries. This is not your average garden centre as tucked among the roses and evergreens is a Tea House with a difference.

Welcomed through an ornate oak doorway you find yourself in a secret garden greenhouse where you can enjoy tea and cake amongst the flora. The metal furniture is beaten and worn as if hidden here for decades, painted bright colours it blends in with the surrounding plant life. Relaxed and open plan privacy between diners is provided by orange trees, shrubs and vines which scent the room with citrus and jasmine. As well as the Teahouse they also offer a more extensive menu in their cafe, although this should be booked well in advance

Although we arrived late in the day there were still plenty of cake options on offer. My partner in cake ordered the lemon and poppyseed which did tempt me until I spotted the elderflower sponge. Given the surroundings I felt something floral was appropriate. To accompany it, the Petersham afternoon tea blend.

I was disappointed the elderflower flavour did not pack more of a punch but the sponge was deliciously light. Scattered with almonds throughout it did not loose moisture and was topped with sweet Italian meringue icing. The loose leaf brew was a simple black tea, light and refreshing with a splash of milk. The perfect pick me up after a day of exploring new sites. We soaked up the magical atmosphere and enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon sun as it shone through the glasshouse.

It’s hard for words to do this place justice, I feel even my photos don’t convey the experience in full technicolour. I often find cities claustrophobic, with towering concrete, exhaust fumes and people – oh so many people! Petersham offers an oasis of calm where I could almost feel the fresh oxygen emanate from the plants all around us. Wandering back to the tube riverside the sky opens up above you and you can’t help but smile. Richmond is a place you want to be, on or off the water it’s somewhere to slow down and enjoy what we have, for it is magic and cannot be taken from us.

“Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden – in all the places.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, TW10 7AB       TEL: 0208 940 5230 

The Art of Artisan Chocolate

The Art of Artisan Chocolate

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of returning to The School of Artisan Food to take part in an Artisan Chocolate making workshop hosted by the award winning Ottar Chocolate. It was such a joy being back on the historic grounds of The Welbeck Estate, its sandstone buildings glimmering in the spring sunshine, framed by fields in a rainbow of green.
Shelly was our guide for the day and it was apparent from the outset that chocolate runs through her veins, blood may be thicker than water but chocolate is thicker still! She shared her knowledge about the origin of the beans and I found it fascinating to learn what real chocolate is. The link between cocoa beans and tea leaves is clear; it truly matters where the product comes from and how it is processed. As with many crops the soil, altitude, weather and atmosphere all impact on the flavour. This seems a logical link when talking about wine, coffee and tea but chocolate seems to be the black sheep of this family. Let’s face it we all reach for a bar of galaxy or dairy milk when we get a sugar craving but that is exactly the issue, it’s a sugar craving and so far removed from chocolate.
My palate is used to detecting the subtle flavours in tea, appreciating hints of malt, spice or fruit in different brews, but could I tune in to chocolate? We took a taste test with beans from two origins, Madagascan and Brazilian. Like a sommelier of chocolate we used all of our senses to experience each. Starting with the Madagascan I noted it didn’t immediately melt with the warmth of my fingers into a gooey, sticky mess. Snapping the chocolate drop in half released the familiar aroma before I popped it into my mouth, letting it melt slowly. Solid dissolved to liquid on my tongue and it hit my taste buds with an unexpected citrus zing. The texture was unmistakably chocolate but the flavour was creamy, cut through with sharp lemon and a floral undertone. The Brazilian taster was still smooth but held a more nutty, toasted flavour. Deeper and richer it stayed on the palate with a comforting warmth of roasted beans. The differences were notable and could not be disputed; I finally understood what chocolate tastes like!
My taste buds were alive and in turn ignited my imagination. The kitchen soon became a hive of activity with a smorgasbord of fresh ingredients on offer; herbs, spices, fruit, nuts and, to my relief, teas! Shelly guided us through making salted caramel and tempering chocolate. She offered advice on balancing flavours as we raided the ingredients to create the perfect truffle. I was content lost in this chocolate paradise, coco powder in my hair and a workstation looking similar to an edible Pollack masterpiece.


It was a day spent with like minded people, learning and laughing. As always the school were attentive hosts offering an array of freshly made salads for lunch, the pea and mint hummus with herby focaccia was so delicious I had to have seconds…..and thirds! You can taste the freshness in every dish and the ethos of the school runs through every product and course they offer.

A perfect part of this artisan puzzle is Ottar chocolates, creating divine sweet pastries and truffles from high quality ingredients. The cocoa beans are ethically sourced from farms where the workers are treated well, their children are in school and the product is processed with care and respect. The passion for every step of this artisan process is evident in the work this husband and wife team put in, lovingly transforming chocolate into delicious treats which can be enjoyed (almost) guilt free.

Next time you have a chocolate craving think about the bar you choose. Don’t automatically reach for the sugar hit, why not explore the bean to bar process and select something where you can savour the flavour and awaken your taste buds!

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Salted caramel heaven
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It’s all about balance
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Earl grey and lemon truffles

Ottar Chocolate, The Welbeck Estate, Worksop, S80 3LT            TEL: 01909 512579

Cake Diary: Cakestand & Crumb

Cake Diary: Cakestand & Crumb

Todays venture into cake lead me out of Hertfordshire to the small town of Ampthill in neighbouring Bedfordshire. With a quaint village like feel and a fascinating history Ampthill is littered with boutique shops, antique stores and pretty tea rooms, one of which being Cakestand & Crumb. I was first introduced to this hidden gem pre-blog so I simply had to return and share it with you.

Tucked away through an archway this vintage tea room catches your eye with it’s pastel frontage and multicoloured outdoor furniture. As it is away from the main road it can be pleasant to sit outside in the fresh air as to say it’s cosy within is an understatement. With just half a dozen tables it is an intimate affair, natural light floods through the gorgeous bay window preventing a claustrophobic sensation. As if welcomed into someones own dining room vintage dressers display old books and crockery and a record player fills the space with the unmistakable crackle of vinyl.

We had reserved a table, which I highly recommend doing, and ordered the full afternoon tea. We were running late but the staff were very accommodating and welcoming as we arrived. Our table laid out beautifully with classic vintage crockery and cutlery, linen table clothes soften the rustic wooden furniture and there is no holding back on doilies; chintz with all the trimmings. The glass display counter imprisons delicious cake creations including gluten free lemon, chocolate fudge, white chocolate and raspberry and a selection of cup cakes. Their slices are not for the faint-hearted, triple tiered, laden with thick buttercream icing and topped with the fresh fruit or thick chocolate drizzle. Choose wisely as there will be no room for seconds!

I was pleasantly surprised that the afternoon tea is brought to the table in courses. As divine as the tiered stands look they can also be intimidating; foothills of sandwiches to wander through before clambering up to the boulder like scones then the final push to the sugary sponge summit. Instead a delicate selection of sandwiches was placed before us, delicious triangles of ham & mustard, egg & cress and cheese & chutney. The bread was fresh and soft, each mouthful met with a flavoursome filling. With no time pressures upon us we were free to graze and top up our teas.

There was a respectable list of loose teas to choose from that included all the favourites but one in particular caught my eye, “Lost Malawi”. I believe the blend is from the Rare Tea Company who source the leaves from one of the oldest tea farms in Malawi called Satemwa. This is essentially a black tea, similar to english breakfast, but the fact it is hand crafted in small batches with such care taken over the harvest each cup fills with a rich smooth flavour you can’t find in a high street bag. We also ordered a pot of Assam so we could both try and compare each brew. As expected the Assam was malty and soft, slightly creamier than the Malawi leaf but equally enjoyable.

As we talked and topped up our second course arrived, traditional fruit scones with jam and clotted cream. In contrast to my recent scone encounter I was presented with two mini scones, delightful morsels on which I balanced cream and jam (I have now decided I am firmly in the Devonshire camp…….subject to change!). Four bites was just enough to bridge the gap from savoury to sweet.

With empty pots we decided to change our brew for the final course. Each with the lasting sensation of clotted cream on our palates we opted for a cleansing pot of lemon verbena. Served in modern glass pots the leaves swirled before our eyes as the tea brewed. A light golden green in colour it tasted as fresh as it looked. The perfect accompaniment for the sweet and sticky course that followed.

 

Our final plate consisted of bite size chocolate brownies with a sticky layer of fruit jam running through the centre. Mini lemon and mascarpone tarts, encased in buttery, crumbly pastry aside a gooey meringue topped with whipped cream and fruit. Each bite was delicate in texture but heavy in flavour, sweet, soft, crunchy, zesty, rich and fruity, the summit had it all. I was beaten by the time I reached the meringue so it was kindly boxed up for me to take home. Unfortunately I was a little careless as I got in the car and the box tumbled from my hand, bouncing off the car to land face down on the pavement!!!!…..oh well, now I have eaton mess!!

This bijou bakery has a world of passion within and every drop is poured into it’s bakes and although there is a compromise with space there is no such compromise when it comes to flavour. Enjoy a monstrous slab of indulgence or a platter of miniature delights, either way you wont be disappointed as you devour every morsel from Cake-stand to crumb.Cake Diary

Cakestand and Crumb, 7 Kings Arms Yard, Ampthill, MK45 2PJ        TEL: 07843 574379 

Cake Diary: Brownlow Cafe

Cake Diary: Brownlow Cafe

Having a cheeky weekday off work can mean only one thing, time for tea and cake. With my other half and our four legged friend in tow we heading up to the Ashridge estate. I have been visiting this national trust site since I was a child. Memories of school trips to go pond dipping and collect soil samples, climbing trees and getting lost away from the beaten track. No matter the weather I have enjoyed long walks around the acres of forest, secluded meadows and rolling hills.

We parked up near the Bridgewater Monument, named after a historic Ashridge resident, the third Duke of Bridgewater. The imposing granite column towers above the surrounding ancient trees allowing stunning 360 degree views from the top, thats if you can handle the 172 steps to get there!

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We stayed at ground level venturing deep into the forest, soon the groups of ramblers, horse riders and young families were far behind us. The dog ran free, picking up sticks far to large but his perseverance meant they were dragged for several meters. The spring canopy was filling up with new green leaves and a carpet of bluebells softened the forest floor. With wildlife all around us we walked and talked, building up an appetite for lunch.

Brownlow’s cafe is situated between the monument and the Ashridge visitors centre where you can pick up walking maps, books and gifts. All the seating is outside so opening times vary between the seasons but large umbrellas protect you from the worst of the elements if required. Dogs are welcome and lay strewn between tables or looking hopefully at their owners plates, wide eyed and waggy tailed.

On offer is locally sourced produced on a varied menu of hot and cold dishes. An all day breakfast, or a jacket spud laden with tuna or cheese, baguettes and panini’s, fresh chilli con carne with crusty bread or home made quiche and salad. The portion sizes give exceptional value for money but you have to leave room for cake!

Slabs of the classics such as lemon drizzle and carrot cake are on offer alongside chocolate brownies and muffins with plenty of tea to wash it down. Hearty brews to warm up walkers rather than dainty cups and saucers. I saw several people opt for the hot chocolate which comes pilled high with mini marsh mallows. I chose a cup of english breakfast to go with the locally renowned scone with jam and clotted cream, which didn’t disappoint. To say it was giant is an understatement, it was a scone on steroids!! Huge and fruit filled it bulged with enough cream to feed a hoard of ramblers. I felt the ratio of cream to jam was a little unbalanced and as they are preprepared you cant personalise the toppings. Never the less it was light, creamy, fruity and delicious! Despite the miles we had walked the scone beat me, but having polished off his more reserved slice of brownie my other half stepped up to assist.

All the fresh air, exercise and cake made for a sleepy trio heading home. The dog, free from human chores, snored as preparations were made to head back to work tomorrow. In fact he still snores as I type…….it’s a dogs life!!!!

Brownlow Cafe, Moneybury Hill, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire HP4 1LX 

Tel: 01442 851670 

Mind Surfing

Mind Surfing

via Daily Prompt: Pause

Over recent months I have learnt a valuable lesson in relation to our state of mind…….nothing is permanent.

Your current state of mind will not be the same next month, next week or possibly even in the next hour. Just as it is unlikely your current state of mind is an exact replica of those in the past. This may seem like an obvious concept but too often we find ourselves feeling a certain way, in fear that we will never adapt. Teenagers are pro’s at this, every break up or mistake made is the end of their world and they can’t see beyond it. Although we grow out of this as an extreme it is still a place we can find ourselves visiting. The horizon gets closer as our view of the future narrows, unable to even imagine cracking a smile or laughing with friends.

Or perhaps you are searching for an elusive state of mind believing that once you reach it you can relax as all will be as it should. It’s healthy to strive for something, follow your dreams and set goals but don’t allow this to distort your vision of now. I see so much on social media about happiness; Where to find it, what it looks like, how to get it. But what happens when you get it? Happiness is no more permanent than fear or anger or sadness. It’s simply another emotion that makes up the patch work of you. Of course we’d all like our patch work to be happiness heavy but how do you know your happy if you’ve never been sad?

Try to face your emotions as a surfer faces the ocean. You don’t know what the next wave may bring The only thing we can reply on is that the crest always crashes, dissipating into the next swell. If you can learn how to successfully navigate these waves your state of mind becomes a far less daunting place. Let yourself experience each feeling, acknowledge it and ride it out. This is not a simple task, anyone who has tried surfing will tell you that it’s never an easy ride but it is one that can offer great reward. The process can’t be rushed, you stand up too soon and you’ll have to swim, fight it and you’ll fall. Take your time, pause and just be with your state of mind, remembering that it’s only for now.

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Tea Diary: Real Remedies

Tea Diary: Real Remedies

There are some events you see advertised and they call out to you, almost as if it had been handpicked for you. On this occasion it was a journey through the chakras with a locally blended tea to compliment each, could it be more perfect? The evening was hosted by Real Remedies at the Tiki Cafe in Hemel Hempstead. The cafe itself is a stylish, independent coffee shop which holds a variety of events including open mic nights. They have an event room upstairs which is where our tea tasting would take place. Decked out with vintage furniture and retro art work it was an open yet chilled out space.

Our hosts for the evening were James & Vanessa Jacoby, the co-founders of Real Remedies, the passion they have for their business shone through from the outset. Friendly and welcoming with a wealth of knowledge to assist those less familiar with the chakras and their qualities. From my yoga practice I have a basic understanding of where the chakras are but knew little else. I was in for an educational evening as we began our journey through the chakras, one cup at a time.

We have seven principle chakras running up the centre of our bodies, each a unique centre of spiritual power. Linked to emotional and physical well being, blockages in these centres can have a negative impact on the way we feel. If our chakras are unblocked energy can flow freely around our body ensuring good health. With each chakra having its own distinct identity each tea in turn has it’s own distinct flavour to support and relieve the energy flow within us. Let’s make it clear that no medical promises can be made here but the ingredients for each tea are hand picked for their benefits in alleviating issues associated with each body part and aiding over all well being.

We started at our base, the root chakra. This is at the base of your spine, grounding you to the earth and giving you a sense of safety and security. In the jar the fragrance was light and fruity, like summer strawberries. Once brewed it became deep aubergine in colour with a more spicy, cinnamon scent. I enjoyed the fruitiness from the strawberry and elderberry, and the cinnamon gave the grounding warmth. A comforting cup which could easily settle you if anxious, offering vitality when fatigued and perhaps bringing you back to earth when all seems a little out of control.

Next up is the sacral chakra just below the belly button. Our centre of strength it inspires creativity and energy. In contrast to the first this tea was earthy with a hint of citrus, light brown in colour it gave a much sharper flavour. At fist sip I was not convinced, it felt like a pallet cleanser dominant with orange peel and nettle. As my palate adjusted to the tartness of this brew I grew to enjoy it. Although still fruity the citrus edge really gives this one a more stimulating feel, if you were low on energy or perhaps had a project to focus on this would certainly pep you up.

I was already pleasantly surprise that I could easily identify the teas different personalities. The blends are complex but truly tune into different sensations.

We continued on to the Solar Chakra. This is just above the naval and we have moved up to the centre of confidence and will power. It had similar citrus tones to the last but lighter and fresher. An underlying warmth from cinnamon gave it a peppery edge. The lightest in colour of the teas so far it appeared golden in the cup. It felt like powerful brew, packing a punch and awakening the senses. This would be great after an over indulgence as the blend of flavours perked me up yet calmed and settled my stomach. It’s feisty flavour may help inspire you to regain control and take action where its needed.

Half way up we reach our heart chakra, unsurprisingly at our heart. It is central to us feeling balanced and content. Finding peace here can open us up to love and compassion whilst quietening our self critic. Fairly bright in colour it was yellow with a hint of green in the cup. The jar gave a light floral fragrance with a hint of mint. I found it very soft on the palate, gently warming as the fennel and spearmint complimented each other in perfect balance. This was an easy one to drink, smooth and soft it brought about a sense of peace. A cup would give you a window of stillness in the busiest of days, time to compose yourself and persevere.

Next we reach the chakra that represents expression and authenticity, the Throat Chakra. This is one I have an affinity with as if I am struggling to communicate something or my creative expression is stifled I often feel it in my throat. I was interested to experience this tea and how it may alleviate blockages here. Speckled with powder blue corn flowers the blend is aromatic with liquorice and cloves. The flavour not as strong as the scent which was a pleasant surprise. The light catches a slight blue tone in the brew, smooth across the tongue it almost caresses your throat on the way down, perfect if you’re feeling any tension or a sore throat. This soft brew felt very smooth to drink, relaxing and enabling you to express yourself with authenticity.

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Throat Chakra Tea

Our penultimate chakra is the 3rd eye, placed on your forehead just between the brows. As we rise up through the chakras we also rise up from the earth. Away from the more grounding centres to the place of intuition and wisdom. This blend is light with a purple edge to it, breathing in a more heady and aromatic scent. Caraway, marshmallow root and star anise work in harmony along with fruity notes that lift your attention up and beyond the 3rd eye. This cup is one to enjoy if you’re lacking concentration and need to reconnect the mind and body.

So finally we reach the heights of the Crown Chakra, right on the top of the head. There is really no limit to this energy centre as it connects you with all that is beyond. The brew is floral with rose petals, rosemary and lavender combining to relax and unite you. The scent is uplifting and the flavour warm with nutmeg. This is a cup to make space for, enjoy it as it swirls around your senses and be as ease.

Each of the blends is a joy to the eye, colourfully speckled with dried fruit and flowers. Flavours that I would not have normally tried where combined in a unique way. I enjoyed the experience of being talked through the chakras and how the ingredients were hand picked to compliment each energy centre. Of course you can enjoy these teas for what they are, naturally delicious, but tuning into your body and sensations of each brew added a new eye opening level to enjoying a cuppa.

Real Remedies also offer tinctures and tonics of their blends to harness the power of nature to aide the body, mind and soul. Put the kettle on and enjoy a different kind of brew, with an inquisitive mind and an open heart you may find the perfect brew for you.

You can learn more about other events and workshops or buy on line at Real Remedies website.

Tiki Cafe, 208 The Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead, Herts HP1 1BH TEL: 01442 240108

Cake Diary: Three Wise Monkeys

Cake Diary: Three Wise Monkeys

Last Friday I celebrated my Thirty *Ah-Hem* birthday. Having the day off work was the perfect opportunity to visit a little place that had caught my eye. Each day my journey into work takes me down a narrow country lane on which I often get stuck in slow traffic. Although the lack of speed can be frustrating it does allow you time to notice things that often pass you by. Just the other week a sign caught my eye for “Three Wise Monkeys, Vintage Emporium”. The first thing that springs to mind is that we don’t have enough emporiums these days. Imagine a world of food emporiums, shoe emporiums, wine emporiums! Sounds like a wonderful place doesn’t it?
I am aware of a chain of opticians called the Eye Emporium which conjures up such amazing images of glass cabinets, weird and wonderful trinkets and drawers full of eye balls (FYI it’s your standard opticians but one can imagine!). This was not a sign I could turn a blind eye to.

Off we went down rain soaked lanes to seek out the emporium. It’s hard to spot at first as its part of a large Osprey outlet center and the Three Wise Monkeys sign was not obvious from the road. Tucked around the back of the high end barn conversions is a treasure trove of all things vintage. Welcomed by a small tea room your eye is immediately caught by the bespoke furniture and shelves of antique crockery. Chunky wooden tables surrounded by beautifully upholstered farmhouse chairs. The stools at the breakfast bar are converted tractor seats, stark and metallic against the natural wood and kitsch finishes. A door in each direction beckons you to explore but which way first?

Being a converted barn everything is charmingly wonky, exposed beams and wooden floors. Every nook and cranny is filled with treasures from bygone eras. Each room is divided up into sections for individual stall holders, all with their own unique style. From Old street signs and gardening equipment, glassware and pottery, clothing and handbags, up cycled tables and chairs, artwork and lighting, jewelry and gifts. My eyes couldn’t rest, flitting from one to the next, down low, up high, every inch another discovery. After perusing we took a rest for lunch and cake before going back for more.

The cafe is beautiful and all the furniture is up for sale so if your chair is comfy you can take it home! The menu was comforting, just what we needed on a chilly damp day. A cheese toasty each and a huge sausage roll to share, delicious buttery pastry encased flavorsome pork and chili filling. You can have it served with salad and coleslaw which would be a meal in itself but we had to save room for a slice of cake, it’s my birthday after all! It was disappointing that the cakes aren’t homemade but the site has a trade only license so doesn’t have the facility to cook things from scratch. The brought in selection was vast including coffee and walnut, raspberry and white chocolate slice, chocolate brownie and an array of muffins.

My partner in cake beat me to the raspberry and coconut slice which had caught my eye, so I opted for a slab of the orange and poppy seed sponge. The slice had a firm layer of pastry and ample raspberry jam topped with a coconut sponge, desiccated crumbs tumbled with every bite, it was a joyful mess to eat.

The orange sponge was flecked with poppy seeds giving each mouthful added texture. The freshness of orange was a welcome twist on the familiar combo of citrus and seed. The sponge was heavy but flavorful, mildly complimented by thin layer of zingy icing which could have been so much more indulgent; caterers are perhaps a little stingier with their stock than home bakers! Never the less the serving was substantial and gave me the energy I needed to get back out there and shop!

3 wise monkeys

The question you have to ask yourself is, when was the last time you visited an emporium? If it’s not been recently, or at all, you must venture out to Three Wise Monkeys, my only advice is to cover your eyes if you don’t want to be tempted by the beautiful antiques on offer, cover your ears if you don’t want hear the stories behind the unique pieces of art and cover your mouth if you want to resist the delicious tea room!

Be sure to check out their WordPress blog or Facebook pages to find out what they have going on.

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Three Wise Monkeys, The Saddlery, Woodcock Hill, St Albans, AL4 9HJ 

Tel: 07886 977420