Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Pancakes (you know you want them)

IMG_20170818_094128_433Have you ever seen a title with three more beautiful ingredients within it? I think not.

These pancakes are super simple and fast to make- you can even make the batter and leave it in the fridge overnight, ready to chuck into a hot pan in the morning. At the moment – just on the side- I’m liking to cook my pancakes and anything else in a pan with a bit of coconut oil. Mainly because I have a jar of coconut oil that is close to going off, because I’m not normal a fancy oil kinda gal. It does give a nice taste to pancakes though. So if you have a jar of long-forgotten spur-of-the-moment-purchased coconut oil, you know what to do. Continue reading

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Yorkshire Provender Jumbo Oat Porridges Review!

1502734519014The first thing that attracted me was the fact that it was porridge. I was trying to figure out if I could eat it cold, when (lo and behold) it said it could be eaten hot or cold on the label. Ingredients check: oats (gluten free, if you’re interested), water (self-explanatory), whole milk (nice and filling- BUT one of the pots is dairy free so read on if this is an issue for you!), honey (I do love honey). No refined sugar. Nice, simple ingredients label with no unpronounceable additions- it was practically what I made at home. I was staying in Birmingham when all this went down, and these pots were £1.50 on introductory offer, as opposed to £5 for a breakfast box from the hotel. Problem solved.

Skip forward a few days, and Yorkshire Provender have sent me one of each of their delicious porridge pots! I mean, I like to think I make amazing porridge myself, but I’m also lazy at times. These pots have encouraged me to be lazier. And I thought I’d let you guys in on what I made of each flavour, because I know this time of year a lot of you are zipping around the UK, and are picking up quick food on the go. These pots are a great option for those times…

 

Honey

All the pots have this AMAZING thickness and creaminess to them. Literally, they are like a rice pudding made of oats. I prefer to eat these cold, and recommend you try this before heating them up! From other reviews I have read, it isn’t just me who feels this way. If you’re away from home you also genuinely have no option. Anyway, the cold texture is just incredibly creamy, so why mess with something already pretty good? This particular pot was smooth other than the oat pieces, so if you aren’t a chunk-age fan, then opt for this one. Slight sweetness to it, not too overpowering. It just felt wholesome to eat, and super-filling. I threw in some raspberries, to add in one of my 5 a Day.

 

Honey, Apple & Cinnamon

Very similar to the honey, but with chunks of tender apple, almost as if they had been poached. This pot contains the ingredients I have listed above in the introduction, with apple and honey added in. Now is possibly a great time to mention that these pots all use gluten-free oats. This pot could well have been my favourite, as I love the combination of sweet apple, and warm cinnamon- I feel like it’ll be a great breakfast for when you’re running late in autumn/winter.

 

Cranberries & Pumpkin Seeds (this one is DAIRY FREE!)

My second favourite pot- a close second too. The ingredients list is slightly different for this pot, as dried cranberries are used, and also pumpkin seeds. The pumpkin seeds added a beautiful crunch now and again, great for anyone who usually adds nuts or seeds to their porridge. There are pieces of the cranberries which have re-hydrated in the oats-and-milk mixture, making them juicier than your regular dried cranberries. YP threw a bit of a curveball here, and also threw in red quinoa. It adds a little more flavour and texture, and made this pot extra thick in consistency (we all know I like my oats so thick you can stand a spoon up in them). This is also the pot which is dairy free, using coconut cream, for anyone vegan or lactose intolerant.

I would definitely recommend these pots, and not just for breakfast. If I’m hungry in an evening I’m usually found rummaging around in the cereal tubs, but when I had these in I was headed straight for the fridge. You can buy them in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, thought my local stores don’t seem to have them in yet. I’m really hoping they come in store soon! You can also take a look at them on the YP website for further information.

Creative Ego (and why you need to break up with it)

I heard the phrase “Creative Ego” when listening to a Lavendaire podcast (I cannot recommend this girl highly enough- her podcasts can be found here, and the specific episode I was listening to here), but I actually knew what the Creative Ego was long beforehand. It was one of the first things I was taught to abandon during my degree.

As budding creative writers myself and my friends were told that we would be sharing our work with each other on a regular basis. Every seminar. It was okay if we didn’t want to for the first couple of weeks while we got comfortable, but after that sharing would be the norm. The goal of this? To prevent us from becoming precious about our own work, basically.

Here are some cold hard truths about creative writing : you will always find someone out there that you feel is better than you. Not everyone will like your writing. Sometimes you will struggle with your writing. Sometime you will love your writing. Much as you are proud of your writing, your writing is not you. If it doesn’t go well at some point, then suck it up and move on. Sharing got us into the mind-set of: I can improve this, the first draft is never perfect, I’ll keep going. The alternative was people throwing tantrums because their Creative Ego would be telling them that they had been criticised and either a) everyone else was wrong, or b) they were a shit writer and should never write again. Some people I knew were given creative criticism, and couldn’t handle it. The walls went up, and they decided that they hated writing. This could be described as giving in to the Creative Ego.

Now, the Creative “Ego” might make it sound like these people were simply egotistical pricks. Wrong. The “Ego” can also be, I feel, someone who is a perfectionist. Someone who wants to succeed, and can feel a bit insure when they think they aren’t succeeding. I’ve given into my ego at many times in my life, and in many areas of my life. Doesn’t make me a bad person, or an egotistical prick. It just meant I had to work on embracing failures when they came along. Many of us can take criticism on pieces of work like an essay quite easily, but when it comes to an extended project or piece of creative writing, our ego can get in the way of us using this criticism and using it to our advantage, because this writing matters to us. It is important that we are proud of this writing, and that others also enjoy reading it. Guess how you achieve that? You take a deep breath, take the criticism and the compliments (because by sharing you do get those too), and improve your work continually. You scrap your ego.

I feel immensely privileged to have had my creative ego shattered pretty early on. It allowed me to abandon some pieces of work or edit and improve it, without being defensive or upset. If your passion is writing then that’s great. Sometimes you will get emotional over it, sometimes you will have your reasons for sincerely rejecting a suggestion- but just don’t be precious about your work: accept criticism and suggestions. Test them out before rejecting them. Even if you end up not liking the result, you tried something new. If you hold onto your creative ego it can mean you never even get to try new things, because you end up afraid of criticism. By my university having a policy where you had to sit and listen to suggestions from everyone, take some notes, and only then could you respond/explain/question suggestions, we got used to criticism. We ended up more open-minded, having broken up with our creative egos. Try it, and see what happens to your writing.

48 Hours in Birmingham…

Same scenario as my trip to Edinburgh: I was there Saturday morning until Sunday evening, and had about 13 hours total (excluding travel time and sleeping) to explore a UK city. This time it was Birmingham! These are my picks for spending your time wisely…

 

The Bullring

I feel like Birmingham is different to Edinburgh mainly in that it is definitely a shopping city. The Bullring is HUGE, and made an excellent place to shelter for a couple of hours while there was an unexpected monsoon. If you’re a hardcore shopper then head here. Just outside The Bullring there is one of the loveliest Waterstones stores I’ve ever visited, their poetry section was amazing as far as poetry sections go (they’re usually very small).

 

The City Library & The Secret Garden

Go here if only to see the fairy-lights they’ve hung up all around the inside. The “Secret” Garden is a roof garden on top of the library. If you do one thing other than shopping, make it this. It looks like Birmingham are doing some serious renovations around the area of the library, but when they’re finished the view from this point is going to be phenomenal.

 

Find the bears

At the moment there are a lot of bears scattered around the city, each one decorated differently. I saw kids running around with some kind of checklist for them, and very worn-out looking parents. I couldn’t find a checklist anywhere, but I did find several arty looking bears on my walks.

 

Walk the canals & Stop at a bar

Apparently Birmingham is dubbed the “Venice of the North”, due to its canal network. I took a walk along some of the canal network of Birmingham on the Sunday morning, because I had time to kill before the coffee shops opened. On a sunny, quiet Sunday morning a walk (or run- be prepared to dodge some joggers) along the canals is a beautiful start to the day. More of an evening person? Head to one of the numerous restaurants or bars along the side of the canal, and have a drink!

 

Selfridge & Co. Food Hall

I mentioned The Bullring, but a big part of this place is the Selfridge & Co department store. They had a replica of the bull statue made from what looked like cake sprinkles. They sell vegan doughnuts. They have several restaurants hidden inside here, and a tonne of fancy cakes.

 

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Possibly one of my favourite places- any place I can look at art is generally one of my favourite places. At the moment there’s a diversion to get into the art gallery, because of the city’s renovations, so be sure to follow the diversion signs.

 

The Edwardian Tearoom

This is inside of the art gallery. I really recommend you take a good book, and grab a coffee here. They make awesome cakes, and it makes a good spot to take a break from your intense on-foot exploring.

 

The Sealife Centre

I unfortunately didn’t get chance to go here, because I wasn’t going to spend £20 to get in on the door. If you are wanting to go here (I love the Sealife Centre) then book online the night before, and it costs around £12. Visiting here would be ideal to tie into a walk along the canal network, as its located on the canal-side, near Brindley Place.

 

Jamaican Street Festival (Market & Music)

This was present when I was visiting (August 5th and 6th 2017), and it was AMAZING. The music was great, the dancing was great, the smells…oh my god, the smell of barbeques and spices. If you’re visiting this month, then I hope this is still there when you visit!

 

Any Birmingham locals, or anyone else who has visited Birmingham, did I miss anything I could’ve done in a day or two? Anything I should do next time I visit?

 

My First Tattoo (Experience & Meaning)

1501763518648Today I have had my first tattoo. Its a small glyph which codes for the action “to create”, on the inside of my left wrist. For years I didn’t think I would ever find something important enough to me to be marked on my body forever (which considering I’m a fairly commitment-phobic person, could happen), but I’m incredibly happy with my choice and can’t see that happening right now. So I know what you’re wondering: why “create”… and how much did it hurt?

 

Why? (I think No. 1, 4, 7 and 8 are my favourites)

For numerous reasons, some coming down to design, some coming down to meaning:

  1. The design was simple, clean, and minimal (three things I love), and not something so complex that a) I would go off it, or b) have much trouble lazering it off (because I did have to consider this could one day have to happen if the lines faded or I changed my mind)
  2. Creating is something I have lived my life doing ever since I remember: writing stories, creating fantasy worlds and characters. When I say creating through writing has been in my life since I can remember, I really mean it. I kept a book I was writing something in at all times throughout my childhood.
  3. I spent the best three years of my life creating collection after collection of poems at uni. It reminds me of my journey through this, making improvements to (and constantly improving) my creative work
  4. It reminds me of my ultimate goal in life: to be a published poet. To do this I need to keep creating poetry and seeking inspiration, even when I may not feel like it.
  5. It reminds me of my smaller goal: to return to Newcastle and complete an MA in Creative Writing, at some point. I’m taking a break to work and get a bit of life experience first…
  6. Before the above I’ll be working on creating social media content for food and drink brands. It reminds me (not that I need it) to be grateful that every day I will be doing something creative.
  7. It’s like me giving myself a little pep-talk every time I look at my writing hand (I’m left-handed), and its keeping me accountable for achieving my goals. Even if I’m feeling unmotivated I can always try to write something in my creative journal, to reach for these goals.
  8. It reminds me that I create the reality I want to live. Whatever happens I am in charge of how I respond, and the future those responses then create for me. As someone who has struggled with their mental health I felt like this was another important memo I had to have tattoo-ed onto my wrist.

 

Process & Pain Rating?

This hurt no-where near as much as I had been told it would. It was like someone was scratching your wrist with a drawing pin. That was it.

The process was fairly simple on the day. The tattoo artist (if you come from Bradford, I really recommend Studio 38 and Danny Scott) had several different sizes of the glyph printed out. I chose one, he applied this to my wrist using some kind of transferable ink to use as a stencil. He prepared the inking gun, I had a cup of tea, and he then carefully traced the lines using the tattoo gun. There was a lot of anti-bacterial lotions etc used along the way. When it was all done, he cleaned it up, and wrapped it in cling-film. After 1 hour I was to take this off, and follow my after-care instructions. This meant cleaning it with warm water and a bit of antibacterial soap (if I wanted to use that), rinsing in cold water, patting dry, then rubbing a small amount of cocoa butter body lotion onto it to prevent it drying out and scabbing too much. As it’s a small design it shouldn’t scab over badly at all.

I had it done at 10am, and the swelling and redness is all but gone. The lines look very sharp, and it isn’t painful at all. I have to wrap it back up before bed, and repeat those steps for about two weeks. I should be able to go to the gym and stuff tomorrow. Showers are okay, but no long soaks in the tub.

 

There you have it. I am over the moon with my tattoo and had a really good experience! Right now I don’t have any immediate plans for more tattoos, but if I do get more then they will be more glyphs, possibly on my ankle or ribcage. I’m already eye-ing up the ones that mean “learn”, “challenge”, and “explore”…

July / Mid-Year Evaluation

It has been a long time since I sat down to write on of these posts. In all honesty, for a little while I was super-busy achieving some of the goals to actually sit down and write about it, and then afterwards I was more than a bit burnt-out. But here goes, a mid-year look at where I’m headed- and we have some catching up to do because the last time I wrote it was April…

Self
(This is where I am rolling all of these into one: Relax; Be more adventurous/ accept fear & uncertainty; Enjoy; Expand my mind and enrich my life)

A lot has happened in this one. I’ve moved back home which has been a huge challenge for me, as ideally I would’ve continued to live in Newcastle. This is something many, many friends of mine have had to do, and its just a sad part of being a millennial: living alone is simply too expensive. I did get quite down about losing this aspect of my independence, but in July I decided to suck it up and make the most of it: I can save up for some travel whilst I’m home, enjoy my job, and consider my next move.

Going Go-Karting to get to know all of my new work collegues was a little nerve-wracking. Come on, if you know you’ll be working with people for a good amount of time of course you want to be liked, and you want to like them. Fortunately, I think we’ll get along just fine.

The past couple of months, due to being busy and then suddenly having very little to do, I did feel quite down and I did begin to skip out things which usually make my mind-set that bit better- meditation, gratitude journaling, and I found creative writing quite hard. At the end of July though I did begin to make a concerted effort to pick myself and get moving again, and so far its going well. I mention this because I feel like there’s a huge pressure to be happy all of the time in our society right now, and that’s simply not possible. Some times you will feel down, and its just you being a human, and perfectly natural. Just focus on little things to pick yourself back up.

In July I ended up watching a hell of a lot of documentaries, and also reading many, many books been as I was free from uni reading lists. Didn’t really watch many TEDTalks, but I did find another great little channel which covers science videos and I’ve watched a few of those- I featured this channel in my June/July Favourites. Podcasts dropped off the face of the earth for a while, but I did listen to three in July, from a feminist podcast creator I love, over on Fearless Rebelle Radio.  Documentaries and books did take centre stage for expanding my mind these past few months though.

I’ve been doing well with ED recovery, and there’s been a couple of posts you can read on this. Overall, I just feel more relaxed around food and exercise. I’m still a bit of a health-nut, but I feel like a more balanced one, and one who choses to be so, rather than compelled to be so. The fact that I’m on 70 days of no-binging supports that perfectly.

Tiny little thing to end on with this goal: I booked my first tattoo in July, and as I edit this I have my tattoo completed and wrapped in cling-film on my wrist. I’ve wanted one for ages, and I finally bit the bullet and got inked today. But you’ll have to wait until I write a post on it to see what it looks like…

 

University

Has been completed! This was possibly my main focus of the entire year, as its been three years coming. I graduated with a First Class Honours, and my poetry submission won the award for my degree, which was focused on Creative Writing.

I had a lovely graduation. I wish I could relive it one more time, and I would go back to university and do it all again without a second thought. In fact, I plan on doing so. At some point in the next 2-3 years I intend going back to complete an MA in Creative Writing. We’ll see where life takes me on that one.

 

Start to establish my career path

Last time I wrote I had just found myself a job, and I begin that job in just under one month! I met my work colleagues back in June, and we all went Go-Karting. They’re lovely, and I think I’m really going to enjoy my work.

Another development on the work front: I eventually want to be a published poet. If that goes well, perhaps I would like to take up a position as a creative writing lecturer, or poet in residence at a university. Its a definite option. I’ve always said I wouldn’t teach, but I feel like lecturing in creative writing is different. The students are all there because they’ve chosen to be there. Its a much more relaxed and helpful atmosphere. Technically, as a poet in residence, I wouldn’t be teaching so much as mentoring.

 

Travel more often & explore

Going abroad hasn’t happened, as- to be honest- I felt like I was too late to organise anything. However, I have begun to see a bit more of Britain. I’ve travelled to Edinburgh (in July), this weekend I’m visiting Birmingham, and a week or two after that I’m heading down to Liverpool. I feel like this is good practice for solo travel, and it gives me the time to raise the money and find some one willing to go with me when I head to Europe, hopefully next year. Day trips are also on the horizon, perhaps to Durham, and Carlisle.

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July (and June) Favourites 2017!

It has been a while since I’ve written one of these posts, but in all honesty I didn’t have any new favourites until the very end of July. Now I have some, its time to share them…

Food

Woods Brownie Co. – These are the MOST AMAZING brownies I have EVER had the privilege to eat. They are super-fudgy, and intensely chocolate-y. My favourite is the Belgium Chocolate straight up. The others I have tried are the Valencian Orange, and the Maple & Pecan. Other flavours I hope to get hold of soon are the Salted Caramel, and Morello Cherry. Once they’re back in stock at the shop I buy them from, I shall have a proper review up!

Chaophraya, Newcastle – I’m praying the restaurant in Leeds is just as good, because this is my favourite place to eat at the moment. Chaophraya is Thai food done really well, and so good I chose to eat here after my graduation. I recommend the Tofu Pad Thai, or the Steamed Sea Bass.

Henderson’s Salad Table, Edinburgh – This place serves the most amazing vegan and vegetarian food I have ever come across. When I headed to Edinburgh at the end of July I ate here both the Saturday and the Sunday. I can highly recommend the Vegan Shakshuka, and the Porridge. Henderson’s make amazing porridge.

 

Drinks

Kale-ing Me Softly Mocktail, The Alchemist – My family ripped into me for ordering this when we went for drinks. Its a mixture of lime, apple, and kale, all blended up into a smoothie texture. Super-cold and refreshing if you aren’t feeling the alcohol, or are designated driver.

 

Entertainment & Travel

The Handmaid’s Tale- I know this is a TV show now, but I haven’t watched that yet. The book is amazing, and so I probably will end up watching it this next month. For a full review see here.

Northanger Abbey– This was one of the only Jane Austen novels I hadn’t read before. Overall, really entertaining. I always say Austen is like the comfort food of the book world, and this novel lived up to that.

Edinburgh- July was the first time I have ever visited Edinburgh, and I fell in love with this city. There were so many art galleries, museums and places to explore that I easily filled two days and could’ve stayed longer.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery – This was one of the highlights of my trip to Edinburgh. The Portrait Gallery is well worth a trip if you happen to be visiting the city. For other recommendations of where to head check out my 48 Hours in Edinburgh post.

 

Online

YouTube channel: Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. – This reminds me of TEDTalks, but in a much, much shorter video. I’m a bit of a science nerd at heart, and so this allows me access to science (and philosophy, sociology, psychology etc) without having to pay for it, accompanied by colourful videos, and to-the-point explanations which are easy to follow.

YouTube channel: Jen Bretty – I’m sure that Jen has been a favourite before, and she is again now. I get very excited when I see a video from Jen on my YouTube subscriptions.

Instagram: emmasfood- I have loved this account for quite some time now, because Emma always has beautiful looking food, using everyday ingredients. I’ve recently been grabbing some meal ideas from this account, and one of the best things I was persuaded to try was “cakey oats” (picture at the top of the post). Think porridge with a fluffier, more cake-like texture. I could eat them every day.