May Memories 

I’m saddened by the news recently. All these traumas and terrible events, that seem to not be a reality as they happen so far away, have been brought close to home.

I always go through life in a bubble, trying to shield myself from the news as I don’t want to accept that these horrors are true. Yet of course they are, and when it happens in your city, you can’t ignore it. I had plans to write my usual monthly musings, but waking up to the news of a terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, it’s made me think differently.

Going about our everyday lives as if nothing has happened, that’s not an option. Of course we must be aware, make others aware and send all our love to the families of the people affected. We can all take a moment of quiet to think, but we must not let it stop us from living our lives. You can’t allow things like this to prevent you from travelling and exploring this mad world, or even stepping out of your front door. We were all put on this earth to live our lives to the fullest they can possibly be.

As northerners we will stand strong and together to get through it. We have done in the past so we won’t stop now. I thought I would cease all the food pics and recipes and mindless chatter for this week. Showing you what I had for breakfast isn’t really relevant, not in times of grief. However on second thought, I will carry on. Stopping our lives in our tracks is what the people causing the hurt want. And we can’t allow that.

So, here are a few things which have made a mark on my month. The little things that make me truly grateful for the life I am living, healthy and surrounded by people I love. Please do comment, start a conversation, I’d love to hear from you. Just the little perks that make you smile and glow brighter.

Stay safe out there.

#1 Brazil nuts

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More than a bit obsessed with these. Everyday for the past few weeks I’ve tried to include 3 Brazil nuts, whether it’s part of a snack or breakfast, there they have been. Nuts are great for us, such a good source of fibre, vitamin E (think dewy skin), plant based protein and healthy fats, but Brazil nuts in particular are abundant in selenium. Selenium is a good mineral to fill your boots with, it’s an anti-inflammatory, aids with thyroid function, acts as a mood enhancer, supports your immune system to help wounds heal and you only need 3-4 to get 100% of your daily needs. Not a bad deal right?

 

#2 The Natural Deodorant Co.

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Finding a good natural deodorant. It’s harder than getting your hands on a ripe avocado after the post-work supermarket dash. And don’t even try bothering with a sweet potato past 7pm. If you’re wanting to venture into a healthier lifestyle, it’s not just the food you put into your body that you need to consider. Your skincare and makeup, along with all other toiletries are absorbed into your blood stream just as readily. One of the main issues is deodorants and antiperspirants all of which tend to contain aluminium, a heavy metal which we want to avoid as best we can. Our underarms are one of the most sensitive and absorbent parts of our bodies, so this area is one we need to look after. I’ve tried the salt sticks which you just dampen and rub on. No good. And various other natural deodorants which were also no good. Then I found The Natural Deodorant co, a London based brand which is natural and scented with essential oils. It’s not an antiperspirant, so you will still sweat but it does prevent any smells, even after a sweaty yoga sesh. Available in 3 varieties, clean, gentle and active, within that three different scents so you will find the one for you. It feels a bit odd at first to rub a cream on your pits instead of a quick spritz, but it’s a habit that’s easy to get used to. Order online from their website, at £11 a pot which will last you a good couple of months, its a product that I will keep turning back to.

 

#3 John Masters Organics, shampoo and conditioner

 

Another beauty fave. I’m on a mission to make as much of my toiletry bag as natural as possible, it’s difficult and expensive at times but I have found many lovely brands and products along the way. Visit online shops like Naturisimo and Content Beauty and you will see the array that there is to offer (and even that’s only a very small selection). On the search for a shampoo and conditioner, minus the silicone, SLS and parabens, it wasn’t an easy task. We’re so used to using shampoos that form a good lather due to the SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) and when washed away your hair feels silky soft and smooth as the silicone has coated the strands. You don’t get those feelings when switching to natural shampoos, which is an odd experience to get used to at first.

After hearing good things about John Master’s Organics hair products I got the spearmint and meadowsweet shampoo for Christmas. It’s minty and tingly, a super refreshing shampoo that wakes you up in the morning. Made of natural ingredients and plant extracts and essential oils, it’s gentle enough to use on colour treated hair and there’s different shampoos to suit your hair type. The only downside it is rather pricey, so I only buy it when I’m either severely fed up and need to treat myself or add it to my Christmas and birthday lists. At the moment I’m using the lavender rosemary shampoo and the lavender and avocado intensive conditioner, both deeply relaxing and leave my hair super shiny and smelling pretty good too. 

 

#4 Roast tamari mushrooms

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Mushrooms don’t tend to be one of the vegetables that I buy very often. I absolutely love them so I don’t quite understand my reasoning behind that….something has to change. Did you knooowwww, mushrooms are very high in vitamin D, something which we are severely lacking in here in the UK. Next time they’re on your shopping list, try leaving them on the windowsill for 1-2 hours turned upside down. This supercharges the vitamin D content in the mushrooms by the UV rays in sunshine. Safety specs put aside, mushrooms are pretty tasty things. One of my favourite ways of preparing them at the moment is slicing, tossing with rapeseed oil and tamari (or soy sauce) and roasting them in the oven on around 180C until crispy on the edges. Maybe throw in some chopped garlic and chilli flakes, even better!! Marvellous as a snack akin to jerky, tossed through a salad or used to scoop up some creamy dip.

 

#5 Reformer classes at Frame

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When you think of Pilates what tends to come to mind? Pelvic floor? Lying down on your back for 1 hour? Exercise for after you have given birth? Ok, ok. I get it. Pilates tends to have a bad rap. Along with yoga people believe that as they’re not coming out of the class drenched in sweat, it’s not exercise. Let reformer Pilates change your mind! I’ve gone a few times to reformer Pilates classes at Frame in London. There are 4 venues across the city all which provide such an array of classes. I love how at Frame, they don’t make you feel intimidated when you walk in, it’s not cliquey and you will work your socks off whilst having the best time. After your class you can pick up a post-workout smoothie or a bite to eat, or if you arrive early have a peruse around their shop or flick through a cookbook. So reformer Pilates, all the Pilates exercises that we know of aided with weights and resistance. Your legs will be quaking when you leave I can guarantee. After my class the other day, I couldn’t lift my arms above my head afterwards and the walk home was slightly juddery. Frame offer a membership card where you have to put on at least £50 and then you get a discount off every class you go to (motivation to go to the gym or what?!), or you can pay as you go for whenever you feel the need to get moving.

 

#6 LoveRaw, Cacao and Cardamom drink

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This. This milk is good. Like really really good. Brought to us by the recently relaunched (Manchester!) brand are three plant based milks. Cacao and Cardamom, Cold Brew Caffe Latte and Turmeric Chai Latte. All dairy free and utterly delicious. I’ve only tried – so far I might add – the cacao and cardamom, an almond milk drink sweetened with date syrup and spiced up with some cacao powder and cardamom, drink cold for a sweet pick-me-up, or heat up for a hot chocolate to wind down your day. Thoughts of adding a shot of espresso to the milk, for a take on a mocha, that would be mega. On ice too?? Now you’re teasing !You can grab one from Sainsbury’s and many health food shops across the country. Do add one to your trolley if you spot it, or do as I do and hunt one down.

 

I want to finish this post sending love to all who were affected by the attack in Manchester earlier this week, and share a picture of the most recent addition of street art in the Northern Quarter. The Worker Bee is the symbol of Manchester, representing the hard-working class during the industrial revolution. It can be seen everywhere throughout the city, on the bins, on the Palace Hotel clock face, in the stone work of buildings and now proudly in Stevenson Square.

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XXX

Matcha comin’ right ‘atcha

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I have only one, but one very special magic trick.

No cutting people in half or cards up my sleeves, this magic trick is one that i’m sure no one else performs.

You guessed it. Making packets of matcha powder disappear.

WHAT?!?

Let me explain if I may. Twice now I have bought a larger packet of matcha powder that has mysteriously gone walkabouts. Those things aren’t cheap I’ll have you know, so the last thing I want is to be losing them.

A while back now I had made my favourite matcha latte, and put the packet of matcha away…now maybe i’m lying and left it on the side or possibly  put it in one of our many cupboards,but where it is now lodging is a mystery to me.

I asked my mum and dad and both of them are no wiser than I am. I did blame my dad that he threw it away thinking the packet was empty, he’s just an easy target.

But still no clue.

In an annoyed ploy I set out to buy another packet of matcha, hoping that inevitably as soon as the new matcha arrived, hurrah the old one would be living right beneath my nose.

So the new one arrived I opened it, but still no sign of Mr older matcha.

Then again after making my matcha one day, the next time I came to look for Mr new matcha, what had happened? He’d disappeared too.

In a big tantrum I blamed my mum, dad, the cat, but no one had a clue where the second had disappeared to.

Piling everything out the cupboards we looked everywhere that it could possibly be. The tea cupboard, the cereals, my cupboard (I don’t even know whats in there except chocolate), the nuts, dried fruits. EVERYWHERE.

My mum swore blind she hadn’t seen it, until I spied a silver sachet in the tea overflow cupboard. Of course we didn’t think to look in there. And of course she’d forgotten that she’d put it in there with all the other teas.

DUH

So we solved that one.

But still no sign of Mr old matcha.

Well, after all of that I recently have been on a matcha latte kick.

 

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The model ready for his closeup

 

I am a serious tea drinker. As I’ve already mentioned we have a tea cupboard and a tea overflow cupboard, in the literal sense that every time you open the door all the boxes flow out and fall on your head.

Everyday I have my green tea for a needed caffeine hit after I’ve eaten my breakfast (anyone else get headaches if they don’t have a cuppa?), if i’m lounging around then I’ll probably have a second and get a bit buzzy. Always a mint infused tea after lunch, another with my afternoon snack and one or two if i’m still feeling peckish after dinner. Phew that’s a lot of tea.

Its so cold here in the UK, if I haven’t got warmth from sunshine the very least I can have is a hot tea and a fluffy jumper.

I always seem to hit the 11-11:30 lull. Not hungry enough for a proper snack, but not full enough from breakfast to keep going another hour until lunchtime. The perfect time for a matcha latte then.

No excuses needed.

Frothy creamy dairy free milk whizzed up to make a pastel hue of green, that will brighten any misty grey day.

 

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Whisk it, whisk it real good!

 

Matcha is nothing new however. Maybe it is to us in the west, its enjoying the ride on the wellness train just like quinoa and açai. But it does have a lot of history in japan, particularly with Buddhist monks.

Let’s go way back.

I mean way way way back to 1191.

The zen Buddhist, Eisai introduced the ground tea leaves, aka matcha, to Japan. Him and his fellow Buddhist monks used to drink matcha in the afternoon to prepare them for their meditation. Matcha is said to bring clarity to the mind, maintain a level of sustained energy and helped them to remain more centred and focused.

So it worked for the Buddhist monks, what’s the benefit for those of us not spending all day meditating?

It does boast quite a few health benefits, when prepared correctly. The first, high in antioxidants. Found in most brightly coloured fruit and veg, dark chocolate and green tea, vital to fight off diseases, cancers and UV radiation, basically all environmental strains that our bodies shouldn’t be exposed to. Whilst green tea is high in antioxidants, matcha has 137 times the amount so something worth adding to your diet.

Second, it helps to put you in a state of calm. Maybe its the process of making the matcha, frothing up the tea with hot (not boiling) water then frothing the milk and pouring one into the other. But studies have found that L-theanine the amino acid which helps you RELAXXXX and also slows the release of caffeine in the body, is found in matcha powder, in fact in most tea however it is most concentrated in matcha. Time for some zen then.

We all know green tea contains caffeine, if you’ve ever drank it at night and struggled to drift asleep you’ll know well enough. Matcha contains only a third of the amount of caffeine as your regular coffee and only a little more than a cup of green tea around 24mg-39mg. Giving you alertness without the crash and burn only an hour or so later.

Dosing you up with around 3.25mg of calcium, 1.85mg of vitamin C, 274mg of protein and 20.5mg of potassium, it outweighs all the other well known ‘superfoods’ such as acai and goji berries. (But we all know the term ‘superfood’ is a load of BS, don’t we?)

Finally, I’m not going to go into all that detoxing the body rubbish, we have a liver and kidneys for that. But it’s said to help with a clearer complexion. Obviously eating a healthy diet of lots of fruit and vegetables wholegrain carbs and healthy fats will help with that, but women in japan have been using matcha as a face mask for YEARS. (As well as putting matcha in anything and everything, READ: matcha Kitkats, matcha Oreos…). Now doesn’t it seem that most Japanese women have beautiful porcelain skin, it might just be in their genes, but i’ll drink matcha to that!

 

 

Now on to the recipe.

FINALLY

So I like to use this matcha powder. It’s premium grade, you can buy cheap matcha powders usually bulked up with loads of sugar, colouring and milk powder (hello starbucks), but not overly expensive as we all have to look after those pennies. Choose one that’s right for you, there are loads and loads out there.

Make sure to seal the matcha packet every time you use it, keep it out of sunlight and in a cool and dark place. Light causes the tea to oxidise, meaning a lot of the benefits are leached out of the tea.

Also a note on the type of milk to use. You can use dairy milk, or soya milk, oat milk is my favourite for flavour and frothing abilities (particularly the brand Oatly, the even do foamable!!!), however rice milk, coconut, almond, cashew all is good here. The Rude Health milks taste amazing with the matcha as they are slightly sweet. BUT you just don’t get a good enough froth. And what’s a latte without some froth eh?

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Wait for it…waittttt for itttt…..

If you have a milk steamer, all the better, but I use one of the handheld milk frothers they’re really cheap and do the job nicely. Traditionally matcha is made in a bowl and whisked up with a bamboo whisk, I would  like to own one of these but I have no space, something from my kitchen cabinets would have to be removed to make space for it. Sad. Times. So maybe not as traditional, but if you have one go ahead and have a proper tea ceremony.

Matcha Latte

Ingredients

  • 1/2 – 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup of boiled – but left to cool slightly – water

Method

  1. In your cup whisk your matcha in the hot water until frothy.
  2. Meanwhile, either in the microwave or in a pan on the hob, heat your milk until steaming but not boiling.
  3. Whisk the milk until it is really frothy, then pour into the matcha.

As simple as that.

If you like, add a little grating of nutmeg, or for a touch of sweetness if your taste buds are begging for it add some raw honey, maple syrup or rice malt syrup. However if you’re using a plant based milk I don’t find it necessary.

 

So zen up your life, have a moment of calm and centring. No need to think of everything on your to do list, just sit and sip your warm cuddley matcha.

Enjoy and breeathhheeeeee

X

Anyone else, notice the amount of times I said the word matcha. OH there goes another one. Its such a good word, and FUN FACT: the word matcha comes from the two words in Japanese, cha meaning tea, and ma meaning powdered. So literally powdered tea.

Get telling all your friends I’m sure they’ll be well impressed.

(Ha good luck with that!)