House extensions

House extensions

The other day I sat down to watch some TV – it’s not something I do a lot, because once I’m sat down in front of it with a cup of tea, there’s no moving me for hours, so I try not to sit down in the first place. But the weather was looking down, I wasn’t feeling so great and didn’t feel like getting on with my recent writing project, so TV it was. Being the middle of the day, to be honest it was mostly all rubbish, including Jeremy Kyle (which is always good for a laugh) and This Morning. I eventually found something I was interested in though, a programme called Double Your House for Half the Money, which is presented by property genius Sarah Beeny.

garden room extensionI know I talk about it a lot, but moving out to the countryside is one of the best things I’ve done, and since arriving here, I’ve never stopped thinking about ways I can improve on my house and the things in it. Now I’ve got it mostly kitted out with furniture, I’m thinking about new ways I can work on it. I was considering getting some sort of shed for the garden since I’m slowly collecting gardening tools in the shed, but after watching this programme, I’ve got even bigger ideas. There’s plenty of room around the house, so I’m starting to consider some sort of extension. Obviously it’s only in the early days, but I’ve managed to save quite a bit of money on living costs already living here, so it’s slowly adding up and I’m on my way there.

I guess I won’t be doing anything until at least the middle of summer, if not next spring, but there’s no harm in planning already. I found a list of suppliers that were used on the programme here and have started looking through them to add up costs and get inspiration. I’m thinking some sort of garden room, perhaps an extension off the side of the kitchen since that opens out onto fields at the back so I wouldn’t be intruding on the neighbours’ space. I’d definitely want big windows on it to see the views, but would need some good ones, including a good door too to keep the heat in. To be honest, I haven’t thought at all about a colour scheme or what furniture I’d put in it, but that’s all the fun of planning, finding out what you want and what’ll work for you. Once I’ve got some plans set in stone, I’ll update them on here, but it might not be for a while yet, need to keep saving for a bit longer first.

Image courtesy of Pete Turnbull.

Millions wasted on Tamiflu

Millions wasted on Tamiflu

SneezeI’ve always been a bit interested in health, and increasingly so recently with noticing how the paleo diet has affected my lifestyle positively (aside from that weight gain!). One of my major annoyances is colds and flu. When I lived in London, taking public transport was a nightmare because it meant being crammed into tiny spaces filled with bacteria-ridden people. I was forever washing my hands and eating oranges to try to stave off colds.

I heard on the news today though about Tamiflu and how it’s apparently not even any more effective than paracetamol for treating the symptoms, preventing and curing flu. I was really surprised because the government has spent more than £473 million on stockpiling Tamiflu in case of global pandemics.

The experts are saying that it definitely does nothing to prevent the spread of flu or reduce any of the complications that can arise from it, and it only has a small impact on the symptoms.

I was actually prescribed Tamiflu a few years ago when I had swine flu, and to be honest, I didn’t really think it did much then because I still felt absolutely awful. Apparently the most it does is reduce the persistence of flu symptoms by about two thirds of a day, from 7 days down to 6.3 in adults, but a simple paracetamol or cold and flu medication off the supermarket shelves could do the same thing.

In fact it’s claimed that the side effects of the drug outweigh the positive impact it has. It has been known to cause nausea, headaches, kidney problems, hyperglycaemia and psychiatric events.

I’m pretty shocked that it’s been around for so long and nobody’s realised how little effect it has on flu symptoms. In future I’m going to be thinking more carefully about what medication I take and doing a bit more research into it – you don’t want to be pumping your body full of chemicals that aren’t even having much of an effect.

Image courtesy of mcfarlandmo.

5 Healthy Paleo Snacks

5 Healthy Paleo Snacks

carrot and celery sticksSince discovering the cause of my recent weight gain, I decided that I should make an effort to choose healthier and less calorific snacks. I can’t go from one meal to another without having some form of snack, and while the nuts I was eating before were generally healthy, they turned out to be high in calories, so here’s a list of 5 healthy paleo snacks I’m looking forward to trying out now I’ve cut out the more calorific ones. The important thing to remember with these though is portion sizes, not to go overboard but just allow yourself enough to curb any hunger or cravings.

Kale Chips

I’ve already tried these as I had some kale that was getting close to unusable because I’d had it for a while, so I whacked it in the oven with a bit of coconut oil (there’s another use for it!) and sprinkled a bit of salt and pepper over it. It was really yummy and had that satisfying crunch.

Aubergine Jerky

Jerky is a big thing in the US, but hasn’t really taken off over here. It’s often a staple snack of hard core paleos over there too, and this is a twist on the original beef jerky. You simply marinade thin slices of aubergine in oil, vinegar, maple syrup and paprika then leave to dry on the lowest setting of your oven overnight. It’s apparently chewy and sweet, which sounds great to me.

Fruit Leather

This is fairly similar to the aubergine jerky in that it’s a dried out strip, but this time, one made of fruit. Remember those fruit roll ups you used to get when you were kid? I imagine these are similar, but with no additives or chemicals. You just boil up some fruit (the recipe I have says apple and strawberries) then mix with cinnamon and a bit of lemon juice in a blender and spread the mixture thinly onto an oven tray which you leave on a low setting (about 120C) overnight. It can then be peeled off and cut into strips.

Coconut Flakes

Coconut flakes are a bit of a cheat snack because you can buy these as they are at the supermarket. They’re great to have on hand to satisfy any sweet cravings.

Carrot and celery sticks with a guacamole dip

This is one of the easier ones because it doesn’t necessarily need preparing in advance. If you can get hold of a paleo style guacamole, you can keep that in the fridge, or knock some up yourself with ripe avocados, tomatoes, garlic and seasoning. Then all you need to do is chop up carrots and celery to dip into it.

Image courtesy of Yumi Kimura

Gaining weight on a Paleo diet

Gaining weight on a Paleo diet

Scale-A-Week: 7 March 2010Despite living on my healthy paleo diet for a long time now and doing plenty of exercise such as mat work and running, I’ve been putting on weight recently. It’s been fairly gradual, so at first I wasn’t worried about it, but I realised that since I’ve moved house, I’ve put on almost a stone! It isn’t a huge amount in total, because when I started on the paleo diet I lost a bit, but I’ve put that back on plus a few extra pounds – completely defeated the purpose! So I decided to take a visit to the Doctor to find out what was going on, and I was pretty surprised by some of the things he told me so I decided to share them.

He recommended keeping a closer eye on the amount of calories I eat. I’ve never bothered keeping track before, but since paleo is usually pretty high in protein and healthy fats in things like nuts, it turns out the calories do add up quickly. I followed his instructions, keeping an online diary of what I was eating and it totalled out at….almost 3500 calories on average a day! My portion sizes are just a little bit too big and I’ve been overdoing it on the healthy snacks – one day I even had 1000 calories worth of cashews without realising! So I’m going to carry on keeping track of it all, put less food on my plate, and keep an eye on what snacks I’m eating.

Weirdly he also said too much exercise can actually stop you losing weight. I’m not sure if I qualify for this because I don’t do too much intense exercise, just a bit of mat work and running as I said before, usually 4 or 5 days a week. The doctor advised 3 days of exercise a week though because apparently more can cause your body to retain water and stress your body. I think I need to change my exercise routine around a bit though because I’ve been doing the same thing for a few years now.

We all know how important sleep is to a healthy body, and this was the final recommendation. I’m a bit of a night owl, often staying up till 2 or 3am to get pieces in before their deadlines, but I do try to get up at a regular semi-early hour. I’d estimate I get about 5 hours sleep a night, and according to the doctor, that’s not enough. You should be aiming for 8 hours every night, and you need them to be hours of “good” sleep – so you really shouldn’t be having alcohol or excessive food just before bed because your body won’t rest properly if it’s still processing them. Goodbye midnight snacks!

I’m going to give all these things a go and I’ll report back to you on how it’s going in a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back down to the weight I started at in the next couple of months.

Image courtesy of puuikibeach.



EggsSince I’ve recently talked about a couple of other “staples” in my paleo diet including my bone broth and the many uses of coconut oil, I thought I’d let you know about another, one of my absolute favourites: eggs. You’ll have to pardon the occasional pun in this post, I just can’t help it when there are so many eggcellent yolks (“excellent jokes”) to do with eggs!

I’ve always been a fan of eggs, but now I’m living out in the country I’m starting to consider getting my own chickens so I don’t have to buy dozens of eggs each week. I started out getting them from the supermarket like I always had done when I lived in London, but then I discovered a farm shop only a few miles away that sold organic free range eggs fresh from the farm. Okay, they’re slightly more expensive than the supermarket, but I feel like I’m getting better quality and fresher eggs from happier chickens. All this has made me think about having my own chickens, but I think it might be a bit too much work, we’ll see!

So on a daily basis, I’ll usually have eggs 2 or 3 times a day. They’re ridiculously versatile and perfect for a protein emergency. I’ll start the day with either scrambled eggs or pre-prepared egg muffins. This is a really simple recipe that I usually make in advance with onion, bacon and occasionally a sprinkling of cheese, then I’ve got them ready to heat up if I’m in a rush on a morning. They usually keep me full until lunchtime too, so they’re great. I usually don’t have eggs for lunch if I’ve had them for breakfast – it can be a bit much – but I quite like throwing a hardboiled egg or two onto a salad with whatever I’m having for tea.

Egg Muffins(Egg Muffins)

I’m a bit of an eggspert now with omelettes too which are the perfect lunch dish in my opinion. I think of them as a bit like being a healthy pizza. You can throw on pretty much any toppings, from spicy ham to avocado and herbs, basically whatever you’ve got leftover in the fridge.

So I’m eggstatic to know what you do with your eggs, maybe you could give me some tips?

Images courtesy of Pietro Izzo and Megan.

Decorating the new house

Decorating the new house

As you might know, I recently moved away from the big city and out in the country. I was really lucky because not only does this mean that I get to be where I want to be, but I’ve also got so much more space for my money. So this means that I need to do a bit of decorating, since the small amount of furniture I had in my London pad barely fills the space here.
Friends have said in the past that I have a somewhat varied and unusual taste in furniture and décor and they’re probably right. I prefer unique pieces that I’m not likely to see in other people’s houses, so I’ve been spending a bit of time perusing the local antique shops and seeking out websites where I can find pieces to suit me. So far my favourite has been this stylish Moroccan furniture, but I think it would be a bit overwhelming to kit out the whole house in this design, so I’m thinking of going for just one of the chests like below, or perhaps the bedside tables.

Moroccan style furniture

I’ve always been inspired to create my own house how I want it to be but never really had the time or opportunity before, so I’m very much looking forward to it now. Colour is one of my favourite inspirations in décor, particularly with things like tiles like the turquoise ones below – that pop of colour just makes the room look so much cooler and brighter.

interior panelling

Details are key in my home too. I love that vintage look that you get with curved legs on chairs, tables and bureaus (that’s next on my list whenever I spot one I like at an antiques auction); heavy velvet, shabby chic, ceramic, acrylic: all good in my book.

shelves(Image: Jordon Cooper)

I obviously already have a bed that I brought up with me from London, but I actually have the luxury of having a spare room for guests in this house (that’s currently empty!), so I’m working on finding a spectacular bed that’ll really stand out and impress friends and family. I think sleigh beds are awesome and look really comfortable, but I think my favourite one I’ve come across so far is the first one here:

So what do you think? Do you have any ideas of furniture you think I’d like for my home? I’m always looking for good suggestions because unique pieces like these are usually hard to come by at reasonable prices.

Paleo BBQ: Mango, Pomegranate, Avocado and Mint Salad

Paleo BBQ: Mango, Pomegranate, Avocado and Mint Salad

Mangoes and pomegranatesSummer is one of my favourite times of year because it means I can break out the BBQ and get on with cooking some good tasty food in the great outdoors. I’m especially looking forward to it this year since I’ve got my own proper garden as opposed to the poky little yard I had at the back of my old house in London, so I’m hoping to invite a few of the neighbours round to sample some of my favourite paleo delights. The sun finally came out this weekend and I started thinking about what I’d be able to throw together to make the perfect BBQ. While the meat is obviously my favourite bit – what can beat a good old steak chargrilled over hot coals? – the bits on the side are the more interesting to put together.

I can’t remember when I first came across this recipe; I’ve been doing it for a while now. It’s not really something that you can do during the winter months because things like mango and pomegranate are more difficult to find in the shops and more expensive since they’re out of season, so I really look forward to having it again over summer. It’s a sort of cross between a salad and salsa – zingy and fresh and can be served with loads of things. My favourite is to have it over grilled salmon or with lamb chops, but I bet it would work well with pork too. This recipe should serve around 6-8 people, depending on how greedy you all are!


2 mangoes
1 small cucumber
2 avocadoes
1 red onion
1 bunch of mint
1 pomegranate
1 lime
Pinch of salt and pepper
Pinch of chilli flakes
Coconut oil


Dice up the mango, cucumber and avocado into small chunks and place in a bowl.

Finely chop the red onion and bunch of mint and mix into the bowl.

Squeeze as much juice from the lime as possible into the bowl, add a drizzle of coconut oil and mix thoroughly so everything has a good covering of the dressing.

Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper to your liking.

Use the pomegranate seeds and chilli flakes as ‘decoration’ as well as adding the flavour – sprinkle them over the top to add bright colours to the dish. To remove the pomegranate seeds easily, cut your pomegranate in half then hold the open side down in your hand with your fingers spread. You then hit the domed side firmly with a wooden spoon and the seeds will simply fall out over your dish between your fingers.

Seasonal Food – March

Seasonal Food – March

Luckily I haven’t been affected much by the awful weather and flooding that’s been hitting most of the UK this winter, but I’ve still felt the chill and been soaked through by the rain a few times. But nevertheless I’m really looking forward to next month as we head into spring with some warmer weather and hopefully drier days. Since moving out of London into the country, it’s been more difficult to source some of my usual favourites surprisingly – I don’t have the huge sprawling markets to visit, only the local ones and grocer’s shops. But I’m hoping I’ll be able to gather some bits and pieces of my own over the spring and summer from the surrounding countryside, and apparently there’s a butcher not far away who can get hold of some rabbit pretty easily for me.

So what’s in store for me this spring?


Unfortunately meat isn’t of great pickings this month, but on the other hand, there are loads of fresh and tasty vegetables and fish sprouting anew in March, so I’ll be filling my plates with those too.




March is the perfect time of year to enjoy seafood. Not only are mussels at the most succulent as we head out of the chilly months, but scallops and oysters are abundant too.






Fruit and Vegetables

Finally I can head away from the ‘heavier’ veg of the winter months such as turnips and into the lighter more delicate ones. I’m looking forward to creating some early spring salads and heartier soups for the evenings when it’s still chilly, and I’m thinking about trying out my first radish pickle soon too. And soon I’ll be planting some of these vegetables to start my first attempt at growing them myself.







Purple Sprouting Broccoli



Savoy Cabbage



Spring Green

Spring Onion


Best uses for coconut oil

Best uses for coconut oil

Coconut oilCoconut oil is one of my favourite things – I usually have at least 5 bottles of the stuff in my cupboards at any given time. But everyone’s always asking me what I use it for, so I thought I’d make a post with just some of the many ways you can get started with using coconut oil – there are so many different things you can do with it, so I’m only going to touch on them here. And that’s the beauty of it: it’s so versatile, from cooking to beauty routines (not really my forte!), it affects your body positively both inside and out.

1. Healthy cooking oil

This is my top way to use coconut oil. Many of the other cooking oils and fats such as vegetable oil and margarine are extracted using chemicals, meaning they’re entirely unnatural and should never be part of a paleo diet. There are of course other healthy oils such as avocado and macadamia nut (just two I’d like to try!), but coconut oil is my favourite because it can be used at a high temperature, is high in healthy saturated fat (which gives a boost of energy and is not stored as fat), and also adds a subtly rich flavour to your dishes.

2. Adding flavour to your tea

One big “paleo-problem” is how to continue drinking your favourite cuppa every day since most of the milk you can buy easily is homogenized or pasteurized. If you’re not a fan of herbal teas (like me), adding a spoonful of coconut oil to your tea will take away the edge you get from pure black tea, give it a bit of creaminess and a great flavour.

3. Shaving lotion

There are plenty of uses for coconut oil as a beauty product for women out there, but I’m keeping this list to my personal uses for now – maybe in future I’ll post about some of the ways it can be used in lip balm, moisturisers etc. But for now, I use it daily as a shaving lotion – you just lather it on for a close shave and there’s no need to apply any other lotion or moisturiser afterwards. It’s great if you have sensitive skin too.

4. Hair styling

As I said before, I’m not big on hair and beauty products, but before going paleo, I would use hair gel every day, so I needed to find a replacement for that, and coconut oil does the job perfectly. If you rub a bit between your hands to warm it then spread it through your hair and style, it condenses quickly and sets your hair in place. Apparently it’s also good for protecting hair from damage, conditioning and helping with hair loss.

5. Homemade toothpaste

This is only something I’ve tried out recently, but you can really easily make your own toothpaste with a bit of baking soda and coconut oil. It doesn’t taste the best, so you can add sweetener and essential oils if you want. Keep it in a pot and dish it out with a stick so as not to contaminate it with your toothbrush.

Image courtesy of Susy Morris.

Recipe – Basic Paleo Bone Broth

Recipe – Basic Paleo Bone Broth

If you don’t already make a bone broth on a regular basis, it’s something you should definitely start doing. It’s an awesome base for so many meals, is easy to heat up for a quick warming meal and packed with wholesome goodness and nutrients at a relatively inexpensive price. Made by boiling up the bones of animals with your choice of vegetables, herbs and even spices, it’s a dish that’s been made for thousands of years and is even the staple of 5 star kitchens around the world. I use it for so many things: a quick drink when I’m on the go, instead of a basic stock in a shepherd’s pie or replacing the liquid in soups and gravies, or packed with veggies and meat for a more filling meal. It’s especially great if you’re feeling under the weather.

But there’s no point in me telling you all about it; you really need to try it yourself to feel the benefits and enjoy a tasty meal, so here’s the recipe.


1kg bones (from chicken, pork, oxtail – whatever you fancy or have around)
1 large onion
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Bunch of parsley
Salt and pepper to taste


You’ll need either a large stock pot for this recipe; you can also use a pressure cooker but bear in mind it’ll be much quicker!

If you’re using raw bones, roast off in the oven first for 30 minutes at 180C. If you’ve gathered your bones from precooked meat, there’s no need to do this.

Place all the bones into your stock pot and cover with around 3 litres of (filtered) water and the vinegar. Allow this to sit for around 30 minutes to draw the nutrients from the bones.

Chop the vegetables roughly and throw in the pot with a pinch of salt, pepper and any herbs or spices you choose to use for taste. Bring this to the boil then simmer until done. A beef broth should take around 48 hours, chicken around 24 hours and fish 8 hours.

A foamy layer may form on the surface during the first few hours which can easily be skimmed off with a spoon. Fresh parsley can be added in the last 30 minutes.

When the time’s up, allow it cool slightly then strain to remove any bits and store in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze to use later.