Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Summer 2016 Favourites

Quick Fire List
1. Class by Jenny Colgan
2. Squillonaire cake
3. Gehwol warming balm
4. Tea Time mug/infuser

Literary Loves
In the last few years I have acquired another favourite author to add to my very short list. Unusually, she is not an historical writer, as my other preferred authors are. I discovered Jenny Colgan when she published Meet Me at The Cupcake Cafe, which I adored, and have been hooked ever since. She has written several books now with similar themes. The great thing about her writing is that with the usual love story that comes and inevitable couple coming together at the end, the female protagonist is still her own person. She is strong and and doesn't just give up on her business when she meets her man and ‘live happily ever after’. The male protagonist, is just the cherry on the cake, not the mechanism to solve the main characters problems. I find so many women in books cannot solve their own problems without the man, and no matter how nice the romantic interest is, it saddens me that even in fiction a woman cannot stand on her own two feet. So I always eagerly await her next book. Recently Jenny Colgan has re-released some of her earlier works- originally under a name of Jane Beaton, so I was really excited to download them. I have just finished listening to Class read expertly by Jilly Bond. This book is described as a grown up Mallory Towers and I concur. It is set at an independent boarding school and the plot lines of school girls, teachers and their families are interwoven very well. It is perfect to listen to at night, before bed, my favourite time to listen to audiobooks. The lead character is a Scottish english teacher battling her love of teaching, her love for her long-distance boyfriend and another love interest. In the true spirit of Colgan's books, Maggie works hard and, although dithers a bit, doesn't let the tradition of marriage and children, ruin her career. I cannot wait to listen to the sequel Rules, to discover how all the characters get on with their next life challenges. I loved the nostalgic aspect of this book, bringing back memories from my school days. I am, however, very aware that I am definitely remembering my school days, through rose tinted glasses!

Tasty Delights
I broke my diet... well a little tiny smidgen of my diet! Although my diet controls some of my symptoms, or should I say stops them becoming even worse, and I need to stick to it 99% of the time, it does not greatly improve my M.E. So very occasionally for the sake of living life, relaxing and having a good time I let myself have something that may irritate me for a little bit but as one off will not have a massive affect. Honeybuns, a fantastic gluten free cake company, have been working on low sugar bakes using date syrups. They have two cakes like this now available. A moist fruit cake, which due to the kinds of fruit in I can't risk trying, and a take on their chocolate caramel shortbread which they have named Squillionaire. Such a great name, especially as most allergy product names are so dull! I was really excited about trying this. It has a polenta type base sweetened with date paste and layer of gooey caramel, also based on dates, and a thick layer of dark chocolate. Unfortunately there was some refined sugar in the chocolate, so did not want to order lots from their website as I knew I could only tolerate one occasionally. I was quite dejected about this, as I had pretty much ruled out trying this anytime soon. However, I got sent my John Lewis Vouchers at the beginning of September which contained three coffee and cake vouchers. I thought I'd give my voucher to mum and I would just have a packet of crisps with  my free Waitress coffee at my local John Lewis. So when I felt I could pop out for a bit we went to John Lewis to pick a couple of things and ended with a coffee. To my amazement they had the squillionaire available in the cafe. They always have Honeybuns cake but you never know which kind. So I went for it, hoping the tiny amount of sugar wouldn't affect me and that it would be worth it. They are quite large bars, for me anyway, and cuts up very nicely into smaller pieces to enjoy with a hot drink. Overall I really enjoyed it, a mix of nice flavours coming through and brilliantly indulgent. There was enough of the dark chocolate to balance out the sweetness of the slice. The dates add a lovely caramel almost alcoholic flavour. The only thing I would change about it, apart from the sugar in the chocolate, was the base. It was very cakey. I would have preferred more of a harder or perhaps crunchier polenta base to contrast against the caramel. As an occasional treat I would definitely have again. I don't think you would notice it was gluten free, dairy free and uses mostly unrefined sugar sources. I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that one day after some more recipe development they can produce one that is completely free from refined sugar, as if you are going to the effort of creating a product sweetened with dates, you might as well go all in. I would probably give this an 8/10, loosing one point for lack of crunchiness and the other for sugar. Well done on Honeybuns on creating something gorgeously scrumptious that can be had in a cafe with no cross contamination issues!

I only remembered to take a photo before I ate it!!
Lotions and Potions
A couple of weeks ago my mums chiropodist recommended a cream to help keep my feet warm as I have poor circulation and when they get cold, it takes hours to warm them up and it feels as if the actual bones are aching. I was not convinced at first because I have tried similar things before, but to my surprise it actually works. It is called Gehwol - a warming balm. It is easy to put on and although quite a thick consistency soaks in really well. It does a good job of slowly warming up my feet and contains paprika, ginger rosemary and camphor to stimulate the blood vessels.

I pop a little pair of cotton socks on over the top, which helps lock the moisture and warmth into the skin. To be honest even without cold feet it would be lovely to use as it smells nice and has made my skin extra soft. I will be keeping this handy in my bedside draw, especially this winter!

Tea Time
In Concarneau, where I went for my summer holiday this year, we found this very chic but relaxed artisan coffee bar and shop, Comptoir & Traditions. We visited here several times as they understood all my allergies and did really great coffee. 

Beautiful, stylish interior at the coffee bar and artisan shop

Delicious decaffeinated cafe latte and decaffeinated espresso (no dairy free milk available, but the quality of coffee was so good you did not need it) with GF, DF, EG, NF chocolate!
For those of you who are gluten free, the cafe they had a delicious looking chocolate torte, unfortunately it didn't fit my other requirements, but it is rare in France to find a gluten free cake in cafe so it was exciting. In the shop they also had lots of coffee and tea accessories plus loads of carefully chosen artisan food and tea/coffee products. They were very passionate about their stocks and clearly everything that was stocked was of the best quality. I bought loads of food gifts for peoples upcoming birthdays. I couldn't eat much of it but I did buy myself a large glass mug which had a glass diffuser and a lid, perfect for making fresh mint tea which is my drink of choice.

Infusing fresh mint and dried rose petals for a gorgeous tea!

Great design feature: no drips of spillage as the infuser fits into the lid!
It came in under £10. It is an english lifestyle brand - 'Riverdale Living'; but I hadn't seen it anywhere in the UK before and couldn't resist purchasing it. I use it a lot, even with normal teabags, it makes my afternoon cup of tea a bit more glamorous and it is the perfect memento to remember my lovely summer holiday. It really is perfect for someone who loves tea, and would like a glass teapot but cannot justify getting it out just to use by yourself. I will be looking out for more of their items, as they are good quality, not expensive and a bit different.

And thats the end of my September items! I hope you enjoyed reading this and hopefully I will be back with more favourites soon. A Biento!

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