Tuesday, April 29, 2008

back to fitness...

You'll probably know by now how I love a riverside wander but I have a confession, there's been something missing from my life recently... One of my greatest passions!  I'm a very keen runner and used to be super-fit - notice the use of the past tense here:-(  - all was going smoothly until, last November, I had my first bout of real back pain.  Grrr!  Cue violins and stray tears...

I saw a couple of osteopaths, rested as I knew I must (moving about was no mean feat) and in January saw the doctor, too.  The general consensus of opinion was that I had injured (jarred) my back doing my lovely hill runs in Richmond Park and all  I could do now was to walk on flatter surfaces.  So,  as I always believe in nurturing good health, I've been restricting myself to long, reasonably brisk walks but it just isn't the same!  I want to start running again and get back into the super-fit shape I was in but I admit I'm a little wary.

I'm determined to make a start in May though and I'll let you know how things go... Anyone with a similar experience who wants to post any comments or advice - I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, April 25, 2008

the beet goes on...

Another favourite and quite unusual recipe to bring out the deep-hued benefits of beetroot is spicy Beetroot Hummus.  Might sound strange but it tastes (and looks) terrific.  You'll need: 
1 can of chick peas, rinsed and well-drained, 
1 medium cooked beet(root) (can be bought pre-packed but NOT the vinegar doused variety!)
juice of half a lemon
a small sachet of wasabi (japanese horseradish paste)
a large pinch of sumac (a middle eastern spice - optional, but desirable!)
half a level teaspoon of hot paprika (Spanish pimenton picante)
2-3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic

Blend all the ingredients together to make a smooth paste.  Chill.  Serve!

It's especially wonderful with a baked sweet potato - the colour (and taste) combination is stunning and works a treat.  Also delicious with a good salad and some fresh-baked bread.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ingredient of the month

If you're in the mood for some spring cleaning, it's not only your home that can reap the benefits. Why not consider introducing a fresh, cleansing element to your diet, too?  One of my ideal ingredients for this is lovely, deep burgundy-hued beetroot (beet).  Most of us are used to seeing the pre-packed, cooked, vinegar-soaked examples but if that's all you've tried - you're missing out!
Next time you're at the supermarket or market, look out for the raw stuff.  Once you get it home, all you need to do is to wash it well, peel if preferred, pat with kitchen paper and then grate by hand, or in the food processor.  Turn the beautiful deep-hued result into your chosen bowl and douse in fresh lemon juice, to taste.  Add some salt and pepper, or a sprinkling of reduced salt vegetable bouillon powder (eg Marigold), then top with a sprinkling of your favourite herb - I like parsley or thyme, depending on my mood.  Drizzle on extra-virgin olive oil, if you like. It's delicious as it is but can be further enhanced - to make a complete meal - by adding a topping of seeds, raw almonds, tinned tuna, grated (reduced-fat) cheese or slivers of goats cheese.

Raw beet(root) has a stronger, deeper taste than the pre-packed product so you might like to experiment with a small portion before making a huge bowlful... Bear in mind that it packs a powerful nutritional punch, reputed to have blood-purifying properties and to be good for the stomach.  It's a rich source of folate, with useful amounts of vitamin C and minerals: iron, potassium and magnesium, all with around 60 calories for 140g.  Remember too, that as it's so rich in deep natural colour, you'll see the results when you visit the bathroom; nothing to worry about just a natural phenomenon!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

the joy of serendipity

The sun was shining and I craved a lovely, long riverside walk, so I headed-off from Kingston, along the towpath to Hampton Court.  En route admiring the serene swans grooming themselves all-in-a-row, the glorious houses, trees in blossom and beauty of the setting. 
 At Hampton Court, I crossed over the bridge and wandered into the pretty village of East Molesey.   It's a rare gem, that luckily seems to have managed to maintain its identity and individuality,  amidst today's sea of copy-cat high streets.  I spotted a beautiful little shop there that drew me in; a new and inviting florist, on its opening day. What a pleasure - and such a sweet story of serendipity - I discovered on talking with the owners. 

Graphic designer, Jules, lives next door; for many years one of her deepest yearnings had been to obtain the lease for the neighbouring premises and set-up shop there.  Pippa had retrained as a florist, after a career in advertising.  Whenever she walked past the shop she knew it would be the perfect place to bring her floral dreams to fruition.  A few months ago, Jules found out that the shop had become available - determined - she obtained the lease...

Pippa's boyfriend was driving past one day shortly afterwards, when he spotted Jules, busy outside. They started talking and he told her of Pippa's great passion for the shop. So, Jules and Pippa met, became business partners, with a shared vision and turned their dream into reality. The shop is a real delight - on all levels - and reflects their twin passion and determination. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

what a difference a day (or two) makes...

Just a couple of days after the April snowfall in London, spring seems to have returned.  The photo doesn't show how truly gorgeous and sunny it really was, as I walked along the Thames riverbank.   The blossom is glorious!  All human life is there: rowers, walkers, runners, dogs, amblers, cyclists and happy children playing...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Springtime in London...

Welcome to London in April!  This was the sight that greeted me from my bedroom window this morning... Our temperate spring has transformed into winter (at least for now).  No wonder that Brits are weather-obsessed, there's so much weather to obsess us!  It's hailing as I write this; a couple of days ago, I was admiring the gorgeous blossom in my garden...   Ski-ing, anyone?
Enjoy your day, whatever the weather!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Nice in Spring

It's not only places close to home that entice me at Springtime; another favourite place to explore is the pretty French Côte d'Azur capital, Nice.  Easy to get to; there's lots to explore - in the (old) town itself - along with a wealth of beauty in the close surrounding towns and villages.  
Spring evenings are usually balmy enough to to discard your winter woolies and take an extended wander down the Promenade des Anglais, along the seafront.  Then, to sip a local apéritif outside, admiring a beautiful sunset, or simply for people (and animal) watching, taking-in the chic-er side of provençal life, in its myriad forms.

Friday, April 4, 2008

spring beauty in Richmond

How do you welcome in Spring?  I can think of so many ways... but one of my favourite has to be enjoying the beauty of nature in nearby Richmond.  It's no wonder that many celebrities choose to live there, in one of the wonderful houses, close to Richmond Hill and Richmond Park.   
One of the best views in London is experienced when walking up (or down) the Hill and looking towards the river Thames and Petersham. If you have never been there, you might recollect the stunning setting from the film The Hours, where Nicole Kidman played Virginia Woolf.

If you're in London, or ever plan on visiting, don't miss this view!