Dog Walks in Oxfordshire – Dry Sandford Pit

We’ve been taking advantage of the good weather we’ve been having lately and exploring new places. First on our list was Dry Sandford Pit, which is a BBOWT reserve. There are a number of walks you can around Dry Sandford and we had planned to do a bigger one, but the weather turned and we decided to call it a day. Hail really can spoil a walk!

silver birch

We started our walk in the sun, in the village of Wootton. We parked by the shops (where the parking is limited to 2/3 hours). We walked along the bridleway and through the beautiful village of Dry Sandford, which is worth a visit in itself, especially if you walk past Cothill House school students, on their way to church, looking adorable in their uniforms, as we did. Both ways, in fact! There is limited parking at the reserve, but initially wanted to do the circular walk so parked in Wootton.

the view

Dogs must be kept on leads around the reserve, but they are allowed. Poppy loved it, especially as there’s loads of little holes where creatures must live!

The pit

As it was such a sunny day, the insects that live in the cliff face were out and about and we saw quite a few bees, which was a very welcome sight. There are information boards around, which explain the different types of rock in the cliff, including some of the things they’ve found there.

Poppy at Dry Sandford

We took a long our trusty Thermos and some homemade cake and sat in the sun watching the bugs flying around. Poppy enjoyed a pizzle before continuing sniffing about and exploring.

glider

The walk at Dry Sandford Pit isn’t massive but it’s lovely and quiet. When we went on a Sunday morning, we didn’t see anyone else. It was a lovely walk, with lots of lovely things to see and a fair few birds about. We had planned to walk to Parsonage Moor, but it got very dark, very quickly so we returned to the car park in Wootton the same way.

Dry Sandford walk

The Walk: While the walk at Dry Sandford Pit isn’t particularly long, it is very enjoyable. Plus, you can add bits on to extend the walk. See the map on the BBOWT website.
Cost: Completely free. Just get out there and enjoy!
Car Park: There’s a small car park at the Pit and parking is free.
Refreshments: There’s nothing available at the Pit or nearby but they do have benches around and you could easily bring a picnic blanket and a thermos if the weather was nice enough!
Toilets: None.

 

Feeling Fabulous and More Healthy Meals

I’m still on the hunt to make meals that are healthy, full of vegetables and made from scratch. It’s been tough, I won’t lie. The amount of time it takes to find meals to eat, plan a menu and shopping list in order to have meals that are healthy and that we actually we want to eat is immense! I know it’s because we’re trying new things and it’ll get easier and quicker, but it’s slightly overwhelming at times. Especially when you find a recipe to try and instead of taking the 50 minutes it says it takes to prep and cook, it takes an hour and a half and you don’t get to eat until 8pm. That’s really annoying. Please note, recipe writers, we don’t all have Michelin chef standard chopping skills!

Banana Berry Pancakes

banana berry pancakes

 

Regular readers will know that pancakes for breakfast is my favourite. However, eating lots of white flour makes my tummy unhappy so I’ve been looking for alternatives. This was another recipe that looked quite easy and delicious, but took me a little longer than anticipated! They take a bit longer to make than regular pancake mix and they weren’t as easy to cook as the mixture is quite sticky, hence the darker colour! I liked these and I especially liked the berry sauce that went with it. I might make them again, but I’ll probably try another recipe or two first.

Winter Tagine

Winter Tagine

I wrote about this last week and I’ve made it again for me to have for lunch. It works perfectly as a lunch, as it’s quick and easy to warm up, tastes delicious and is far more exciting than an egg sandwich. This time, I halved the amount of liquid and cooked it for longer, though I’m not sure how much longer, I just did it until it looked thick enough. The good news is, that in it’s reduced liquid state, my OH has said it can go back on the menu! Hurrah!

Quorn Paella

Quorn PaellaWe got this from the Quorn cookbook. It’s packed with veg, which is ace and it’s really, really nice. However, we think we used the wrong kind of rice and it took ages to cook. By ages, I mean at least an hour longer than anticipated. How we didn’t give up and get take away, I’ll never know! We will be making it again, though, as it was really tasty.

Pasta & Sausages with homemade sauce

Pasta & SausagesThis is our go-to super quick dinner. Quorn sausages, wholemeal pasta and a massive salad. It can be ready in about 10 minutes if you thaw the sausages out. We normally use a jar of Seeds of Change organic tomato and chilli sauce but I fancied making our own from scratch and came across this recipe on Pinterest. It was incredibly easy and I’ll definitely be using it again. I’m going to try and add some chilli next time to spice it up a bit but it was really good.

Lentil & Mushroom Ragu

Lentil & mushroom raguI had high hopes for this recipe. Not only is it full of veg and lentils (I feel super chuffed whenever I use lentils this days!) Plus, in the write up for the recipe, it said that it’s great for meat eaters. It took a bit longer to prepare (30 minutes instead of 10!) and a bit longer to cook (over an hour instead of 40 minutes!) than it states, but for me, it was well worth it. It was delicious. I’m glad there’s leftovers as it’s really good, really filling and healthy too. I’d like to think I’ll make it again, but knowing how long it takes, I’m not sure if I will.

I’ve found it quite frustrating this week, to be honest. I’ve been overtired a bit and staying on track has taken a huge amount of willpower, especially as I’m a reluctant cook at the best of times. However, we have stayed on track, which is nothing short of a miracle! I’ve been close to ordering take away more than once this week but have stayed strong and I’m sure it’ll pay off. I’ve already got a few recipes I want to try next week so I’m looking forward to testing them. Have you tried any new recipes this week? How did it go?

 

 

 

Tuesday Treat – Game of Thrones is back!

For some, April means Spring time, warmer weather, lighter evenings and knowing that summer is on its way. For me, it means the return of Game of Thrones and it’s been a long time coming! There’s no way on this earth I’ll ever read the books, they’re far too big. So I’ve had to wait since last summer to find out what’s next for the residents of the Seven Kingdoms and whether winter will actually arrive in this season (It’s been threatening since the first episode!)

Game of Thrones is one of the best TV series I’ve seen and is up there with the likes of The Wire, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and my all time favourite, The Walking Dead. Yes, there’s lots of blood, sex and violence, but it’s very well written and you are enthralled from the excellent opening credits to the final curtain. Just like The Walking Dead, everyone is expendable and I seem to tense up throughout every episode, waiting to see if my favourite characters will survive. It’s well a watch if you haven’t got the GoT bug!

What’s your unmissable TV? Do you find that book/comic adaptations make for the best viewing?

National Stationery Week – My Favourite Shops

Happy National Stationery Week everyone! I had planned lots of posts surrounding this week, as stationery was my first real love. However, time has got away from me this week so there’ll only be a few. First up is a little roundup of some of my favourite online stationery shops.

The Green Gables

My to do list note pad

I’ve been a long time fan of Gabrielle for many reasons. Not only does she design beautiful stationery, but all the green gables products are made in the UK and printed on recycled paper, and she works with independent, British suppliers. Plus, the green gables supports charities ranging from the Fresh Start Foundation to age UK and WaterAid. My favourite product at the moment as the to do list above. I am addicted to making lists so this would be perfect!

Present & Correct

wood dispenser

I could do serious damage to my credit card on the Present & Correct website. They have an amazing range of stationery, including this adorable wooden tape holder. Isn’t it cute?! I love the variety of stationery and office objects that you find in this shop. Some of it really reminds me growing up and the joy I used to get out of opening a new packet of pens or starting to write in a new notebook. *sigh*

Sticker Stack

Planner

I am a new shopper at Sticker Stack. I discovered them via Twitter and follow them on social media. I love posts about their products, though they always have me reaching for my purse! I love the variety of stickers, stationery and accessories they sell and it’s been a real eye-opener seeing all the designs that come from Korea and Japan. So different and adorable! They’ve become a real favourite in a really short space of time.

Nancy and Betty

Olivetti Typewriter

I would so love a typewriter. Sadly, our tiny little house says no, but this is one of the reasons I enjoy shopping at Nancy and Betty. I love the original designs that the team at Nancy and Betty produce, with a special soft spot for their gift wrap designs. I do love gift wrap and I don’t use it nearly enough any more – my sister will understand why! This is a great place to shop at for original designs, made in Great Britain.

Cult Pens

cda chromatics inkBlue is my favourite colour and on the Cult Pens website, you can search by ink colour. A real revelation and it throws up beautiful things like this ink. Isn’t it gorgeous?! It makes me think of grand fountain pens, huge oak desks and grandfather clocks. Very grown up! If you’re looking for a pen, whatever the type, head to Cult Pens and no doubt they’ll have something suitable. Plus they deliver really quickly – perfect for that pen emergency. (Only true stationery geeks will know what I mean!)

Ohh Deer

Dancing Pug Tape

Ohh Deer is a great place to shop and not just for stationery. They sell everything from seed bombs to t shirts, and from chocolate to cushions. The one thing that makes them a little different is that they support a range of designers and illustrators, including my favourite, Gemma Correll. Seriously, I’ll buy anything with one of Gemma’s pug illustrations on it! Plus all products are made in the UK, on recycled materials where possible.

These are just a few of the great places that are sourcing and creating beautiful stationery right here in the UK. What’s your favourite stationery shop? Is there one bit of stationery you can’t live without?

Feeling Fabulous with Healthy Dinners

One of the areas my diet has been lacking is not enough vegetables and too many carbs. This is something that I’ve been trying to rectify, especially with our evening meals. It’s not always easy, as I have little patience for cooking from scratch, plus I don’t always order the right thing from Tesco and then our good intentions fall by the wayside. (Hello Dominos). Plus, while I’m vegetarian, my OH isn’t. I won’t cook meat, mainly because I have completely forgotten how to, plus the feel/sight/smell of it really turns my stomach. So my OH pretty much eats a vegetarian diet at home too as it’s way more convenient. Therefore, whatever we cook has to be filling enough for him too. Purely veg meals just don’t cut it so every recipe is a work in progress. Here’s what we’ve tried this week.

Roast Vegetable Mozzarella Bake

roast veg bake

This was a labour of love. It’s not a quick dinner, as you have to let the aubergine sit with salt on for a while, then roast the veg before adding everything all together and baking it. We added a couple of Quorn fillets to give it a bit more meat. I really liked this, despite the aubergine, which isn’t one of my favourite vegetables. However, my OH realised that he doesn’t really like aubergine and promptly vetoed this recipe.

Slow Cooker Chickpea Coconut Curry

chickpea and cauliflower curry

This recipe was a long time coming and it was the first time we used our slow cooker, which we inherited from my mum. Because of that, it took me a few days to remember to sort it out at lunchtime. When I finally remembered, it was a joy knowing that dinner was cooking while I was working. No standing over the stove, a real revelation. I was slightly nervous though, not only in case we didn’t like it but also in case the slow cooker didn’t work! We followed the recipe, including the coconut rice. It was lovely and will definitely be a regular on our menu. I don’t think we’ll bother with the coconut rice again though, as it’s a bit of a faff.

Winter Tagine

I forgot to take a picture of this one, mainly because it took so long to cook, I was almost asleep by the time we ate. We followed the recipe to a T, but we didn’t think the sauce thickened enough in the time it says in the recipe. We cooked it for longer – almost an hour longer. We had couscous with it (I managed to ruin the first batch because I put too much liquid in. Yep.) and I really liked it. My OH did not. Not only was he unhappy by the length of time it took to cook, as I was too, but he doesn’t like a lot of sauce and this had quite a bit. I’m going to cook it again for lunch, but I’ll reduce the liquid by half, I think and see how that goes. Well worth trying though.

I’ve also tried a few new lunches this week, though my favourites are definitely the crustless quiche and lentil & feta salad I wrote about last week.

Warm Harissa Chickpea, Butternut and Courgette Salad

squash and harissa lunch

This was quite a brave lunch for me, as I’d never made anything with harissa before. Plus, courgette and I have a love/hate relationship, in that I love it when I can’t taste it! Apart from the courgette, I loved this. I would make it again, but I might switch out the courgette for pepper.

Lentil and Spinach Soup

lentil soupI’ve recently discovered the deliciousness of lentils and soup so thought this would be a good one to try. I used dried lentils, which I’d never done before, and the recipe called for red lentils, which I forgot to order. Plus, I blended it completely after cooking, because I’m not a fan of lumps – I get a flashback to a vegetable soup ‘incident’ I had as a child. Anyway, it turned out more like a lentil paste. Clearly, I needed to add way more water as I hadn’t prepped the lentils in any way, I just chucked them in. Lesson learned. It was delicious, despite it’s thickness and I’d definitely make it again.

My next recipe challenge will involve tofu. We’ve got one tofu recipe but I want to expand on this a bit and get a few more under my belt. If you’ve got any suggestions or great slow cooker recipes, I’d love to hear them!

Tuesday Treat – Smoothies

For years and years and years, I’ve turned my nose up at smoothies. I never found one that particularly appealed to me and making my own wasn’t an option as it meant I’d actually have do it! Well, I’ve recently become converted and practically have one everyday. It’s a perfect afternoon snack and a great way to get in extra good veggies. I haven’t experimented much beyond the Virgin Green Monster, but I have added blueberries to a few and have also tried the Chocolate Green Monster, because, lets face it, it turns the smoothie chocolatey! The other smoothie recipe I’ve tried is Laura’s Magical Cold Busting Smoothie as I was feeling a little under the weather over the weekend. It worked a treat and I’ll definitely use it next time the germs start to take hold!

cold busting smoothie

My love of smoothies even extends to Pinterest and I’ve started a board to try and collate some recipes to try. I’m not very brave when it comes to making up my own recipes. I worry about wasting stuff in case it tastes awful, so if you’ve got any good smoothie recipes, let me know! In order to try and expand my smoothie repertoire, I’m taking part in the Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish Green Smoothie challenge.

KHGS-green-smoothie-challengeI’ll do a post each week to share the smoothies that I try and I’ll post pictures over on Instagram of my daily smoothie. My aim is to try and be a bit more adventurous with my smoothie recipes. Will you be taking part? Are you a lover of smoothies too?

 

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