Pen Heaven #InkToWin Competition

There is nothing quite like using a lovely pen. I find that being able to do this is becoming a very rare thing. Sure I write in my Filofax everyday, but it’s not the same as having a reason to write by hand. My grandmothers always appreciated a good letter or postcard, but they’re no longer with us. With technology and social media being so prominent in everyone’s lives, I don’t really have ‘news’ that’s worth writing a letter for, especially as friends and family would have seen it online at least a day or two beforehand. As I get to use a pen, and a fountain pen at that, so rarely, when the lovely people at Pen Heaven asked if I could produce a piece of artwork to promote their #inktowin competition, I jumped at the chance.

Drawing isn’t my strong suit, but my handwriting has received a number of compliments so decided to write something. With the gorgeous weather we’ve been having and autumn being my favourite season, I decided on using this extract from Anne of Green Gables.

Hurrah for October #inktowin

Pen Heaven sent me a batch of Platinum Mix Free Ink colours and a Platinum Plaisir Fountain pen to play around with. After using up half an A4 pad and covering myself in ink, I decided on the above. When I was growing up, you had the choice of blue or black inks. The fact that I can not only use purple ink, but mix it up to make other colours too is mindblowing! Friends, expect all Christmas cards to be written in fountain pen! It’s an absolute joy to write with a fountain pen again.

The Pen Heaven #InkToWin competition is open now until the 19th November. The prize? A handmade Platinum fountain pen worth £2000. Not bad eh?! All you have to do is submit an image of a piece of artwork created using ink as their medium over here on their blog and explain how you created it. You can use any tool, as long as the medium is ink and it can be piece of artwork, calligraphy, picture, anything you want. All entries will be judged on creativity and innovation with the medium of ink so don’t worry if, like me, drawing isn’t your forte. Just grab your ink and get creative!

For more information, to enter and the full T’s and C’s, head over to the Pen Heaven blog. Good luck everyone!

Reuniting lost pets with their owners

Poppy is the centre of our world (understatement of the year!) Since adopting her from the Blue Cross, she has been an amazing addition to our family. Naturally, as a result, we are super serious about looking after her. I have alerts set up in our calendar for all her vet appointments and treatments, she’s pretty much the centre of attention wherever we go, whether she’s with us or not, we factor her in to every decision we make; to put it bluntly, we’ve changed the way we live to accommodate her. Therefore, the thought of her going missing makes my blood run cold.

Poppydog on tourPoppy did go missing for a little bit last year – fortunately not for long. As a general rule, we walk Poppy on the lead. The main reason? We don’t exist, especially if there are squirrels or other distractions about. I can wave a treat right in front of her face, but if there’s even the scent of a squirrel nearby, I might as well just be waving a ball about. Nothing competes with a squirrel. Nothing. Even on the lead, Poppy tries to chase it. If she’s off the lead, you won’t see her for dust, as I learned.

Picture the scene: It’s a sunny day and Poppy and I are in the park. I’m practising recall with Poppy off the lead. She is top of the class. I call her, she comes to me, she gets a treat, she walks on. I’m thinking, ‘Yes! I got the good dog!’ Then I call her and she runs in the opposite direction. Gulp. Okay, just give her the ‘Get here now command’ and she’ll come back. Except she didn’t. She followed scent after scent after scent. By this time I am terrified. The park is surrounded by road and all the worst thoughts are running through my head. I must have gone around the park about 15 times, asking everyone I meet if they’ve seen a little black dog. Even now, just thinking about it, I am in full panic. What if someone takes her? What if she gets hit by a car? What if she gets confused and can’t find me?

Finally, someone says they’ve seen her in the nearby school. I run over and there she is, looking like butter wouldn’t melt! Obviously, I burst into tears. Don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved in my life. I count all my lucky stars, put Poppy back on the lead and head home for a stiff G&T.

While I was incredibly lucky, lots of pet owners aren’t. In fact, 60 cats and dogs go missing in the UK every hour, which is a ridiculously high number and why I downloaded and registered Poppy with TagiApp. TagiApp is a free app which aims to unite the local community and help find lost pets and it’s just 69p to register a pet. Take a look:

With so many pets going missing, it makes sense for every pet owner and pet lover to download and use TagiApp to help bring these pets home. I know that if the unthinkable happened, and Poppy did go missing, I would really appreciate the help of as many people as possible in finding her.

TagiApp are also running a great competition at the moment. If you’re a dog owner, simply download TagiApp and register your dog before 5th November, and you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win a Lily’s Kitchen Starter Pack for your pooch. Win win right?!

*Disclosure: TagiApp is a client. As ever, opinions are my own.

Tuesday Treat – A Day at the Beach

Last weekend, we headed down to Pembrokeshire for the weekend. One of the best things about visiting family there is that it always involves at least one visit to the beach. Pembrokeshire is blessed with lots of beautiful beaches and walks, perfect for getting the sea air into your lungs!

Saundersfoot Beach

While it might not be beach weather, armed with my Seasalt coat and handyband, we spent some time exploring the rock pools of Saundersfoot beach. We parked over at Wisemans Bridge and walked along the beach, as the tide was out. We let Poppy off the lead, which led to her running around, getting the sea breeze in her fur and exploring her favourite beach things, rock pools! We also saw a very spooky skull-like jelly fish and a Hermit crab.

Hermit Crab Spooky jelly fish

The beach is definitely my favourite place to be, whatever the weather. How about you?

A Lazy Guide to Healthy Eating

I have been ‘dieting’ for about half my life. Some work while you’re on them, some don’t even work while you’re doing them, but none have managed to get me to change my eating habits so I don’t have to ‘go on a diet’. I’ve written before about how much I dislike cooking. Not only that, but the planning and shopping before hand, as well as the prep and the washing up (we don’t have a dishwasher) make me, more often than not, really resent cooking from scratch. But, I’ve learnt, that if you want to eat healthily, whether you’re trying to lose weight, feel better or just stop eating crap, cooking from scratch is really the only way to go. I would say that 90% of the time, we now eat food that is cooked from scratch, healthy and good for us. It’s not easy, especially when you live a stones throw from some of the best takeaways in town, but here’s how we do it.

  1. A lazy guide to healthy eatingBe realistic. Like most people, I’m busy. And there are a million other things I’d rather be doing than chopping veg, sauteing onions or washing up 3 different saucepans. So for us to eat well, our meals have to be quick, use ingredients that we use regularly and not require kitchen skills found only in michelin star restaurants. I also know that I can’t cook every single dish from scratch, so one of our regular meals is pasta with veggie sausages. It’s not the healthiest meal in the world, but it’s certainly not the worst and it’s definitely better than getting a takeaway. I usually plan it for when we know we’ll something super quick – 12 minutes in fact. I also make sure we have a huge salad with it, just to be on the safe side!
  2. Plan ahead. For me, this is the only way it works. I sit down once a week with my shopping list, Pinterest and meal planner. I don’t like eating the same things every week, because it’s boring and is a sure fire way of making me gravitate to the pile of takeaway menus. By keeping a record of all the meals that are quick, healthy and easy, it makes this whole process much quicker. It doesn’t always work, the best laid plans and all that, but on the whole we do eat what we plan.
  3. Include treats in your plan. In the past, I’ve tried diets and cut foods and treats out of my diet. All that happens is that I fall off the ‘good food’ wagon, usually landing on a pile of pizza, cake and wine! Plus I don’t want to live a life without cake! I make sure that we have one treat meal a week, whether it’s a take away, dinner out or something quick & easy like homemade pizza using shop bought spelt pizza base. I also plan in cake or other treats. It’s definitely worth researching the healthiest options available for your treat, but if there isn’t one, just make sure you enjoy it.
  4. Don’t overdo the fruits. I know what you’re thinking – but fruit’s healthy. Well, yes it is, but it contains sugar. Granted it’s natural, not processed, but when you’re thinking of your 5, 7 or 10 fruit & veg a day, you need to make sure you eat more veg than fruit. It’s frustrating because it’s easier to eat fruit on the go and way nicer than tucking into *another* salad. Obviously, fruit is going to better than a packet of biscuits or slab of chocolate, just make sure you hike up the veggies as often as you can.
  5. Get a slow cooker. This is one of humankind’s best inventions ever. Yep, I mean that. Why? You can chuck in a handful of wholesome ingredients in the morning and come tea time, your dinner is cooked! This is my kind of cooking. Minimal prep, minimal clean up, minimal time spent in the kitchen, more time playing with Poppy. Win win.
  6. Try tofu. Despite being a vegetarian for over a decade, I’ve only recently started making meals with tofu at home. It’s a great source of healthy protein that is very easy to cook, easy to handle and goes with almost anything. We use it in stir fry dishes, with plenty of added spice. My tip? If the recipe asks you to use sesame or peanut oil, do it. It makes all the difference.
  7. Learn how to cook quinoa. Not just quinoa, chia seeds, all kinds of beans and pulses. I’ve never eaten so many tins of chickpeas and I never thought I’d be eating chia seed porridge for breakfast, but there you go. Tinned legumes are essential for healthy eating. They can bulk up a salad, add some much needed protein to a meal and are just brilliant to have around. The same can said for quinoa. You can cook up a big batch and add it to salad, chilli, stew and in place of pasta. It’s saved my bacon on more than one occasion.
  8. Eat your greens. Whichever way you dress it up, vegetables are your best friend when it comes to healthy eating. If you aren’t a fan of them, you need to find a way to befriend them (though nothing on this earth will get me eating broccoli unless it’s well hidden). For me, its about adding spice to them and getting a variety. If I eat the same ol’ veg all the time, it becomes tedious. A good way to avoid this is to go for seasonal veg.
  9. Beware the overly processed. When you’re next doing your weekly shop, take a look at the ingredients of some of your favourite convenience foods. How many ingredients do you recognise? If it’s not many, that ain’t good. Natural wholefoods will be full of good stuff. Convenient foods, not so much. I know, I’m as disappointed as you are. I’m not saying never eat them, just eat them rarely. You’ll notice the difference, trust me!
  10. Be prepared to fail. Every now and then, life is going to be so busy that despite your best intentions, you just can’t face cooking. So when you’re standing in the ready meal section of the supermarket, find the healthiest meal you can, take a look at the ingredients. If there are things on there that you can’t pronounce, step away. Look for something that has recognisable ingredients. Make sure you eat some extra veg with it and don’t worry about it. In a perfect world, you’ll have made a ton of meals from scratch, frozen them and remembered to take them out of the freezer before you left for work. But it’s not a perfect world so enjoy a ready meal every now and then, just don’t beat yourself up over it.

Here are my favourite quick & easy meals. You can find all these and lots of others on my veggie board on Pinterest. Don’t just take my word for it though – Some of the best people to follow for more help, recipes and advice are Laura from Wholeheartedly Healthy, Natasha from Honestly Healthy and Ella from Deliciously Ella.

I’m not a nutritionist so all these tips are just things that work for me and I have years and years and years of experimenting, as I have been battling with my diet for ever! My hatred of cooking, combined with the ease of ordering pizza have made me need to eat better. I know that in order for me to be well, I have to eat well. But it doesn’t have to be a chore. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat cake, takeaway or enjoy the odd gin, of course I do, just not as often as I used to. It’s just all in balance. Eating this way has been the best change to my diet that I could possibly have made and it’s been easier than other ‘diet’.

What tips have you got for healthy eating? What’s your favourite healthy recipe?

Tuesday Treat – Stitch-Mi-Lane

One of the things I love about autumn and winter is the excuse to wear lots of knitted goodies. As a result, I have a ridiculous number of wooly hats, gloves and scarves. At the moment, I’m just waiting for it to get cold enough to pull them out and wear them to my hearts content! Despite having so many, I just can’t help myself and am drawn to finding new ones!

Spectator cycle hat

This Snug Spectator Merino Bike hat was created by Stitch-Mi-Lane, which is a lovely ‘super small company’ who make cycle inspired bits and pieces. Not only that, everything is designed and made in the UK and you’ll be told who made your order, which is lovely! Whether you’re looking for something warm and cosy for yourself or a Christmas present for the cycling fan in your life, take a look at Stitch-Mi-Lane. You won’t be disappointed!

Tuesday Treat – Making Good Habits

Did you know that it takes about 6 weeks to create a good habit? Six whole weeks. That’s not long. At the start of the year, I started using Lift app to help me create some good habits that benefit me every day. One was to stretch every morning. Humans are the only animals that don’t routinely stretch out when they wake up. Every time Poppy gets up from one of her naps, she stretches herself out – front first by doing downward dog, then the back by dragging her paws across the ground. Cute! I need to do the same. I have to stretch out my back and do some strengthening moves for my knee. Neither exercise will correct the issue, but they definitely help.

Good Habits

The second habit I wanted to develop was to improve my dental hygiene by flossing everyday. I am terrified of the dentist so will do pretty much anything to avoid going or having any extra work done. Using the Lift app has got me into the habit of both stretching and flossing every morning. Now I’ve got those down, I’m working on others, like having fruit or vegetables with every meal and exercising because it’s good for me and doing something every day.

These habits are especially important coming up to winter, where looking after yourself and staying positive are so important. I’ve been building them up for six weeks now, so am hoping they’re officially here to stay!

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