the minutiae | smoothies

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The other day I watched a documentary about Yellowstone National Park. It seems like a truly extraordinary place, a real wilderness. Something so untameable about acres of forests, craggy peeks, herds of bison and rambling wolf packs. It's like fantasy. I guess Yellowstone has planted itself firmly on my list of places I will visit one day. 

When I do make it to Yellowstone and I’m standing on a trail in the middle of the Rockies, will I remember the day I decided I would visit? It might be when I’m 25, or 35, or 75 and cramming everything I ever wanted to do. That day watching the documentary it seemed memorable in a way. Rather than half watching tv and half working, I took a break. Sat on the couch in a sliver of watery sunlight. Suzi the sunshine pup was also lying in that sun, it showed the streaks of red in her fur and made the wood floors warm, mellow. Prune was lying on her back, paws in the air, head full of wild dreams. Ribbed trees outside, shaken bare by the wind. The same wind that had blown through the chimney so there was black ash on the floor around it close to where Suzi slept, head on her paws. 

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Sometimes I think, no, this will all fade. So little of what you think is significant really is. Memory is a funny thing - how it can filter out some of the biggest events and leave you with the minutiae. I don’t really remember the first day of the summer the year I finished high school. How excited I was to get my first iPhone, my first driving lesson. I don't remember much algebra though it was the end of my world at the time. Or much of my gym classes, just that I hated them, or the taste of coca-cola, or taking the training wheels off my bike. I just know I didn't want to be the last kid my age in the neighborhood on a 3 wheeler.

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But I remember my first snow day. Clatters of toboggans and rosy cheeks. Seeing African Wild Dogs in a national park, unboxing my Vitamix. A freezing November day, the first time that I drove my car solo with an actual license. Watching Prune’s fur grow back after her surgery along with her spirit. The days deepest in the summer heatwave, the whole house stuffy, when the alarm had broken and the beeping tone reminded us of life-support. Layla and I didn’t know how to fix it so we grew used to the sound. When the alarm eventually was repaired, it was like the summer had flatlined.

I don’t know what will stay with me. Probably the smaller things. June 29. Arbitrary date, but it’s the first time I knew the date of an album release by heart ( Drake’s Scorpion, naturally).The major, the small and the indecisive. Maybe it will all come back, under a big sky somewhere, with the pines and the icy streams and the wolves. 

"I learned simplicity, learned slowly and with difficulty how unassuming everything is" Rainer Maria Rilke

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Wow!!!!! I am back with a post before the return of the full moon. Anyway. Something a little different today, to brighten up these maybe cooler and darker days.
I have some notes on smoothies, they may or may not be helpful to you but I’ll add them anyways.
Hugs and blended goodness to you all xx

Smoothie notes:
- I add protein powder to some of these smoothies. You can leave this out if you don't keep any around but I find they add some body/background. You may want to add some nut butter, cocoa powder etc instead.
- I like some frozen zucchini in smoothies, it has no taste but is good for you and makes drinks thiiiiick. Frozen cauliflower has a similar effect but it can smell a little more.... vegetabl-y if it sits. Frozen banana is welcome too.
- the blending times will depend on your blender, as will liquid: more liquid may help if your blender is not of the super strong variety (like the ubiquitous Vitamix). Whatever type of blender patience is good here because I've found that chunks of frozen zucchini are just grim.

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A smoothie trilogy

1c - 1 1/4c milk of choice 
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (or not)
Handful frozen zucchini 
1c frozen strawberries or a mix of frozen pink berries (raspberries, currants, pom seeds)

1c - 1 1/2c milk of choice 
1 scoop vanilla/chocolate protein powder (or not)
Handful frozen zucchini 
Handful frozen spinach 
1c frozen blueberries 

Green / keepin’ it g *
1c - 1 1/2c pure coconut water 
Handful frozen spinach 
Handful frozen zucchini 
1/2 avocado, frozen or not 
1c frozen pineapple pieces 

For all smoothies:

In order listed, add ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. The time will depend on your blender. Add a little more liquid or use the tamper (like on a Vitamix) to encourage things along. 
In all cases, makes 1 large smoothie or two smaller/medium smoothies.

*to keep it g is an expression from hip-hop, just fyi. 

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demons | maple pecan mini muffs

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Ask any European person about the autumn and something they’ll always bring up is the dark. The time changes, night swallows up the day even more. An imbalance. People are leaving school or work and the sun has already faded. It’s seen as a symptom, of wet weather and dry hands and flu season.
The dark seems to be a thing of fascination. You don’t just go out late on a regular winter evening, you wait until certain almost allotted days to go out. Then you find ways to light up the night; fireworks and bonfires and gaudy Christmas lights that silhouette farmhouses eerily on quiet country lanes. 

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And there’s Halloween, a whole celebration of the dark. Not just finding a reason to run around the neighborhood after the sun sets, but to play with the other side of the night. It’s dark, it’s unknown, there’s always the possibility there’s more out there. So very regular people who believe in science and reason will dress up as ghosts and demons, one night a year. Because we dismiss the people who really believe in them, don’t we? As kind of kooky. But on Halloween, witches and magic are for both the believers and the logical. It’s always seemed like car crash fascination to me. An odd interest in the other side, but just as a visitor. Nobody would really want to be in a car accident and most people really wouldn’t want to open up enough to believe in mystery. And nobody really wants to be out in the dark if they don’t have to be. Because somewhere someone said it was better to all be inside under yellow lights, like summer moths to a candle. The light-seeking moths only live for a week and they spend the whole time looking for light. I guess they’re really not that different from us after all. 

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If I have late classes it is already dusky as I leave. The prettiest time of day, along with the morning, especially in the late autumn and winter. Trees cast abstract shadows and the horizon is emptier. On a clear day the sky is soft fading violet and the sun splashes colour onto the clouds. They’re not white or gray as they would be in the light. They’re apricot, tangerine and cantaloupe. Some are so brightly illuminated in orange they’re almost neon, like an airborne reflection of cars’ taillights. On the road the lights blur into long red, glowing tunnels, pausing and bursting with acceleration and braking. Headlights seem to spill moonlight around dark bends, playing off stone barn walls and over empty fields, winter nothingness. By 5pm you can see white stars, the most magical of all the night things. They are the jewel in the crown of the dark’s defense. But there are also blinking lights of planes and jets, taking people to places everywhere, and the sharper white of distant satellites. To remind you that there is far more to it all than what you see in the light. 

“into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely” Edna St Vincent Milay

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Hiii. I abandoned this space again, something I had no intention to do, but anyway. I’ve said before that I was back. Let’s see if it happens this time. Autumn is considering whether or not it wants to make an appearance in England this year, I hope it does. One of my preferred seasons, a nice time for muffins and melancholy. Melancholy may not come so easily to you sunny-dispositioned people out there, but I can help with the muffs.

Love xx

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Maple pecan mini muffs 
Makes 24 mini muffs, 12 regular 

1 1/4c oat flour
1 1/4c brown rice flour
1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon and nutmeg 
2/3c plain yogurt of choice
2 free range eggs 
1/4c olive oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 
1/2c pure maple syrup 

Heaped 1/2c pecans, chopped (or any other nut, if you like)

Preheat the oven to 180’c, 350’f. Prepare a mini muffin pan, or a regular pan, you choose.
Stir together the flours, baking powder/soda, spices and salt. Stir through chopped pecans.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, yogurt, vanilla and maple. 
Stir the wet mix into the dry mix and spoon into muffin tins.
If making mini muffs, bake for 15-18 minutes. For regular muffins they will probably need 5-10 minutes more. 

The muffs will keep  for a few days in an airtight container and also freeze well. Aren’t they cute?

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the deluge | apple blondies

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The thing with these long, dry European summers is that when the heat breaks, it really breaks. Those first showers after the heatwave aren’t the typical spirit-sapping drizzle, but something closer to tropical. The heavy, fat, cool drops of rain mingle with the warmth and the air turns steamy, a foggy blanket broken by those continuous chubby drops. They fall fast in a sort of percussive one-two, more like a hurried trap beat than mellow, languid r&b. Curtains of water turn the dry summer gutters into rapids and liquid seems to seep into every crack. Wood creaks and groans, trees heavy with leaves strain under the weight of the deluge. 

It might be just for an hour or it might be for days. The skies might have lightened from that angry purple-gray to something more marbled and the raindrops perhaps stroll out of the sky rather than rush. Tarmac roads are soaked to dark beady black, car headlights glow, the windscreen becomes foggy on the inside. On one of those late summer rainy days, somewhere deep in the deluge, we took a drive north along the coast. The fields were growing wild with ivy, dewy and happy, ploughed fields looked rich and earthy in coffee tones from deep espresso black to milder latte. Crows cling to power lines that flail in the wind, the car engine hums healthily, fields part and the North Sea fills the windscreen, moody and agitated, like the rain only added fuel to the restless sea’s fire. The stretch of beach looked pale yellow, like it was itself a lonely shaft of sunlight as waves kissed the breakers, maybe once painted white, now peeling down to the dark wood, in that kind of melancholic, forgotten feeling of small seaside towns in Europe.

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Maybe it would be different on a sunny summer day in mid July. Maybe during the heatwave the beach was a quilt of cheery sun umbrellas, kids in colourful swimsuits, pale limbs seeking out the sun. The sea was quiet and settled and a tempting shade of baby blue. There were packed cars lining the boulevard and the little hotels had turned the signs to ‘no vacancies’. There were ice creams to be bought and waves to skip through and the photos of said ice creams would grace office pin-boards and living room walls. It seemed short lived. Like a good song, the first hour of a Friday afternoon, a sunrise, the heatwave itself.

You could almost feel the curtains twitch, on that rainy day. The eager little hands of the youngest late summer holiday makers, pulling back the musty fabric, releasing a shower of dust towards the murky wallpapered room and onto thinning carpets. Pressing a face to cool glass and looking upwards, trying to find the streaks of light in the feathery sky. I’d done it myself, as a kid. Thin hotel windows rattling in a seaside breeze, the incessant crashing of the sea, cries of gulls, container ships outlined and ghostly on the horizon.

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The tourist hoards slowly ease and instead it’s the earliest autumn leaves that swirl on the wet tarmac, picked up by the coastal wind to dance around the hood of your car. The dark lingers for longer each morning and if you’re out in the country, maybe walking dogs, puddles reflect the skies and seem to pool moonlight. You watch the dawn push in from the east, the lines and patches of clear light competing with the white moon and a million stars. Dawn always wins, but the night comes to take back its turf earlier and earlier. The sun is mellower and the wind is sharper, collars are pulled up around necks and drying hands are crammed deep into pockets. They may have forecast another Indian summer but there’s a shift in the air. The rain that washed the cooler countryside this weekend was different, less benevolent. The wind that made the leaves dance may have pushed those ashen clouds away but the real rain of fall will lace soggy grass and damp umbrellas. It dusts clear dewy mornings with a promise of more, and soon you'll see the moon as much as the rain and sun. 

“staring into the clouds, they rising or are they coming down?”
Lil Wayne ft xxxtentacion, Don’t Cry

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Hi. It’s been a while. My bad. I was doing... not really anything. Anyways I’m back to this space again. As Lil Wayne would say, don’t call it a comeback, it was dark out, now the sun’s back. Guy’s full of wise words, at least we know where Drake got it from. I digress.
Funny thing is that I’ve been holding on to these photos since a very dark and shadowy day last year but I lost the recipe so I had to try it again. Good news is, the recipe works, yay. I call these little guys apple blondies but they are just like an apple cake. They are quite pretty and seem fitting for the time of year, well, until it’s 20 degrees out again. 
I hope you like them. Love xx

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Apple blondies 
makes one 8x8 pan, or similar

2/3c (75g) almond meal
2/3c (75g) oat flour
2/3c (80g) buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp salt
3/4c coconut sugar
2 free range eggs
1/3c melted coconut oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large apple, grated

1 or 2 apples to top

Preheat the oven to 180’C, 350’F
Line an 8x8 inch square pan (or something similar)
Sift together the flours, salt, cinnamon and baking soda in one bowl
In another bowl, stir together the coconut oil, eggs and coconut sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla and stir again. Combine the wet and dry mixes gently; stirring through the grated apple. Stir until just combined, then set aside.
For the remaining apples, core and cut them into thin crescent shapes. They will be to top.
Stir the batter one last time, then pour into the pan, you can use a spatula to make it smooth and (relatively) even.
Arrange the sliced apples over the top in a pattern of your choice - I messed this up the first time, but you probably won’t. Try to lay the slices very gently over the batter until you get them in a pattern you like, then push them in a little so they sink in slightly.
Bake for between 25-35 minutes. This is a big window but it will depend on the shape of your pan, how ripe the grated apple was, and how much moisture the apple slices added. Keep an eye on it. It will be kind of pleasantly golden but not brown - blondies are better a little under-baked.
They will be fragile, so let them cool completely before moving them around. 

They will keep well in the fridge for several days.

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hiatus | the heatwave

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It has been a long time since I wrote anything for this space. A hiatus of sorts, perhaps a symptom of a busy school year.

Over Christmas we inevitably travelled, to India. It started with the flight and the queues of Heathrow, the temporary disorientation, remembering whether or not we flew out of terminal four last time. You do it enough, it's all some sort of mechanical, learned haze. Being carried along in the crush, down the jet bridge, through frigid air heavy with the stink of kerosene. Like the air’s coldness somehow traps the fumes, holding onto them through to the cabin, where in the first few steps into the early aisles fuel mingles with coffee scents and artificial air pressure. Our flight turns and taxies, clumsy. Slick tarmac, onto the runway. The plane pauses, composes itself, the engines gun and the floor shakes and the flight rumbles over the concrete awkwardly, until the wheels retract, the ground falls away, the wing dips, the cabin hums. London fans out below winking and blinking lights, carved into bays and headlands by swathes of black.  Then there was the bombardment of color and chaos and life that hits you after a trip to India, that stays with you through the flight home, then is sucked out of you by London's damp, clammy night air. 

It was cold after Christmas. Just as people saw the first few gleams of spring, the buds and their hope were engulfed by some of the most intense snow the eastern UK has seen since Tupac was rapper of choice. Flurries started and didn’t stop, it was beautiful, hypnotic, coming down harder in sloppy white sheets like puppy kisses. There was too much snow on sidewalks, the dogs played in the garden, chasing icicles and snowballs that sank deep, leaving tracks and furrows while plumes of grey smoke from a dozen chimneys muddled with the heather sky. Geese flew overhead in formation, shadowy onyx against towering somber cloud; peppery and rippled. Hands were dry and fragile like old paper, the ground was undisturbed feathery white until it met fields where the earliest wheat was fighting through; there it looked chunky and porous, like paper towel. The wind murmured and caressed the ribs of haggard trees, blowing powdery snow onto the roadsides. They were littered with abandoned trucks and cars looking overly bright and metallic so the place felt more like midwinter Alaska than spring Norfolk. More brilliantly brutal than subtle and charming. 

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And then summer came, like a flash flood of dry heat, no warning, no expectations, the ground and the people unable to absorb it all. The atmosphere just decided that was it, enough of winter's indecisive drizzle and mild, pale yellow rays, the sun seemed to go from being the color of butter to somewhere closer to an Indian temple marigold. No spring. No buffer period, no hesitation. There was no way to miss it. Europe basked and burnt in a heatwave. The sky was so clear it was a storybook cliché, or a childhood drawing, like someone had said, kids, let's color the sky blue. It was more as if the world was upside down, like looking at the Mediterranean Sea, suspended above you. The dogs would run out of the shade to where the sun cast blocky shadows through the needles of pines, chase a squirrel, and come back with their own fur like charcoal; hot, black, and sandy. I would take my car out and send up a plume of umber dust, winter's puddles were bone dry and left everything coated in a fine layer of what looked like cinnamon. I'd follow that usual rural route framed by fields and in the rear view mirror driving downhill fast it left a distorted smudge of pale green, flax and straw behind me. From above the countryside probably looked khaki, as if it was washed in sepia with patches of dun and tan like fading army combat uniform. 

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There is football on TV, most of which is bad, and a new Drake album, most of which is great, and the sun sets late and barely sets at all. It takes a short dip over the inky horizon then floats back up, between the russet roofs of houses to the east of our own, casting long shadows and cool blue shade. In the shade you shiver, maybe watch the swirling dust, or crystalline drops of dew forming on cut grass. But there are these tepid mornings when you walk out and the earth just smells warm, of verdant leaves and heavy fruit trees and every bush bristling with life and flowers, and you should be somewhere further south. France or Italy, maybe, somewhere with stone farm houses the color of caramel and where the roads aren't full of harassed holiday makers in packed cars. But another week of high pressure has been forecast, so another week of sunshine spilling over the yellowing grass. The sun will rise amber and brush early cloud with peach, it will fade the roses on the trellis to watery claret. The clouds will be rare, light, with pretty latin names like altocumulus, cirrocumulus and altostratus, which meteorologists call the clouds of fair weatherWait, until around midday, when everyone is where they need to be and the roads are quiet, the sun is sharp and the heat uninhibited. To hear kites call as they cruise the thermals miles above us, perhaps a light rustle of grass in a sliver of breeze, and absolutely nothing else.

"this bud of love, by summer's ripening breath, may prove a beauteous flower when we next meet"           
- juliet to romeo (Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, what else?)

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** All these photos are from around Norfolk, taken over the past 3 summers. The cows were at the Norfolk Show a couple of years ago.