Seeking Balance (and Summertime)

Today is a great day.

I’ve just noticed that I have 100 followers on my sexy little blog!

Also, I have arrived back in Ireland, a place that makes my soul tremendously happy. I’m heading back to The Valley House for a summer of mighty, savage, marvellous craic (savage craic sounds a bit scary but people ACTUALLY SAY THAT. I know.)

The past week has been a quick catch up with family and friends, cups of tea and trips to garden centres, some excellent quality sausages at the birthday BBQ, and a trip up to London for some social activity. I was feeling a little over-healthed and under-partied, and was perhaps experiencing a sort of mid-youth crisis, hitting age 22 and having spent the past 6 months primarily doing yoga and eating nettles.

Which is very essential for ones spiritual, physical, and emotional development, but I also felt I needed to imbibe and party. It’s all about balance.

So we went out in Brick Lane, ate very cheap curry, scored some wine and then went off and found ourselves a party. It was great, but I couldn’t handle 2 nights in a row. Instead, we went to Hyde Park then I went on home to watch Sex and the City and eat some quinoa.

Hyde Park was lovely, the actual sun shined, and there were even some triathletes doing some world championship final thing. I mostly just noticed how wonderful their bums were.

 

 

 

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Braving flip flops
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Our picnic in Hyde Park
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Sunshine!
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A miraculous hound.

 

So now I’m off to Achill Island, writing from the rickety bus that arrived 30 minutes late at Knock Airport. I like Knock airport because it reminds me of Nelson airport back home – no security, one big room, old men discussing public transport.

I’m curious to see what becomes of the next 2 and a half months. I expect it to be different from last year, with some different people and some the same, but also I think I am quite different from how I was last year.

I sense it will be a test in balance- how to maintain daily yoga and meditation and consumption of greens, whilst working in a Backpackers and Pub where alcohol consumption and party time is a given.

Challenge accepted! I sure hope there’s sunshine, so I don’t have to do yoga in the pub. That would just be distracting, for all parties involved…

Chat soon old pals.

Vegetarians Gone Wild

I’m writing this post from Lyon airport, having said goodbye to my lovely Brenazet family earlier today. They were so fun, loving life on their idyllic farm, eating amazing meals together every day and constantly learning and trying new things. It’s inspiring to find people who genuinely love their lives and don’t even feel like they need to holiday, because home is so lovely!

After a hearty breakfast of green smoothie and some buckwheat hazelnut porridge (awesome stuff), Mariken sent me on my way with a little snack pack and instructions to let her know when I arrive safely in London. Elza the dog jumped up and gave me a smooch too, which was cute.

I spent the majority of yesterday helping them set up a Mail Chimp newsletter campaign and linking it to all of their social media, which is the sort of thing that comes easily to me (it’s my generation) but can be a real chore for people. Always nice to know you’re really helping the people you stay with, because sometimes it feels like you are getting an amazing experience for nothing. Days filled with yoga, meditation, cooking, gardening, cleaning, and amazing food are the best working days EVER.

My last few days involved a lot of cooking, yoga, a trip to Mariken’s local ‘Old Lady Yoga’ (which I secretly loved, even if it was all in French and included lots of pelvic tilting), crazy thunderstorms, dreamy sunsets and much laughter.

Basically I’m just going to post a bunch of photos of food, because I cannot describe in detail all the things we made. Mariken has a spectacular kitchen and array of recipes, during summer she cooks for the guests every day so she’s a bit of a pro at making healthy food for many mouths.

Get ready to drool….

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Raw vege pasta, quinoa, garden salad
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Buckwheat and oat flour pastry, filled with silver beet and soft tofu
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Beetroot and Walnut Dip
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Bean Salad
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Plate of Goodness
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Red Quinoa- Stuffed Tomatoes
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Avocado & Almond Butter Chocolate Mousse
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Raw carrot cupcakes with cashew coconut icing, Apple cake.
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Smoothie greens! Yes, that is nettle.

 

Needless to say I’m going to miss having the means to make all that. But I have a bounty of recipes now. I sort of made up the chocolate mousse, so I shall share it with you. Mariken declared it the ‘best chocolate mousse she has ever tasted’, which is high praise.

Marvellous Mousse

To feed 2-3 people:

1 large ripe banana

1 ripe avocado

2 large tbsp almond butter

2-3 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp maple syrup/agave/honey or whatever your preferred sweetener is.

1 tbsp chia seeds

anything else you think would be tasty….

 

whizz it it all up in your blender, adjust the amounts to suit yourself, serve in little pots with a sexy adornment (I used cacao nibs). If you can wait, put them in the fridge for an hour and let the chia seeds do their thing.

You don’t need much because it is very filling, what with all the avocado and nuts.

Mouuuuthgasm!

 

A farewell sunset
A farewell sunset

Off back to London now, for birthday celebrations, family time and probably some MEAT. Funnily enough, today as I was leaving Mariken was cooking up one of their chickens. Usually they are vegetarian, but yesterday they discovered that one of their chickens was eating the eggs.

So they chopped it’s head off and made coq au vin. Waste not, want not.

Au revoir France! I still only understand a pathetic amount of your language (“inhale, exhale, left foot, right foot, relaaaax”), but I think that’s okay.

 

Bad Hair Month, and other adventures

It’s been a few days, my cherubs, because I have been poorly. A nasty bout of the flu had its way with me, along with a funky stomach virus that made me walk like a hunchback for 3 days.

Being sick is pretty shit when you’re travelling. You don´t have mummy to bring you marmite on toast. It´s especially bad if you’re in a hostel. I’m lucky, because I am in a delightful chunk of paradise in the middle of France, with my own little cabin to fester in until the germs retreat. But it is hard, because as a HelpXer, I always feel like I need to be contributing more, rather than just moping around feeling sorry for myself and sleeping 18 out of 24 hours a day. Luckily my lovely hosts have been very understanding, and even gave me essential oils and a nightcap of thyme infused alcohol to send me into a deep slumber. And it doesn’t take long to get better in such a healthy environment, with lots of greens and goodness.

My nose is rather red and sore, much like Rudolph, from blowing it a few too many times on the toilet roll. So I have taken to using my magical homemade coconut lip balm as a nose balm… It works very well, in case you were wondering.

After missing two days of yoga, I rolled out of bed and onto my yoga mat this morning. It isn’t too hard when it looks like this outside….

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Mariken also taught her yoga class this morning. We did it outside in part of the campsite, and I taught my style of sun salutation to the lovely little French ladies. I´m sure they didnt understand what I was saying, because I have a weird accent, but they seemed to enjoy it.

I could not do my 108 breath meditation this morning, because it involves Breath of Fire, which is alot of firing air out of one´s nose, and I was fearful of firing something other than air out due to congestion. So I didn´t do that..

As for the old ´washing my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar´…. It works quite well, but my hair is quite absurd. I look like I have escaped from somewhere. Through an electric fence, probably.

 

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Wow! Impressive isn´t it. I would say the above is one of my two good hair days that have been predicted for the next six weeks on this regime…

At least I got volume.

So basically these days I look like a sixties hipster, wearing ´mom jeans´ that I found in the ´Helpers Box of Clothing´ and repping a fro.

On a more tasteful note, we made delightful bounty bars the other day! Would you like the recipe? They are relatively healthful, of course. Quite coconutty.

Bountiful Bars!

Chocolate Coating

3/4 cup coconut oil

3/4 cup cocoa powder (the good stuff)

1/2 cup maple syrup/ agave syrup

pinch salt

Filling

150g dates (or use a date paste)

150g desiccated coconut

1/4 cup coconut oil

3 tbsp cashew nuts

2 tbsp hemp seeds (or more nuts, if you aren´t that fancy)

vanilla

pinch of salt

Instructions

Filling: Melt coconut oil. Mix dates and water in food processor. Mix in the other filling ingredients. Refrigerate for 5 minutes to solidify a little bit. Make into small, stumpy finger bars. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Coating: Melt coconut oil. Mix in cocoa powder,salt and chosen sweetener. Let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken – add more cocoa powder if need be.

Roll the stumpy coconut bars around in their sea of chocolate, until entirely coated. Pop them in the fridge to set. Then you eats it ja!

And if you´re anything like me in the kitchen, they will end up looking a little like this: Tiny, stumpy fingers.

 

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I only have three more days at Brenazet, then I head back to the UK for a week or so, to celebrate my birthday and see my dear family. Then I am off to Ireland for a couple of months.

I´m sure looking forward to a summer of mighty craic!

Mossy Bum

Ohhh boy, the weather in France has taken a turn for the chilly. My body is a bit confused, after spending a month in the glorious heat of Spain then reverting to winter weather. Thunderstorms, hail, rain, cold nights… But it’s secretly kind of nice, because it means we can LIGHT THE FIRE. And I love a good fireplace.

I have taken to wearing 70 percent of my wardrobe to bed, leaving 30 percent of my clothing for daytime usage. Needless to say, there’s not a lot of variety going on. Basically I just wear yoga clothes, a chunky jumper and some borrowed gumboots (or should I say, Wellington boots). But we watched a Ted Talk last night and the man giving the talk sagely noted that if all we do is follow fashion, we will never catch up with it, so we might as well not bother…..Right?

As I’m writing this I’m sitting by the fire in our little wooden chalèt, drinking some hand picked mint tea. We have had to do our yoga indoors for the past two days, because it is so gosh darn cold out. Basically, I’ve been doing a lot of baking and indoor work, like cleaning the gités, shifting books, helping with meals.

Over the weekend, whilst housesitting for the family while they were in Holland, Izzy and I made a delightful array of natural cosmetics, some practical, some not so much. Our toothpaste turned out a little funky, and Izzy is convinced it’s making her teeth go brown, which is sort of the opposite of what we were hoping to achieve. Our lip balm is a little bit solid, probably because the standard room temperature at the moment is much lower than average. Therefore the coconut oil is like rock.

We washed our hair with baking soda, made a nettle tonic (to promote hair growth and thickness), then conditioned with Apple cider vinegar. It actually worked really well in my hair, and is a whole lot cheaper than buying real shampoo. Apparently you have about two good hair days in the space of six weeks when you start doing this, after which your hair is MAGNIFICENT. Eyes on the prize Rosie, eyes on the prize. I feel a bit weird doing it, because I quite enjoy that lather effect that you get from shampooing your hair. With baking soda and water, you just kind of mush it around your scalp. It will take some getting used to. I added some essential oils to my nettle tonic to make it smell better. Because nettles don’t really smell that sexy.

We did naked yoga. Naked. I’m just gonna leave that sentence there. Take what you want from it….

I love this place, it’s like a haven of information and terrible jokes and shouting in Dutch and accordion playing and naughty escaping ponies. I love it when Ron makes a joke in English and laughs for a good five minutes at his own wit. Yesterday, when Izzy and I were moving shelves, he cried from the other side of the room “Easy does it! Oh! Oh! ……IZZY does it! Haha! Ha!” That man is hilarious. I love how Mariken calls asparagus ‘Aspergers’ and nutrients ‘nutritions’. I love how Igor farts so much that nobody even says anything anymore. He just lets one rip and everyone continues around him.

Izzy leaves tomorrow, after which it will just be me in my little wooden cabin, doing my strange breathy meditation all alone and sipping tea for one. I will miss the delightful outbursts of song and enthusiasm that happen whenever Izzy is in the room. She is like an excitable child who buzzes around doing a million things at once and is so inspired by everything and everyone, then exhausts herself and has to lie down for a while. Her enthusiasm is contagious, her art is amazing, I will miss that little chipmunk! She is so remarkably comfortable with being naked. Today we went for a walk in the forest, took off all our clothes, climbed a tree that hung over the river, and meditated… Oh what a sentence that is. Very nice indeed, aside from the extremely mossy bum.

Here are some pics of our weekend of housesitting and our very potent wheatgrass juice from our half day juice detox (we got hungry at lunchtime and there were pancakes, need I say more…). As Mariken says, there’s no point in juicing when it’s cold and you feel deprived. It will make you unhappy, and you want to feel happy. Wise words from a wise woman.

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Shots!
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Izzy, unimpressed
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Buckwheat pancakes, red cabbage coleslaw, dal
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Izzy and feast
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Eat the rainbow

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Raw vegan lasagne

Best. Day. Ever.

Wednesday was an action packed day. These Dutch people, they don’t mess around, they get things done. It’s invigorating and inspiring, and you are so ready for bed when the time comes.

The day began with some yoga and a meditation with Izzy outside our little chalet, which we have been doing every day. They say it takes 30 days to develop a habit, and I think I just hit that. Right now I’m loving the Sivananda sun salutations, probably because that was the style we were doing in Spain every morning. The meditation is the 108 breath meditation, which involves alot of heavy breathing which is kind of awkward…. But it sets you up for a very peaceful morning meditation.

 

Bums
Bums
Saluting the Sun
Saluting the Sun

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After that, we had our green smoothies and did some weeding and gardening. I am learning all about which ones are weeds and which ones are plants, which is quite useful to know. I needed to be taught, otherwise I would just go around pulling everything out because it “‘looks messy”… We went foraging for greens to have in our lunchtime salad, now I know that things growing all around our feet are totally edible and actually taste kind of good. Apart from some things which will make you ill, don’t eat those ones…

Then we ate lunch, then we made a raw apple pie for our dinner party that evening! Oh boy, it was good. Its free of.. gluten, dairy, processed sugar, and… meat. You would hope so.

Here’s the recipe, if you’re into that kind of thing. Or maybe you do not know how to work the oven, in which case this is perfect for you.
Raw Apple Pie
Base
200g ground almonds
150g dates, soaked, or a date paste
pinch salt
Filling
3 apples
1 cup dates, soaked
raisins
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
half a tsp ginger
pinch nutmeg

Blend together the base mixture in a food processor, press into the bottom of a shallow dish lined with baking paper. The mixture doesnt need to be around the sides. Blend the filling ingredients, press on top of the crust and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Put it in your mouth.

 

Cat and Pie
Cat and Pie

After making our pie, Mariken took Izzy and I on a trip to a nearby town called Chantelle, where there is a monastery with REAL NUNS, a forest and a river. Dreamy. We had a look in the nun shop where they sell all their homemade goodies, then hiked into the forest to forage some wild garlic for our pesto. I was expecting bulbs of garlic to be popping out of the hillside, but no, they are leaves that taste like garlic! Magnificient leaves! And pretty flowers that you can also eat. Oh nature, you never fail to amaze.

Then we found a swimming hole and decided to go swimming. Naked. Because there was no one around, and because we could. Initially I was like oh my word, I barely know these people! I cannot bare my flesh to them! Then I thought, meh. They can just deal with my awkward tan lines.

It was the shortest swim of my life because it was so GOSH DARN FREEZING. It literally took my breath away.

We drove home singing along to Bob Marley. Bobby never fails to capture the mood.

Mariken showed me how she works with her ponies without using a halter. They have seven ponies, all of them a little bit mischievious. They try to eat my gumboot on regular occasions.

Ponies
Ponies

That night we had a 3 course raw vegan meal with some of the guests – Auke, Saskia and their wee tot Shuart. I have no idea how to spell his name, but its pronounced as a combination of Stuart and Short. We had wild garlic pesto, raw lasagne and, of course, our apple pie. And wine, because whats a dinner party without wine? Then we had a soul shakedown party, which is essentially all of us dancing around and Auke the giant swinging around the pole in the middle of the room like a giant pole dancer. He is genuinely the tallest person I ever met. He has to duck to get in everywhere.

Shuart on his machine
Shuart on his machine
The Brenazet Family
The Brenazet Family

We made a bonfire outside and sat around making up stories. A pretty awesome day. Izzy and I are looking after the farm for the next 3 days while Mariken, Ron, Igor and Nikola go back to Holland for Opa’s birthday party. We are excited to have some quality farm time, make some exciting meals and walk Elsa the dog. This place is beautiful! Who knows why some of the photos are black and white and some are in colour…. I am too tired to figure it out.

Ron
Ron
Little guy
Little guy

Brenazet france mei 2014 001 (219)

Brenazet france mei 2014 001 (217)

Brenazet france mei 2014 001 (221)

Brenazet

I am all settled into my home for the next 3 weeks; Brenazet, a camping and gités site run by a delightful, energetic Dutch family. It always takes me a few days to adjust into anywhere- figuring out what goes where, who does what, what is expected of you and how to make the horses go into their stables at night…. But I think I’m going to fit in just fine here.

I am sleeping in a little wooden cabin with another helper, Izzy, who has been here before and returned for a little while after a slightly disastrous helpx in the south of Spain. She calls this her home away from home, and i can see what she means, it’s so cosy and homey! Ron, Mariken, and their two sons Igor and Nikola have brought a touch of Dutch into the French countryside.

Our cabin has a log fire, a terrace with little chairs to sit in and read our books, comfy wooden bunk bed type sleeping quarters and a little kitchen to make tea and things….

It is a lot colder here than it was in Spain, I had to borrow a jumper from Ron to keep me warm. My first afternoon we took a trip to La Bosse, an amazing lake somewhere near here (so disoriented, who knows) and did some al fresco yoga. The last two days have been filled with gardening, tea, amazing organic food (including chocolate avocado mousse which is so good) , cleaning the gités, walking the dog, doing yoga in a paddock amongst the bugs and the animals, and reading my book. The yoga class was taught by Mariken, all in French, but I feel like I understood most of it- I knew ‘left, right, inhale and exhale’, and that’s pretty much all you need. I did find myself bending into awkward shapes to be able to see what she was doing on occasion. But yoga is a pretty universal language, and it’s always nice to see how different people teach. Outside yoga is the best, even if we did get a bit of hay fever.

Happy to be here, grateful for the peace and quiet of farm life, it reminds me of my childhood! And I have realised my fear of chickens pecking me to death has not lessened…..Mariken is the best cook, everything is so healthy but hearty and satisfying! Today for lunch we had vegetarian burgers, fennel salad, greens and herbs from the garden, and a curried cauliflower dish. We just had supper and she made a sugar free almond and rhubarb cake, so good!

Today we went foraging for flowers and for the lunchtime salad, I learnt all about the edible plants and flowers that grow amongst the grass. So if i am ever lost, I know I can just pick some plantain and I won’t go hungry! My mum would be so proud – yesterday I weeded a flower bed and a vegetable garden, wore gardening gloves, got stung by nettles, ate nettle soup, wore her giant purple jumper and then picked some mint from the garden to make tea. Mother, I am becoming you!

In the morning I’m doing my own yoga on our terrace, with Izzy for company. I missed it for a day and I could feel it in my bones!

Anyway, it’s probably about time I showered.

,

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Gités
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The stables
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Yoga with child
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Vege Garden
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My cabin
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Cosy (Hyggelig?)
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Bunk beds!

Bueno.

Thursday was Zoe and Megan’s last day at Casa de Carrasco, so we tagged along on a trip to the Cardo Monastery, way up in the hills behind Rasquera, the nearest village. It’s on the opposite side of the mountain to us, and you feel like you are in a completely different country – our side of the mountain was ravaged by fire two years ago, so is a lot dryer, whereas the monastery side is lush and green.

The monastery was built by monks in the early 1600s, and has been used for various purposes over the last few centuries, most recently as a hospital for injured soldiers during the War. It has been abandoned ever since and now it’s crumbling into ruins – there is talk of it being turned into a luxury 5 star hotel and spa, which is sort of a shame but I guess it gives it another life…

The monastery itself is closed off to visitors, because it’s a bit of a danger zone….. But we climbed a fence and snuck in. Zoe camped there once overnight – I can’t imagine anything spookier.

We did a walking meditation up to the hermitage (where they rang the bell), and sat to look at the view and do a seated meditation. We got the feeling we were the only ones there, and we may well have been!

And today I left the lovely Carrasco, after three weeks of yoga, sunshine, good food and quite a lot of wind (both kinds, we blame the chickpeas)… Last night the wind was insane and I was all alone in a big safari tent, with the A-Frame threatening to collapse on top of me at any moment, but one of the other guests came to find me and invited me to sleep in her lovely little cabin with her, so I got an awesome much needed sleep. Stella the dog came to keep me company too, I think she sensed that I was leaving and wanted to get in one more night of warmth in my bed. Softest dog you ever patted.

I will sure miss the yoga and and the Spanish sunshine, and all the lovely people…. But it’s time to move on to France! I’m lurking around in Barcelona for a few hours, waiting for my night bus which will take me to Lyon, arriving there at 5.30am, which will be super fun. I hope it’s not one of those buses with broken air conditioning and smelly people. But I sense that may just be a given on all public transport…

Wish me luck! I have earplugs, an eyemask, a chunky book and a bag of almonds to get me through.

Here are some pictures from my last few days in sunny Spain!

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Megan and I, mastering boat pose
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The lovely Sarah, owner, host and amazing teacher
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Cardo Monastery Hermitage
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Zoe, inside the monastery
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Stella, my doggy friend
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View from the hermitage
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Dancers pose, inside the monastery