Category Archives: Food/Drink

Destination Lincoln

As part of my husband’s ongoing cycle training for the Grand Depart Classic in Brussels (first leg of the 2019 Tour De France) on Saturday 29 June 2019 – he is riding on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK (find out more HERE) – Adam took part in early May in the Lincoln GP Sportive (Lincoln Grand Prix). Although the Brussels ride is around 125 miles, the 75 mile Lincoln GP ride was excellent training as the finishing line was at the top of a 23% gradient cobbled hill – aptly named Steep Hill – and the cobbles were something Adam had not yet faced and the Brussels ride features two cobbled hills of steep gradients – so Lincoln was the perfect training ride. Fortunately the hills in Brussels are not at the end of a gruelling 75 mile undulating cycle ride but occur when legs are still relatively fresh, so to speak. Our two youngest sons and I were in Lincoln to cheer on Adam and to give him some moral support as he attempted the cobbles. In the meantime, the boys and I had about 6 hours to kill whilst Adam was poodling around the Lincolnshire countryside so we did some exploring of our own around the city of Lincoln…

This was the first time I had actually spent some time in Lincolnshire – I had travelled through the county on my way to Yorkshire, Newcastle and Scotland in the past – so I was looking forward to spending some time in Lincoln. I must admit I was under the impression that Lincolnshire was a flat county – however, I now know that Lincoln itself is pretty steep and Adam assures me that the Lincolnshire Wolds that surround Lincoln were pretty undulating too! Having arrived in the evening, in rain, it was great to open our hotel room curtains and have a terrific view of Lincoln cathedral and blue skies. The boys and I decided the first place we will be exploring was to be Lincoln Cathedral.

View of Lincoln Cathedral from Premier Inn Lincoln City Centre

It was a 10 minute uphill walk to the Cathedral and on the way we diverted into a small park with trees planted in dedication to university staff who had died. It was a pretty place to wander around with a small outdoor gym. I must admit I was hoping that there was an underpass or shortcut across the busy main road via the park but I was disappointed that the park’s path was a circular route (oh well, just think of those Fitbit steps!)

Lincoln cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral is pretty impressive. It was first constructed in 1072 in the gothic style of that era. In fact, from 1311 – 1548 it was the tallest building in the world. Nowadays it is the 4th largest cathedral in the UK after Liverpool, St Paul’s, and York Minster. The original Cathedral was damaged by an earthquake on 15 April 1185 – an eye witness described the Cathedral as having been “split from top to bottom”. All I can say is that the reconstruction must have been sturdier as the Cathedral looked strong to me! Lincoln Cathedral is one of the few English cathedrals built from the rock it is standing on. The Cathedral’s stonemasons use more than 100 tonnes of stone per year for maintenance and repairs. It was in maintenance mode when we visited, but the building still looked splendid. You might have seen Lincoln Cathedral in films: it doubled up as Westminster Abbey in “Young Victoria” and in the Netflix Shakespeare film “TheKing”. Lincoln Cathedral also once housed a copy of the Magna Carta – now it is housed in Lincoln Castle …

Lincoln Cathedral

Out of Lincoln Cathedral, past the Magna Carta pub, we ventured onto Lincoln Castle with its extensive grounds and intact wall. Visitors can now walk the full circumference of the wall, which is an impressive third of a mile long. The views over Lincoln and the countryside are supposed to be stunning but I must admit that the clouds started to roll in and a cup of tea beckoned so we retreated to the cafe that was set within the castle walls & the Victorian prison instead. Lincoln Castle was built by William The Conqueror in 1068. The Victorian prison was added on in 1788. In the Castle grounds was the impressive building of Lincoln Crown Court, alas not open to the public. The boys though were more interested in the Lego Space Exhibition being held in the grounds. Presented and built by Bricklive, the exhibits included larger than life models of The Earth, astronauts and the Space Shuttle.

Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Crown Court
Lego “Earth” at Lincoln Castle
Lego Astronaut
Lego Space Shuttle

Next stop, Steep Hill. This cobbled hill & its adjacent street, Mickelgate, was where the finishing line was. We still had a bit of time to visit a shop on Steep Hill that I had discovered online some months previously: Roly’s Fudge Pantry! I couldn’t wait to discover this little fudge enclave and I thought Adam and his fellow team cyclists might appreciate fudge once they passed that finish line. Let me tell you, the fudge pantry did not disappoint! The sweet aroma hits you as soon as you crossed the threshold and there was fudge being made in front of our very own eyes. So many flavours to choose from ! The fudge was appreciated by the cyclists at the end and we came back the next day to buy more before our drive home . We tried the following flavours: Maple & Walnut; Honeycomb; Strawberry & Prosecco; Mint Chocolate; Hot Cross Bun; Whisky & Ginger; Chocolate; Salted Maple & Pecan….. it was hard to pick a favourite but my 3 faves were salted maple & pecan; strawberry & prosecco and whisky & ginger. Apparently you can now buy them online.

Roly’s Fudge Pantry

Other shops on Steep Hill worth checking out are Pimento Lincoln’s Original Vegetarian Cafe for their soya hot chocolate with vegan whipped cream & marshmallows; Annushka Russian Dolls Shop (!) and the Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar ….for marmite scones …

Steep Hill

Around 2.30pm, my boys and I were halfway down Steep Hill ready to cheer on the cyclists as they make their arduous way up the steep cobbled hill. Adam and his teammates made it up the hill in one piece and are ready to face the Belgian challenge.

Steep Hill
Adam on Steep Hill
Made it!

Lincoln is a university town so after dark on a Saturday night the place was buzzing with bars, clubs and restaurants – it was especially vibrant down by the waterfront. We ate in Zizzi’s and I highly recommend their King Prawn Linguine.

Lincoln had so much to offer that I didn’t manage to explore the shops, the Museum of Lincolnshire or The Collection Usher Gallery …. but I will endeavour to visit next time ( a repeat visit to the fudge pantry would be on my itinerary too)

Check out my previous blogpost about Adam & his prostrate cancer cycling rides: https://bootsshoesandfashion.com/one-in-eight-men

For Pinning Later

Linda x

Photographs are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With The Vegan Society

Living the Vegan Lifestyle has been in the news a lot recently – January was “veganuary” and the spotlight was on all things Vegan. The reactions from various people have been mixed when the word “vegan” has been mentioned – most people I’ve spoken to hadn’t really got a clue what the Vegan lifestyle entailed; some guessed that it was a more extreme form of being a vegetarian; some have embraced the ethics of being a Vegan wholeheartedly; some were interested and some were not. Personally I am not a Vegan – I do eat meat but I do embrace vegetarian and vegan dishes too. There are a few Vegan restaurants springing up and with thousands of products being granted the coveted Vegan trademark on a daily basis, embracing a Vegan lifestyle is not as daunting as you may think. I caught up with the lovely Dominika of The Vegan Society to find out more about The Vegan Society and living the Vegan lifestyle. Hi Dominika….

Hello! My name is Dominika and I work as media and PR officer at The Vegan Society. We are the world’s oldest vegan society whose co-founder, Donald Watson, came up with the word ‘vegan’ back in 1944. Everything we do is to help people go vegan and remain vegan! 

The Vegan Society has produced an app – Veguide App – that covers the basics of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle with 30 short daily videos. What inspired the creation of the app? 

We wanted to bring vegan pledges into the 21st century – we know that most new vegans are young people, and this demographic is also the one most likely to use mobile apps and social media. VeGuide features two mentors in the similar age group to our target audience which we thought would help its users to relate to them.

VeGuide is free to download on Android and iOS devices. Its users receive a combination of daily informational videos, motivational quotes, quizzes, recipes and discounts, all of which aim to help them ease into vegan living.


The Vegan Trademark – sunflower symbol – guarantees that products are free from animal ingredients and animal testing.  There are now over 30,000 products and services registered with the Vegan Trademark.  How does a brand go about registering their products? 

Brands can contact our Vegan Trademark team at trademark@vegansociety.com, which will be followed up by some questions that include the number of products a company wants to register, their turnover and size, so that my colleagues can provide them with a quote. After this, the Trademark team carefully checks all the ingredients in the products about to be Trademarked to make sure they’re animal-free. We can also help brands veganise products and suggest alternatives to any animal products their items contain. 

From curries to cakes, virtually any recipe could be made suitable for a vegan lifestyle, as long as they are made from plant-based ingredients. Have you got a personal favourite vegan dish or recipe?

I’m all for quick and easy recipes that don’t require tens of ingredients! I’m personally very much into Korean and East Asian cuisine, so I love dishes like kimchi jjigae, ddeokbokki, jjajangmyeon, Japanese curry, mapo tofu, bibimbap, and various side dishes, called muchim in Korean cuisine. For those with a less oriental preferences, I find that making vegan versions of easy classics like lasagne, chilli con carne, shepherd’s pie, enchiladas or roast dinner is best! 

I read on your website that honey was the product probably most frequently mistaken as vegan -friendly.  I must admit I thought it was! Why is honey excluded? What other foodstuffs are also mistaken as being vegan friendly?

Honey is a product made by animals, so for the sake of consistency is excluded from a vegan diet. Veganism opposes the use and killing of all animals. Other foods that sometimes may not be vegan are alcohol (beer and wine mainly).

What are the nutritional  and other benefits of becoming vegan?

You can get everything your body needs on a vegan diet – vegans actually tend to eat much more fruit and vegetables than the rest of the population which has amazing health benefits. The British Dietetic Association, an independent UK authority on nutrition, states that a vegan diet is suitable at any age or life stage, including infancy, childhood and pregnancy

Eating a balanced vegan diet helps to limit saturated fat and get plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Research shows vegans have lower blood pressure, lower chances of getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. This is partly because animal products, unlike vegan food, contain a significant amount of cholesterol.


In the UK all medicines are required to be tested on animals before being deemed as safe for human use.  Obviously, if you are a vegan how are you able to get the medication needed without compromising your beliefs? What are The Vegan Society’s recommendations?

Vegans avoid using animals as far as is practicable and possible. When choosing cosmetics, vegans can pick products that have not been tested on animals but unfortunately we don’t currently have such a choice with medicines or vaccinations. The Vegan Society never advises anyone to stop taking prescribed medicines but we do encourage patients to speak to their doctors to see if a vegan-friendly alternative is available.

What is the hardest part, or the hardest thing to forgo, did you find, of transitioning to follow a vegan lifestyle?  

Many people find it difficult to avoid cheese. However, the human tastebuds have a wonderful ability to adapt, so if you resign from cheese for a month or two and then try vegan cheese, you’re very like to enjoy the flavour. Most vegans say the hardest part of going vegan was simply making the decision to do it.P

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?  

I shop online a lot, on websites like Asos, EMP and Yesstyle which features East Asian fashion. When I go to a shopping mall, I often wander around all the different stores in search of a thing I’m looking for at that moment. It’s amazing how easy it is to find vegan clothes and footwear on the high street!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve been looking at Luxe Derbys from Will’s Vegan Shoes for a while now. They’re beautiful but pricier because they’re made of eco-friendly, durable vegan leather. I’m just waiting for the right moment to get them!  

Boots Or Shoes? 

Boots – I get cold very easily so I like footwear that covers my ankles! However, I’m 6ft tall which is a lot for a girl, so I’m not at all interested in adding any more inches which makes it tricky with boots!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about The Vegan Society.

Website: www.vegansociety.com

FB: www.facebook.com/TheVeganSociety

Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheVeganSociety

Instagram: www.instagram.com/theoriginalvegansociety 

For Pinning Later

Thank you for the chat Dominika – those Japanese and Asian dishes really do sound interesting (and no doubt delicious!) I really hope, dear readers, that Dominika has helped to dispel any myths and if you do want to follow the Vegan route, then Dominika has given you some inspiration to go ahead and take that leap!

Linda x

Photo Credits: Pinned Photo by Linda Hobden. The other photos in the article have been published with kind permission from The Vegan Society & Dominika Piasecka

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An Interview With The English Cream Tea Company

There’s nothing quite like an English Cream Tea – it’s an indulgence that is worth every penny and an experience that I recommend everybody to try at least once.   My guest today, Jane, epitomises the spirit of the traditional English Cream Tea – and through her company, she has extended the experience into people’s own homes, picnics and even overseas.  Grab a cup of tea and settle down whilst I introduce Jane to the blog… hi Jane!

Hello – I’m Jane Malyon. My husband Roger and I are the parents of 2 amazingly spirited lads, one of whom is an ‘advertising creative’ in Toronto, Canada and the other has the exciting job title of Cirquador. That means he travels the world as a team member of Cirque du Soleil. It also means we travel in his wake, trying to catch up for hugs, in between visits to Toronto. I’ll go a long way for my hugs you understand!

The English Cream Tea Company is a brilliant idea – what inspired you to concentrate on promoting the quintessential English afternoon cream tea and picnic hampers?

Roger and I have run an outside catering company for 35 years, with ancient (Tudor) Pledgdon Barn as our venue near the Essex/Herts border. I have also been an NLP coach helping people to get on better and communicate well…and a balloon artist, pianist, author of 2 books and public speaker (including a TEDx talk). However, in 2011, I had a chance meeting with an elderly lady who loved afternoon tea (like I do!) but could no longer travel to great hotels for her favourite treat. Suddenly the mental lightbulb went off and The English Cream Tea Company was born. My thinking was that if this lady could no longer travel to The Ritz or The Savoy, could the afternoon tea experience travel to her instead? I contacted the companies who move human organs around the UK for transplants and asked about their technology for keeping it all safe, in perfect condition and chilled – and then copied it! We now send indulgent and authentic fresh afternoon tea and English picnic hamper boxess UK wide – and have an ambient (shelf-stable) range of products, gifts, corporate gifts, teas and jams for retail, post and export. It’s been an absolute adventure bringing all this to life and every day the roller coaster continues (with downs as well as ups, of course).

do love an English Cream Tea.  I love clotted cream & strawberry jam on my scone. I did read about a man on Twitter who loved his scones with cream & lemon curd (I must try that out one day!) Do you have any personal favourites when it comes to a cream tea?

I must have had 100 interviews since starting the company, including the BBC a few times – and the two questions I am most asked are: is it pronounced ‘ scone ‘ or ‘scon’ …and is it cream or jam first. Only the TV crew from Russia surprised me by asking: “Jane, what is builder’s tea?” !!

Our best sellers are our Fresh Afternoon Tea for Two hamper delivered to your door (Best. Gift. Ever!) and our award winning Double Chocolate Brownie. However, out of our range of absolutely delicious preserves (truly lovely – I kid you not), our Lemon Curd with Passionfruit is actually the best seller – and lots of people enjoy it with clotted cream and scones – though Strawberry is the nation’s favourite with English Cream Tea. My own favourite is our Raspberry and Blackberry Jam (with clotted cream too) – and as I’m an Essex girl, I can apply the cream/jam in any order I like. It’s only in Devon/Cornwall where you might be escorted from the county for doing it the ‘wrong’ way round (hint, jam first for Cornwall, jam second for Devon!). We actually gained the Guinness World Record for the largest English Cream Tea party (featured in the 2013 album) – but Devon were not happy at all that the record went to Essex!

Sandwiches feature in an English afternoon tea & hampers – I do so love an interesting filling – but what fillings tend to be most popular amongst your customers?

When selecting our main range of sandwich fillings, we felt it was important to have Smoked Salmon with lemon (classic and delicious) and of course Cucumber (with cream cheese). The cucumber sandwich has represented wealth since Victorian times because only the rich could have the hothouses and teams of gardeners to produce them! They are quintessentially associated with an elegant teatime array and we couldn’t leave them out. After that, we chose a cheese and relish sandwich and an egg mayonnaise with cress – because they’re both vegetarian. Our range fits with many Indian and Jewish customers as well, whereas adding Ham sandwiches or other meat based options, changes that. However – we do get special requests which we try to meet and we also occasionally offer ‘special edition’ hampers with other cake and sandwich options (including Coronation Chicken). We’ll be offering a new Royal Wedding hamper soon with different treats inside! Keep an eye out on our site. We also run competitions on our Facebook page, one of which was to invent a new sandwich – and the winner’s was made and delivered to them. (In case you’re wondering it was Turkey, Goats Cheese, Watercress and Cranberry Sauce – yum!)

Your scones are delicious and I do love the idea of the xscone mixes so those who are not quite so clever at baking scones from scratch can have a go (especially the chocolate version)! What inspired you to produce the mixes? You also have a range of jams & chutneys – have you plans to introduce new flavours in the future? 

Creating new ideas and products is my favourite part of running the business BUT I have to keep myself in check. Developing any new line is actually very costly by the time the packaging, labelling, bar codes etc are added. Having said that, there will be new hampers for the corporate and gift market this year plus two new Tea Blender’s Kits…oh, and the Royal Wedding hamper….but I really must restrain from adding too many new lines. Sigh 😀

As you are based in the UK, are you able to ship products overseas? 


After launching in 2011 via that Facebook page initially, on the very first day we received enquiries from 5 other countries all asking if they could have Fresh Afternoon Tea hampers delivered too. We were shocked and er, no – we can’t quite get our freshly made scones, clotted cream, cakes, sandwiches, shortbread, brownies etc all the way down to Australia within 24 hours. So we developed gift tins embodying the treats of cream tea without the cream (but including our own Scone Mix) to be able to send out this beloved traditional treat in some form at least, world wide. English Heritage stocked our Festive Scone Bake Kit last Christmas (that came with marzipan holly and berries to go on top of your completed scones!).


We also include etiquette tips with most of our products, keeping the British traditional teatime manners going! I have videos on YouTube and Instagram etc about that aspect (and answering the Scone/Scon question) – and these seem to attract a worldwide audience (not to mention Trolls!). Indeed, every time there’s a Royal event here or Downton Abbey is aired, there’s more interest still. Apparently Nelson Mandela said that Afternoon Tea is Britain’s greatest export. Well said Sir!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

In terms of clothes, I wear trousers almost 100% of the time. Actually take out the ‘almost’. I like winter clothes best eg jackets with structure – and still mourn the waning of the padded shoulder (but perhaps it’s making a come-back!). Love a bit of colour too and am known for wearing red, which is our main corporate colour.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

Location-wise, I do most of my shopping in Toronto. That sounds so much more jet-set/international than the reality. When I’m in the UK I almost never get the chance to do personal shopping – so it’s only when we’re visiting our son in Canada that I’ll get that chance. I head to the Hudson’s Bay Co (a little like John Lewis) and lose myself in the trying-on process. Bliss.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

My next purchase (though really, I probably already have outfits that would quite suffice) could be an evening jacket as hubby and I celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary this year and plan on enjoying a very special dinner out. Yay. That 40 year anniversary bit obviously also demonstrates that I had my lightbulb idea about starting The English Cream Tea Company, somewhat late in the day. But never say never, ladies! I didn’t know anything at all about retail/export/packaging/distribution or trying to build an iconic brand. However, I was certain I’d be very, very cross with myself for not giving it my best shot, so it simply had to be! With the loveliest team of Scone Gnomes, designer, web guru and more, the adventure continues….except now you’ll know that inside my oversized boots, there are little wide feet trying to keep me grounded!

Boots or Shoes? 

I absolutely love boots but possibly not for the usual reasons. I have spectacularly wide and short feet and most shoes won’t stay on – but boots are the solution. This is because I often buy 2.5 whole sizes too big to accommodate what nature gave me foot-wise. My feet would come out of shoes that were way too big but boots are more forgiving. One of our darling sons has offered to have a ‘last’ made for me so I can have made-to-measure shoes…which sounds amazing! Bless.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about The English Cream Tea Company.


Jane’s top ten tips on English Cream Tea etiquette!


(AND someone made a spoof of that last video – hilarious: Spoof videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVXVdPBxipk)

Mmmm..simply delicious! Thank you Jane for making our mouths water!  Your business is simply delightful …and as far as Scone or Scon goes….I say “Scone” ….

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jane Malyon & The English Cream Tea Company

 

 

 


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An Interview With Vitamin Coffee

Coffee. For a lot of us, we can’t seem to function without a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.  Trying to go on a health kick, and struggling to forego that daily wake up routine?  What if I told you that there’s a coffee available that is tasty AND contains our daily vitamin intake?  Sounds good, doesn’t it? I thought so, so I caught up with Vitamin Coffee founder, Bryn Ray, to find out what is so special about his coffee….hi Bryn…

Hi! I’m Bryn Ray – fitness and coffee enthusiast, turned entrepreneur to blend those enthusiasms.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of Vitamin Coffee?

A software designer by trade, when I worked in the city I found myself coming in rather groggy after some of the nights before. The old solution used to be a mug of coffee and a glass of some horrible effervescent fizz, so I thought there must be a way to blend the effect of both things. That’s where the Complete and Defence version of Vitamin Coffee were born, the Energy blend then followed when I started reading ingredients list of pre-workout drinks.

You currently offer 2 coffees – medium & dark with a choice of 3 vitamin blends (Medium, Energy, Defence). The coffees all contain the full daily requirement of 14 essential  vitamins and minerals – so what is the difference between the blends on offer?

All three blends are based on the same set of vitamins. The Complete offers 100% of what you need of each per day. The defence is then hyper-dosed with extra vitamin C and D which has positive effect on the immune system. The energy is higher in B-vitamins which are particularly useful for people who are very active, it also has added caffeine (on top of the standard amount in the coffee).

Early days yet I know, but what coffee blends are proving most popular amongst your customers so far? Have you got a favourite blend?

Medium Defence seems to be the superstar, but it is winter. My personal favourite is the Dark Energy, I drink it before every workout.

Where do you source your coffee beans from?

The Medium blend sources from Asia and Africa – it’s a little unconventional, but it’s based on Monsoon Malabar beans that give it an incredibly smooth and creamy taste. The Dark blend is a brighter and fruiter pairing Central and South American single-origins with Ethiopian Mocha Djimmah beans for boldness.

Can the coffee be purchased as a one off or is the coffee available on a subscription basis only?

Coffee can be a one off or as a subscription at your chosen interval. The bags each contain 14 daily servings so with most customers being daily drinker a two week subscription is the standard.

As you are based in the UK, is your coffee available to customers abroad?

Currently we don’t ship abroad, but we’re actively looking into distributing around Europe.

Personal now- what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Generally, i’m a monochromatic man. Black Levi 511, black leather Janoski and a long sleeve sweatshirt.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Most of my tops come from Reiss, Cos or Arket. Recently started to use Farfetch online though which I like.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A new coat is next on the shopping list – all suggestions welcome.

Boots Or Shoes?

Boots – I think they give a cleaner line to a silhouette.

Links you would like to share:

www.vitamincoffee.co.uk
www.instagram.com/vitcoffee
www.facebook.com/vitcoffee
www.twitter.com/vitcoffee

New coat, eh Bryn?… I think a black leather coat would look good especially as the styles of the 70s & 80s are trending at the moment. For a more classic look, a black wool pea coat always looks stylish and you can wear a suit under it although it equally looks good with those black Levi’s you favour 🙂  Thank you for introducing us to your coffee and it’s great to know that we can still have our coffee with the health kick included.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Bryn Ray/ Vitamin Coffee

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Keeping Hydrated With ION8

If you feel inspired to participate in any sporting activity, it’s important to keep well hydrated, especially if you are:  sweating away in a poorly ventilated gym; lobbing a shuttlecock over the net in a sports hall; cycling up and down the hills and country lanes; hiking in the wilderness;  scoring goals on the football (soccer) pitch or netball/basketball hoops.  In fact, keeping well hydrated daily is a must, even if you are not particularly active.  Drinking water regularly as been shown to: increase energy, relieve tiredness, boost the body’s immune system, improves the skin, promotes weight loss (water has zero calories!), aids digestion, relieves cramps and headaches.  Schools in the UK encourage children to take in a water bottle to use and sip throughout the day to help them keep alert and use those brain cells.  Having 5 children and an active cycling mad husband, I have a drawer full of water bottles – not all are the same and when I was given by ION8 their water bottle to review, I was looking forward to seeing if the ION8 stands up to my family’s scrutiny!

My 12 year old son Jack was the perfect reviewer/critic. He has had  3 water bottles since the start of the school term. One was lost; one leaked badly due to the spout snapping off that he had to have a new rucksack; and one split.  He takes a water bottle to school and refills it throughout the day; the water bottle has to endure a bus journey there and back; and Jack doesn’t treat his bag with kid gloves either. So, the ION8 has a lot to live up to! This is what Jack expected:

1. NEEDS TO BE REUSABLE & ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.

Jack drinks a lot of water during the day – it is important for him to be well hydrated as he does suffer from migraines and water helps to alleviate the headaches.  It is also cost effective according to Jack as it gives him more money  by refilling his water bottle to buy another chocolate muffin! Refilling bottled water bottles isn’t a good idea as tiny cracks often appear in the bottle after its initial use and these cracks can harbour germs such as the dreaded norovirus.  Reusable bottles have been designed for multiple usage.  The ION8 is reusable, is bpa free and is made of non toxic Tritan – a material that is highly resistant to odours, can be easily cleaned & is dishwasher safe.                                                                                               10/10

2. NEEDS TO BE STYLISH.

The ION8 is definitely stylish.  The product was winner of the Reddot Design Award 2017. I wasn’t sure until the water bottle arrived, what colour I would receive.  There are 14 different colours to choose from – I was hoping it wasn’t going to be pink as I have 4 boys and a daughter who doesn’t go a-bundle on pink – but as luck would have it, I received the black glossy onyx colour. This was the preferred choice.  Jack approved. I think the colour was the main deciding factor for him.  From my point of view the range of colours was a fabulous idea especially in families where each person can have their own water bottle identified by a different colour.  Like packs of toothbrushes in assorted colours….. I’m sure you’ve got the drift 🙂  Only downside to the design that Jack mentioned was that opening and shutting the lid, the click was loud especially when he was taking a quick swig of water during his lesson and the classroom was relatively quiet.                                                                                           9.5/10

3. NO LEAKS.

Having been through various water bottles that have leaked despite being upright for the majority of the time, this was a major consideration. Soggy schoolbooks are a no no. Soggy gym kit – not amusing. ION8 claim to be 100% leakproof 100% of the time. They also offer a lifetime guarantee.  The lid lock offers that peace of mind  as well as the inner seal (which can be replaced).  Most water bottles have just the spout at the top which opens and closes – where most leakage occurs – so the lid is a pretty good idea.    The ION8 has lasted 10 days with no leaking so far….                                                10/10

ION8 comes with a tough carry strap, but I did not test the strap. Another difference is that the spout is at the side and not in the centre like most water bottles.  Drinking out of the water bottle is like drinking out of a cup – you need only to tilt the bottle slightly.

The aperture on the ION8 spout is wide to allow a uninterrupted flow of water. Water bottles, including the ION8, do not have thermal properties, such as keeping a hot drink hot or a cold drink cold – but the ION8 is capable of holding cold beverages as low as  -10C as well as hot beverages up to 96C.

The company mission is to produce the simplest and safest BPA free, spill free, leak proof water bottles, hydration products and drinking vessels.  My son and I are very impressed with what we’ve seen so far.  As far as water bottles go, the ION8 is the bees knees and we’ve been converted! 🙂

ION8 is available to buy via Amazon UK, Amazon USA, Amazon DE (Germany); Amazon ES (Spain); Amazon IT (Italy); Amazon FR (France).

For further information: www.ion8.co.uk

Disclaimer:  ION8 sent me the ION8 water bottle to review.  All views are entirely my own (and Jack’s).

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden. 

 

 

 

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Shopping Fairtrade Style

It’s September already and here in the UK, harvesting is in full flow.  It’s time to think about farmers around the world who toil endlessly – growing cocoa beans, coffee, cotton, tea, bananas, flowers.  I found out the other day that September is the time to celebrate all things organic.  When I think of “organic”, I automatically think of Fairtrade – The Fairtrade Foundation is the UK based organisation behind the Fairtrade trademark – although, to be fair, not all Fairtrade items are organic.

So, what is Fairtrade? Fairtrade is a global movement with a strong and active presence in the UK. There are over 4,500 Fairtrade products from coffee and tea to flowers and gold. According to Fairtrade’s website, their mission is “to connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives”.  Fairtrade’s vision: ” a world in which all producers and consumers can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, fulfil their potential and decide on their future”.  Fairtrade has strict standards for companies, farmers & workers  as well as ensuring that worker’s rights are maintained, that payment is made of at least the Fairtrade minimum price and that extra money is given to reinvest in business/community projects of the community’s choice. By choosing to buy Fairtrade goods, you can positively help farmers, workers & their communities.

Buying Fairtrade products is easier than you think – products are on sale in supermarkets, independent shops, cafes, restaurants, catering suppliers & wholesalers, as well as online.  I’m lucky, my local village coffee shop/book shop is also the local mecca for Fairtrade goods from companies such as Divine and Traidcraft.  It’s great to see the crafts, products, jewellery and clothes – they make fantastic gifts and it is great to have a browse.

Divine chocolate – I love the plain dark chocolate but I am tempted to try the Dark Chocolate with Himalayan Salt! Divine is the only mainstream chocolate company 44% owned by the farmers who supply the cocoa!  Other Fairtrade chocolates include Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Green & Black’s Organic, M & S, Rawr Foods, Sainsbury’s “Taste The Difference” White, Dark & Milk chocolate bars, The Co-Op; Meaningful Chocolate Company, Raw Chocolate Company, Traidcraft, Waitrose “Seriously” & Belgian range, and Zotter Chocolate.

Traidcraft do some fantastic stem ginger cookies – I devoured packets whilst I was pregnant with my children ( ginger cookies and lemons/limes were my pregnancy cravings!)  Traidcraft itself has been at the fore front of Fairtrade since 1979. The company offers the widest range of fair trade products in the UK.  They even do Fairtrade wine – but I haven’t tasted it yet so I can’t comment.  I can recommend their range of spices, dried fruits and rices; their craft boxes, jewellery, socks, scarves are all pretty and make good gifts. Their clothing range is pricy but having said that the Fairtrade ethos is fair price to the workers and to be honest I rather pay a bit more knowing that the workers are not young children toiling under horrendous conditions to produce a t shirt. I know that they are getting a decent wage for their labours.

I have included some pictures of the Fairtrade items sold in my local shop … if you wish to find out more about Fairtrade or wish to shop/browse Traidcraft’s goods online, here are some websites you might find useful:

http://fairtrade.org.uk

http://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk

Happy Shopping!

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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Take 4 ingredients – Frozen Chocolate Bites

I enjoy cooking. I enjoy cooking meals for my large family. Over Christmas and other family occasions I normally cater from around 15 family members.  I love cooking main meals … but when it comes to desserts my repertoire is limited.  I can make apple pie, rhubarb pie, summer fruit pudding and… erm… banana and walnut cake.  Year after year, I churn out the same puddings! Looking at a copy of the Slimming World Magazine I came across a recipe for Gold Bullion Bites. These frozen chocolate-toffee treats looked easy enough to make, so I decided to have a dry run to see if they turn out alright and if they do, I thought that I’d make them for the next family do.

I bought all the ingredients, made the bites and all turned out well. So I decided to experiment a bit more with the recipe, and lo and behold I found a new dessert/snack to add to my repertoire – and the best thing is that you need only 4 ingredients!

So here is my version of the recipe…

Makes 14

Ingredients

  • 45g bar  Dairy Milk Chocolate (I used  Cadburys Dairy Milk), broken into pieces
  • 175g pot of SMOOTH yogurt (I used MullerLight Smooth Toffee, Mullerlight Raspberry & Cranberry, Strawberry)
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • Edible gold glitter/ gold cooking spray to decorate
  • Ice Cube trays ( flexible plastic ones that pop out ice cubes easily)

Method

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Once melted, remove from the heat, stir until smooth and leave to cool for a minute.

Quickly mix in to the chocolate 1 tablespoon of your chosen yogurt, to loosen, then add the rest of the yogurt. Add the cocoa powder and mix well.

Fill the ice cube trays – allow about 2 teaspoons per cube. Gently tap the trays to level the mixture. Put in the freezer for around 3 hours, until set.

When you are ready to serve as a dessert, turn out the chocolates and arrange on a serving dish, sprinkle with cocoa powder and gold glitter or gold spray.

These were so popular that I made several more batches and once frozen I put the chocolate cubes in plastic bags and stored in the freezer. Whenever anybody fancied an iced chocolate snack, they just helped themselves straight from the freezer.

I am hoping to try the recipe using dark chocolate and some new flavours of yogurt, such as Mullerlight’s After Dinner Mint. If I can find orange yogurt, that might go down well too.  Do let me know if you try the recipe and what chocolate/flavour combination did you use!

Linda x

Photos by Linda Hobden

Inspiration by Slimming World.

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Let’s Talk Strawberries!

In the UK it is currently strawberry season (from end May to July) and although the season is relatively short, strawberries feature heavily in the British eating and drinking calendar – from strawberries and cream at Wimbledon to strawberry jam making; from strawberry teas to strawberry cider! 

Famous UK jam and marmalade manufacturers, Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree, are well known globally for their famous Tiptree jams – I have travelled to far flung places and seen pots of Tiptree Little Scarlet Strawberry jam served at breakfast.  They have been jam & marmalade manufacturers, fruit and arable farmers since 1885. I live not far from Tiptree and Wilkins have purchased farms in my village since 1920 to grow strawberries and other fruits for their range of jams, curds and ketchups.  The farms have produced a mixture of fruit crops over the years: large strawberries (as shown in my photo), little scarlets, gooseberries, red & blackcurrants, plums, greengage, damsons & morello cherries – all picked by local village people and seasonal helpers and transported the 3 miles or so to the jam factory at Tiptree.  The factory is a great place to visit – it has an interesting museum, a gift shop/food shop  and a restaurant/tea room. 

Why is the Tollesbury/Tiptree area ideal for strawberry farming? Tollesbury claims, along with Great Wakering, to have the lowest rainfall in Britain, has more than 1600 hours of annual sunshine and regularly claims England’s top temperature (along with Southend) at least once a week during the summer months.  Thunderstorms occur on average 15 – 18 days a year, which can often cause damage to the fruit crops – although sometimes they are just lightning storms and the rain doesn’t materialise – I have experienced severe thunderstorms in Tiptree which have bypassed Tollesbury 10 minute drive away!

Technically, strawberries are not actually fruits because their seeds are on the outside and the fruits are not produced by seeds. Strawberry plants are actually members of the rose (rosaceae) family.  Each strawberry has on average 200 seeds. 

The modern garden strawberry popular in Europe was actually introduced into Europe by a French engineer in 1714, who, on a trip to Chile and Peru, was so impressed by the size of the strawberries in that region, that he brought back plants to cultivate in France.  Historically, strawberries were always considered an aphrodisiac and were often often served at a wedding breakfast with soured cream!

Nutritionally, strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, as well as providing a good amount of fibre, folic acid and potassium. Strawberry leaves can be eaten raw, cooked or used to make tea.  Once picked though, unlike bananas, they do not ripen any further – so any strawberries that are dull, or have green or yellow patches are probably best avoided.

Medically, they have been used to help with digestive ailments, teeth whitening and skin irritations.  Unfortunately, they are a common allergen – especially if you are already allergic to birch pollen, as you are more than likely to develop an allergy to strawberries.  I do suffer from hay fever caused by birch pollen but thankfully, strawberries haven’t given me a reaction ( although raw tomatoes do!) 

My favourite strawberry recipe is : Strawberries dipped in dark chocolate.  My favourite strawberry sandwich idea:  slice of wholemeal bread generously spread with soft cheese (Philadelphia style) topped with chunky strawberry jam.  Strawberries & Cream lunchbox style. My favourite strawberry based drink:  Iced Strawberry Cider…. cheers!

Do you love strawberries?  Do share your favourite strawberry dishes!

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With FoPo

In my last post I was talking about some new discoveries, including cauliflower pizza  and Tony Lozzi’s cauliflower bread recipe – using cauliflower in other ways other than a bog standard vegetable.  This week I’ve discovered FoPo – a company that powderises food products that would otherwise go to waste, retaining 90% nutritional value and vastly extending shelf life. Not only was I intrigued by the idea of food powder but the CEO, Vita Jarolimkova, just happens to be a bit of a fashionista too …. I couldn’t let this company pass me by without an interview… Hi Vita, please introduce FoPo…

Hi! Our mission is to give rejected fruits another life by upcycling them into nutritious, sustainable and tasty food products! There are now three of us working full time. Gerald is in charge of finance and marketing, he comes from a very entrepreneurial family and already had two dessert businesses in the Philippines. Ada is heading our operations, she has also background in nutrition and market research and her family runs a funeral company (no shortage of dark humor at the office). I, Vita, am responsible for strategy, management and navigating the complex maze of German bureaucracy – but originally I am a biochemist and I worked mainly in various research projects in Europe and Asia. We all met during of Food Innovation and Product Design master’s program, which gave us a backstage look at the food industry and helped us realize the problem with current food supply chains and the impact of food waste. It also helped us in developing the concept into a viable business and get a great network of great professors and experts in food industry to support us.

FoPo food powder is a simple yet brilliant concept – powderising food products that would otherwise go to waste. What inspired the conception of FoPo?

We developed the concept through a design thinking lab organized by the Thought for Food Challenge: How to Feed 9 Billion People by 2050. We were looking at ways to prolong the shelf-life of easily perishable foods, overcome aesthetic problems of “ugly fruits”, and to make a product that would not be at a risk of going to waste itself. We decided on dehydrated powder due to its long shelf-life, easy logistics, and versatility of application. It’s just as god as the fresh fruit, but undestroyable. 🙂

Food powders including olive & mango are among your products and on your website you feature some recipes using the powders. What is your favourite recipe?

My favourite recipes actually come from our customers – it’s amazing to see people being creative with the product. Someone just made homemade mango marshmallows! From our own recipes, O-love Olive Dip is great. You just need to mix a bit of the olive powder with cream cheese and voila, healthy dip for chips, veggie pieces or bread sticks. Also, Injust discovered the magic of overnight oats. Mango, pineapple, calamansi, oats, chia and coconut milk – simple tropical breakfast or healthy treat for afternoon coffee.

Out of the food powders currently available, what flavours are proving popular amongst your customers?

Everyone loves the olive powder, it’s a real best-seller. It has a very intense taste and is so easy to mix with salads, sauces, pasta, cream or cottage cheese etc. Among the fruits, mango is really popular, but it varies a lot depending on people’s interests. For example, our banana powder is great for vegan baking since it improves the dough texture and kids love the fact that by adding a bit of water and grated nuts to apple powder, you get apple dough from which you can make small edible statues.

How do you source products for your powders? What’s the process that the fruit and vegetables go through to become a powder?

We are getting produce from farmers, exporters/importers and manufacturers that has been rejected because of different reasons. For example, bananas cannot go into supermarkets if they are too yellow, a lot of olive flesh is wasted during canning process when the pit is removed, sometimes there is also surplus produce no one wants at the moment. The fruits and vegetables are then checked for quality & safety (no moulds!), washed, chopped or puréed, dried and powderized. We are currently exploring several different drying processes: freeze-drying, spray-drying and solar-drying to get the ideal combination for each fruit and each country where we produce.

What are the benefits of your food powder?

It prevents food waste, which also indirectly means it prevents release of carbon dioxide and saves natural resources that went into cultivating the fruits. At the same time, it preserves the taste, aroma and nutrition of the fruit, making it available for much longer time in very convenient form. Many people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables (86% of EU population to be exact), often because it’s challenging for people to plan purchasing and prepare fruits that need to be peeled and de-stoned. FoPo can be mixed directly to anything from yoghurt and muesli through drinks (juices, smoothies, yogurt drinks…) to creams, pastry, soups and cooked dishes. This makes it a very convenient and delicious way to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables.

As you are based in Germany, are your powders available overseas?

We take orders within EU through our webshop, but customers living outside of EU can send us an e-mail if they would like to get a pack as well. We are also planning to expand our products to distributors and retail overseas eventually.

Have you got plans to expand your food products/ powdered food range in the future?

We have just developed a recipe for crispy 100% made-from-FoPo bars that taste like candy but are made from our powders. We plan to scale-up to industrial production by end of 2017. After that, we have still more ideas in mind – functional powder blends for different occasions and seasoned guilt-free fruit and vegetables crisps. On a more futuristic note, we are looking into the use of FoPo in food 3D printing!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Quite atypical for a start-up founder I guess, haha – I wear mostly skirts, dresses and low heels in very feminine designs and wide range of colors. I’m a big fan of pastels and bright pink too. I worked in Japan and Korea before, and I still get a lot of inspiration from their fashion and make-up trends.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I buy most of my clothes second-hand and I also like to design and make my own. In Germany, eBay is a goldmine for affordable, barely used brand clothes and shoes and it still has the same thrill of digging through piles of clothes in normal second-hand store as you browse and bid. Zalora (online store in the Philippines) features also local brands and young designers, but you have to use a shopping service to order from abroad.  For brick-and-mortar stores, I like Goodwill in the US (e.g. Ted Baker dress for 12 USD), “Beautiful Store (아름다운가게)” in Korea (many local + international brands – I got the mint and black A.P.C. jacket that apparently sold out everywhere since Kim Kardashian bought it – for 8 USD), Don Don Down on Wednesday and Mode Off in Japan. And finally coming from Czech Republic, our local brand Pietro Filipi has beautiful, high-quality clothes for professionals at very decent prices.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Elegant backpack since I have to carry laptop, documents and samples around a lot, comfortable nude mid-heel pumps to replace my dying pair, nicely fitted black dressy jacket since I don’t have one yet, and I’d like to design something inspired by what I’ve seen on the 2017 runway when I have a couple days off during Easter.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes, I feel like they suit me better.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about FoPo.

www.myfopo.com
https://www.facebook.com/fopofoodpowder/
https://www.instagram.com/myfopo/
https://twitter.com/myfopo

Some interesting food ideas there using your food powders Vita, and  exciting plans afoot. I quite like the sound of the homemade mango marshmallows!  Dear readers, do you like the idea of the food powders?  What powder recipe would tickle your tastebuds?  Do share your thoughts, I’d love to know…

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from FoPo.

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An Interview With The Sweety Guy

Is there anybody in the world who doesn’t like sweets (candies)?  From mints to fruit drops, chews to Haribos … a car journey is just mundane without a sweet to suck; on an aeroplane, sucking a sweet helps ease ear ache; sucking a mint helps to ease indigestion; sucking a sweet helps to distract when experiencing a panic attack….. as well as being a naughty but nice treat that puts a smile on everyone’s face.  My guest on the blog today is definitely smiley … he works surrounded by sweets of every description …welcome Damion, aka Sweety Guy….

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Hi my name is Damion Elson and I am known as the Sweety Guy, bringing a SMILE to everyone’s face. I deliver sweets locally and across the UK.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of The Sweety Guy?

My inspiration for setting up Sweety Guy was from my dad. My dad is a confectionery wholesaler and as always been motivated to keep on going no matter what it takes. Also I love to bring a smile on peoples’ faces when they come home from a hard day’s work.

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From assorted mints, old fashioned boiled sweets to haribos and jellies, you have quite a wide range of sweets to offer. Early days yet I know, but what sweets are proving most popular amongst your customers so far?

The most popular sweets this week have to be Midget Gems and Fruit Salads. These are made by Lion, a sweets manufacturer based in the North of England. There are other sweets the same shape but they don’t have the juicy flavours that these have! These are the real deal!

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I’m partial to chocolate limes, mints & haribos (especially when travelling!) What are your favourite sweets?

My favourite sweets have to be Vidal, which are spanish gummy sweets.

What do you look for when sourcing sweets for your company? What is the most unusual “sweet” you’ve come across?

When sourcing sweets for Sweety Guy, I particularly look for good quality and they have to be very yummy! I have to be chief tester too!! The most unusual sweet has to be cough candy for me at the moment, here is a link to it http://www.sweetyguy.co.uk/product/cough-candy/

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Apart from the sweety shop where you can order what you like online, you have also launched the monthly subscription box for sweety fans – those who would like their sweets regularly delivered to their door!Have you got any plans to expand your range in 2017?

My range of sweets will expand every week from now and right into 2017 and beyond. I love sweets and I know a lot of people do too. Each month the Sweety Guy Subcription box will have different, surprise selection, so not only you won’t know what you get but you know they will be yummy!

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As you are based in the UK, are your sweets available for ordering/shipping overseas?

Yes, I am based in the UK. My sweets are available for overseas ordering/shipping if required.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

My outfit is usually yellow Levi cords with a checked shirt and black shoes for meetings. My casual outfit consists of jeans and usually a super hero t-shirt or my Sweety Guy one! 😉

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Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

My favourite shop has to be TK MAXX because of the unique products they sell and the fact they only get a select few of the same product. One of my favourite online shops as to be Lomography. I love the nostalgia of the cameras and I am really keen on video production.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wishlist?

I really could do with a new winter coat but thinking of going for something totally different than my standard parka.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes seem to be more comfortable for me.

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Your Links:

Sweety Guy website http://www.sweetyguy.co.uk/
Sweety Guy Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/SweetyGuyDamion/
Sweety Guy Twitter https://twitter.com/sweetyguybfd
Sweety Guy YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/sweetyguycouk

Thanks Damion! We wish your business the sweetest success for 2017 and beyond! So, dear readers, do you have a favourite sweet (candy)?  Drop me a comment, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Damion Elson.

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