Bike Bars

So tomorrow we cycle to cornwall EEK. After weeks of waiting, hard work (for some…) and excitement the time has finally come! Chelmsford to Cornwall in 5 days. Some call us crazy, others say we have been brain washed by cycling aliens, I agree with them all. But we are certainly ready for an adventure!

So prepare for a week of lycra filled pictures, dodgy bikers tans and possibly a few grazes. Prepare for stories of singing cyclists, crying cyclists, lost cyclists and sleepy cyclists. Prepare like I have prepared for this ride… (I have not.) But I did prepare in the food department! Yes fatty over here may not care about the size of her muscles, but she does care about the happiness of her tummy; behold bike bars.

They are dead easy to make, lowfat, high energy, and perfect to enjoy after walking the dog in the park, or with a cup of tea when the weather gets more British.  I hope I have room for a few in my rucksack.

Flapjack

You will need:

  • 397g tin of condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 300g of your favourite muesli- if you are on a budget Lidl’s own is great
  • 50g mixed seeds
  • 150g mixed dried fruit

. Set the oven to 150C and line a tin with baking parchment, the smaller it is the thicker the bars

. Heat the condensed milk and golden syrup in a heavy based saucepan for around 7 minutes. Then add the muesli, seeds, and dried fruit

. Stir the mix together so it forms a thick paste and the condensed milk has coated all the ingredients

. Pour the mixture into the lined baking tray and place on the middle shelf of your oven for around 30 mins until slightly chewey but golden on top. The longer you bake them, the crunchier they become.

Wish us luck and check back here tomorrow to see how our first day went!

Flapjack

Advertisements

THE Bike Ride

In nearly 3 weeks today, the long awaited bike ride to Cornwall begins. I will be riding from Chelmsford to Land’s end over 5 days (and a over lot of hills), with my family and friends.

Today I took my noble steed for a spin for the first time, and clipped into the peddles.

Yes. I did fall off. I forgot to unclip, however I won’t be doing that again!

Over next few weeks I will be trying out different foods for fuel on here, and asking for all the help I can get! Cycling tips, good fuel recipes, must-have products, and crossed limbs of luck- send it all my way!

My Steed - Thank you Papa Smole
My Steed – Thank you Papa Smole

(Note the potting table behind him and remember it for a DIY blog post to follow on making your gifts extra special)

My Cambridge Satchel Backpack and Studland Beach

I was an extremely lucky girl at christmas, not only did I receive an experience to sit with meerkats, I was given a Cambridge Satchel, and it’s so pretty!!!

Cambridge Satchel Backpack- The Vegaquarium

Personally I am not one for ‘it’ bags. If it isn’t practically enhancing why do you need to spend £600 pounds on a bag when you can get an equally strong and nice one for £60. Sorry Mulberry fans, it’s not that I don’t like them promise.

To me, The Cambridge Satchel backpacks are a bit different, at £118 they are a little on the pricey side… but I could not find a classic style backpack anywhere else!

Anyone who knows me, know’s that I usually walk around in a shameful Camelback biking backpack. It is practical OK. But the time came when the funny looks and comments started to make me feel as though maybe a change in bag was needed in order to avoid social suicide and to keep my obvious insanely cool rep…

I am picky with bags, I like classic styles, but because I cycle everywhere I need a backpack to make it easier to carry things. The Cambridge rucksack fits this bill perfectly!! I am now a happy, and socially acceptable cyclist. Many of my friends may be pleased to hear that.

Cambridge Satchel Backpack- The Vegaquarium

Cambridge Satchel Backpack- The Vegaquarium

All the bags are handmade to order, and is a bit of a grass roots company! Which I think is pretty cool.

Anyway, my parents came down this weekend to deliver it, so I thought it would be nice to go outdoors and get the ferry from sandbanks, Bournemouth, to Studland, which is at the start of the Jurassic coast! No fossils there, but if you carry on down and bring a hammer and chisel with you there are loads. I shall be doing this soon.

The Vegaquarium

We got the ferry in our new car. It speaks to you! Then went to a pub my friend Lauren recommended to me, she clearly knows what is good as it was beautiful and the food was amazing! My parents liked it so much they have booked to stay there in May so we can do some cycling. The fish and chips were amazing and we all ordered a plate!

The Bankes Arms- http://www.bankesarms.com/
The Bankes Arms- http://www.bankesarms.com/

The Vegaquarium

The Vegaquarium

The Vegaquarium

Dad did his best Mr Bean impression. (Sorry papa)

The Vegaquarium

Then we went to the beach!

South Beach- Studland
South Beach- Studland

The Vegaquarium20130127-054957-PM.jpgThe Vegaquarium

Confessions of a cycling hypocrite

If you had met me just 2 years ago, you would have known that I was pretty sure I was adopted. Kinda.

My whole family were heavily into cycling, we would go on holidays with the intention of spending our days on a bike in the forest, and my dad spends more time and money on his bikes than he does on the car, which barely gets a hoover or a hose down once a year. He has done a 4 day cycle from John O Groats to Lands End, and he, my mum and my brother have cycled from London to Paris.

If you had met me 2 years a go, the chances of me accompanying them on these ventures was nil. “I’ll sit in the van with snacks and water for you” I would say. “Cycling is not my thing, why would you cycle with no purpose, but to just… cycle?”

At least that is what I thought. Until I, the self confessed King Stinge, decided paying for the bus to uni was not on, and got on a bike. Little did I know I had just opened a whole new can of worms.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I hated cycling. One time we went mountain biking at Thetford Forest and I cried tears of misery and pain around the whole of the Blue run. I barely even cheered up when I ate lunch in the cafe, which if I am honest was the only reason I agreed to cycle with them in the first place. I would moan of having a bottom so bruised it had turned black, and complain that if I kept cycling I would end up with legs like Chris Hoy, never find a husband because of them, and die alone in my old house while my 10 cats nibbled at my huge muscly legs.

K.O’ed after a leg munching sesh?

This year however, I have agreed to not just cycle on holiday, but cycle to our holiday. We are cycling to Lands End in Cornwall. For fun. Then we will travel to Polzeath (where I used to spend all my summers and love way too much) and stay there for a week. U turn is not even the phrase! My endless rants about cycling for no reason and refusing to get on a saddle have been completely undermined and I am a hypocrite. Meanwhile Papa Smole can sit there smugly as I confess I have been Smolenized and now enjoy cycling. Gah.

Madness

So why the sudden change of heart? Not sure. I guess in the last 2 years being at University has opened my mind to new things, made me meet new people and made me grow up a bit. Cycling has even become a way of getting out the house for some fresh air, not just a mode of transport for University.

Last year my bike, which was too expensive, got stolen from University despite it being tied up. I don’t think I’ve been that angry before, and I even refused to go into uni for a few days because I could not do so on my beloved bike! I really was gutted. The sun shone the next day, but I couldn’t go out on a little bike ride to enjoy it! So I bought a £30 second hand, battered bike off the back of the van. I called it the Fire Bolt. (Yes that is a Harry Potter reference)

The brakes didn’t work, and every time I changed gear my chain fell off. What is worse is it tended to fall off in the most dangerous places. Once in the middle of a busy roundabout and once in the middle of a very busy light controlled T junction. Each time I was left spinning my legs round extremely fast like an idiot, but going absolutely nowhere. Meanwhile cars would zoom past me, beep at me and generally make me feel like I was about to die. Several times I went flying through red lights (I don’t recommend it) because my breaks didn’t work.

Bike hospital. A desperate attempt to salvage The Bolt

Despite this, I still loved cycling. And the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it.

Over summer I started doing exactly what I hated before, going on long bike rides, in a loop from A to A, just for fun. Me and my mum would cycle about 20 miles, just because. I even went and watched the mountain biking at the Olympics, and loved it. What happend to me!?

Now, in one last final blow to any integrity I may still have regarding sticking to my beliefs about cycling, I am going to tell you to get on a bike to. Because it’s fun. And because it’s cheaper than getting a bus, and greener, and because you might discover you really enjoy it!

Me and Susie Q post ride clad in lycra

 

You’re going to university: Results day advice

First, breathe, university will be some of the best years of your life. So bite your nails, have nightmares about results papers getting lost, but most importantly keep your cool. Whatever happens, a plan will be made. Whether that plan is the same one you have always had, or is slightly different to what you thought, it’s still a plan, and it’s yours. For those of you who’s plan is university, here is my advice, from one freshly defreshed fresher to you sparking new ones!

Your life is about to change a lot, but its all good because you’re going to love it!

Expect parties, expect beers and value bottle vodkas, expect 9am lectures which you turn up to incredibly hungover and 9am lectures which you don’t even make. Expect flatmates who you might not get on with, course mates you hate and lecturers who make you want to cry. Expect 100’s of new friends and 100’s of new adds on Facebook and Twitter, but best of all expect that select group of these friends who you will now know for life, and who you will love like you knew them since they were in nappies!

Packing. Do not pack EVERYTHING, it is a nightmare getting it back home. Do pack all of your clothes, posters, favourite bed sheets, favourite pictures, a few fairy lights and the kitchen essentials. Take plastic cups and plenty of them, cups go missing like no tomorrow when you are running around to different flats for drinks, pre drinks, post drinks and hungover tea drinks, so stock up on them. Remember your laptop, yes I did forget to take mine. And for goodness sake do not be afraid to pack your teddy!

Move in, make your room your own, meet your flatmates, smile at everybody you see, and invite anyone you say more than 3 words to around your flat for pre drinks. Only half of them will turn up, but they might turn out to be those special people I was talking about earlier. Remember, everybody is in the same boat, they are all so nervous that they want to make friends with anybody and everybody, and a smile goes a long way! Then grab your flat mates and go shopping together! As stupid as it sounds, food is an excellent topic of conversation, because everybody eats it, likes it and dislikes it. Joke about your fears of tomato or your love of macaroni cheese with banana, then get home, get ready and hit the town.

For the next few weeks you will dance, drink, dance, dress up, dress down, laugh, dance. But don’t forget to eat.

Cheap food and supermarket own brands are your friend, but only to some extent! 30p bags of pasta, 37p crumpets, 31p tinned tomatos; go for it! 21p ketchup, 27p tea bags and £1 bin liners; don’t bother. The ketchup and tea will taste vile, and the bin liners will rip so easily that you have to use 3 each time, trust me I’ve tried them.

Go to your lectures. Get a feel for your new course and your new course mates, then organise a social! All get together at someones house/flat, play drinking games and go out. Many people on your course are likely to share the same sort of interests, or you wouldn’t be doing it together! You and your course mates are a team, they are the ones you can go to and moan about that assignment, that lecturer, that exam, and they will actually understand.

My course at the beginning of the year`

Don’t go home too much, get involved with university life. When will you ever get the chance to spend 3 years living, where money is allowed to be an issue, it is acceptable to go out 4 times a week, and you have so many friends around you all in one place! Once you’re finished you’ll all scatter back round the country or the world, find jobs and finally have to curb your candle stick burning. But you don’t have to worry about that yet.

Keep in touch with friends from home, ask how they are getting on, but don’t get worried if you dont speak to them every week. You are all busy, and will have plenty of time to catch up at christmas. If they truly are your friends, constant contact isn’t needed, and it makes reunions all the more exciting! Oh and keep in touch with your ma and pa. Send them a few texts a week and give them a ring. They’ve probably done a lot for you so don’t take it for granted.

More than anything, I hope this makes you excited about moving out and starting a new life at university. Because it is so exciting. It’s ok to be nervous, in fact it’s good for you. Take everything in your stride and get involved, take millions of pictures, upload them to Facebook, Twitter and send them to your family (or in some cases dont…) Take the time to look through them and laugh, cry, cringe, but most importantly remember the good times you are having! University is what you make it, so make it good.

Just remember to smile!

Feel free to leave any advice or words of wisdom which you may want to add :)

A snippet of my first year at Bournemouth University

Me and my uni girls at the BU Summer ball, it’s fancy dress and is set up like a festival, so we went as WW2 land women and had an amazing night

Dressed as Cows. Pack ALL the fancy dress you own
Freshers week

Veggie for a day?

This is not a bid to turn you into hard core vegetarians. Humans eat meat instinctively, and it is a good thing. The farming industry provides millions of jobs, and of course meat contains essential amino acids which our body can’t make ourselves. However, sometimes eating a meal without a slab of meat in it is not as bad as some may think, you just have to know how!

First of all, Quorn is not the root of all-evil. It is not an alien life form and it is entirely edible, you just have to know how to cook it. Like tofu, it is a shape shifter of flavour. It tastes like what you cook it in, so it’s a great substitute in chilli and curry which have strong fragrant flavours. On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend Quorn imitations to meat lovers. They find it insulting because at the end of the day it is an imposter of meat.

Good vegetarian food consists of real ingredients. It isn’t about purposely not eating meat, it’s about celebrating other flavours, and not needing the addition of meat to complete the meal. I feel like the Greeks and Italians understand this well, and often their best dishes don’t contain a scrap of meat, they rely solely on exciting flavours from olives, cheeses, herbs and zests. Caramelise red onions and eat them with goats cheese, make falafel balls from chickpeas and garlic and eat them with Houmous or mix fresh pesto with leeks, mozzarella and gnocchi.

I know people who think having a meal without meat is impossible, and I think it is very much a western thing! People have been brought up on potatoes, meat and veg, and haven’t been taught that there is more out there! And it tastes so good! And it is so good for you.

Yotam Ottolenghi writes a vegetarian column for The Guardian which is full of exciting flavours! I went to his restaurant once in Islington and the food is delicious. It is not all vegetarian, and it works a bit like a tapas restaurant so you can sample a big range of dishes between friends .

I am in no way saying if you eat meat you are doing it wrong, but sometimes a good vegetarian dish can be just what you need to bring that happy stomach smile to your face!

My happy vegaquarium tummy! (In my new bikini loving the sun :) )

My skydive experience

Yesterday I jumped out of a plane and fell towards the planet at 120mph in free fall. It was amazing.

For those of you tempted to do a skydive, do it. For those of you who don’t think you could do it, feel the fear and do it anyway. It is honestly the most exhilarating and majestic things you could ever do, and once you have done it you will want to do it again.

I will try to tell you about my experience as best I can but I warn you it will probably sound a bit like a story book because I don’t want to miss out any details! Scroll down for photos, and a video when I work out how..

I awoke yesterday morning slightly hungover. Piece of advice number 1, dont do this. Going out on wednesday night was a brilliant idea at the time, but skydiving on 3 hours sleep and a hungover belly wasn’t. On the other hand I have proved it is still doable!

I got to the airfield at 9:30am for check in, where we were briefed, told how position yourself as you fall, and genrally made to feel confident! The tandem parachute instructors must have carried out a minimum of 800 solo jumps, been rigorously tested mentally and physically, and carry out regular inspections every few years for them to be allowed to be an tandem dive instructor, so you are in safe hands!

It took about 20 minutes to get up to 12,000ft in the small aircraft. I don’t know if it was because my hangover had numbed my senses, or that I was genuinely too excited, but the nerves didn’t really hit me until I saw the other divers in the plane jump out the like rag dolls. And by this time it was too late, I too was falling out the door of the plane, 12,000 ft up in the sky, like a rag doll.

The first thing my instructor told me to do when I left the plane is yell. So that’s what I did, a lot. It is so so easy to forget to breathe as you leave, the temperature is -4 degrees up there, and you fall so fast it instantly takes your breath away so screaming stops this! As you fall, the wind literally tears past you. It does dry your mouth out a bit, but thats mostly because mine was open all the way, screaming…

You fall through the air for 40 seconds. If you were going at this speed when you jumped off the top of The Shard, it would take you 1 second to hit the ground! Then suddenly, the roar of the wind stops, and it goes silent. This is when the parachute goes up and you can really start to take in what is around you and were you are.

It is a really strange feeling to describe, but it is like you are weightless and floating in the air. After I had finished laughing, my instructor honnestly said to me “Lets go walking through the clouds” and we did, literally. It was like walking though steam. One of the highlights of the jump was coming out one cloud, to see a small fully circular rainbow on the cloud below us, with our shadow in the middle of it. But unfortunately there was not pot of gold.

I was given control of the parrachute and told to pull down as hard as I could on the left side, as I did so the parachute began to turn faster and faster until we dropped out the sky, before I spun it back by pulling the other handle. It was very fun.

We continued to float down in the parachute, doing various turns and looking at the view. I could see the coast, and apparently on a good day you can see london from higher up. Then we landed in the field below.

I really don’t even think my description has done the jump justice, you just have to do it for yourself. One of the best things is the adrenaline rush, once you hit the floor you cant stop smiling for hours. You laugh at everything, and words come out your mouth without even thinking about them.

While the skydive was one of the best experiences ever, I wasn’t just doing it for fun. I was raising money for the J’s hospice, a local charity which provides hospice and respite care to 18-40 year olds with life threatening conditions. It is a great charity who do so much, so far I have raised over £250 but I am still collecting so if anyone wishes to donate the website is here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/bronyaskydives

If not, then you should organise your own jump and raise some money for charity yourself! I know I keep saying it but it really is AMAZING.

For those of you who worry about the parachute not opening, the instructors jump with a 300 square ft parachute, and a back up parachute if the first one isn’t good enough or doesn’t open. There is also a computer in the kit which measures the pressure, height and speed which you are falling, if for some reason they are unable to release the parachute, the computer does it for them! So in my mind, the chances of continuing towards earth at 120mph were too slim to worry about!!

Skydiving for the Js Hospice! http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/bronyaskydives

Ready to go! I call this look The Crocodile
Shaking my green booty

Coming in to land!
Back on solid land!
I told you it’s impossible not to smile!

Ducks and dogs

I am home from University at the moment, and making the most of home cooked food. While the gardens in Bournemouth are beautiful, they don’t quite match up to the size of Hylands Park.

Hylands is the venue for V festival, I usually attend, but unfortunately the budget didn’t stretch that far this year! Hylands House was used as a double for the White House in the 2004 film Chasing Liberty, and is where Olly Murs shot his music video for “Please dont let me go!” It’s a huge open space, with duck ponds, lakes, gardens and trees. Perfect for dog walking and for feeding ducks.

This dog can fly
Alix and Cassie
Ducks at our feet!

What I learned from the day.

  1. If you get a dog, be prepared to pick up poo which is not entirely normal looking. Cassie the golden retreiver, did a golden poop while we were out and it wasn’t pretty.
  2. Ducks are not scared of humans if the humans have a loaf of bread in their hands. As we stood at the pond we had the whole Hylands community of ducks scattered at our feet like hungry dogs. They quacked a lot, it made me laugh. A lot. Although I did read a sign explaining how bread is like ducky McDonalds, so maybe I’ll do a post on how to make healthy duck food so they don’t get too porky.
  3. Geese hiss. Especially at dogs, unfortunately Toby managed to get on the wrong side of one!
We became the pide piper of duck world

I also made friends with a squirrel. Squirrels are my favourite. They’re rapid, mischievous and are a bit like Meerkats, who are also my favourite. This one is called Monkey.

Too cute

Why Vegaquarium?

While I would love to take credit for this amazing name. I can’t.

It was all down to a magic little lady who served me and my friend in Asda one day, who when I told her that I was a vegetarian who ate fish replied;

“That means you are a vegaquarium dear, like me.”

And the name stuck. So forget that horrid word “Pescatarian”, which makes me sound like even more of a pesk than I am when I turn up at peoples houses and throw them the veggie card.

I cant wait to share with you my vegaquarium recipes.

And to the magic lady at Asda, thank you, I hope only to be served by you and your cute little ways every time I return.