Vegan Fruit and Nut Soya Breakfast Smoothie

After the success of my vegan breakfast challenge and other home-made smoothies I wanted to attempt the most wholesome and healthy vegan smoothie I could.

So I blended as many fruits and nuts I could find in the house:

Smoothie IngredientsApple (101g)

2 Bananas (104g)

Dried Sulphured Apricots (71g)

Frozen Blueberries (60g)

Organic Pumpkin Seeds (30g)

Pineapple (242g)

Pitted Dates (69g)

Raw Almonds (20g)

Raw Cashews (18g)

Unsweetened Soya Drink UHT (100ml)

Watermelon (192g)

Wheatgrass Powder (2 teaspoons) Smoothie in Blender

Although it did not make as much as I thought it was very filling, sweet and crunchy. As my calculations below show the smoothie is full of energy and macronutrients: the ideal start to any day for a runner.

Final Smoothie

Total*

RI**
Energy 1127.3 Calories 56.4%
Carbohydrate 202.4g 88%
       of which are sugars 149.8g 166.5%
Fats 33.6g 48%
      of which are saturates 4.6g 23%
Protein 25.7g 57%

* Based on an approximate total weight of 1kg [all figures measured to 1 decimal place].

** Based on the Recommended Intake of 2,000 Calories, 230g Carbohydrates (90g of which are sugars), 70g Fat (20g of which are saturates) and 45g Protein [all figures measured to 1 decimal place].

N.B. I sourced information from Nutrition Data.

Juice Pulp Cake

After making a juice for breakfast yesterday morning I choose to get creative with the remaining pulp.

Juice Pulp

Juice Pulp 2

As a WasteBuster I am always looking for ways to reuse food waste, so I was pleased when I found a basic recipe online for a juice pulp cake. As I often do I adapted the ingredients so it would be suitable for vegans:

305g juice pulp

230g plain flour

100g granulated sugar

50g crushed raw cashews [using my nut crusher]

3 vegan replacement eggs

teaspoon of cinnamon

teaspoon of vanilla flavouring

I mixed all the ingredients together in a large glass bowl with my silicone spatula.

Pulp Cake Mixture

I then poured the mixture into a cake tin 8 inches in diameter and placed it in the oven for one hour on 170ºC.

Pre Cooked

The result was a cake golden brown on top.

Cooked Cake

I was not sure what the cake would taste like, but I was pleasantly surprised. Although heavy it remained chewy, wholesome with a subtle, at times tangy, flavour. It grew on me the more I ate, which gave Kristina and I an excuse to eat it all yesterday [it is not a cake that would preserve very well anyway].

Cake Slice

Cake Slice 3

Cake Slice 2

The benefit of the cake is no two will taste the same as the raw mixture will have different compositions of juice pulp each time. Plus, I can experiment with the recipe by reducing the amounts of flour and sugar to make it a healthier, lighter treat. I could also grease the cake tin with vegan margarine to make it easier to clean.

Cake Slice 4

Watery Fruit Juice

After watching Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (2014 film) with Kristina last night I was inspired to make a juice for breakfast this morning.

So I woke up early, went for a 5km run then juiced some fresh fruits and vegetables I had in the house:

149g apple

49g broccoli stem

129g piece of cucumber

34g slice of peeled lemon

181g peeled orange

264g cut of pineapple

75g tomato

I then added 200ml of cold water.

Juice Ingredients

This filled two bottles with 420ml of watery juice, which was healthy, light, refreshing and sweet.

Watery Juice 1 Watery Juice 2

It took me over an hour to consume, some of which I drank as I walked. I had to keep stirring the juice to prevent frothing at the top but it was delicious and nutritious, even though it made me pass more water than usual.

Although I enjoy smoothies a little more there are plenty of recipe ideas for both, when home-made detox experiments are exhausted.

Bazaar and Rummage (1982): Theatre Review

Last week (15th – 21st June 2015) was a busy time for the Witham Dramatic Club: it was another show week. Kristina and I helped erect the seated tiering on the previous Sunday (14th June) in preparation. Kristina had already agreed to organise costumes and assist with the props, so I accepted the role as a member of the Front of House team on performance nights [greeting patrons, checking tickets, acting as security and selling programmes], Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th June*.

Drama Sign 2

The play was Bazaar and Rummage, a comedy written by Sue Townsend, first staged in London in May 1982. It was performed at Witham Public Hall on the floor, as is tradition for the summer productions. The play depicts a self-help group of female agoraphobics and social workers, who attend a bazaar and rummage sale in a church hall in Acton, London, as they attempt to overcome their anxieties and to meet other people. I was intrigued by the unique styles and backgrounds of the six characters, which were revealed in measured ways:

Gwenda [an uptight traditional ex-agoraphobic volunteer social worker with father issues],

Fliss [a youngish trainee social worker with modern views and parent issues],

Katrina [an ex-songstress agoraphobic always reminiscent of her past, who has men issues],

Bell-Bell [a Northern-speaking pianist agoraphobic frustrated with her anxieties, who obsessively cleans and has husband issues],

Margaret [a working-class agoraphobic who continually curses and has son issues],

Community Police Officer [a nervous woman who is afraid of the public].

Drama Board

I thought the make-up [some of which was applied during the play] and costume were authentic for the 1980s. However the early interruptions of sound and lighting to illustrate comedic moments were random and not all that necessary. The set was simple but effective, using the hall’s appearance and equipment as much as possible. While the items for the bazaar and rummage were realistic and plentiful.

Drama Set 2

But it was the acting that impressed me most. The relationships between the characters were genuine and heart-felt, while the dialogue was delivered clearly and loudly and in consistent accents. There was a good balance of speech and movement, as the characters all had to help set up and set down the sale.

Drama Set 4

My only slight criticism of the performance was that early on the actors were often at the back of the hall, near the stage, so some of their speech did not travel effectively. There were also a few strange, unnatural poses, which were forced by the lighting or sound effects, and the cameo appearance by the Community Police Officer felt rushed, failing to add value to the story.

Despite this many themes were explored in the play, including religion, sex, music and lifestyles. I thought the manifestations of and reasons behind the women’s agoraphobia were subtle and not exhausted. Like the characters themselves I never felt they were cliché or overacted. Instead I sympathised with them, as they were all applicable to Gwenda’s line “I save my charity for those who deserve it.” Although the play will not be to everyone’s taste [there is little action so the tension and humour is in the dialogue] I was glad to have been one of the dramatic club’s members to approve the play prior to production. At 45 minutes an act I wanted the play to keep going so the characters could delve further into their pasts.

* I watched the show on the last night for free as a volunteer, although I heard much of the dialogue in the foyer on the other nights.

Wivenhoe Farmers’ Market: WasteBusters Event

Last Saturday (20th June 2015) Kristina and I volunteered our time at the Wivenhoe Farmers’ Market as part of our WasteBusters commitment. We left the house just after 7:30am for a 8:00am train and arrived at the Wivenhoe Congregational Church hall, located near the station, by 8:30am.

Wivenhoe Farmers' Market Banner

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We soon set up our stall, the contents of which we packed into a couple of our two-wheel shopping trolleys [the small, light table I carried separately].

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We promoted the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign through leaflets, recipe cards and other freebies as well as the Recycle For Essex campaign, which covers various composting, reusing and recycling schemes.

Despite the morning’s mild weather the footfall was not as high as we hoped. As a result we spoke to less than twenty members of the public in the three hours the market was open.

It was still worthwhile hearing the positive views of different people, who waste little of their food, compost at home and recycle much of their unusable materials. Also, we shared the hall with less than a dozen stalls that all had interesting local products, like home-made sweet and savoury muffins and cakes, sauces and oils, produce, plants and organic meats.

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Before we packed away our stall at 12:30pm we enjoyed making a number of contacts, speaking to each other and snacking on fruit we packed. Afterwards we decided to make the most of our time in Wivenhoe, a town I lived in for over two and a half years as a student at the University of Essex, by eating a delicious lunch along the Quay at the Rose and Crown pub. Although a little more expensive than it used to be we will be able to claim back most of the day’s expenses for the five and half hours we represented Essex County Council.

We got home around 3:00pm and were pleased to have taken the opportunity to attend an event that was quick and easy to get to, in a location we have already accumulated many happy memories.

The Availability of My First eBook: Couple of Moments (2015)

Following the official launch of my first self-published short story collection on May 1, 2015 I am excited to announce that today it is available to purchase from a wide range of distribution channels.

Couple of Moments ebook cover

The eBook Couple of Moments (2015) [ISBN: 978-1-326-24696-9] is a collection of nine thought-provoking literary short stories, inspired in part by the simple, effective minimalist fiction of Raymond Carver:

1. Is That Jim? – an absurd telephone conversation ensues after a strange woman seeks Jim but gets a different man

2. The Watered Down Version – a man visits his father-in-law on his deathbed after being estranged for many years 

3. I Fed You Already a man cannot sleep because of the obligations his partner and pet cat place on him

4. Upstairs with Mary an elderly couple are more interested in their younger neighbours’ affairs than each other

5. What’s The Noise For? a man watches a boxing fight with his father who lives in the front room

6. Attending to Business a man deals with the death of his parents while his wife visits her parents

7. Framed Photograph a boy feels anxious about spending Christmas over at his mother’s house but is soon distracted by the many gifts he receives

8. Feels Plastic a couple discuss a painting at an art gallery only to voice their opinions on more personal matters

9. She Summarised It All – a teenage boy goes to a girl’s house to tell her about his recent breakup

Despite setting the price at £1.00 there are some discrepancies depending on the store and their small taxes.

Amazon Kindle (UK) – £0.76, (US) – $0.99, $1.18

Apple iBookstore (UK) – £0.99

Barnes & Noble Nook (US)$0.99

Kobo (UK) – £1.19

Lulu Bookstore (UK) – £1.00, (US) – $1.54

Mireva (Europe) – €1.75

Still, I believe it is great value for money so please do purchase, read and comment as I truly appreciate any new readers of my work.

The Children Act (2014)

Hardback Cover Sleeve

(2014: Jonathan Cape) by Ian McEwan

[Read 11-13 June 2015]

Background: Kristina received the book as a gift last Christmas from her parents. I am an avid reader of the author, after falling in love with one of his previous books On Chesil Beach (2007). Kristina had read it earlier in the year and had enjoyed it, so I felt in the mood for more his unique literary prose.

Plot: The book follows Fiona Maye, an exemplary and experienced Family High Court judge in her late fifties, as she presides over cases in London and Newcastle. She lives in a London flat with her estranged husband Jack of over thirty years, a university professor of ancient history, who explains he wants to have sex outside their marriage. Fiona’s anxieties are heightened after she rules on a pressing case that involves a seventeen-year-old boy Adam and his parents, all Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refuse a hospital’s blood transfusion to save him from dying of leukaemia. Fiona’s fair and well-informed verdict affects their lives through their love of poetry, instrumental music as well as the application of their short- and long-held beliefs. The plot covers Fiona’s life for approximately six months as her moods and feelings towards her past, Adam and her husband alter.

Book Cover

Strengths: The third-person narrative gives the prose an insightful tone yet also a modern impression of place and time. Fiona is a well-drawn character as all her fears, opinions and behaviour fit together with her authentic middle-class life. There are no dull sections as the flowing language heightens the legal proceedings and the balance of arguments in the various cases. The subtle use of the weather to convey certain scenes is effective and the slow, unresolved progress of Fiona and Jack is respectful and not anticlimactic. The sparse details of the few supporting characters and irrational behaviour, not mind, of Adam suits the story too and reaffirms Fiona’s professionalism above all else. 

I also enjoyed the array of wisdom throughout the book: “… [T]hat nothing denigrated a person, boy or girl, more than the denial of a decent education and the dignity of proper work…” [page 12], “Courts should be slow to intervene in the interests of the child against the religious principles of the parents… ‘The infinite variety of the human condition precludes arbitrary definition.'” [page 16-17], “‘I think all great poets must suffer.'” [page 111], and “… life is more precious than… dignity.” [page 123] There are other interesting ideas raised in the book, like conjoined twins, who should establish care of a minor when the parents are not suitable, and the negative impact of jailing people who make one mistake but are active in their communities.

Weaknesses: There are no technical faults in the prose or length of the book. The only thoughts I had while I read was that the Adam’s character could have been developed a little more, and that the poetic and moral aspects of his case could have been debated further. Otherwise slight references to more legal cases could have raised even greater questions of the UK’s legal structure and its practice. But in McEwan’s established, eloquent style the numerous dilemmas Fiona faces remain enough to explore deep thoughts and ambitions.

Conclusion: The book is another fine example of accessible literary fiction, and at just over two-hundred pages separated into five chapters it is another page-turner that takes little time to absorb. It deals with the issues of law in a sensitive, realistic and engaging way. The focus on three main characters helps drive the narrative to a sad but not unsurprising or unnatural ending. The conclusion of Fiona’s journey is well-structured and appears to represent the wider struggles of English middle-class, middle-aged life and the pursuit of ideals that are difficult to realise. The book is a subtle, not so unique take on how individual hard-working success does not necessarily equate to familial reward or stability. It also raises issues of whether legal justice is preferable to other moral and religious reasoning. Ultimately I recommend the book for its intelligent approach to tricky matters, and its thought-provoking language.

Word bank: supine, bather, banal, plaintive, querulous, perdition, flinty, denigrated, anathemas, benign, susurrus, pedantry, stet, dissolute, coquettishly, evinced, roseate, visceral, recidivists, fastidious, morass, venerable, partita, fugue, gravids, etiolated, artisanal, remonstration, ostracism, ignominious, deference, foppish, haughtily, lithe, precocity, otiose, desultory, misanthropy, cantilevered, parquet, rakish, saccades, importuning,  bumptiousness, impregnable, eschatology, rancorous, kitsch, rancour, peremptory, philtrum, ferrous, doggeral, skein, coital

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