Sunday thoughts: post-retreat edition

Hello, and happy Summer (to those of you who count it from 1st June – I am still undecided)!


Man, have I been looking forward to writing this blog post… Since my last post about six weeks ago, I have handed in my last assignment at uni, sat my last exam, celebrated with Icco‘s new vegan pizza offering and a long-anticipated visit to Yorica, then almost immediately got my head back down to concentrate on the final bits and pieces – kit lists, medical forms, payment receipts, playlists, shopping lists – for the first ever fitness and wellbeing retreat I have hosted (co-hosted with Ben and our yoga teacher Jay) in the south of France.

To say I’m not good at dealing with unknowns would be a vast understatement, and the retreat planning was full of them, so that last week leading up to the retreat was tinged with an undercurrent of stress. I pictured myself breathing a sign of relief when it was all over, but in reality the week went so well and – most surprisingly – I had such an amazing time running it and looking after our guests, that I had no desire for it all to end. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to stay in the venue for a couple of days after our guests left, so that we could unwind and reflect on the week together (and enjoy the sun, and finish delicious leftovers), because it is clear that had we headed straight back to London and what has turned out to be a busy week of work, I would have struggled to take the time to slow down.


So when this morning, after dragging myself out of bed early to get to Jay’s Sunday morning yoga class, I arrived at the train station only to find out that all trains in the direction I needed to go in had been cancelled due to emergency engineering works, I was actually quite excited to head back home through the sleepy streets with my coffee still warm in my travel mug, and enjoy some much-needed quiet time writing with no distractions. It’s the perfect grey, wet, but not cold, quiet Sunday morning for it, and I hope you’re making the most of it too.

Thought for food


Our typical breakfast: selection of fresh bread, homemade jams (thanks Mum!), chia-oat pudding, fresh fruit, soy yoghurt, and a berry smoothie

I had imagined that prior to the retreat, we would have thoroughly tested all of the meals we planned to serve, written out the recipes, calculated exact quantities and made our shopping lists. None of that happened. And I think that’s partly why the food turned out so well: we were able to be flexible, adapt to what we had and what we could find, taste and adjust and improvise and decorate and serve with love. I also could never have anticipated what people’s favourite dishes would turn out to be:

  • Chia overnight oats: loosely based off Angela Liddon’s recipe, this breakfast staple was probably the star of the show. Ben had wanted to layer them up in individual breakfast parfaits, but I argued that people may not want any or might want to adjust components and ratios in their parfait, so we served them in a bowl as part of a spread with plain soy yoghurt, fresh fruit, and berry compote. I was a little worried that it may look a little too unappetising and outlandish for our non-vegan guests, but after the first day one guest told us he was looking forward to his chia pudding at breakfast, and by the end I think everyone had asked for the recipe!
  • Sweet potato lentil soup: we had brought a tonne of red lentils with us, and I thought what better way to enjoy France with its fresh bread and warm weather with its crunchy salads than serving them with a hearty soup, thus making it a full meal? I’m not even the biggest soup lover, but even I was more enthusiastic than Jay and Ben, who argued that our guests might feel they were being underfed if soup was served as anything more than a simple starter. Well. Holy wow were we wrong – my humble soup that has no recipe, that had its lentil content roughly double about halfway through because “it doesn’t look like enough, does it?”, was perhaps the most popular dish of the week and was even requested again! Unfortunately we did not oblige as we were committed to not serving the same dish twice, but I will try and make it again soon and note down the quantities, so I can share the recipe with the guests and on this blog.
  • Chilli (and all other tomato sauces): another unexpected star was Ben’s chilli; a humble concoction of beans in a rich tomato sauce, served with brown rice expertly cooked by Jay, and a silken tofu sour cream. To be honest, everyone raved about all of Ben’s tomato-based sauces, which were perfectly rich and tangy and filled with summery tomato flavour. I love how easy it is to make good (vegan) food!
  • Lemon drizzle cake: I was a little nervous as the last (also the first) time I made this loaf cake (from the recipe on this page), I don’t think I followed the recipe but couldn’t remember what substitutions I had made. This time, I did – and it almost all disappeared while I was round the back cleaning the coffee machine!

Taco night: cabbage and carrot slaw, wholewheat tortillas, fajita peppers, refried beans, pulled jackfruit in homemade BBQ sauce, Violife cheese, tofu sour cream, and guac!

Frankly though, everyone seemed to really enjoy the food, talking about it amongst themselves at the dinner table, going back for seconds, going out of their way to compliment the chefs (us!), and commenting on how they could eat more vegan meals if this was what vegan food was like!


My bowl on Day 0 (before the retreat had officially started): sautéed veggies, tricolour quinoa, green salad with avocado and cucumber, a rich tomato sauce, olives, and fresh bread

Food for thought

Everyone left the retreat with at least one “takeaway” – a loose resolution, one change they could make – for most, it seemed to be either cutting down on meat consumption or preparing a batch of chia overnight oats for easy and delicious healthy breakfasts. Turns out, I have several of my own, and this seems a good place to share them:

  • Every meal can, and should, be delicious and exciting. Too often, I think of breakfast or lunch as inferior to dinner, and not worthy of extensive thought or multiple components. While I do still enjoy my dinner being the heartiest and most complex meal to end the day, I really enjoyed piecing together breakfasts and lunches from a varied spread, and hope to continue doing so when I feel like I want a little more on my plate or when I have leftovers available.
  • Mise en place is easier and more efficient than it seems. For some meals, it is totally feasible to chop as you go and multitask – for most weeknight meals, to be honest, this works well for us as one is home ahead of the other and has a good hour to play with, which is ample time to get something chopped and in the oven to roast before tending to elements that can cook more quickly on the stovetop. However, getting into the habit of preparing at least some ingredients in advance – washing and drying a whole lettuce and storing it in an airtight container, for example, or chopping up a whole head of broccoli when you have some spare time, or pressing and marinating a block of tofu before the start of the week – can mean that you are more likely to serve your meal with a side salad, or chuck in an extra veggie, or feel that your Tuesday lunch is just as special as your Saturday night dinner (see point above).
  • Food doesn’t need rules. This is a more personal one, as I still catch myself trying to hold myself to “food rules” that even I know are meaningless. We were so busy during the retreat that frankly I didn’t have time to worry about what time it was when I was hungry and needed a snack, having enough energy to cook a meal or tidy up or teaching a class was clearly more important than a silly self-imposed rule about what and when to eat, and also cooking kills my appetite so even though I was rarely hungry I knew I needed to eat. And despite throwing all my rules out the window, everything was still fine, and I need to remember that.
  • I love mustard, and salad dressing deserves to be delicious. For years I’ve been trying to make myself like mustard: I’ve always loved the smell but never liked the taste! This happened with olives, and it’s a weirdly frustrating sensation, but since I grew to love them I knew I would with mustard, too. Since we were making a lot of salads for a lot of people I had to make decent dressings, and mustard plays a key role in a good vinaigrette. As above, going out of my way to make a vinaigrette (rather than my usual salad-dressing approach which is to drizzle some oil and some vinegar straight onto the leaves), proved ridiculously simple and so much better with the addition of mustard. I bought a jar of whole-grain mustard as soon as I went grocery shopping when we were back, and shook myself up a bottle of vinaigrette for easy salad dressing at all times (see mise en place point, above).


I’ll leave you with those thoughts and this view of dusk setting in over the pool, hopefully I will be back soon with that soup recipe!

Sunday thoughts: 6th March 2016

You know you’ve been away from your blog for a little while when you don’t recognise the post editor (is that even what the bit where I type all my words in is called?) anymore.


Mounds of seaweed amassed after severe weather in New South Wales, Australia

It’s obviously a bit late to be wishing you all a happy new year, but I do hope everyone has had a good start to 2016. I know it sounds like such a massive lie, but I have been thinking of anyone who reads this blog, and about what I could tell you that would add anything to your lives, and feeling both proud and a little ashamed with each notification of a new follower, as I don’t feel like I have provided a very warm welcome. So to anyone who has joined us in the last six months, and everyone who has stuck with me, an extra warm welcome and a super sincere thank you! Continue reading

Sunday thoughts: Vegan MoFo edition

Sunday thoughts are back! I hope you are excited as I am about this new development!

Although I will hasten to add that they may not be a weekly occurrence as they used to be, and that they may occur on days other than Sundays. I am trying to keep this space fun and intuitive, but I want to keep hold of the sense that MoFo gave me of having a little more thought woven into my brain cells than I may initially think.

So without further ado, some thoughts on September, these first few days of October, and my first Vegan MoFo experience!

Roast Crown Prince squash Continue reading

Sunday thoughts: 7th December 2014

Is it just me, or do weeks where you start with a day or two off seem longer than the full Monday-to-Friday routine? This has undoubtedly been my most productive week maybe ever but certainly since going independent (and yes, sleeping, eating and training all count as productive, as does napping on the bus when you are stuck in traffic without moving for 20 minutes). So if anybody feels like getting me an early Christmas present, I could do with a couple extra days of the week. Preferably weekend days, but beggars can’t be choosers. Continue reading

Sunday thoughts: 30th November 2014

I think this Sunday thoughts series must be the one that gets written from abroad most often. Here I am in Luxembourg, for the first time in about seven or eight months, and we have treated ourselves to an extra day’s holiday to make the most of the festively laid-back vibe of my home country.

I can’t wait to share with you everything that has gone on in this final week of November, but before I do please allow me to take a moment to remind you of my festive offer on personal training sessions:

End of year promotion Continue reading

Sunday thoughts: 23rd November 2014

After reading back through last week’s Sunday thoughts, I feel a little sheepish posting these as it has been a much less eventful week! So if you haven’t read those, maybe just have a look at them and ignore these ones.

Oh but before you go, I should promote my end-of-year special offer on personal training! I’ve written a short introductory blog post about it over on Great Expectations Fitness, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. Please do share it with anyone who might be interested. Continue reading

Sunday thoughts: 16th November 2014

I can’t believe last Monday was just a few days ago, it seems like we have crammed so much into this week!

Food for thought

Again, not much studying time at all this week. There have been a couple of afternoons at home, one filled with cooking (more on that below) and one filled with writing (more on that here). But a few things on my mind and computer screen, apart from Christmas shopping (did I really just say that?): Continue reading

Sunday thoughts: 9th November 2014

I haven’t actually told you guys about my epic journey back from Paris last Monday, have I? (unless you are my parents, in which case I have)

See, usually it goes like this:

  1. Walk 1min to station, buy ticket, wait 5-10mins
  2. Get on train, sleep/read/eat all snacks within reach for 1h20
  3. Get off train, avoid walking into busy Parisians through Gare du Nord, scan Eurostar ticket, show passport, get bag x-rayed, go to toilet, wait 30-45mins
  4. Get on Eurostar, sleep/read/wish I hadn’t eaten all my snacks for 2h30
  5. And then I’m in London!

Continue reading

Sunday thoughts: 2nd November 2014

Hello, friends! If you were around for last week’s Sunday thoughts, you might recall that I was feeling very much beaten by my unofficial to-do list. Well, this week, I am very much back on track but I can’t take any credit; things just fell into place.

While a busy day/quiet day/busy day/quiet day schedule this week did make it hard to get my head around each day’s workload (fearing the busy days, then adjusting to being busy, and getting day-off anxiety on quiet days), it was ideal for getting stuff done in the big chunks of time. So I’m feeling pretty positive! Continue reading

Sunday thoughts: 26th October 2014

It seems there is a fine line between being on top of things and being very much swamped by things, and it is not one I tread with much agility these days. At times somersaulting past it, before swiftly being dragged back until it looks further away than ever, I seem to have gone from being on top of emails and caught up with family and friends with a freshly laundered wardrobe, clean house, and fully stocked fridge to… well, none of those. Continue reading