Day 5 – Friday 17th

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Today I decided to pluck up the courage and give the hike a go. We left at 6am without breakfast. 

It was a walk from our beautiful hotel, through the knuckles mountain range, so if I couldn’t continue I just needed to walk back. I decided to take it a bit at a time and after 2 hours I got to the top. The views were incredible, and along the way we saw little villages, and our local guide showed us spices and herbs like cloves, black pepper and lemon grass. 

On the way down I had a minor hallucination – thinking a dog was attacking me when in reality it was just my scarf… I was hungry okay. 

Afterwards we had some breakfast and then shortly headed on the bus to Kandy to learn about Ayerveda, meaning life knowledge. This talk was about the history of the traditional herbs used in the practice as well as a discussion of the difference in using a holistic approach vs. Modern medicine. This was quite interesting. 

We then headed on to the city centre and did a walking tour with our guide. We walked all around the lake in Kandy city and then down the main streets. We also saw an elephant and although he was well looked after it was sad to see him chained up. I really do hope I get to see an elephant in the wild on our safari. 

We then headed back to our hotel and enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner. After nearly 33,000 steps today I will certainly sleep well tonight! I have to climb 1200 steps tomorrow so am a little nervous.


Night all, 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Day 4 – 16th February

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Today we left the hotel at 8.00am and made our way to Kandy. 

On the way we stopped at a tea factory. We learnt about the process of tea making and got to have a cup at the end. 

The first tea plant was planted in 1824 and Sri Lanka commercially started producing tea in 1867 by Mr James Taylor. The bigger the particles of tea the lighter in colour, and the finer leaves result in a strong cup of tea, just the way me and dad like it! 5 kg of tea leaves produces just 1kg tea. That’s a lot of leaves to pick by the tea pickers! I will now appreciate that cup of tea much more knowing the work and labour that goes in to it! I bought some loose tea, and tea bags to take home. 


We continued our journey to Kandy, stopping on the way to have lunch and then we went to a gem museum. It was quite interesting learning about the mining process. It’s very old fashioned and looks very dangerous. 


From there we went to the Temple of the Tooth Relic. It is much warmer here compared to Nuwara Eliya which made walking bare foot a tad painful. Like when you dash the the pool on holiday to try and not burn your feet. It was very busy and humid inside but very pretty. 
From here we then travelled to our hotel. I am undecided about the hike tomorrow. My legs are very sore from yesterday which made walking up stairs today quite painful. 

We arrived at the hotel around 6pm, after a minor mishap with some local boys. They were playing football and kicked their ball into the road. The driver accidentally popped the ball. They were NOT happy, crowding round the bus so we couldn’t continue our journey. We are buying them two balls tomorrow. 


The hotel and views from my room are insane. Dinner was included tonight, an amazing buffet with so much choice and beautifully presented. I then showered and read for a bit before going to bed. We are up early again tomorrow for our hike. Leaving at 6am. I am going to give it ago and will just turn around when I can’t go any further. 


Night all, 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Day 3 – 15th February

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Sorry this is a day late, I only get wifi in the lobby and stayed in my room in the evening. 
Today we had a very early start, we were out of the hotel by 5.15am and headed for about an hour and a half drive to Horton Plains National Park. Due to the rain, I didn’t sleep very well but despite that didn’t feel too tired. It was extremely foggy and rainy on the way up to the park – it was a very bumpy, windy road. 

I really struggled with the walk – partly due to the high altitude and also because of my stupid hyper-mobility causing my muscles to tire very quickly. The first slope about ten minutes in nearly killed me. I thought I was going to pass out! It was longer than I anticipated, 9km in fact and it felt like it would never end. I really struggled, especially with the really steep parts. I also felt sick and dizzy in places because of the altitude. I didn’t think I could do it or finish it, but finally saw the end thanks to a couple on our tour being super sweet and helping me along the way, and to our tour guide for carrying my bag! (Such a queen, I know) I clearly have my mums fighter attitude, and I wouldn’t let it beat me!


I will strongly consider not going on the next one but at the same time I do not want to miss out on anything so might give it a go and just take it really slow. 


After we got back from the hike, I had a little rest before going for High Tea in our hotel. Their tea is delicious but as good as the food was it does not beat the proper English High Tea… I’ve been spoilt with the likes of Fortnum & Masons and Claridge’s (being a queen again). 


We then went out on a tuk tuk tour of the city of Nuwara Eliya, getting out at points of interest such as their post office (no really, it was beautiful, sorry no picture), a church and a food market which was super crowded. I found it a little bit much with the smells as I wasn’t feeling too great. After the tour our tuk tuk driver Sameera offered to take us to a temple for 500lkr. We decided to go for it, and boy was I glad. The views were stunning and the temple was very tranquil. We gave him 600lkr which he refused. We insisted, which was lovely as usually they take you for everything you have. He was a very good man, and wanted to make the tourists he drives around happy. They have so much pride for their country, it is wonderful to see. 


I then decided to stay in, have a bath and order some room service, seeing as I’ve pretty much been acting like a queen all day. 


I feel a little better but know I must eat so my muscles recover. I will then get an early night. We leave the hotel at 8am tomorrow and head to Kandy. 


Night all,


A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Day 2 – 14th February 

Inspiration, Photography, Uncategorized

I felt very refreshed this morning after a great nights sleep, making the early wake up much easier. After a shower and some breakfast – a little fruit, yoghurt and a fresh omelette and doing my signature move of slipping over in the marble bathroom (take note Maria, mosquito spray makes floors slippery) we headed off on our bus. We had a tour of Colombo, stopping off at the Independence Memorial Hall and continuing on a very long journey to Nuwara Eliya. 

After about four hours driving we stopped for lunch at a restaurant over looking the Kelani river, I opted for an omelette (again) it was fresh and delicious. 


We continued our journey which lasted about another three hours. Stopping on the way to look at some tea picking ladies. This work is extremely skilled, and they have a target of picking about 30kg of tea leaves per day which takes around four hours, paying only 1000lkr. This is around £5 which makes me feel incredibly guilty that I would spend that on lunch without thinking about it. 


On route, we also stopped at a couple of waterfalls with breathtaking views. The weather at this time was very cloudy, it looked as if the rain was catching up with us but nevertheless it was still beautiful.  

We finally arrived at our hotel, called ‘Grand Hotel’ at around 5.15pm – a very long day but we’re greeted with a hot towel and delicious cup of tea. After freshening up, we are going for dinner and then I shortly after I will  head to my room to get an early night. Another early start for us tomorrow. We are leaving the hotel at 5.15am, travelling to Horton Plains National Park for a 9km hike/walk. We will have a picnic breakfast whilst we are there. We will then enjoy a city tour on a tuk tuk as well as high tea in the Grand Hotel. 

Having a really good time, 
A girl with an appetite for all things creative,
Maria x

A girl with a creative appetite goes to Sri Lanka

Inspiration, Photography

I know conventionally a food blog is all about posting recipes however I’m going to use it as a space to write about my trip to Sri Lanka… after all it is my blog! 
After a ridiculously long journey, leaving my home at 5.15pm Saturday and not arriving to my hotel until about 9pm I was relieved to finally be in Sri Lanka. I have never done a long haul flight before and as an anxious person I was worrying about every single little thing…where do I check in my luggage, will it get there, will I make it to the gate on time, how will I know where to go when transferring flights?!?!
Classic me though left a little too early and had tons of time, no queues when checking in my luggage meant I could have a little browse at the airport and then I went on to my gate. Transferring flights was a breeze as I knew deep down it would be. My first flight was a little uncomfortable – maybe due to nerves as well as the seat. I watched a couple of films in hope that I would get a bit more sleep on the next flight. Thankfully I did. After stopping in the Maldives for an hour and a half (which looked beautiful from the plane seat) we went onward to Colombo. 
I nervously waited for my luggage exchanging glares of desperation with a couple of ladies from Manchester. Eventually, after about an hour it came along on the belt, and I heaved a sigh of relief! Theirs came along at the same time so we plodded off happily! I was so tired I felt my legs were going to collapse underneath the weight of my rucksack. I exchanged some money and found my airport transfer, smiling widely when I found my name written on a sign. It was about an hour to my hotel (although it only seemed about 30-40 minutes) but I arrived and boy was I pleased to hear that I’d been upgraded to the executive suite. I came to my amazing room and had a lovely nights sleep. 


Day 1 of tour: 13th February

I woke up, got ready and had breakfast. I wasn’t feeling too hungry – partly due to nerves, I always seem to loose my appetite after flying. I was also feeling anxious about the fact I had a whole day to myself before meeting my tour group this evening. Little me in a country I know very little about. I decided to go out and have a little explore though. As lovely as the hotel is, I didn’t want to stay in all day. 

I’m glad I did, as I was approached by a Sri Lankan man, he chatted to me as I walked down the street, trying to give him little information and before I knew it I was getting into a tuk tuk with him. Going against everything that I was told as a child and scared shitless that I had no idea where I was, and no idea where he was taking me. I clocked a bottle of rum that belonged to the driver. This was full. He took me to a temple as it was their public holiday for their full moon festival. I got to see a real life couple getting married, we then went to another place of meditation, it was beautiful. Back in the tuk tuk and the bottle of rum was now two thirds full and I’m a little edgy. He then took me to a gem stone shop where I got roped into buying myself my birthstone. Typical of an English person feeling like they can’t say no. I did stand my ground and made sure I didn’t spend too much. The tuk tuk driver then took me back to my hotel. The ‘guide’ was lovely though, they really are very friendly here.

I then just took it easy and sat by the pool, with a book. Chatted to a lady who was on her own, she commented on my nail varnish and found out she too was on my tour. I met the rest of the group this evening and everyone seems lovely. From Canada, Chicago, Switzerland and England. 

We all went out to dinner with our guide and eat outside as a group in this place called the Dutch Hospital. (Not a hospital any more, it used to be in the 1700s) I had a vegetable curry and it was absolutely delicious. The perfect amount of spice, really tasty and the fluffiest rice. I am now off to sleep as we are leaving the hotel at 7.30am for a tour of Colombo and a long bus journey to Nuwara Eliya. 

Night all,

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

X

Banana, cashew butter & dark chocolate tray bake

Baking, Recipes, Uncategorized

Long time, no posting!

I’ve decided that this year I am going to start trying to be kinder to myself.

Yes, I want to loose weight and look great (I am off to Sri Lanka in 4 weeks and still don’t have my bikini body) but as young women there is so much pressure to be a certain way, and I simply get miserable when I realise I don’t fit the bill.

I read an article by Angelica Malin on About Time Magazine. Check it out here – she mentions that we all need a re-tox. A fabulous idea, which got me thinking. Instead of being so hard on myself I will change my outlook on life. I will do more exercise because I enjoy it, and not beat myself up when I’m too tired to go because of my fatigue. I will not eat all the biscuits at work because they are there and I’m bored. However, I will have a few cubes of chocolate in the evening because I really need something to satisfy me. Life is about balance, and if I eat healthy food that I really enjoy, go swimming and to the gym, because this lifts my mood and makes me feel fabulous, I can still eat a slice of cake or a dessert at the weekend because I really want it.

We all need to be kinder to ourselves. We all have busy lives, life is too short to spend hours in the gym, and deprive yourself of that bit of cake that you REALLY want but shouldn’t eat because your Instagram feed is full of pictures of girls that have better bodies than you.

Saying no to something simply makes us feel guilty when we do have it, and we only want it all the more because someone tells us we shouldn’t. So have that bit of cake, chocolate bar, or that biscuit that you want to dip into your mid-morning cup of tea. Just don’t go crazy. Life is all about balance!

Anyway…

I wanted to take a picture of something today, and thought about making a banana traybake with some black bananas that have been floating around the fridge for a bit too long. This is made with out sugar or butter/fat so a little bit better for us but still delicious. It has a texture between a traybake and blondie. I had a piece tonight with some warm custard. Really quick and easy to whip up, and great to pack into your lunchbox for an afternoon sweet-treat.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas – mashed (the blacker the better)
  • 60g sweetener – I used Sukrin Gold, as this is similar to brown sugar. You could substitute this for light brown sugar, or an alternative sweetner.
  • 120g full fat Total Greek yoghurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • 115g cashew butter – you could also use peanut butter
  • 220g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g dark chocolate – chopped into chunks
  • 25g chopped, toasted hazelnuts

To decorate – 3-4 cubes dark chocolate, melted

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180*c/160*c fan and line a tin with non-stick parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl mix together the banana, sweetener, yoghurt, egg, and milk until well combined.
  3. Add the cashew butter and vanilla extract and mix again.
  4. Fold in the flour, salt and cinnamon.
  5. Mix in the dark chocolate chunks.
  6. Pour the batter into your lined tin, smooth out and push all the way to the corners.
  7. Sprinkle the top with the toasted, chopped hazelnuts
  8. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until it’s springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once cool, use a fork to drizzle the top with the melted dark chocolate.

banana-tray-bake-1-web-copy

 

Enjoy it,

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Christmas Gingerbread Fridge Cake

Baking, Recipes, Uncategorized

Here’s a super quick recipe for you to try over the festive period. Perfect to use up chocolate from the selection boxes and biscuits left over from the biscuit tins. It’s ridiculously indulgent, but it is Christmas after all, and Christmas is all about excess!

Ingredients

200g milk or dark chocolate (or a mixture), chopped

150g butter, cubed

100g shortbread fingers

100g gingernut biscuits

100g dried cranberries

25 g pistachios

1tbsp golden syrup

1/2 tsp orange extract

For the topping

100g milk chocolate, melted

1 pack of mini gingerbread men (aprox. 25)

Method

  1. In a bowl, over a pan of simmering water, melt together the butter, chocolate, golden syrup & orange extract.
  2. Crush your biscuits roughly with a rolling pin or food processor. I like the biscuit to be quite chunky. Roughly chop the cranberries & pistachios.
  3. Mix the biscuits, cranberries and pistachios into the melted chocolate mixture.
  4. Pour into a square tin lined with greaseproof paper, and press down so the mixture is even and pushed into the corners.
  5. Leave to set in the fridge, then pour the melted milk chocolate overn the top. Top with your mini gingerbread men.
  6. Leave to set in the fridge again, then slice into squares.
  7. Enjoy!

gingerbread-tiffin-1-web

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Food Styling & Photography Masterclass

Food, Photography

Hi everyone,

Last Saturday (17th) I was lucky enough to attend a masterclass in food styling & photography run by the Guardian. After a bit of a shock alarm (not used to an early wake-up call on the weekends) I got up and headed to the swanky Guardian offices at Kings Cross.

After a cuppa, we made a start. We all introduced ourselves – lots of professional photographers, beginners & all levels in between but we all had one thing in common though I think, which was enthusiasm. We were then introduced to the lovely ladies running the masterclass – Jill Mead; Photographer & Rosie Reynolds; Food Stylist. They made everyone feel so very welcome. I learnt lots of tips in the talks they gave us & it was so lovely to hear them talk so passionately about their subjects.

Figs.jpg

We then had a practical demonstration, where I picked up some tips on lighting & a bit about the best lenses to use. I now want a macro lens so I better get saving those pennies. I also did however, feel that I knew quite a lot of what was being spoken about which was great for my confidence as I don’t always believe in myself. All my practising and constant research is obviously working!

After lunch (which was fabulous, I had mushroom stroganoff, salad & chocolate cake) we started to take our own photos. We bought along a selection of our own props and were provided with some scones, fruit & veg, jam etc. I didn’t really feel like my practical session was on my side that day, I took a few photos but I think the most valuable part of the day for me was the talks in the morning and in fact sharing my knowledge & ideas with others & looking at others work & finding out about what they do. I wasn’t at all disappointed that my practical inspiration wasn’t on my side that day, as I gained so much!

I am looking forward to going on a shoot with Jill at some point in the near future.

For lots more foodie pics & to see what I get up to follow my Instagram –  @mariablackstone or Twitter.

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Plum Jam

Food, Recipes, Uncategorized

One of life’s simple pleasures has got to be a slice of hot, buttery toast & homemade jam served with a cup of tea, or coffee on a drizzly weekend morning. Lazing around the house, in comfy clothes watching the rain drops fall on the window.

This jam for me was a bit of an experiment. I went to Garson’s Farm & picked some plums & bought some apricots from their amazing farm shop. The apricot jam, which funnily enough I thought would turn out better isn’t quite right. However, I’ve decided that you can buy it in the shops & it’s much less hassle. This plum jam however, tastes amazing which is good news, as I made about 5 jars.

I thought jam making would be quite easy, but turns out it was quite a stressful experience for me. I had to boil my jam for a fair amount of time, to bring it to the consistency needed. It was so worth it though …

 Ingredients

  • 1kg plums (I used Victoria plums) stoned & quartered
  • 1kg white, granulated sugar
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100ml water
  • tbsp lemon juice
  • knob of butter

Method

  1. Begin by sterilising your jars, I washed mine in hot soapy water then placed them in a low oven to dry. Keep your jars warm here until you are ready to fill them.
  2. Place the plums and the water in a large saucepan, and cook on a low heat for about ten minutes until the plums start to soften.
  3. Add the sugar, cinnamon and lemon to the pan.
  4. Dissolve the sugar slowly, without boiling the mixture. This takes about ten minutes.
  5. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring to a rolling boil, and cook until reaching a jammy consistency. This is 105*c on a sugar thermometer. You can also test it, by putting some plates in the freezer, and spooning some mixture on the cold plate and leave to cool. It should wrinkle slightly when you push it with your finger. This can take anywhere from 5 minutes, but it actually took me about 25 minutes.
  6. When ready, take off the heat and stir in the butter – this helps to disperse any scum on the top. Leave to cool for about 10 – 15 minutes and then ladle in to your hot jars. Screw on the lids straight away to seal them, and leave to cool.
  7. Serve on hot buttered toast, or spoon into the bottom of a pastry case and top with almond cake filling for a delicious twist on a Bakewell tart.

It makes great gifts for Christmas, simply add a homemade label with some ribbon, or be greedy and keep all the jars for yourself.

Enjoy!

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

 

Happy Birthday Doris

Baking, Photography, Uncategorized

A cake I made for a friend’s grandmas 99th birthday. Happy Birthday Doris.

Vanilla sponge filled with butter cream & summer berry jam. Topped with fresh berries, macarons & fresh flowers.

If you’d like me to make you a cake, please get in touch.

DSC_2574

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x