Date. Night.

L shares her new favourite lockdown activity – themed date night!

Two words that put the horrors into me and my partner. I have friends that insist a weekly date night becomes a necessary evil once you have children, but we don’t, as yet. Notwithstanding this, and as I mentioned in a previous blog, I’m on the hunt for new activities to keep me out of trouble this lockdown.

Anyone else sick of Zooming?

Before we entered this new normal, one of our shared passions was travel. We loved nothing better than exploring the culture, music and cuisine of an unknown place. It’s something that E lovingly passed down to me. So, given that we can’t currently travel, I thought, why not bring the travel to us?

On our daily walk, we hatched a plan. Each week we will pick a place: a country; a region; a continent; whatever takes our fancy. We will have a home-cooked meal celebrating food from the selected place, followed by a film inspired by or set in the same location. The only rules are: no fish/celery (at Vince’s behest), neither of us can have seen the movie before and we have to be brave and include at least one item on the menu we wouldn’t normally prepare and eat at home. And there you have it, dinner and movie, lockdown style.

For our inaugural week, we decided the theme should be the USA, as this seemed both easy and wholly appropriate. After toying with whether to go down the TexMex, Soul Food or cowboy food route, we settled on a menu inspired by our childhood and holidays.

And yes – aperitif was spelt phonetically for humour. The menu was designed to be read in your best southern drawl

Buffalo chicken wings and ice cold beer immediately transports me back to working for Royal Caribbean aboard the beautiful Oasis of the Seas. Every Wednesday, the ship would host a “Crew Appreciation Evening” where all departments were welcome to join for free beer and wings. For variety, I’d love to swap out some of the wings for cauliflower florets for a vegan twist.

Celeriously delicious. Breaking my own non-celery rule in week one!

Our main course had to be hotdogs. We both had fond memories of those jumbo bad boys from family trips to Florida. Now let me tell you a secret: the trick to a great hotdog is nothing to do with the bun or meat; it’s all about the toppings. We created our own selection bar with crispy bacon bits, relish, macaroni cheese, chopped onion, mustard, ketchup and grated Cheddar. Really the combinations are endless; you could feasibly chuck any leftovers a top your hotdog and make it delicious. Chilli con carne dog? Sauerkraut and smoked cheese? Linda McCartney veggie-dogs and mushrooms? Ok, ok – I’ll stop!

DIY Hot Dog Bar

After a long debate with E about what film we should screen, (she hilariously suggested An American Werewolf in London…yep), we settled on Tony Kaye’s American History X. It was quite a heavy watch of a Thursday evening but I couldn’t believe how relevant it still is 23 years on. It’s available on Netflix and worth a watch if you haven’t seen it before.

Our evening finished with a slice of good old-fashioned apple pie. It’s long been known between the de-la-Haye Girls that E is the baker. Whilst we both love to potter in the kitchen, anytime something sweet has to be made it never goes well in my hands. But, dear reader, I’m delighted to report that I may have broken the curse! It might not have been the prettiest pie but the bottom wasn’t burnt and the filling tasted good. Better than good actually; it was delicious.

The apple pie was A-OK

It’s such simple idea but we both really got into it, listening to Johnny Cash all day and feeling like we’d escaped for just a moment. Next week we are going to Japan. Recommendations for food and films are most welcome! ~L.

How To Create A Day Spa At Home

Want to decompress but can’t make it to the spa? No problem!

When you’ve got to laugh, or you’d cry

Ugh, I don’t know about you but I’ve got a serious case of the January blues. I just feel like this is the month that won’t end! Usually, I’d have a chat with myself and shake it off but if I’m wishing for this year ahead to be more hopeful and kind, then I really should extend that to myself too.

I don’t care what people say, candles are an essential item

So, this week, I treated myself to a spa day. All at home, of course! I picked a day that was totally clear for me, switched my phone to airplane mode and got chilled. Switching off from emails and work calls was super important in helping me to fully relax. If you can, a digital day detox is so worth it – I can’t recommend it enough!

First up, let’s talk attire. Only your fluffiest slippers and lounge wear will do. A fluffy robe is ideal if you have one, I’d even condone stealing a housemate’s/husband’s/sibling’s if required.

Clothing is always optional

Then, get that kettle boiled, music on and candles lit. Setting the mood is crucial. I just searched for “Spa Playlist” on Youtube; it totally did the trick.

In between endless sips of jasmine tea, I slathered on a face mask. I always get a couple of these in my stocking but if you don’t happen to have any to hand you can knock up a simple homemade one using porridge oats, honey, olive oil and an egg yolk. A couple of chilled slices of cucumber wouldn’t go amiss popped onto your eyelids, or if,like me, you’ve made a batch of cucumber raita then two chilled teaspoons work just as well!

Pretty in pink clay

Nails are next on our agenda. The one excellent thing to come out of last year is my new found obsession with nail art Pinterest. If you’re not artistically inclined, a good clean and cut is sometimes all you need. Don’t forget your tootsies too.

Nothing better than tidy claws

Finally, draw yourself a bath – almost too warm and let it steep and steam up that bathroom. I added some Epsom bath salts, some rose petals, a little bicarb of soda, rose and sandalwood essential oils and a scoop of coconut oil to create my own mermaid lagoon. Be careful to read the instructions when using essential oils – I had a friend who once inadvertently overdosed on lavender oil and had to be rushed to A+E.

Having a bubble in the tub

Now the rules really do go out the window here; I chose to spend my soak doing some meditation with a couple of crystals but if you want to have a glass of prosecco and binge How To Get Away With Murder in the bath then more power to you. Wait until your fingers go wrinkly and the water is tepid before getting out.

After moisturising – which yes, I’m not ashamed to say I did add a touch of fake tan to – I curled up on the sofa with a good book, (currently enjoying Claudia Winkleman’s Quite) and let the rest of the afternoon slip by. I honestly had the best night’s sleep after my day of pampering and have promised myself to make it a monthly extravagance during this next lockdown. Well, maybe let’s make that a weekly thing… ~L.

Me making a clean getaway from 2021

Not-So-Basic Banana Bread

It’s lockdown, of course we must have banana bread.

Slice Appeal

This third lockdown is hitting a little different isn’t it? Discounting those four weeks in November of last year, our only other experience of lockdown was during the spring. Getting out and safely enjoying your local surroundings is much tougher on a cold, dark evening. In fact nearly everything that lifted my spirits last time just isn’t cutting the mustard this time round. I think the key to getting us through the next few weeks, or indeed months, is changing things up!

I’m taking full advantage of all the activities I didn’t turn my hand to in the initial lockdown and top of my list is baking banana bread. E treated me to the new Nigella Lawson cookbook Cook, Eat, Repeat for Christmas and this recipe is very much inspired by her gluten-free version. Mine is best served still slightly warm with ice cream or early the next day, fridge cold and lathered in salted butter.

Serving Size:
10 generous slices
Time:
1 hour + cooling time
Difficulty:
lemon squeezy

Ingredients

  • 175g flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 bananas (the more bruised the better)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 100g dark chocolate chips
  • 100g walnuts
  • a spoonful of Nutella (for swirling purposes)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 150℃ and stick some baking paper into the base of your loaf tin.
  • Mix together your flour, almonds, baking powder and salt
I do find this recipe so very appeeling
  • Peel and mash the bananas, a good old fork will do for this. Then, take out any aggressions you’re harbouring, possibly towards certain politicians who will remain nameless and beat in the vanilla, yoghurt, eggs, oil and sugar. Make sure you do these one by one so as not to overwhelm the mixture.
Cracking series, that
  • When you’re happy that everything is well combined, tentatively mix in your flour. Again, unless you want your kitchen floor to look like you got into a fight with a pastry chef, go slow. Or if you’re using one of those fancy KitchenAids, frankly you’re cheating.
A great excuse to finish off any baking bits left over from Christmas
  • Here’s the fun bit, fold in the chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, I’ll allow you a blitz in the blender if you really loathe chopping. And just to be extra decadent, I added a spoonful of Nutella and swirled it into the cake batter to make a marbled effect.
She’s a beauty!
  • Gingerly tip into the lined loaf tin and pop her into the oven for an hour. At this point I poked a kebab skewer (of course I don’t have cake testers) into the centre and it was still pretty liquid. I turned the heat down to 120℃ and let her sit there for another 20 minutes whilst I went on a walk.
Must…resist…urge…to…eat…
  • Tempting as the smells may be, leave your loaf to cool down before you attempt removal! It’ll be worth the wait, trust me! We had ours for pudding with freshly sliced bananas and cream. It’s healthy because there’s fruit in it, right?
It’s worth the wait – you can crust me

You can always swap the nuts out if you prefer or use rice flour and GF baking powder to turn this coeliac friendly. I’m sure E has some tips for a vegan version too! Happy baking ~L.

It’s so good – you won’t beloaf it