Friday
Apr182014

Glue

Friday, the day he said, 'it is finished' taking a last wretched breath as a human.

Then his heart stopped. He died.

For his friends and family, watching in horror, confusion and pain, there was no guarantee that, Sunday was coming. There was nothing to hold onto but grief.

He was gone.

The cross reminds us grace isn't, wasn't, can never be cheap. It took a raw, brutal death.

There was no glue but faith. A belief it wasn't for nothing.

There is so much pain in life.

Heartbeats stop early. Grief engulfs as glue sticking to everything. Lifting eyes let alone a head takes every piece of energy. Of will.

Nothing seems to have hope, to hold the promise 'Sunday is coming'. We wonder where is He, where was He when death came too soon.

We ask 'where is Jesus' in our anguish. As we watch life unfold, glue dissolving in front of us.

Where was Jesus, when this happened?

The answer ...

Christ He was on the cross being crucified.

Life raw, brutal, beautiful finds meaning at the cross.

...

Today I'm linking up with www.lisajobaker.com and her wonderful Five Minute Friday Community, where we come from across the world, with our words, our five minute words, on one theme. Won't you join us there, you'd be so welcome.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Thursday
Apr172014

Our Favourite Easter Eggs from Marks & Spencer

Dulche de Leche speckled egg

Marks and Spencer The Collection Luxury Easter Eggs are the most beautiful chocolate eggs on the High Street this Spring.  They are not just chocolate eggs, these are objects of beauty, in their own right, with ornate designs, and much thought put into their development. 

The flavours are luxurious, without being overpoweringly rich, the chocolate breaks with a firm sharp oh so satisfying snap, and the taste is smooth, silky with a good depth of flavour.

These little praline eggs wrapped in sparkling gold are one of my favourites to serve with coffee after lunch.

These eye-catchingly beautiful eggs are made in Ireland.  As a big fan of Irish food producers, I love how Marks and Spencer, work with Lir the Irish chocolatiers, and use them to create their 'The Collection' range of the highest quality chocolates.  

 

Rich dark chocolate has had embedded pieces of pistachio, bringing immediately a salty bittersweet contrast to the egg, matched by pieces of candied Sicilian orange and soft sweet white chocolate to round off the flavour. The egg comes with caramel coulis truffles which are a rich metalic bronze, and little balls of rich intense flavour on the tongue.

I love how the chocolate used in these eggs is of the highest quality, and gives such a spine tingling snap, when broken.

Opening the box of this milk chocolate egg with 30% coco soilds I was met with a warming hit of soft sweet chocolate.  There is immense pleasure in just smelling this egg, and letting it breath before biting into the creamy chocolate.  Its softly swirling chocolate wrap looks so fluid, almost as if chocolate is moving before your eyes dancing in the wind.  With gold and pale grey print, the egg welcomes you to eat it.

The Egg comes in a firm clear box, which feel very expensive.  It is after all, 'All about the packaging'

What a perfect gift this assorted Egg Nest makes, I don't normally share packaging with you on my blog, but with these eggs I had too, as I was very taken with their quality presentation.

These metallic, marbled, white, milk, dark, and embossed eggs make wonderful place settings for your Easter table.  Just set the egg in a small sherry glass, and hang like I have an egg name tab, made out of brown paper.

I just enjoy gazing at these eggs, not sure which to start with.  I love their contrasting styles, colours, textures and tastes.

They even work well in set in a small bowl lined with sparkling gaze, surround a candle, as a table centrepiece.

These eggs have been my favour go to Hostess Present this Easter Season - much more stylish and seasonal than a box of chocolates.

FairTrade Chocolate is very important, as are FairTrade products in general.  One of the Marks and Spencer product developers told me recently that they specifically developed a Fair Trade Easter Egg in response to customer feedback asking for one.  

This egg comes surrounded in tissue in a golden open topped box wrapped with a simple duckegg blue ribbon.  Simple, Stylish and sublime.  

A blind taste test with my team of life confirmed chocoholics were unable to tell the difference between this Marks and Spencer dairy free egg, which is rich, dark and bittersweet, alongside regular dark chocolate eggs. The chocolate on this egg is so good!

 Marks and Spencer have truly trumped their cards with this brilliant range of Easter Eggs this year.  They are the perfect gift for someone special, and because they are not all dark chocolate, children will love the Dulce de Leche one especially.

Happy Easter.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Salt & Sparkle were guest tasters of Marks and Spencer The Collection Easter Eggs

Thursday
Apr172014

How to have an Easter Egg Hunt

An Easter Egg Hunt needs great eggs to find - and it helps if they are chocolate, children adore chocolate.

Marks and Spencer have a wonderful selection of bright metalic foil covered, chocolate eggs which are about the size of a large regular egg.  

They come in bags of 15 or in the fun packaging of egg trays with 30 eggs.  Inside the foil are smooth milky chocolate hollow eggs.  These eggs are absolutely perfect for an outside or inside Easter Egg Hunt, as the shiny foil keeps the chocolate clean, as well as protecting the surfaces inside your home.

 

Find some good hiding places outside - choose the hiding places dependant on the ages of the children, with a mix of obvious, unusal and difficult places.  The cracks on a dry stone wall, or a hollow of a tree, in a flower pot, or in a mixed flower arrangement are clever places to start with.

As well as using actual egg sized chocolate eggs, it is great to use these soild tiny Milk Chocolate eggs from Marks and Spencer in order to mix things up a bit with the search, and provide extra eggs to find.  The 1/2 eggs are filled with a delightful smooth sweet caramel.

How to have an Easter Egg Hunt

Before the Day - make some decisions ...

  1. Decide on the who, when and where - invite children and adults - make sure to define times on the invitation
  2. Remember Easter Egg hunts aren't just for children, involve, parents, friends, family or even have a hunt just for adults
  3. Decide whether you are having a theme - ie do you want everyone to come in an Easter Bonnet, or Bunny Ears, or simply a fancy dress costume
  4. Decide whether your Easter Egg Hunt will happen indoors or outdoors (if outdoors, always have a rainy day plan, as to where you will hold your Hunt inside)
  5. Decide whether you are using real eggs, chocolate eggs, or plastic eggs
  6. Decide you going to have winners and losers, are you having other prizes besides the chocolate eggs  - colouring books with pencils, or crayons - Note real eggs should be hard-boiled no more than three days in advance and kept in the fridge in a tightly sealed container until ready to use.  Make a note of where you hide real eggs, espcially indoors as you don't want to have to do a smelly-egg hunt of your own later.
  7. We used these pretty foil covered chocolate eggs from Marks & Spencer, in large and small sizes, which are made of the most delicious milk chocolate
  8. Define your hunts boundaries, to stop your house or garden being ransacked by little feet, or sticky hands - inside keep children away from stairs, sockets, bathrooms and kitchens.  Outside keep children away from prized flower bushes, water, thorns and neighbours gardens
  9. Choose the drinks and snacks to accompany your Easter Egg Hunt for children and adults - we recommend sticky sausages, and chocolate popcorn.
  10. When the Easter Egg Hunt is over, what will you do with the children, its good to have some games on hand, like egg & spoon or three legged races, cricket, volleyball or rounders planned
  11. Have some children's films /  Disney DVDs on hand to allow children to watch after all their activity
  12. Make sure you buy lots of these delicious eggs from Marks and Spencer - buy more eggs than you think you will need, allow for up to ten eggs per child
  13. Have tissues and wet wipes on hand, as you never know with children around when you will need them
  14. Make or Buy some Easter Egg Hunt signs

 

On the Day of the Easter Egg Hunt

  1. Hide the eggs in a designated part of your garden or in choosen rooms indoors
  2. Give the children pretty wicket baskets, or felt baskets for the eggs to be collected i
  3. Tell the children how long they have to collect the eggs
  4. Let them hunt for the eggs with their friends and parents
  5. Allow them to count their Egg treasures and eat one or two
  6. Play Games and serve nibbles

 

Happy Easter Everyone.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

 

 

 


Wednesday
Apr162014

Seeing Easter through a babies eyes

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to approach Easter for the first time?  I realise that each year there are people celebrating this holiday for their first time, but I am thinking back to being as we are now, but seeing Easter for the first time, with the cross, the Easter Bunny, chocolate, eggs, baby chicks, spring lambs, Mini Eggs, bonnets, daffodils and pastel colours.  

I don't really have a definite memory of my first Easter, the way I do of Christmas, but I do remember as I got older, sitting with my Gran and Great Aunts - Bell and Nancy - planning Easter celebrations.  Much thought was put into what to make, who would sit where, what china would be used.  Lists were written and battleplans drawn up.  I watched and listened, mouth smeared with chocolate absorbing all they talked about.

This year it is my nephew's first Easter, and it is really exciting.  As we watch him take in Easter for the first time, I am struck by how wonderful life is.  So full of rich moments that make magical memories.  Of opportunities for laughter and joy.  Of the chance to look at things that have become routine with new eyes, the eyes of a child.

Here he is wearing his first set of Easter Bunny Ears from Asda.  Adorable and cute as a button, he wore the ears without a second thought, and was fascinated to look at himself in the mirror with them on.

These Asda Bunny Ears are fun, and with their one size fits all, work well for adults and children, as a token gesture towards Easter dress, or to make little one's laugh as grown ups wear them.  Easter costumes, don't need to be complicated or fancy and I love how these sweet ears bring a smile to everyones face.  Everyone roared with laughter on Sunday when I walked into the kitchen cool as a cucumber but wearing the bunny ears.  It wasn't long before the little one was reaching out for them.  

As you prepare to celebrate Easter - why don't you take a moment to look around you and not see the old, but look just that little bit closer for the new.  Why don't you put on a pair of bunny ears and watch the smiles on the faces around you.

Happy Easter

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Wednesday
Apr162014

'one or two a Penny Hot Cross Bunns' - A Good Friday Breakfast

I love HOT CROSS BUNS. Just felt like I had to give my love for them a big shout out right at the beginning of this piece.

Hot Cross Buns traditionally eaten on Good Friday, are loaded with folklore, religious symbolism, history and tradition, they are also filled with fruits and rich medieval flavours like cinnamon, mixed peel, nutmeg, currants and orange.  These warming flavours melt into soft spongy yeast leavened buns, and need nothing more than a skimming of country salted butter over the jewelled crumb.

The Oxford University Dictionary's first reference to Hot Cross Buns is from 1733. When the buns in question are mentioned in the popular nursery rhyme - 

 "Good Friday comes this Month, the old woman runs, With one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns."

The Church of England believe the spices in Hot Cross Buns represent the spices Jesus body was wrapped in while in the tomb, and the cross a symbol of the crucifixation. 

In the 1500s Elizabeth I made laws restricting the sale of the buns - an edict was issued in 1592 forbidding the sale of “any spice cakes, buns, biscuits, or other spice bread except it be at burials, on Friday before Easter or at Christmas.” Sealing in law the Hot Cross Bun and Good Friday association. While a tradition supposedly from the Elizabethan times says,  Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday, will never mould, and bring luck to the household.

Marks and Spencer  make divine Hot Cross Buns, with round golden even so slightly sticky tops, opening to silky moist white rolls, delicately spiced, and packed with juicy plump fruit.  The crumb has a really buttery taste, it is soft but not squidy well aerated but with a firm texture.  When I cut into the bun it had an even distribution of fruit across each halves surface.  

Hot Cross Buns were sold warm straight from the bakers oven in days gone by - hence the name - and eating them warm, brings out the flavour of spices, and fills your kitchen or office, if you happen to be making them in work, with the scent of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.

Opening a packet of Marks and Spencer Hot Cross Buns lets the scent escape into the room, suddenly anyone who is hanging around is queuing behind you for a toasted Hot Cross Bun.  The flavours of the M&S buns linger on the palate they are not too sweet and lightly spiced.  After eating one, you might find yourself nipping back to the kitchen for another.

There has been a lot of thought put into the flavours of Marks and Spencer's Hot Cross Bun offerings this Easter, the food developers have come up with some real winners, they have created flavours which are innvoative without being disrespectful to the traditional flavours of Hot Cross Buns - cinnamon, spice and all things nice!

It is no surprise therefore that Marks and Spencer are the nation's favourite with figures a year or so ago, stating they sold just under 30% of the UK's Hot Cross Buns, in the run up to Easter.

All of the Marks and Spencer buns this year are almost crustless, slightly sticky on top, with a soft crumb and so moist they barely need butter, but well can you resist? I can't!

Apple & Cinnamon - This HCB recipe uses very juicy Turkish sultanas, raisins, Greek Vostizza currants, tangy citrus peel and delicate sweet spices, to create a bun that is a firm favourite time and time again.  Is it little wonder M&S cleverly sell a sliced loaf version of this bun throughout the year.  It's perfect for late night tea and toast.

Toffee Fudge & Belgian Chocolate - With sticky glossy tops, these buns eschew sultanas for chunks of fudge and chocolate, these HCBs are rich with flavour and sweetness, which amalgamate gently with contrast to the background of warming traditional HCB spices.  A winning combination.

Cranberry & Orange - These HCB are beautifully sticky and bejewelled with large ruby red dried cranberries, a zingy orange peel, with a scattering of pumpkin seeds adding a good nibbly texture.  These are my favourites, but then I am a cranberry fiend.

Golden Wholemeal -  With a nod to the craze for wholefoods, these buns taste light, and fluffy, with a good light spice, and a packing of golden oh so juicy sultanas.

My table this Good Friday morning will be filled with a basket of all these different flavours of Hot Cross Buns from Marks and Spencer.  There will be butter, jam and thick set honey, as well as bowls of yogurt, fruit and granola.  A real feast to set us up for a day of deep thinking.

Happy Easter everybody.

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Tuesday
Apr152014

Mango, Pomegranate, Herb and Rocket Salad

The scent of mint rises from the tub on the patio.  Fresh and fragrant, it urges me to pick it.  Hands smelling of that light tang, I carry a bundle into the kitchen. On my windowsil are pots of basil and coriander - both plants that don't like the cold, wet Northern Irish weather - their smell lingers in the air.

I pull handfuls from the pots, where the herbs mingle growing together as a jungle.  Together with the mint I hold the greenery under the facet, cold water runs through.  I roughly chop the herbs, scattering them over a large bowl of baby salad leaves and a spicey rocket.

What isn't there to love about this most ancient of fruits, its bright ruby seeds marking my knife, as I cut it in half, then leaving just a hint of pink on my lime after I slice it with the same knife.  Pomegranates are a nutrient dense, antioxidant rich fruit, which come from Iran - they are remarkably good for you.  I love the ruby red jewels which bring joy to any dish.

The easiest way to get the seeds from this beautiful fruit, is to cut it in half, then hit the back of it with a wooden spoon, or curved spatula, the seeds will fall out.  Be careful as the juice colours everything it comes into contact with, and you don't want any of the bitter white pith.  Let the seeds fall over the salad leaves.

Mango's are simply difficult to cut because of their large stone.  Cutting down either side of the stone, turn the mango over, then make a criss cross pattern in the flesh without cutting through the skin.  Then push the skin to form a little hedgehog back shape, and using your knife cut out the cubes, and drop over the salad.

Mangos are high in fibre, pectin and vitamin C, and one cup of sliced mango gives 25% of the daily needed dose of Vitamin A.

Squeeze lime juice over the salad, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil a grind on some pepper and then toss and serve.

This salad combines, fresh scented ingredients, with soft sweet mango flesh, and the crunch of pomegranate seeds.  The sweet, citrusy and light flavours are refreshing.

As one of my favourite salads I serve it frequently

Mango, Pomegranate, Herb and Rocket Salad

(serves 4-6)

Ingredients

 

  • 2 bags of mixed baby leaf salad
  • 1 bag of rocket
  • Seeds of 1 Pomegranate
  • 1 mango cut into cubes
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Bunch of mint chopped
  • Bunch of coriander chopped
  • Bunch of basil chopped
  • Freshly ground Pepper
  • Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional)

 

Method

 

  1. Prepare all your ingredients
  2. Toss everything together in a large bowl, including oil, lime and pepper
  3. Serve 

 

I love salad, fresh flavours, scented with herbs and this salad ticks all the boxes.  Roast meat, especially BBQ I enjoy but I hate the heaviness of roast dinners - everything cooked, and drenched in gravy.  My idea of the worst meal on earth.  

But combine this salad with its light delicate fragrant flavours with roasted meat, and you have a perfect meal.

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Monday
Apr142014

Pimped Protein Smoothie - all natural ingredients

The first time I had a protein shake, I felt appalling.  Sick, sweaty and shaky.  No folks, it wasn't a pretty picture.  Searching the list of ingredients on the powdered protein, I realised Whey (a milk derivative) was the main ingredient.  There has to be a healthier way to get protein into my system, before and after a workout, than this chemically enhanced muck, that is packed full of sugar, questionable ingredients and sends my body into reflux.

And, I have found a way, making a protein shake from scratch using ingredients naturally high in protein - peanuts, brazil nuts (also healthy fats in moderation), almond milk, matched with ingredients packed full naturally of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Bananas - filled with fibre, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A and K.

Chia Seeds - packed full of Omega 3 fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre

Green Tea - Rich in Lycopene and flavonoids, and plant-based compounds that promote health, help the body to get rid of toxins, and process fats quicker, as well as being anti-inflammatory.

A vegan protein powder without sugar or preservatives.

Smoothies are easy to digest allowing our bodies to quickly absorb the nutrients they contain. This one is a great way to start the day, or to take after a tough workout, to help muscles repair.

Pimped Protein Smoothie

(makes two medium glasses of smoothie)

Ingredients

 

  • 1-2 cups of cooled green tea (depending on the thickness of smoothie you like)
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 4 brazil nuts
  • 1 small banana chopped
  • 1 small scoop of vegan protein powder
  • Ice

 

Method

 

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender
  2. Blend until smooth
  3. If too thick add more green tea

 

How do you like to take your smoothie?

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

 

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable