The Thief Who Stole Her Son. SYNOPSIS

When tragedy strikes, newly weds Ben and Daisy are forced to move in with Annie, bens doting mother. Ben suddenly leaves without any further contact and Daisy is left behind to analyse her past and future in the claustrophobic atmosphere of Annie’s secluded beach house.

Here both women are forced to face the memories they tried to forget but the biggest lies are the ones that will find you in the end as Daisy discovers what lengths a mother will go to to protect her son. 

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The Ultimate clean eating shopping guide. 20 foods that guarantee clean meals every time.

Clean foods

There are plenty of foods that can be considered clean and most of them are moreish and delicious, but the variety can be confusing. So just to get you started on the right track I have devised this shopping list of 20 foods that I can confidently say are  considered clean foods and will start you off on the tight track

I urge you to keep this list close to your person. Read it, memorise it, digest it (not literally, ink and paper are definitely not on the clean list) – just keep it to hand and you will forever be able to create gleamingly clean meals every time. With this top 20 clean eating shopping list etched in your brain, you will shop clean, cook clean and eat clean every time.

The supermarket

Supermarkets can at times be the most over whelming places. It’s incredibly easy to get swayed by a bargain and then suddenly before you realise what has happened you have found yourself in the convenience aisle, mindlessly dropping ready-made pizzas into your shopping trolley.

Fruit and vegetable aisles are like small exotic villages and it’s easy to get lost amongst the paw paws, passionfruit and physalis. When you know which fruits work best with clean eating then you are really going to be on your way to eating the way you want to.

Balance and inspiration

Eating an even balance of clean foods shouldn’t rob you of your precious time or money. Clean eating is a fairly straight forward concept, but like most perfectly executed projects, all it requires is a little forward planning.

All of us benefit from a little inspiration and we know how other aspects of life can get in the way of us eating what we truly want to. Remember that clean eating isn’t a fussy approach to food, it is simply embracing food in the natural state it should be, free from chemicals and preservatives and cooked in a way that preserves nutrients, retains and even enhances flavours.

Fruit 

 

1)Avocado

Avocado is top of the list and if you were ever in doubt that an avocado was a fruit, you may muse no longer. The avocado is part of the berry family and is fast becoming one of the most popular fruits amongst consumers. Spread on toast, whizzed in a smoothie or chopped in a salad, this fruit full of happy fats is versatile, creamy and indulgent.

2)Blueberries

Blueberries are still on that superfood list due to their high level of antioxidants and are delicious on their own or in smoothies, opt for organic if you can.

3)Bananas

Bananas are a perfect mid-morning snacks as they are fantastic source of slow release energy

4)Pineapples

Pineapples are a great alternative for your vitamin C intake and 5 times more effective at curing a cough or sore throat than cough medicine due to bromelain, which fights infections and kills bacteria.

5) Apples

The humble apple is last to grace the top 5 fruits on my clean eating shopping list. It’s a hardy fruit which helps combat all sorts of diseases and illnesses and contains a good dose of daily fibre.

Clean proteins

6) Chicken

Chicken is there to kick off the top 5 clean proteins. A firm family favourite, low in fat and high in amino acids.

7) Beef

Grass fed beef contains less fat and is full of omega-3 fatty acids which is what your body needs for cell development.

8) Almonds

Almonds are a great source of happy fats and will keep you feeling full between meals.

9) Peas

Protein is present in freshly podded peas; eaten raw these sweet vitamin packed green droplets are an absolute treat!

10) Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) is recognised as a superfood and becoming more popular and if you cook it just right, it is a lovely alternative to white rice and goes with almost all vegetables, meats and fish.

Healthy vegetables

11, 12, 13) Broccoli, Kale and Spinach

Dark green vegetables contain the most vitamin C and other amazing vitamins and nutrients which is why 3 out of 5 of the healthy vegetables on this clean eating shopping list are vibrant green; a visual clue that a portion of broccoli, kale or spinach are not just clean but super healthy too.

14) Beetroot

Beetroot has so many nutrients and vitamins in it and once you learn to love the earthy taste, it will become one of your favourite clean foods to cook with.

15) Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are packed with beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A, which is essential for your immune system.

Clean carbs

16, 17, 18) Beans oats and wholemeal pasta

Beans, oats and wheat pasta can be become the base of any tempting clean dish.

19) Leafy greens

Leafy greens may not be the obvious option for a carb alternative, but bulking out a meal with luscious green leaves will keep you fuller for longer.

20) Carrots

Carrots have long been a dinner time favourite and eaten raw, steamed or roasted, these veteran vegetables will continue to grace your clean eating shopping list.

Extra tips

Along with this clean eating shopping list, it is essential to stick to a few other rules to maintain the ultimate clean diet. Below are a few tips to keep you eating as clean and as healthy as possible.

  • Remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Stick to cooking food from fresh and avoid processed and convenience aisles in the supermarkets where possible.
  • Make sure the main meal of the day sees half of your plate filled with fresh vegetables.
  • Taking a portion of both protein and carbohydrates during your main meal of the day will keep you fuller for longer.
  • Always steam, bake or grill vegetables to keep the most amount of nutrients inside.

Now you have your 20 guaranteed clean foods that you can refer to every time you go shopping, I’d love to continue to keep you inspired. Be sure to check back soon to read how to cook your clean food for optimum freshness and keep those nutrients locked in.

Until then, enjoy getting to know the top 20 clean foods and mastering the art of clean eating.

A Margarita, by far my favourite tipple

It’s green, it’s sour and is usually accompanied by a salty rim; give that description to someone who had never before tried a Margarita cocktail and they would run for the hills. Yet the Margarita is still one of the most popular cocktails around and if a green sour version isn’t to your taste then there are plenty more variations to choose from.

As with all drinks and dishes alike, there is always some sort of debate as to where it originated from and who invented it. Research the origins of the Margarita and you are faced with an array of tales dating from 1938 to a decade later.

One particular story states that in 1948 a Dallas socialite, Margarita Sames was so bored of the flavours she was regularly drinking in bars (poor woman) that she set about inventing her own drink at her vacation home, which consisted of Lime, Cointreau and Tequila and hence the Margarita cocktail was born (Go Sames!). Whilst others stories may state that the Margarita was invented before 1948, Sames’ tale appears to bear the most weight. She goes into in-depth detail in interviews regarding the lead up to inventing the cocktail; including her many failed attempts to balance the flavours precisely right, which resulted in her being pushed in the swimming pool a few times when she got it wrong. Eventually she found the right balance and added salt to the rim to give it extra pizazz!

The Margarita is still essentially made up of the three main ingredients – although other variations replace the lime for other fruits such as strawberry, mango or raspberry. There is also a frozen version of the Margarita which, if made sweet enough, is essentially an alcoholic slush puppy and should be approached with caution!

The first known printed Margarita recipe was in Esquire magazine in 1953. The recipe was one ounce of tequila, one dash of triple sec and juice of half a lime.  These earlier versions of the Margarita were made with smaller quantities compared to today’s versions, and would have been served in shot glasses as a pose to the classic Margarita glasses, or Coupette glass that they are served in today.

The Margarita really is one of the all-time classic cocktails. It can be drunk alone but goes really well with salted nuts or spicy food. You can buy Margarita mixes from supermarkets but they will never be as good as the freshly mixed ingredients. So certainly if you have yet to experience a Margarita cocktail, make sure you try one that has been created by an experienced mixologist, so you can enjoy the cocktail as it should taste.

 

Pancake day – or if you like, Shrove Tuesday

Also known as Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day changes its date every year falling in line with Easter. But it is always the day before Ash Wednesday, (which if you didn’t know is the first day of Lent), and always falls in February or March. This year we expect to see you warming your skillets up on 13th February 2018.

Shrove Tuesday comes from the word shrive which means to obtain absolution for ones sins by way of confession and is a day of penitence and the last day to feast before lent begins the following day. Lent is all about giving things up as it represents the period when Jesus was alone in the desert for 40 days and nights, surviving off very little and being tempted by Satan. As this was essentially a period of fasting for Jesus, Christians identify with this state by giving up particular foods during the 40 days of Lent.

Foods such as meat, fish, milk and eggs were considered rich and indulgent foods so these were cleared out of the cupboards and pantries and eaten on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Milk and eggs were often beaten together to make rich batters and fried to create pancakes. Thus began the tradition of Pancake day or shrove Tuesday.

This year Lent begins on 14th Feb and ends on 31st March and is essentially a lovely long detox as many believe the time without treats and fat will purify their bodies. Many adults will give up things like alcohol and cigarettes whilst children may give up sweets, chocolate and television. Shrove Tuesday is also associated with the tossing of the pancake.

How do you like yours? American or long and flat? Savoury or sweet – share your images and tag me on instagram – @girl_on_food

Happy Pancake day!

When Nina Met Benedict Allen

Benedict Allen at WestBeach

Benedict Allen swoops into WestBeach; some might think, fashionably late, but my guess is Allen is trying to be anything but fashionable as he arrives, unfazed, casually dressed and ready to enlighten 30 or so diners with his tales of arduous journeys through some of the world’s most unfamiliar terrain. He is one of our country’s most intrepid explorers and along with being graced with his most awesome presence, diners are treated to a wine flight and a feast of five delectable courses; which bear a cheeky link to Allen’s past conquests.

Allen is articulate as he speaks and dances a graceful public speaker routine, using his whole body to engage his audience. As the diners begin to feel the effects of the wine flight, they find courage to thrust their hands into the air, like keen school children, needing to know every detail. Slowly they are coming to terms with his incredible bravery; although at first, feeling it implausible.

Why would a man willingly put himself through such torture, allowing himself so many times to reach deaths door?  Yet somehow with perseverance and endurance, a little bit of a luck, he escaped death many a time. The unlucky proverbial canine, who we now know surrendered his life in the name of exploration was mentioned within the first three minutes of Allen taking the stage; something for which Allen has become synonymous which needed to be addressed immediately as it seems the ghost of his somewhat unsavoury meal follows him wherever he goes- yet without it he would not have be here to tell the tale.

Allen takes his time telling his stories and pauses graciously to attend to those waving hands. He dines with the guests and speaks in-between courses and even sits happily with one guest and long time fan who has travelled from Scotland to hear him speak.

Allen sets the precedence with his unhurried arrival, so that the rest of the evening follows suit. Courses arrive nonchalantly and I find space at the bar; my aim to sink into the surroundings and listen in unnoticed is immediately foiled by the welcoming demeanour of the WestBeach staff.  Instead I find myself cradling a large glass of something red and warming whilst exclaiming ‘It tastes like velvet’. The barman congratulates me on my amateur observation of one of their Italian wines and then I find myself looking down at the first of the five courses: the ever so chic Barbequed Pulled Pork salad. I appreciate the humble appearance of sticky sweet shredded meat enveloped inside a crispy leaf before discovering its moreish textures of soft pork against crispy lettuce and cashew nuts. I turn down the glass of Rose Champagne I am offered which will no doubt accompany the textures and flavours of the pork and instead invest some more time with my new burgundy buddy, still reeling in smugness from my correct description of its silky palate.

The next course somehow by passes me, but as someone who seems to have inadvertently followed the rule of dining like a pauper in the evening, I am thankful for the break. I’m back in there though with course number three and now I have company at the bar: a fellow creative, who is also there to ‘work’ yet somehow seems to be enjoying the perks of the job as well. So we joyfully tuck into the beef stew and sweet potatoes and tick off a few arty topics whilst we are at it.

I leave just after the third course – overcome by tiredness. But before I go, I bag a photo with Benedict Allen just before he takes the stage for his third stint of the evening. He is happy to quickly become acquainted with me so we can stand hip to hip for our pose and I find him to be enchantingly delightful in that awkward English manner and I wish I could have stayed longer to see the evening through, as by the time I left, it seemed things were only just getting going…

My top 5 tips for having a good day with a new baby 

Today I was up at 5am. Huxley hadn’t slept much and with Bodhi coming in sporadically throughout the night complaining of achy legs , I think in total I bagged myself 3.5 hours kip. I’m not going to deny it. I feel like crap.  There’s no hiding the fragmented expression of a woman willing to maim if someone or something makes a sound above 3 decibels. It’s clear to anyone who has nursed an infant through the night, I’m a woman on the edge. 

Right now nursing my 4 and a half month old baby, a good nights sleep seems another lifetime away. So I’m just sucking it up and cracking on with it. However sleep deprivation is flammin harsh. I managed it in the 90’s because after a good night out on the tiles I only had to think about the 3 weetabix I was going to scoff not the three kids I need to feed, bathe, dress, clear up after, source clean school clothes, make lunchboxes, sign forms… you see where I’m headed. 

 A decent nights sleep is a good antidote for most things so when you’re surviving on 4 or 5 hours of broken sleep it’s okay to admit you feel like had a frying pan has been slung around your head and that also you’re silently telling everyone to sod off. 

When it gets to the stage where you feel as though you’re falling apart and a nap is not a feasible option, then try one of my top 5 tips. With 3 kids under 8, these are remedies, post all night baby rave that have made a mamouth day ahead feel a little more achievable for me. 

Get out 

Don’t stay in the house if baby isn’t settling. Walk or drive to your local cafe, shop, park whatever. It’s unlikely Nanny McPhee will be popping her warty head round your door anytime soon so step away from the vacum, dishes and don’t even attempt mount laundry. Phone a friend, meet for lunch, even if you pootle up to the road to the pharmacy for a tube of bonjela and some paw patrol plasters ( one of my past parenting goals achieved)  just leave the post apocalyptic scene and head for somewhere you can use actual words. Somewhere where you won’t be looked at with bewilderment and get covered in drool. Because the best bit about leaving the house, other than ignoring the sea of laundry and dirty dishes, is returning home again with a tiny sense of accomplishment (and potentially a newly stocked medicine cabinet) When getting your head on a pillow is a no go, a change is indeed as good as a rest. 

Play music 

Don’t just reserve your favourite tracks for going out, pull out some classic sing a long anthems and crank them up to a level the neighbours wont complain too much about. Babies love music; classical music and R&B are particular favourites but anything you can move and sing to. Jason Mraz, Bob Marley and Bruno Mars were played endlessly when my first child, Savannah was born. Singing and dancing with baby is also a great bonding excercise. Babies love to be sung to and it gets you moving around on your feet. I often pull out a full dance routine in the kitchen for my youngest whilst I’m cooking tea and he sits in his little chair looking on in pure bewilderment. 

Call in the squad 

If you can’t manage to lift yourself from the sofa then call around and bring a crew of parents with their offspring in tow. They can take you as you are: baby vomit marinated sweatshirt and all. Oh and they can jolly well bring cake. It’s easy to think no one cares when you’ve been looking at the same 4 walls and the same drooly ernest face of your baby, but just cos they ain’t there, don’t mean they don’t care. People aren’t psychic, you pull a great poker face but no one will know you’re struggling unless you holler. And there’s no shame in gathering your homies to take the edge of an otherwise long slog of a day. 

Bake 

Since The Great British Bake-off hit our screens way back in 2010, we’ve gone potty for pastry, crazy for cupcakes and bonkers for bread. 

Baking is therapeutic. The act of gathering a few humble ingredients and transforming them into something delectable is so simple yet incredibly satisfying. 

We don’t do it enough and instead we take short cuts and easy options which at the time may be convenient but it sure won’t feel anything like that sense of slendour when you’ve spatulaed a few fresh cookies onto a cooling rack 

Baking a tray of cookies or a simple loaf can take minutes to throw together – some of the best bakes I’ve done are 5 minutes in the making, 15 minutes in the baking. You’re 20 minutes away from a batch of fresh baked goodies. 

Right now I highly recommend Jamie Oliver’s new book 5 ingredients for whacking together an array of dishes for your Family with a fab baking /dessert section at the back. 

Baking and cooking has been proven to be good for your mental health. Author Marian Keyes claimed baking saved her life after she turned to a bit of sponge therapy after depression struck. Roll up your sleeves and make something from scratch today. 

Don’t sweat the housework

It might not sound particularly rock and roll but for me there’s nothing more satisfying than a crashing out at the end of a day in a semi together gaff. But the reality is – it ain’t happening until 2021 when the newest one starts pre school. So in the meantime I like to live by this rule. Whether the dishes from the drainer have been stacked away or I’ve simply mopped up the puddle of wee marinating the bathroom floor tiles ( one of the many joys of an independent 4 year old boy)- if there’s just one room I can walk into that vaguely resembles the home of a woman that has her shit together then I consider that a success. The thing to remember is it’s never ending. Liken it to cleaning up after party you were never invited to, living with 3 kids is an endless drudge of sticky banisters and removing random tiny items from one area of the house and placing them in another area. So wipe up the wee, that I recommend for a house to stay smelling fairly fresh, and just do what you can when you can. Everyone is in the same boat and you’re doing great. 

Why we had third child

“Is this your first baby” the nurse asked as I handed her my urine sample wrapped in a sodden tissue. I took a sip of water and allowed for a very pregnant pause.

“No” I cleared my throat “my third”

Holy F***! Only as I finally heard myself speak the words for the first time, did I believe them. I was having a third child. How did this happen I thought to myself.  (I was rolling up my sleeve for my blood sample, I’m still not comfortable at giving blood so I feigned intense interest in the poorly painted sea landscape image too far to my right; I had to strain my neck to focus on it)

Only then, 14 weeks pregnant and having just ended an intimate 8 week relationship with the toilet bowl had I begun to raise my head beyond the level of the bottle of domestos to think about the reality of a third child.


We were certain everyone thought we were nuts. There was of course the usual sing song of “congratulations” and even the occasional “was it planned” (subtext – “oh dear, did your recreational bedroom antics accidentally result in your husband impregnating you?”)

My mother was shocked. But she was shocked each time I told her I was pregnant. As the middle (and misunderstood) child I’m sure she thought I was destined to become an intrepid explorer covering areas of the rainforest previously undiscovered,  enduring bites from mammouth mosquitos and drinking my own urine. Although there has been moments of parenthood when it’s felt this desolate; when getting to the kitchen for a drink has felt like a penultimate scene in He-man as I drag my lifeless body through the house “Must…reach…sword…of…omen”


Motherhood was not something I was destined for in my mother’s eyes, I was the wild child, the one who went against the norm; I had never conformed to what society expected of me yet there I was, knocked up for the third time looking at the nurse surreptitiously wiping my wee off her hand.

“But Nina, you’ve just got Bodhi off to school” were my mums wise but wasted words when I broke the news of the third child to her (“We thought you were going to say you were moving abroad” was the response when we told the fam we were pregnant the first time. Our second pregnancy news was an extension of the word ‘what’ with far too many a’s and went on for 3 extra seconds too long)

It only feels like five minutes ago when we were living our lives for ourselves. Self-employed and living in the Richmond Upon Thames, work ended at 12pm for me and then I was free. Free to play badminton until my wrist burnt, free to swim endlessly with only the silent counting of my lengths to contend with, free to sit next to the river and contemplate my relatively uncomplicated life. And when those activities no longer captivated my carefree mind, it was home for a well earned siesta and tea in bed with the Weakest Link.


Children were always on the agenda. Like every couple we imagined our lives as parents to be much like an Aptimal  commercial. Terry towled cladded infant being gently lulled to sleep by a calm and fully dressesed parent. The reality was alarmingly comparative: wailing infant flailing arms in every direction, my engorged breasts spurting milk into her cross colicely face as I grapple, dressed only in pants and nursing bra for something that resembles clothing.

To quote the line from that once red faced wailing infant’s now favourite film, Matilda, “Babies? You’re better off raising tomatoes”. It’s true that babies are a minefield. You’re constantly guessing and the level of patience required to calm a screaming infant was completely off our radar. Far from our Aptimal commercial image and more a post apocalyptic scene from a Mad Max movie.

So having experienced hell on earth twice already why would we possibly want to bring another baby into the world?


Because no one has a perfect life, because there is no perfect time to attempt any life changing project, you just have to take a deep breath and go for it. I am wise enough to know that behind every perfect profile picture and album of images on social is a true reality of life. Like that swan that glides gracefully across the river, underneath his legs are paddling like hell. We’re all just trying to stay afloat in our own desperate crazy way.  It’s the same for every individual who doesn’t have an entourage of nannies, gardeners, housekeepers and chefs to keep their lives running smoothly. I mean who doesn’t enjoy that sinking feeling after rummaging through mount laundry for 15 minutes shushing a fractious infant in one arm to find something that vaguely resembles an outfit,  only to realise the only pair of trousers that fit you are wedged down the side of laundry basket and in fact, never made it to the wash. I sometimes muse that I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Why would I want a breakfast platter of fruit served and cleared away by a fresh faced nanny when I can only just get round to scraping the welded Weetabix off a high chair by 5pm. Then I slap myself around the face and buy thee more lines on the Lotto.

So how did we end up as parents of three? As a couple, the one thing that has bound us is our outlook on life: slightly out of focus and never quite arriving where we were heading. We’ve always been a slightly left of the middle, fly by the seat of our pants kinda couple. We’ve never been the types to plan things meticulously, make 5 year plans or talk about the ‘what ifs’.

Our Aptimal outlook on life predicted at least 3. In fact I have vague recollections of late night vodka fulled musings of four possibly 5 kids.  We romantically imagined our Larkin Family life in A Darling Buds of May scenario wiping icing sugar off the noses of our pink cheeked brood. The stark reality was arguing in stage whispers at 3am over whether the first born was being rocked back to sleep too furiously and who had stepped on the creaky floorboard to wake her in the first place.
But two was never really an option. It was too blah, too ‘not really us’. We both silently looked on at the two kids and thought ‘There’s not many of them?’

As the woman, I knew I wasn’t done. I had heard women say “no, that’s it, i’m done, no more kids for me” and I could hear the certainty in their voice. But I needed to feel the weight of a new born in my arms again, to experience that slow contented first breastfeed of the night when baby is still dreaming.


We craved the cuteness again. We longed to hear more mispronounced words, we wanted to hear them say they couldn’t get in the bath because they weren’t ‘maked’ yet. We yearned for more little sticky hands cupped around our chin, breathless husky requests for ‘spaceboots that fly’ whispered in our ear.

Because for all the messy inconvenient crazy chaos children bring, they completely take your heart hostage with their unconditional love. They are forgiving of your downfalls and inabilities to hold your act together. They make you realise that you can always be a better version of yourself. Because they remind us how to have fun and live in the moment. “Play with me mummy” as I tear my agitated gaze away from the decomposing courgette at the bottom of the salad tray and lay myself out on the floor with my four year old.

But beneath all of that, it was always going to be three. I am one of three as is Chris. Three feels like family. I collected 5 perfectly white smooth stones from the beach and laid them on the window sill years ago and I knew we were not yet complete as a family.


I also knew when we three siblings rallied around my mum the weeks after the sudden death of my dad, each playing out our roles, that there was something special about 3 children. There was always one of us there to help her make an awkward phone call, walk with her to the shop or make sure she ate something that day. I wanted that for us as we got older. I wanted to know that if one of them was off trekking the Andes and fulfilling my neglected role of intrepid explorer, that I had another two to cook a Sunday roast for.

Now he’s here, the final baby and once I look past the 3 hours sleep per night I get and the mounting stack of unread books and neglected piles of admin, I can see that through all our years of winging it, for once we got it right. We had a blurry vision of something and we made it happen. But I also know I am now that woman who can say with conviction, that I’m done.  We are a family of 5, we have three kids and it feels right.