Tips for walking to work

Hola! So, as I wrote last time, I’m now in a new job! Most days, I walk to work and very often walk back too (childcare pick up allowing…) This is fine, except it’s just short of 3 miles each way. I like to walk- I like to see the seasons changing and stomp out any tension. Plus, I had to decide whether I was willing to pay gym fees or after school club fees and, as it’s generally frowned upon to to send your kid to the pub for a few hours after school, my money goes on having him looked after.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(5)

I am very much dressed for the weather here, although I look miserable.

I’ve been walking to work since I was temping in September and I do really love it- but there are a few things that have made my life easier and more comfortable, which is super important when you’re walking so much everyday.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(2)

  • Breakfast- I will usually have a cup of tea and a smoothie made of Adagio’s Chocolate Matcha, banana and oat milk. This is good, because a) it means I have a banana before I’ve even woken up properly and b) I like to think that the matcha does me *some* good. It doesn’t have an overly chocolatey taste, but gives it a nice sweetness- just enough for the morning. I might also try and have something like toast or I’ll take something like oatcakes to eat at work, especially as the walk can make me really hungry. I also like using oat milk because it gives the smoothie a bit of a porridgey flavour and a bit of a fibre hit, which is obviously good (I think.)

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(1)

  • What I wear on my feet is very important, especially on a long walk. I will wear Doc Martens if the weather is bad, but they’re heavy. My go-to boots and shoes are Sketchers- they have memory foam and are lightweight, meaning I feel lighter on my feet and my legs don’t ache at the end of the day. (Benn bought me some Sketchers slippers for Christmas too. My feet feel permanently heavenly- and my posture is good as a result, too.)
  • I’d also recommend a good backpack- I hate my arms being restricted! I currently use one I picked up ages ago from the Ollie and Nic sale, but I’m on the hunt for something bigger- along the the lines of the Jansport bag I coveted at school but never got.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(3) The biggest things that have made the most difference to my walking commute though, are the following:

  • A good antiperspirant- no-one wants to be stinky! I experimented with different brands and found that this one is the best. Also, there’s no point wearing fancy perfume when you’re walking. I’ve resorted to bodysprays and lament the fact that Impuse no longer make Zen and/or O2 scents. Considering a Twitter campaign.
  • Keep Cup– I bought mine in November and I use it mostly on cold days, when I need warming up. With Pret and Costa offering money off hot drinks, and concern about the environment, this is just a bit of a no-brainer for me. Fun fact: as a result of taking this into work, I have caused six other people to buy one. Am awaiting my commission.
  • Bluetooth headphones and Spotify- I used to have rubbish headphones and a rubbish phone. It took ages to listen to anything and I spent a long time trying to get anything to work. My in-laws bought me a great pair of headphones and I treated myself to Spotify Premium and it has honestly improved my commute no end. I have podcasts and playlists and I can honestly say that I look forward to my walk to work every day. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before.

Screenshot-2018-1-23 Instagram post by Steph • Dec 12, 2017 at 8 14am UTC(4)

*All of these products are here because I love them- there are no affiliate links on this post. I was sent the matcha to review, but will be purchasing this once my sample runs out!

 

 

 

Bronte Project: Visiting the Parsonage

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The Parsonage (and a a rare photo of Benn!)

I’ve been to the Parsonage so many times (it’s one of the things that happens when you grow up in a bookish family in West Yorkshire…) but I never get bored. I was especially interested in the Bronte 200 celebrations, which aim to mark the 200th anniversaries of the births of Charlotte (2016), Branwell (this year), Mr Bronte arriving in Haworth (2018) and the birth of Anne (2019). I was especially keen to visit after we found Anne Bronte’s grave last year.

Of course, when you’re in Yorkshire, you should really start off your lunch with rhubarb gin…

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One thing that was really exciting was that the Parsonage now has the ACTUAL table that the sisters wrote at. It was acquired in 2015 and it was the first time I’d seen it. Imagine- the ACTUAL table that Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall were written on. This was the table the sisters paced round as they discussed their projects. There’s even an E carved into the wood.

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I am aware that this is a rubbish photo. It is actually quite impressive in real life.

Throughout the house, there are costumes from To Walk Invisible, the Sally Wainwright drama that was shown over Christmas. The attention to detal was so amazing- it’s a shame my photography couldn’t do it justice.

This year is all about Branwell, the tragic Bronte brother, who should have been a great success but instead fell from grace. There are dedicated exhibitions: one is a recreation of his bedroom during the last years of his life, which was surprisingy melancholic. Branwell has been painted as a ne’er-do-well, but he was also a bit of an unfortunate soul and the bedroom really reflects this.

There’s also a dedicated area to Branwell’s written work, with new poetry by Simon Armitage. The best bit is seeing stuff in ‘the flesh’ that you’ve only ever seen in books- one of these was the famous Branwell sketch ‘A Parody’, which he drew in a fit of self-pity whilst ill. It was genuinely a bit of a thrill for a Bronte nerd.

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One of the things I was desperate to do was to participate in an art project by artist Clare Twomey, in which visitors to the Parsonage are invited to write a line from Wuthering Heights into a new manuscript. This is because the original, handwritten by Emily Bronte, has been lost. Each participant is asked to write a line from the novel with a pencil (you get to keep the pencil at the end, to encourage you to continue writing.) I was given a line from chapter 27, in which Linton begs Catherine not to leave, or else he’ll die.I was a bit miffed I got a horrible character, but hey ho, that’s the luck of the draw. I wrote VERY carefully, so that a) my writing was legible and b) I didn’t make a mistake. Anyway, I managed it and I’m quite chuffed that my name is in something that’s sort of historical.

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Part of my Haworth tradition is making a pilgrimage to the church where the family are buried (without Anne, who is buried in Scarborough.) Although the Brontes would not have recognised the church as it is now- it was remodelled after Mr Bronte’s death- there is a sense of tranquility and history.

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Note the vase of heather from the moors

It was a lovely day- and to mark it, I HAD to buy something that combined two of my favourite things (there should be more book-based tea blends, IMHO):

21248346_10154868783112267_1111194524416760488_o I’ll report back on the tea ASAP.

Easter fun!

Ahh, the Easter break cannot come quickly enough. I am exhausted. However, spring is cheering me up, as are changes that are afoot (no, I’m not pregnant. I did nearly buy some guinea pigs today, before my senses reconvened. They were SO. CUTE. though.) Although we’re off up north for a few days, I’ve started to get into a spring-like, Easter-y frame of mind…

Easter bunting from @klinakloen! So cute!:  My friend Carolina sent us this super cute bunting which is now up in our front room. Even D is very taken with it- and he finds Easter a bit baffling. I think the sheep is my favourite (naturally!) with his cheery little jumper.

How much fun is this Easter bundle from @bluebirdteaco?! 🐰🐇🐥🐤🐣 Thanks, guys! #tea #easter:  I’ve also been spoilt in the tea-drinking department- Bluebird Tea sent me a bundle  of their Easter treats- aren’t the little egg box (containing four reusable plastic eggs with different flavours of tea) and carrot (full of Hot Cross Bun flavoured tea) CUTE?! The parcel arrived on a day where I’d almost walked out of a class, I was so stressed- it cheered me no end. I especially love Easter Egg Nests as a morning tea. Available in both vegan and non-vegan blends, it’s a sweet, slightly nutty tea that doesn’t overdose on the chocolate, but quells my sweet tooth and steers me away from sugary cereal. I’ve been drinking rooibos in the evening, so Carrot Cake is perfect. It’s so warming- it’s like a spring update for those who love a spiced tea, but don’t want to heaviness of the winter blends. I wish it was a permanent addition to the range.

In the rock garden. "Mummy, do fish swim for many moons?":  I’m hoping to recharge my batteries and catch up with friends- as well as this little dude, who is keeping me on my toes. We find out in two weeks’ time which school he’ll be going to! Madness, right? I swear he was only a baby five minutes ago- but today he was asking me if fish ‘swam for many moons’, as if he was some kind of little old man from the 13th century. Life goes by so quickly that it’s important to slow down enough to actually spot the fish in the pond as you hop over the stepping stones.

Sunday Tea: Interview with Krisi Smith, founder of Bluebird Tea Co.

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Mike and Krisi outside their Brighton store Image: Bluebird Tea Co.

I’m really proud to say that I’ve worked with Bluebird Tea Co. for a few years now and it’s be been brilliant watching the business grow from a market stall (which, bravely, they once let me man!) to three stores in Brighton, Tunbridge Wells and Bristol. I talk to Krisi over a Spiced Pumpkin Pie latte (what else?!) about a whirlwind year-including a new book, the future of Bluebird and the challenges of preparing for Christmas sales. Keep reading for a giveaway too!

Some autumnal tea treats from @bluebirdteaco - treated myself in town today. Might get @krisismithteamixologist to sign this book when I see her next 😉 Also @klinakloen taught me the importance of a good stroopwaffle with tea- these are from Tiger. #autumn #pumpkinspice #tea #amreading #treatyoself #stroopwafel:

Can you tell me about the book- how it came about, what the initial plan was and what the process of writing it was like?

Bluebird has led me to so many exciting opportunities; I’ve always wanted to write, but I always thought I’d write fiction! The publishers, Octopus, approached me and asked me if I’d like to write a book about tea; they publish a series of ‘atlas’ books about different things- such as wine and coffee- and wanted an expert to write a book about tea. Of course I said yes! I was concerned that I might have some gaps in my knowledge- we don’t deal in single estate teas, for example, but Mike (Krisi’s husband and Bluebird Tea Co.’s co-founder) said that I would have to factor in plenty of time for research, which I did. I also really wanted to get something really creative in the book, such as the mixology section. I wanted to really show how important tea is around the world- it’s drunk in almost every country in the world, but in very different ways: but always socially. I wanted to write in a more lighthearted tone than some of the other books in the series. The publishers were  supportive of my ideas and really good to work with throughout the process. It’s been two years in the making and I’m really happy with the final product.

You recently went to the T2 Chai Championships in Sydney. What was that like?

It was awesome- another opportunity that landed in my lap. It’s amazing how much stuff has come my way; I have to pinch myself sometimes. It was a competition to find the best chai, a way to publicise the new T2 store in Regent’s Street. I didn’t realise until a week before that it was all done live! On the day, we were given a box of stuff and 40 minutes to create a tea, as well as to create a show. I know the boys at Mixology Group in Brighton who mix cocktails and so they’d given me some lessons on how to perform for the crowd, as it’s something I’m just not used to doing. The whole thing was really different to how we usually create our teas! I won the London heat, which I never in a million years thought I’d win- there was some pretty stiff competition- and then went on to Sydney. (You can buy Krisi’s winning blend- Lapsang Chai– as part of the current range of autumn teas.)

Bluebird works with a lot of bloggers- how does that work?

When we moved here, I put together a list of the local bloggers and sent out an email letting people know that we were going to be a Brighton-based brand and asking whether could we send out some tea (which is pretty much how we do it now). No one turns down free tea! We work with different types of bloggers; we try and work with lots of people, with different sizes of online presence. Even if a blogger sends a smaller group of people to us, they might be more passionate about tea. There’s a place for all types of blogger and we’re not snobby about who we work with. We want to be inclusive of anyone who wants to get involved.

What do you think are the big trends coming through in tea- for example, using it in recipes has been massive on Bake Off this year?

I would consider that we’ve been the leader when it comes to iced teas and the tea lattes market, but the baking has become a big thing. It’s lifestyle baking, people want to produce recipes that are photo-worthy or content-worthy and getting something a bit special in there. Tea’s become fashionable for that. Matcha’s been fashionable for the last couple of years and is still going strong: matcha in baking, matcha smoothies, matcha chocolate. Also, it’s not really hit down in Brighton yet, but in London there’s a trend for ‘healthy’ cocktails using teas instead of sugary juices or cordials. Pumpkin’s going crazy, too. This has led us to think about making our teas more vegan friendly- there are sprinkles in the Spiced Pumpkin Pie that are not vegan. Most of our teas are vegan-friendly, we have a vegan section on our website and we have vegan customers and staff members and we’re seeing what we can do to improve this. I’ve spent all year trying to find vegan marshmallows for example! We want to be accessible to everyone and trying to balance that is a challenge that we’re working on. I do want to listen to feedback and provide what our customers want.

What can we expect in the next few months- can we have a sneaky preview of the Christmas range?

Alternative Advent Calendar:

Not going to lie, I really want one of these. Image: Bluebird Tea Co.

We’ve found that people are asking for Christmas products earlier, especially since we’ve become bigger- people are excited and they want to get prepared. So this year we’ve launched some of our Christmas products a bit earlier than before. We’ve been planning Christmas since June! We have some lovely products, like the advent calendar, which we’re really proud of. It was a big investment and a big risk, as it’s not a cheap product to put together. We launched it a week ago and they’re flying out already. We’re still planning a big official launch in November, but we wanted to let those people who wanted to be organised and to let those who were just perusing have a look at what we have. It’ll be our first Christmas in our Bristol and Tunbridge Wells stores. We’re going into Christmas this year with a really solid team.

What’s next for Bluebird?

We’re sort of at the limits now as to where we can be as an organic company. We’re at a nice size for what we are, but we may look at crowdfunding an equity sale of a very small amount of shares in the business in order to grow what we do. I think we have a great concept and I’d love for us to be on more high streets, to employ so many more people, to create so many more experiences and to meet so many more cool people along the way. We’ve proven it works and we have a great team. I’m really interested in exploring  a way to do this and crowdfunding fits with our ethos. We have loads of people getting in touch asking if we can open on their high street and this would be a way to do it. I’ve always been the one to say ‘We can do this’, but I’m cautious about this, how will it change the way we are now? I don’t want to be a big chain, so it’s all about the way we do it. It’s exciting.

GIVEAWAY! I have a copy of The World Atlas of Tea worth £20 to giveaway to one reader. All you have to do to be entered is leave a comment below, telling me what your favourite tea is. Extra entries can be gained by following me on Twitter/Instagram (@wuthering_alice) and leaving your usernames in the comments. Giveaway will close at midnight on October 23rd and competition is open to UK entries only (sorry.) You can buy the book here.

EDITED TO ADD: PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU LEAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS OR OTHER WAY TO CONTACT YOU IF YOU WIN.

Some thoughts on detox teas

A few years ago, I had a nerdy tea blog (you can read it here.) It really was the start of my tea obsession- I mean, I reviewed sixteen types of Earl Grey as an experiment- and it’s really interesting to note how massive tea has become since I wrote it.

Every now and then, though, I find myself going back to it when I see the expensive detox teas doing giveaways. I did a detailed breakdown of what went into these teas and why they really aren’t worth the money; they are pretty much the modern equivalent of snake oil in some cases. The case I looked at back then was a spectacularly dodgy-looking outfit (there were accusations of fraud and over-charging) and, while I’m not accusing any of the newer brands of doing anything like that, I do think it’s important to research what goes into this often very expensive, highly marketed teas.

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If you want to see my whole post, it’s here– but I’ve also cut and pasted the breakdown of ingredients in that particular tea, which are pretty common in the ‘detox regime’ teas. You could have similar effects with bog-standard (read: cheap) herbal teas. The teas promise fast results for a very expensive system (this one was offering a two-week course for £40); in fact they won’t do much.

BTW, I’m not a scientist. I Googled. Check with your doctor if you intend to do anything health-related, obviously. I’m just trying to save you some money.

Oolong tea: on its own, oolong is used as a weight loss aid. So you could pick up a decent packet of this for around four quid (you’d get more than thirty cups out of it too…)

Hawthorn: Again, another ingredient that is used in Eastern medicine for digestion. You can buy tablets from Holland and Barratt if you really want to try this (but fennel and peppermint are much cheaper and nicer as teas)

Lotus leaves: basically another digestive aid, with added roughage.

Alisma rhizome: stimulates the kidneys and makes you pee. So you’ll lose water weight. Which you would put back on really easily. You could just drink more liquids (including green tea and water) if you want to cut down on  bloating.

Cassia seeds- most commonly used in laxatives.

Gynostemma Pentaphyllum- this may lower cholesterol. But so do apples, brown rice and avocados. Still not seeing how this tea is worth eighty quid a month.

Poria- another pee-inducing ingredient

Anyway. Nothing will ‘detox’ you except your liver and kidneys. You could have these effects by eating better, upping your water intake and exercising. I get it that these are attractive (I would love to be able to not worry about my weight!), but please think before you give up your money for a silver bullet that just isn’t worth it.

Fortnum and Mason Rose Pouchong tea is my new obsession

Ah, nothing like stating the obvious in a catchy blogpost title, eh?!

Rose Pouchong | Fortnum's Rose Pouchong Tea

Image: Fortnum and Mason

Last week, I went to London to review the V&A’s wonderful wedding dresses exhibition (you can read my review here). I also found my way to Fortnum and Mason, a store that I had never entered, although I’d walked past it loads of times. I should really have been in before, as it’s renowned around the world for its high quality teas.

Anyway, the department I found myself in was stuffed full of tea, coffee, cake, biscuits, chocolate (at a fiver a bar! I can’t quite get my head around the fact that some people will actually get their weekly shop from Fortnums. I’m SO provincial) and other delights. I felt like I was in a posher version of that sweet shop in the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film. There was even a Taj Mahal made of tea:

Please don't judge me on the quality of this photo

Please don’t judge me on the quality of this photo

Anyway, I was determined to bring some tea back to the Pomfrett household and, while it was easy to pick for Benn (a nice Darjeeling, in teabag form, actually not too badly priced), I had a hell of a time choosing for me. In the end, I went to the counter, which I doubt has changed format since the 18th Century- a huge display case of massive tins of tea and friendly staff in Fortnum’s mint green livery to serve. I spied the Rose Pouchong and asked for a sniff; it was HEAVEN. A black Keemun tea that’s infused with rose petals during the drying process, I knew this would be right up my street.

I bought a caddy for £9.95, which I didn’t think was too expensive and made my way home. And lo, a love affair was born.

I’ve drunk rose flavoured teas before, but there’s nothing quite like this tea. It’s light, fragrant and sweet. I’ll admit, I’d never even heard of a pouchong tea before I bought this, but apparently it’s halfway between a green tea and an oolong (which itself is halfway between green and black teas).

Now, I don’t know if I’m being a class rebel or what, but Fortnums recommend drinking this a) without milk and b) in the afternoon. I like it ALL DAY with a mere splash of milk. It just suits my tastes better that way and almost has more of a Turkish Delight quality about it.

The only shame is that, online, I can only seem to buy this in caddy or teabag form… I can sense a dangerous precedent of going up to London every few weeks just to buy this. I might even get used to the idea of £5 chocolate bars… only joking, that would never happen. I’m from Leeds.

 

Run, rabbit, run: my running rituals

I am not really a runner. As Stuart Heritage wrote in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago, I am really a jogger. And quite an unenthusiastic one at that. I decided that, after embarrassingly causing myself to get runner’s knee (oh, the shame. The IRONY), I’d give up on Couch to 5k and just do my own thing- so now, I measure my progress in minutes and Britney Spears songs. On Saturday, I managed seven minutes running without a break and then another four after a 90 second break (also known as ‘I’ll walk to the chalet cafe while I listen to the first bit of Locked Out of Heaven’.) I must admit that my confidence was knocked a bit last Sunday when two fourteen-year-old girls laughed openly at me. I consoled myself with the knowledge that they too will one day be thirty and a love of pizza and cake may lead them to run around a park in a vain attempt to fit into their skinny jeans. ONE DAY.

Anyway, as there are a lot of beginner runners out there, I thought I’d talk you through my kit and, more importantly, how I reward myself after a hard-ish jog.

First of all, you should definitely read Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley. It gives all kinds of decent advice, as well as being inspirational.

Running Like a Girl (Feb)

Next, I needed some decent trainers- I drove Benn mad by asking him lots of questions (he’s a bit of a running guru.) As much as I wanted some OMGSUPERBRIGHTTRAINERS, I ended up with a good, solid workhorse type of shoe- I got the absurdly named Brooks Lady Adrenaline GTS12 shoe. Since wearing them, I haven’t had any problems with my knees.

Image: sportsshoes.com

Image: sportsshoes.com

One of the most important things for me to think about as I run is the reward at the end of it. I am totally fickle, with absolutely no willpower, so I definitely need a carrot (nice shower, good cup of tea) to go with the stick (IF YOU DON’T EXERCISE YOU WILL DIE). I like to have a shower with luxurious products; at the moment I am really loving Rituals. I’m currently using the Fortune Scrub and it does wonders for my skin.

 

Image: Rituals

Image: Rituals

I prefer to run in the morning, especially on an empty stomach- otherwise I’m less likely to do as much or feel as enthusiastic about running. Just before I set out, I like to set the kettle to boil so that I can make a cup of white tea when I get back. My current favourite is Whittards’ White Tea with White Chocolate. It is light, so I feel virtuous and healthy, but the white chocolate gives it a touch of decadence and makes it just the right side of creamy. It is heavenly and I can honestly say that it’s probably the bit of my post-run ritual that I look forward to the most. If I’m really tired after my exertions, I may add a touch of matcha.

It's more delicious than it looks, honest. This is the tea with a bit of matcha added.

It’s more delicious than it looks, honest. This is the tea with a bit of matcha added.

Any tips of your own? I’m debating putting my running/jogging playlist on here next week. What do you reckon?