Healthy Days – Frugal Beans and Tomato Rice

Today’s dinner was one of those everything-in-the-store-cupboard affairs. As long as you have beans, rice and a stock cube you will never go hungry! You can use ANYTHING else including frozen peas and sweetcorn and it will be delicious! Here follows my slap-dash recipe for tomatoey beans and rice.

Comforting and Frugal Beans and Rice


Store Cupboard dinner

A comforting autumn-winter dish.

– 1 cup/jar of beans (I used turtle beans!)
– 1 box of passata (Aldi!)
– 4 sundried tomatoes, chopped (Aldi!)
– 1 cup of brown rice (Aldi!)
– 1 vegetable stock cube (Aldi!)
– 1 onion, diced.
– Assorted vegetables that might be on the cusp of going on the compost heap. (In my case: 3 small carrots, 1 red bell pepper, 6 mushrooms, a handful of cherry tomatoes and half a leek.)

 Prepare the beans as instructed on the packet if you are using dried. If you’re using tinned, just open that bad boy up!

When the beans are ready, set aside and cook the rice. Pour the rice into a pan with the passata, the stock cube, the sundried tomatoes and a little water. Cook for approximately 25 minutes until all the passata has been absorbed by the rice. Watch carefully towards the end as it may need some extra water.

While the rice is cooking, fry your onions for about 5 minutes in a teaspoon on olive oil until the begin to caramelise. Add whatever assorted veg you have and fry over a medium-high heat until tender.

When the veg and rice are cooked, mix them together with the beans et voila! Enjoy!

Bean packet

Cheapest ingredients ever!

I had a feeling that today would be a difficult day to stick to a healthy eating plan as i) it’s Saturday and I love to go for coffee and a scone after teaching with my friend and ii) it’s day 3. Day 3 is always meant to be the most difficult time for a challenge.

It was ok, though. I did get caught out and about at about 4pm not having eaten in a few hours with rapidly approaching hypoglycemia. My solution to this was to stop into Aldi (sensing a trend?!) to buy some mixed seeds and dried mango to steady me.


It did steady my blood sugar but it was not satisfying at all! Very disappointing!

Incredible vegan breakfast

Natural peanut butter and banana sprinkled with cinnamon on seeded rye toast. We ran out of oats… I regret nothing.

DAY 3 Food Diary:
-banana and peanut butter on seeded rye toast, sprinkled with cinnamon, coffee
-leftover white bean salad and roast veg soup
-handful of mixed seeds and dried mango, vegan hot chocolate
-beans n’ rice, leftover rhubarb and strawerry crumble with 1 tbsp creme fraiche

Healthy lunch



Healthy Days – Rhubarb challenge!

It’s day 2 of the 100 Healthy Days and I feel it went ok today! I mean, in terms of food I ate a little more than yesterday but i’m still loving having time to cook (see food diary below!)

Today I had to figure out how to use up a bunch of rhubarb while still making healthy choices. The problem being that generally rhubarb needs a ton of sugar to make it palatable. I decided to use strawberries and cinnamon to sweeten the filling and to drastically reduce the sugar in the topping. 

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble

Low-sugar rhubarb-strawberry crumble.

Homemade and warm from the oven – and lower in sugar!

– 1 bunch rhubarb, washed and chopped
– 1 punnet strawberries, washed and hulled
– half a teaspoon of cinnamon
– 1 tsp honey (optional)
– 100g/ 3½oz plain flour
-75g/ 2½oz butter/vegan butter
-50g/ 2oz rolled oats
– 2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar

Simply stew the filling ingredients together until the fruit has softened. Transfer this filling to an ovenproof dish.

Blitz the flour, butter and sugar together until breadcrumb-like in appearance. Stir in the oats. 

Cover the filling with this topping and bake for approximately 30 minutes at 180C.

I’ve been thinking a bit about the other elements to this project that I need to tackle. For one thing, I need to learn to turn out the light early and just go to sleep! No Tumblr or Facebook last thing at night. I think being responsible at bedtime will be very important for gaining more energy, fighting off winter bugs and keeping my appetite under control! 

Aside from that, I’ve booked in with an osteopath for the pains in my neck, side and knee that have been plaguing me for a while (…9 months…) I’m looking forward to getting it dealt with! 

Today met with my friend Áine for lunch/coffee in town. I decided to eat at home and just have a juice and a coffee when out to try to optimise my healthy eating potential!

Food diary:
-porridge with cinnamon peanut butter and banana
-Homemade roast vegetable soup, two slices of seeded rye toast.
-Beetroot, raspberry and orange juice and a skinny cappuccino. Brazil nuts.
-Veggie spanish omlette with rhubarb and strawberry crumble with a tablespoon of creme fraichefor dessert!


Roast Vegetables for Soup

Roasting a selection of vegetables left over from yesterday’s dinner for soup.

Homemade veggie soup

Nothing beats hearty, thick soup on a rainy autumnal day!


Wizard Wedding Weekend

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the wedding of two wonderful friends, Laura and James. The bride and groom met at a Harry Potter wizard Rock show in a library a few years ago and honoured the connection by theming the wedding around books. This was a very special wedding, and Laura and James’ personalities and hard work could be seen throughout the weekend.

This was a very small wedding with forty-two people in attendance, meaning that we could all stay together in the large house where the reception took place. On arriving at the house, we could see the schedule of the next day’s proceedings while we settled down to a fish-and-chip takeaway.


On the morning of the wedding, many of us woke at quarter to eight and so we pootled into Kylie and Mel’s room for a chat and a cup of tea. By 10am we had Twerked, tea’d and Cheerio’d and decided it was time to put our nice frocks on before heading down to the Knight Bus to go to the ceremony.

Wedding bus

Ellie and I show off our hats aboard the Knight Bus!

We drove over hill and dale (singing a rousing bus-related wizard rock song) to get to the ceremony’s venue, a small converted barn on an organic farm. We saw lots of nice cows and sheep on our way, as well as a sign for pig racing, which we decided would be an excellent day out and a marvelous activity to follow a wedding…

Paper book flowers

Handmade flowers from the pages of books to tie in with the book theme.


Vintage and pretty decor at the venue.

When we entered, Here Comes the Sun by Laura’s favourite band, the Beatles was playing. There were strings of bunting and fairylights and garlands decorating the barn along with the red roses and book-roses that Laura had made. As is tradition, the bride was quite late. Untraditionally, though, it was because she’d got lost and ended up in a field. Luckily we had the Beatles playing and cereal bars to keep us fueled until she arrived. We also convinced James and our friend Neil, the best man, to keep us entertained. 🙂

Wedding Men


The ceremony was beautiful. Laura looked stunning and elegant in her red gown. We were so few in number that we all felt honoured to be there for Laura and James. When it came to their readings and vows, we knew exactly what they meant. Laura read a passage from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that was so wonderfully relevant and poignant that Mel, Ellie and I all made good use of the tissues I’d brought.

In the Morris

Mr and Mrs in the Morris.

Vintage Wedding

The wedding party and parents on the farm.

When we got back to the reception house, the photographer took some photos of everyone outside the house. Meanwhile, a few of us scurried off to take some photos in the surrounding area. There were some great props like tyres and old sheds, long grass, and rubble! Grunge-chic!

Wedding fashion

Rachel in the wedding high-fashion photoshoot!

Feeling a bit... tyred? Hahaha...

Behind the scenes!

Leaning on the fence

David does his best model-farmer pose.

After a pretty sparkling wine and some nibbles, we moved through for dinner. The dining room had been decorated beautifully by the wedding party. As we arrived, we each found our names attached to a small charm (mine was a clock!) on top of an old book which bore the name of our table. All of our friends were seated at the Fantasy table, which was decorated with the one ring, the wardrobe, and a pile of children’s book, including Philosopher’s Stone and Beedle the Bard.  When we found our seats, there was an envelope each with our names on, and a literary address. (Mine was 4 Privet Drive!!) Laura and James had also chosen a different classic Ladybird book to suit each person. I got a make and do book! 🙂 This was such a lovely touch and made everyone feel really included in the wedding!


To celebrate!

Favours books

The wedding favours. The envelope contained a quiz about books and the bride and groom!

After an italian themed dinner, we dined on cupcakes and drank tea from vintage china teacups and saucers. Once the speeches and toasts had been made (there was an actual piece of toast raised), we all headed through to the dance floor.

Wedding Cake

The sideboard of sugar.

Cup and saucer

Everyone had a different vintage cup and saucer.

Ellie, Cathrin and I provided some live musical entertainment with a selection of songs from the 40s and 50s. This included Unchained Melody, sung by Cathrin, to which Laura and James had their first dance.

First dance

Serenaded by Cathrin.

At around 10pm, we came back to do a special set of Wizard Rock songs and to debut our new act Kate and the Bushes.  We sang Wuthering Heights and had a choreographed dance routine. It was fun! 😀

The night went on with sing-alongs to such classic hits as Vindaloo, songs from Greece, 500 Miles, Goodbye Privet Drive, Sweet Child of Mine, 500 Miles and 99 Death Eaters.

The following day we had a picnic in the garden, went to visit some nice friendly cows with the cow-whisperer (Lucy) and played Pointless. There was a group reading of some Mills and Boone in the late afternoon and a drama with a missing cheeseboard.

What a lovely weekend it was. Thanks Laura and James for including me. ❤


Mrs Sparkly’s Ten Commandments Award

It’s so nice when the people you know acknowledge your blog! I sometimes feel I’m writing to myself (which is fine. I’m comfortable with self-communication.) Thank you Evin, from Sláinte Cork for nominating me for Mrs Sparky’s Ten Commandments AwardWhat’s involved? I need to answer some questions about myself, and here we go…
*Describe yourself in 7 words:
Friendly, interested, loving, sincere, enthusiastic, eccentric, weird.
*What keeps you up at night?
Planning adventures and projects. Sometimes I’ll start writing little songs in my head or stories, sometimes I get really involved. It’s a problem that I get really excited about things when I’m trying to sleep, because I just want to get up and sing. Someone sleeps next to the music room in my house, so I’ve had to be really strict about no late-night song-writing. (Which, now that I think about it, could account for my lower song output!)
*Whom would you like to be?
The best version of Amy. It’s my ambition to keep trying to be a better person, with better skills. I have a loooong way to go, but I’m trying!
*What am I wearing right now?
But with a black and gold waist-cinching belt, and black tights. Spectacles. A head of curly brown hair, and a smile.
*What scares you?
  • Greed, ignorance. 
  • Being misinterpreted.
  • Animal cruelty. 
  • The quest for happiness – not fully knowing if I’m happy now or if it’s something that’s coming later. 
  • The concept that I’m wasting my life, that I’m spreading myself too thin and I should be focusing just on singing.
  • Artistic confinement.
*What are the best and worst things about blogging?
Best: It’s nice to have a place to just get it all down. It doesn’t matter if no one reads it, it’s a thought that I had and it’s good to be able to revisit ideas and events with another frame of mind.

Worst: Not being able to do it while I’m running. I write the best mental blogs when I’m running!

*If I could change one thing about myself, what would it be?
I’d like to be more able to relax, and to suffer less joint and muscle pain.

*Slankets, yes or no?

No. They seem like such a good idea in theory… but no.
*Tell us something about the person who nominated you.
Evin has beautiful eyes and a blogging addiction. She has lovely, long, straight hair and looks completely different when it’s up or down. In her apartment, Evin has a Little Liam, a fishy chair, and a staple gun, which she uses to staple things, and to ward off clowns with suspicious-smelling fridge foods.
My next step in this award is to nominate 10 others.

These are my favourites, and my friends! I really hope that you’ll all give it a go! 🙂

The red red robin goes blog blog blogging along: http://redbreastedbird.blogspot.ie/

Goodnight Boutique: http://goodnightboutique.com/

The Smallest Smallholding: http://www.smallestsmallholding.com/

This Yorkshire Life: http://thisyorkshirelife.blogspot.ie/

The Savage Searching: http://savagesearching.wordpress.com/

LizzDelicious: http://www.lizzdelicious.com/


Lucky, Lucky, Lucky.

When I first heard Duke Special’s cover of Radiohead’s incredible ‘Lucky’ I wanted to learn it and sing it. Even before it was over, I knew that I couldn’t give this song what it needs. As a performer, I’m not restrained enough to not let all my thoughts come straight though and ruin it. As a human being, I don’t have enough wisdom to do this song justice. (This is not a love post for the Duke. That will come on a different day.)

What’s so striking about this song is that we know what it’s about – not from the lyrics, but from the marriage of the music and lyrics.

I think that most people have been in the place this song is about. We’re walking through life smiling and talking and doing things. To others it might seem that everything is going our way, but inside we’re feeling dark. It’s going through the motions, doing your very best not to alert anyone to how you’re feeling, because if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t know what this feeling is, how to fix it or how long it will last.

“Pull me out of the aircrash,
Pull me out of the lake
‘Cause I’m your superhero
And we are standing on the edge…”

There’s a very tangible sense of restraint through this song. The narrator never says anything directly, or at least he never says anything that we can make full sense of. He’s dancing around the issue. Nothing is certain with him: he’s ok, he’s not sure if he’s ok.

“I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll this time,
I feel my luck could change…”

In the original Radiohead version, the track is introduced by a sort of high-pitched scratchy noise which remains throughout most of the song. It reminds me of a device sometimes used to make listeners feel uncomfortable. If you ever watch a horror movie, there may be a subtle high-pitched sound – as you’re focused on other things, you’re not aware that you’re getting more and more anxious because of this persistent noise. I think it’s all linked in to the psychological aspect of this song. It’s getting right in there, and explaining something that most people can’t put into words.

In the Duke Special, the accompaniment is so beautiful. It’s very measured and again, very restrained. It supports what’s happening with the voice, but has its own story to tell. To me there’s a sense that it wants to just go absolutely insane with running chords and scales. There’s a slight hint of this coming through around 3 minutes in, where the piano wants to take off, but it restrains it. (In the Radiohead version, there’s a very tortured guitar with a lot to say. It almost sound like it’s crying.)

All in all, it’s pretty sad. I want the guy in the song to just scream and shout and run until he can get this feeling out of him. I want the music to rage and the voice to cry what it’s really feeling.


Morgen by Richard Strauss

Every so often a song will come along that completely stuns me. Having looked through some very old singing volumes that belonged to my mother, it was suggested that I should study ‘Morgen’ by Richard Strauss.

This piece feels like it is holding and manipulating you. When I listen to it, I feel as though something is being held just out of my reach, something that I desperately love and want. Occasionally Strauss lets me imagine having it, only to whisk it away again out of my grasp. There is a forlorn sort of optimism to this song. The singer responds to the gentle dream like melody of the violin by opening with a strong and definite statement: ‘And tomorrow the sun will shine again.’ She goes on with a sense of optimism, but there’s always a longing and a pleading behind the words, hidden in the music.

And tomorrow the sun will shine again
And on the way which I shall follow
She will again unite us lucky ones
As all around us the earth breathes in the sun
Slowly, silently, we will climb down
To the wide beach and the blue waves

When she begins, she interrupts the violin and he stops for a moment to listen to her before playing again. Occasionally he supports her, or echoes her, but sometimes he is playing a different melody. Maybe it’s the sad one that she doesn’t want to hear. It seems to me that when she reaches the end of this idealistic speech, she gets suddenly swept up in her reverie. The violin notices that she isn’t with him anymore and follows her into her dream world. She is so displaced from the reality that she was in. The broken chords have turned to sustained ones, she is almost drifting on clouds of music.

In silence, we will look in each other’s eyes
And the mute stillness of happiness will sink upon us

In this section, she lifts the music up step by step, as though willing the sun to rise faster as she watches it. She can clearly see the moment that she will be happy in front of her. She almost trails off, discordant again as she was at the very beginning – although this time it is a peaceful, resolved sort of definite that she inhabits now. Without any resistance, she waits for the dawn while the violin plays.



What makes Adele so nice, for me, is that her music is quite straightforward. It’s like the accumulation of all the music she’s listened to in this (what I would describe as) heightened era of musicians being able to do whatever they like. She’s taken all this stuff in, digested it, and then written some songs straight our of her heart. Then she’s sung them in a plain way with her nice voice. She’s talking to us, she’s communicating. I like that.

I think that’s why so many people are loving her so much. They’re hearing what she’s saying and understanding it. Maybe it’s just because there’s something to understand in the first place. It’s not about shaking your ass or being purely an object of sex. The funny thing is that I am not one of her devoted followers – I just understand what I’m hearing. And I like that. I respect it – and for that I respect her.

Listen to the piano part. It’s so basic. Then there’s a straightforward harmony on strings. It’s the same thing in ‘Someone Like You.’ It’s just broken chords. But that’s perfect, because it means that the story can come across and doesn’t have to compete with anything.

I like it. 🙂