The Gathering with Will Williams, Ethan Johns, Ruby Wax
A little while ago I spent an evening at the folksy gem that is Cecil Sharp House for the new event series, The Gathering. Over the course of a few hours I had my mind opened - and relaxed - with music, meditation, and life talks from some industry gurus.

After work I swung through London (with a quick stop at Pure for a wholesome bolognese and smoothie) and arrived in Camden, close to the venue. It was dark already - I really miss summery evenings! - and I was running alongside city foxes to get there on time.

The night was held in the largest hall in Cecil Sharp House, reminiscent of a village hall with the addition of a grand piano, velvety drapes, and quite the audience! The night started gently, with a lighthearted and intriguing history of the last 40 years of music by Ethan Johns, an often-hidden legend of the industry. A producer for many years, he recounted working with Laura Marling, Paul McCartney, Kings of Leon, and touring with The Who. His input was a welcome one - no matter how rock and roll his life got, he felt his connection to his music was the greatest importance. He then performed a few songs, a master of guitar and voice - it has been such a long time since I saw live music that I was mesmerised!

Next we went straight into a meditation session with Will Williams, a vedic meditation teacher and founder of Will Williams Meditation. Sadly I've not yet had much luck finding a truly quiet place in my head meditating, so I did struggle in the hall, surrounded by so many people and being given soft instructions over the speaker system. However, the silence that befell everyone and the feeling of comfort that came from those minutes of peace, as well as a toasty cup of Pukka Blackcurrant Beauty afterwards was enough to keep me satiated.

Finally, Ruby Wax took to the stage. She told us of her hunt to find ways to alleviate the depression she suffers from, describing her drive as similar to that of a Rottweiler! Having swapped the stage for studying at Oxford University, she graduated with a depth of knowledge on the human brain, and she taught us about neuro-plasticity: the scientifically-proven practice of changing your brain cells by believing in your own aspirations. Quite literally, you can will yourself to do anything and your brain will physically build itself in a way that enables you to do just that.

I left Cecil Sharp House with a smile and a head full of thoughts. It was a pleasantly different evening, listening to the chosen cultural storytellers and meditating, and I look forward to the next one (I hear it will be a David Bowie disco)!

Disclaimer: I was gifted my ticket to The Gathering to cover it on Curiously Conscious.

On the back of my Nutritionist's advice, I've been swapping my smoothies for nut butter-enriched porridges as of late. I'm already something of a fan - you may have tried my Maple + Walnut Porridge recipe last year, or even a bit of Spelt Porridge in the Autumn. I really love oats (or spelt) as a base - they're warming, filling, and contain key nutrients such as thiamin, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, and iron. They're also a complete protein, providing 17g of protein per 100g.

This one recipe has become something of a favourite though, and it's super easy to whip up: I make a large batch on a Sunday morning, have a small bowl fresh and fridge the rest in Kilner jars to take to work come Monday.

Along with this being quite healthy, it's also just darn tasty! With a base of oats, I've been using Alpro Oat Original* to create a creamy texture, and then stir in almond butter, cinnamon, grated apple and dried cranberries for a sweet Christmassy flavour. You can also add honey to this, I like a teaspoonful per serving - not too sweet, not too savoury. If you give this a go, do let me know!

Serves 2 large portions

240g oats
450ml Alpro Oat Original
2 small red apples
2 tbsp almond butter
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp honey
1 handful dried cranberries

  1. Pour the oats and milk into a medium saucepan, and leave to soak for five minutes
  2. Grate the apples - I personally prefer red ones with the skins on as they're sweeter and add flecks in the porridge
  3. Put the porridge on to simmer, stirring in the grated apple, almond butter, cinnamon, and honey to your taste
  4. Once the mixture thickens and gets a little tacky, take it off the heat and serve in bowls 
  5. Sprinkle over your dried cranberries, and store any leftovers in jars for another day!

A couple of weeks ago, I visited London-based nutritionist Angelique Panagos for a personal consultation. I'd been wanting to see a nutritionist for a long time after changing my diet, fitness, and general view on what I put in and on my body. I was curious to find out what I'm doing well and what could be improved, and whether these would help me achieve my goals.

Angelique is a London-based Nutritional Therapist with a range of qualifications and a bespoke approach for each of her clients. Before seeing her, I was asked to fill out a questionnaire going over what I'd been eating over the last three days, my health history, and a tick box page covering everything from stress to jealousy to sleep. By the time the consultation day arrived, I was nervous...

On a rainy Thursday night in October I headed to 58 South Molton St to visit Angelique in one of their therapy rooms. The place is lovely, smelling of their aromatherapy candles and dressed minimally. I was nervous - after completing my questionnaire I was ready to receive my 'results' and just by reflecting on how I was eating, I could already see holes in my diet.

However, when I was beckoned into Angelique's room, this fear immediately subsided. An incredibly smiley and open person, Angelique immediately quelled any nerves I had with a bit of small talk and an introduction as to what she does, and how our session was going to go. I would be asked to talk her through my food and wellbeing history, and she would note these down as well as asking me further questions.

In the end, we went through my teenage years, history of stress, antibiotics, and my lifestyle choice in becoming a vegetarian. I laughed, teared up, and generally had a good time listening to her advice as we went along. It felt like she was hinting at what my programme would look like, and from everything she'd said I was confident I could and would make the changes she recommended. I left feeling refreshed and looking forward to finding out what I can be doing to improve my overall wellbeing.

Angelique's programme was sent over a few days later. It contained a day's worth of meals to try, as well as swap-outs, and mindful ideas such as a five minute journal and gratitude jar. However, the confidence that I had walked out with had fizzled up, and I was finding the 10-page guide daunting.

In the end, it took me two weeks before I properly sat down with the guide and read through everything. I don't know what got into me - I just felt like I really needed to find time to commit to the programme, and my general life was really taking over. I was making a mountain out of a mole hill, and the more I'd put it off, the more it felt like I was ignoring vital advice.

The guide was made up of three parts. First, a few diet tests to gauge my stomach acid levels, digestive regularity, and a daily recommendation of two litres of water per day. I wrote to Angelique with my responses to these and in return was given further advice as to how to improve.

In essence, I was given swap-out options to improve my general diet and wellbeing. A few of these were:
  • Drink matcha green tea in the morning instead of coffee
  • Change my banana-based smoothie breakfasts for oat-based options like overnight oats
  • Add more nut- and bean-based foods into my diet
  • Try drinking coconut kefir regularly in addition to my usual probiotic
  • Try eating fish for key vitamins and minerals

The last one still has me spiralling. I know fish is a legitimately good source of vitamin B12 and omegas that are generally missing in my day-to-day diet, but I feel like my ethics and identity is at risk every time I contemplate it.

Other than that, I've begun to find a good balance. I've reduced my coffee intake with matcha, cacao hot chocolates, and a good organic coffee alternative. Some mornings I will have porridge, others I will have my favourite smoothie, and all mornings I'll add a teaspoonful of almond butter. I've upped my intake of hummus and beans, and when my stomach is a little uncomfortable I'll reach for a sip of coconut kefir.

Personally, I think there have been pros and cons from my first consultation. I feel like I now know my problem areas, and it really helped to talk it out with a health professional. However, the pressure it put on changing everything I eat meant I shied away from these changes for a while, weighing down on the mindful decisions I already make around food, and generally knocking my confidence. I imagine if I was to continue my visits with Angelique, I would be able to build up this confidence and really stick to a plan, but I think there's something to be said about moderation, and happiness, that comes from eating a mindful yet unrestricted diet.

Disclaimer: I was gifted my session with Angelique Panagos to cover it on Curiously Conscious.

Happy December! On the first day of the Christmas season, you'll find me untangling my fairy lights, fetching my mini fir tree from the garden, and launching my Christmas Hamper giveaway!

This has been a long time in the making - only once or twice a year do hamper giveaways come around, and this year it's a big one (worth over £100!) I've got healthy snacks, mindful activities, and so much natural beauty your eyes will water (from sheer joy - there's no nasties in any of these products!) Here's what's in the hamper, and why I chose these items in particular...

A brand close to my heart, it was a joy to share a meal with Mr Organic earlier on in the year.

This is a tribute to the insightful and enjoyable conversation over mindful colouring at Stylist Live.

A quick and easy way to get your natural skincare fix is in this pack alone!

So I think we all know how much of a Green People junkie I am. I even took over their Instagram!

Famously minimalist and socially-minded, The Soap Co. are a regular feature in my bathroom...

These healthy nibbles keep me going through busy days. Definitely a handbag staple!

I have far too much tea, but I'm yet to feature yerba mate on the blog. Here's a sneak peak of a post to come!

These little sachets are rather tasty when used in my favourite kitchen gadget...

Because everyone needs a face scrub, and nowhere is better than LoveLula.

Fancy a more natural type of nail polish? This'll do, after my research...

This little pot of natural skincare joy will have your skin feeling soft and fresh in no time!

Trust me, you'll enjoy adding a little Odylique in your beauty box.

Balance Me's face mask has changed my skincare routine forever, so I'm hoping this face cream will do the same for you.

The icing on the cake, this body oil will whisk away any wintry skin blues.

To enter my giveaway, all you'll need to do is enter using the Rafflecopter console below, and live in the UK so I can post everything to you. The winner will be announced on Christmas Day (25th December 2016). Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

During the second morning of my brief and beautiful visit to Macdonald Monchique in Algarve, Portugal, I was taken to the local mountain village, Caldas de Monchique. As soon as we'd arrived, I was spellbound - there was so much to take in. The bright greens of the trees, the fresh scent of the giant eucalyptus trees, and the sound of running mineral water that the area is renowned for.

Our tour guide from the hotel was brilliant, explaining how the locals collected the water from a constantly flowing tiny tap, and believed it to be the fountain of youth. Above the tap someone had chalked 'Don't waste a minute of your life, when your life can be over in a minute', which is perhaps the key to eternal youth...

On our way around the village, we found a carob tree growing along the stream, and I got to hold a carob bean in my hand - which was strange, considering I'd only ever eating it as a powder! We also learnt about the history of the village, and the local tea house, a stripy oriental affair that contrasted so well with the organic lines of the forest around us.

In the evening, my friend and I snuck back to the village for a final peek before our last day. Lit by only a few lights, it was a little daunting at first, but once we'd found a spot amongst the leaves and cobblestones it was a glorious place to sit and revel in the greenery.

The biggest thing this tiny town represented to me was an escape away from the city and from screens. In my day-to-day life, I love both of these things - I live on them! The buzz of London has been an obsession of mine since I was a kid, and computers have always fascinated me - they give us so many opportunities to learn, write, document... But in Caldas de Monchique, I was transported to an age and place where neither of these things mattered, and it felt incredibly peaceful.

If you're ever in the area, I would highly recommend visiting the town and enjoy its health-giving water, writing, and serenity!