this is lemonade

A mindful, grateful, creative life: Life constantly hurls lemons at us. I’m on a mission to make lemonade as best I can, by God’s grace.



For some time now, I have been a quiet admirer of a certain man. He was never a friend, in fact he was a business owner and I was a regular patron. Unlike many of his peers, he seemed to make a conscious effort to connect meaningfully with the people who contributed to his success – his loyal customers. I admired his skill in conversation and the thoughtfulness he put into building relationships, the confidence his staff had in him and the ease with which they worked in his presence. Yes, it was business, but infused with a certain unassuming altruism.

Yesterday I learned of his passing. I knew that he was seriously ill, so I can’t say the news came as a shock. But I was surprised that it affected me so much and that I am so deeply saddened. He was far from old. In my memory he is wearing a favourite blue checked shirt, his eyes are creased at the laughter lines with just a little twinkle in them and he is engaged in lively small talk. I remember his mannerisms and voice well, even though I did not see him in over a year. We only ever had brief encounters, but this one human being made a deep impression on me.

DandelionsWe only live once. We cross paths with many people only once in our lives and for a fleeting moment. And yet, we have the potential to influence greatly, without even being aware of it ourselves. I do not believe this man ever cared to think that I would sit here thinking of him. We played no real part in each other’s lives.

But then I think of the countless times when a small kind gesture has suddenly altered how I have felt in an instant. And a simple word of appreciation or a colleague’s offer to make me a cup of tea, can often be enough to give me just that added buoyancy to make it through the day.

So in the same vein, thank you for those kind comments that you put at the bottom of my posts. They are very special and uplifting. Just as deeply as words can wound, so they can also heal, inspire and propel someone on to do more than they ever imagined possible…

Has a virtual stranger ever had such an impact on you?


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Just for fun…what’s this?

Sunny days are being celebrated over here…extra vitD for everyone yay! =)


Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame salad

This salad is beautifully aromatic and makes me really happy every time I eat it. I’m dedicating this post to a wonderful family friend who is a talented cook and generous host. I seldom get to see her nowadays, but I think of her often especially when I am in the kitchen. She taught me the method I use below to cook the chicken. I love that it is energy saving, and I can leave the kitchen for an hour while it works its magic. You can use it for a variety of dishes where you might otherwise steam the chicken. If you prefer to substitute portions for the whole chicken, I would suggest thighs for their succulence. They could easily be cut into strips and pan-fried as a quicker alternative.

Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame saladThe salad can be served with fluffy long grain or basmati rice and a side of sugar snaps or broccoli.

I have used relatively rough measurements, as much of it depends on the size of the chicken and your taste preference. I love coriander and sesame, so I use lots of it. The preparation and cooking together take up to two hours in total.

Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame salad

  • 1 chicken (corn fed if you can get it)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 5 cups water (enough to cover chicken breast-down in pot)
  • salt
  • handful of sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 cup of coriander leaves (cilantro), roughly chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sesame oil
  • the juice of ½-1 lime
  • soy sauce

Wash the chicken carefully paying attention to the cavity area and removing any clumps of fat. Put the bay leaves and peppercorns in a big pot and place the whole chicken in the pot breast-down. Pour in the water, turn to a high heat and bring to the boil. Boil on a medium heat for a further 5 minutes for a small chicken to 10 minutes for a large one, keeping the pot covered. Then turn off the heat without removing the lid. Set a timer for 60 minutes and leave to steep.

Put your feet up with a cuppa tea and a slice of yummy cake, and read some nice blogs or do something else inspiring.

After 60 minutes, put the chicken back on a high heat and boil for the same amount of time as before. If there is still pink meat, you may need to boil for a little longer. Drain off any water from the chicken back into the pot carefully and put the chicken on a plate. (For ideas on making the nutritious stock go further, keep reading to the end!) Then rub the skin of the chicken gently with some salt. Set aside to rest.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle comfortably, tear off the flesh into strips no thicker than 1cm and place in a serving dish or bowl. Add the chopped coriander and the sesame seeds to the chicken and toss together, seasoning with the remaining ingredients to taste. Serve immediately or chilled.

Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame saladAfter removing the meat from the bone you can return the chicken carcass to the stock, adding some root vegetables, and boil up a lovely broth accompaniment. If you are serving the salad with rice, don’t pass up on the opportunity to make it subtly fragrant by using the chicken stock instead of water.

For a truly cool summery twist, you could add some strips of cucumber to the salad, shredded with a vegetable peeler. I have to say that this salad improves overnight in the fridge if you can wait to eat it. I have also been known to attack leftovers with some mayonnaise or Colman’s English mustard for a flavoursome sandwich filling. I find it’s really versatile and I hope that you enjoy it!

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The simple pleasures

Well… Friday. I do love Fridays. At the brink of the weekend, there is that anticipation that wonderful possibilities lie ahead …and even despite the promising sunshine this morning giving way once again to hazy blue-grey clouds, the weekend beckons, and life is a beautiful thing. Thank God for Fridays.

I promised to explain the random photograph I published earlier this week: I decided to challenge myself to a simple photographic project, the focus of which being everyday details that I enjoy. I was inspired by this post on VagueMemories where the author posted a photo of a familiar building. It made me think of my commute and how I love to gaze at random things in the train or out of the window. One thing I love is details. Beautiful details. Patterns. Forms. And sometimes the familiar is the most beautiful. The things I pass by every day, objects that are anchored in the landscape of regular routes that I take. I just love that opportunity for watching the world go by.


An old film photo from over 10 years ago. A familiar detail. A detail still firmly etched on my mind.

I remember reading an article some time ago about how we have lost the art of journeying. With all our modern technology, we tend to focus on the destination. Commuters read or stop up their ears with repetitive beats from various electronic devices. Our minds have to be continuously occupied. We fail to hear the sounds of the journey – doors opening and closing, the footsteps and shuffling of other passengers, the train rumbling over the tracks (although in London, I’m sure you can still hear that over anything else you might be listening to!) We have become unfamiliar with our travel scenes and most definitely avoid eye contact with other passengers.

I certainly am not one of those commuters. I am the one that looks like I am totally wasting time day-dreaming or staring into space. I treasure the time and space that commuting gives me, to mull over the day and migrate my focus away from work. I also love walking (although not in the recent heavy rain) and discovering beautiful things on a well-trodden path – which is how I came upon the detail in the photograph above.

Part of my this is lemonade goal is to remember and celebrate the good things. To extract out of the yucky, something that will remind me of my purpose and a reason to stay alive. In the photograph above, I didn’t just love the dandelions, I loved the harsh weathered texture of the structure behind them more. Over a decade ago, I did not know I would be writing a blog based on something yellow. In fact, I’ve never had a particular affinity with the colour, quite far from it. However, as I spend more and more time pondering on the lemonade side of things, I am finding that its vibrancy energises me.

As we know, dandelions eventually lose their intense sunshiney petals and become globes of little soft, feather-light parachutes which then carry the dandelion seeds wherever the wind may blow. What a beautifully challenging and inspiring picture to take into the weekend with me. I wonder what that image brings to your mind?


Making Lemonade Together

Paeonia 'Eden's Perfume'

Paeonia ‘Eden’s Perfume’

I started this blog to help me make lemonade from life’s lemons. I did not imagine I would have other people joining me in my endeavours along the way. This really is becoming the haven that I had hoped it would be, with friends dropping by too! Thank you for being here.

To make this blogging thing even more special, I was nominated for two blog awards! Whatever you think of blog awards, I have to admit that when I was told I’d been nominated, it made my week. It’s really heart warming to have another person appreciate this little project of mine. So I am gladly accepting these from two bloggers who have been kindly encouraging me along the way. I hope you’re prepared to browse the treasure trove of blogs I am hauling in below!

My heartfelt thanks to Ziggy of ziggyshortcrust, for the Liebster Award. I have featured Ziggy’s magical blog here. It is full of her characterful drawings – there is no limit to her imagination! Please sit yourself down with a good cup of something comforting and get yourself over for a good read.

And thank you so much to Mags of Modgam’s Playground, for the Sunshine Award. Mags is someone with indomitable style and a vivaciousness that cheers me up every time I hear from her. If you would love “fashion, food, fun” Mags has it in bucket loads!

And to pay it forward I would like to nominate the following blogs for the awards:

Three bloggers who inspire meLiebster Award: Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog.
Sunshine Award: Include the award’s logo in a post on your blog. Answer 10 questions about yourself. Nominate 10 other bloggers. Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs letting them know they have been nominated. Share the love and link the person who nominated you.Three bloggers who bring sunshine to my day
  • Mister G – a 100% true comic about stuff kids say in elementary school
  • hungry for home – a photographic project to collect recipes and stories that bring nostalgic memories of home
  • Vague Memories – a simple but charming photojournal

My apologies that I haven’t followed the rules 100%. As my punishment, I’m going to allow myself to only answer six of the sunshine award questions about me me me:

  1. Favourite colour: Grey paired with white – it still feels like winter here.
  2. Favourite animal: Horse, although I’m not really an “animal person”.
  3. Favourite drink: Tea – a strong Earl Grey please 😉
  4. My passion: People, eating together and beautiful things.
  5. Favourite day of the week: Friday – the weekend is still ahead of me
  6. Favourite flower: Peonies – the first time I met one, it was a soft-pink ping pong ball… when I got home from work the next day, it had exploded into this mass of powder pink petals. I have been in love ever since.


Tenderloin and Tatties

Tenderloin & TattiesI don’t tend to approach cooking from a cook book. I also don’t approach grocery shopping in a very organised way. I just have a rough kind of routine – a map of my “staples” and vague categories in my head: milk, eggs, bread, bananas, yoghurt, cheese with a variation of vegetables, meats and starch added.

I try to be adventurous, but what I experiment with is usually determined by what I happened upon during my weekly shop and what deals were on. I don’t do markets, even though I walk past a brilliant one on the way to work. By the time I’m done with work, the market is usually being disassembled. I would love to be a better shopper, the kind that has conversations with interesting people along the way, but I’m usually the one that grabs a trolley half an hour before closing time and does a supermarket sweep style manic rush.

Anyway, last week, there was a deal on pork tenderloin. I’ve never eaten it in a restaurant, and it’s not a supermarket mainstay to say the least. I followed a recipe for roasting tenderloin about a year ago, and it came out…dry and chewy. (I’m not blaming the recipe by the way. Me and that recipe didn’t click. I definitely didn’t know what I was doing with it.) Sorry Mr Pig.

Well, the second pork tenderloin came home with me last week. And I used Google again. It showed me this. Remember how I never plan anything? Well, I scrolled down and found about three recipes that I had the rough ingredients for. I then decided on one that seemed the most promising. I wanted to steer clear of roasting this time, and try a different method, thanks Diana!

I served the tenderloin with a big cheesy potato rösti cake.What better way to cook grated potatoes than with lashings of grated cheese? Dinner was a winner. It was yum, I can’t lie. Here is my modified version of the tenderloin recipe and my own delicious rehash of many random experiments with grated potatoes 🙂

Tenderloin & Tatties

Pork Tenderloin Medallions With Mushrooms, Green Beans and Caramelized Onions, served with Cheesy Potato Rösti

Serves 2-3

For the Pork

  • 350g or about 1 pound pork tenderloin
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 150g or about 5 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 10cl or about 1/2 cup wine (I used red)
  • 125ml or about 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 150g or about 5 ounces green beans

For the rösti

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 medium sized potatoes, grated (I left the skins on)
  • Salt (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g or about 1 cup grated cheese (I used cheddar)

Slice the pork tenderloin into rounds of about 1 inch/2cm thick. Press firmly on them with the heel of your hand to reduce them to about half the thickness. Pat dry with kitchen paper and season with salt and ground pepper.

Put a medium-sized frying pan on a medium heat and drizzle the olive oil into the pan. Spoon half of the grated potato into the pan, spreading and flattening out. Spread the cheese evenly over the base layer of potato and season with salt and pepper (I skipped the salt as cheddar is salty enough for me already). Spread the remaining grated potato over the top and flatten as before so that the cheese is covered. Cook until crispy and browned on the bottom for about 10-15 minutes.

Put another frying pan on a medium heat for about 2 minutes then add half of the olive oil and butter. Fry the onions gently in the pan, stirring continuously until they soften but do not brown. Add the sugar and cook for a further 15 minutes or so as the onions caramelise, remembering to stir. Add the mushrooms and sauté the onions and mushrooms together for another 5 minutes or so. Stir from time to time so that the mushrooms brown evenly. Remove the onion and mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside.

In the first frying pan, turn the potato rösti over and cook until golden brown on the other side for another 10-15 minutes.

Put the second frying pan back on a medium heat and add the remaining olive oil and butter. Coat the tenderloin rounds in the flour and fry gently for about 3-4 minutes on each side until browned. Add the wine, stock and stir in the onion and mushrooms. Simmer uncovered for about 2 minutes to reduce the liquid a little.

Add the green beans on top of the meat, cover the pan and cook on a low heat for a further 10 minutes.

Dish everything out and tuck right in!

Tenderloin & Tatties

I’ve never tried to write a recipe for a whole meal before – if you try this, please let me know if the instructions work for cooking the tenderloin and potatoes together. Also, I’ve tried to put good equivalences for all the measurements. Thankfully it’s not baking, so little ins and outs should not matter. Any feedback welcome though – I hope you enjoy it!


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2012-05-15In between having time to write what I’d like to in detail, I’ve decided to fill in the gaps with a simple project.

The inspiration came from this lovely gem of a post. More of the story behind the idea very soon hopefully. But for now, here’s a photo of a familiar object.

What is it?