Monday, 30 November 2015

What Shaving My Head Taught Me About Life

Did you know I shaved all my hair off to a grade one buzz cut for charity? I raised funds for premature baby charity Bliss, almost £400 towards the families of premature babies (and counting). And I was totally overwhelmed at the support I received from all of you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, not to mention all my friends and family. My long hair was tied in plaits and they've been sent off to the Little Princess Trust, an organisation that arranges for wigs to be made for children that have lost their hair through illness.

Incredible stuff.

But although I'd 'practised' in the mirror a few days before, scraping my hair back into a tight ponytail to try and imagine what I might look like without my hair, I wasn't quite prepared for what would happen to me when it all finally came off.

I'd imagined that once it was done I'd want to cover my fine, spiky cut with hats or actually not even go out at all. I'd Googled whether, because of my fine hair, people would just be able to see my scalp, which is what a hairdresser told me once, when I told her I wanted short hair. She told me it would look awful, as she snipped it into a 'Posh Spice' bob which is what every hairdresser recommended I have, ever. 

Even my mum said to me, nervously, "it won't be that short though, will it?" - er, yes mum, it's really short.

But the second it was all shaved off, everything completely changed. Somehow, as if by magic, I immediately found a new confidence in myself.

There are no locks whipping about across my face when I try and wave hello to a friend across the road on a windy day. You can't fiddle with your hair when you're nervous, something I was always guilty of. You can't pre-occupy yourself with how your hair looks - whether it's down, up, halfway up or spend hours looking on Pinterest for new braids or buns to style it in. No searching for hair clips or hairbands, either. The house is no longer littered with hair pins, which I used to leave wherever I took them out.

It's like a whole part of your life gets removed. And you have so much more time on your hands because of it.

You also feel more open to the world; kind of more exposed. In a good way.

Some people have stopped saying hello to me in the street. I haven't quite got to the bottom of this, although they were saying hello to me the day before I cut my hair. 

Others thought I was ill - although I told as many friends as I could for the two months prior, word didn't quite get around to everyone. Some were relieved when they found out, others seemed a bit fed up about it, and I got the feeling they felt tricked. That wasn't my intention. 

Workmen no longer flirted or cheerily shouted hello if I walked past. They just fell silent for a few seconds, giving each other knowing, silent looks as I passed. And that was fine too.

It's funny - just because you have a hair cut like this, people - even random strangers - feel they can come up to you and ask why you have your hair like that, like it's something very weird to them, and they need to know why you would ever do that to yourself. I've had contemporary, styled short haircuts in the past, but no one asked me why I'd chosen those. 

Some people were in awe of the fact I'd buzzed my hair and called me brave. But to me, shaving your hair off for charity isn't exactly brave. Holding your child's hand while they're sitting in a hospital bed having chemotherapy and reading them their favourite stories while keeping positive, that's brave. Planning a family Christmas even though doctors say you might not make it - that's brave. And walking up the corridor to the Special Care Baby Unit every morning and evening for three months, going through every blood transfusion, every poke and prod, every beep of the SATs machine, feeling like it's never going to end, but finding the joy in spending time with your new baby. Even if they're snuggled up attached to wires inside an incubator and you can only just stick your hands in the holes in the side to 'hug' them. That's brave. 

My hair's growing back already. 

But there were other changes, too.

No longer having any hair kind of calmed me down and gave me a strong stillness. I face people straight on, no longer hiding behind my long hair. There's no hiding from embarrassment, shyness or anything else. I feel quieter in my mind, less anxious.

Now I wonder if we maybe spend too much time worrying about our hair - worrying about what people think of us and how we look to others. There's a point when the security blanket sitting on top of your head really isn't that important anymore. We fill our days and nights with hair. How it's styled, how to keep it looking shiny, looking thicker - how to get the same look as your favourite celeb or the glossy, bouncy locks of a snappily-dressed royal.

But you know what? You look great. You are great. You don't need your hair to do that for you. You are naturally gorgeous. And I don't know what it is, but now my hair's all shaved off, I feel like I can tackle this beautiful, tempestuous world literally head on. It's really quite empowering.

I smile more. I worry less. I can see the things that are really important to me. I feel quietly powerful. And, for the first time ever, I don't care what people think of me. My insecurities are gone. 

No haircut before has ever made me feel like that.

You can see the video of me having my head shaved on You Tube

Saturday, 28 November 2015

AIP Raw Tea Cake with Salted Chai Caramel Topping

There's something about chai tea that I just love. 

It's warm, gently spiced, and pretty damn soothing after a busy day. But you don't just have to drink it. You can make it into a gorgeous cake like this. 

This cake is gluten, dairy, nut, seed and egg free. It's therefore suitable for those on the autoimmune protocol (AIP) or paleo diets. It's also vegan. It contains a pack of dates though, so only give yourself a very small square and it's probably a good idea to invite some other people over to help you finish it. Because it's pretty addictive. 

You have the chewy, fudgy raw base, which is infused with the flavours of chai tea. Then there's the fluffy coconut cream topping. And then to finish it all off, a salted chai tea drizzle. All good. All real food. And pretty damn gorgeous. 

I used Typhoo Extra Strong tea bags to make this - Typhoo were good enough to send me some of it to try and it was perfect for the recipe. You just add the chai aromatics, but you'll need a good, strong tea for this recipe. 

AIP Raw Tea Cake with Salted Chai Topping 
Cuts into 8-10 squares
100g desiccated coconut 
2 strong black tea bags (I used Typhoo Extra Strong)
1 x 5cm long cinnamon stick
2 cloves
half teaspoon vanilla extract (this is ok on AIP because the vanilla is heated)
good pinch of ground ginger
250g pack of dates, pit removed
150ml coconut cream

To make the cake, tip the coconut into a food processor and then boil the kettle. 

Take the tea bags and drop them into a glass jug. Pour over 350ml boiling water and drop in the cinnamon, cloves, the vanilla extract and the ginger. Give it a stir and allow the tea to steep for about 5 minutes, until dark and smelling fragrant and spicy. Remove the aromatics, and the tea bags. 

Check the dates are all pitted (so there are absolutely no stones remaining) and then drop the dates into the jug of strong tea. Leave until the tea is cool (about 10-15 minutes).

Once the tea has cooled down, lift out all except four of the dates, and allow them to drain, squeezing out the excess moisture, and drop them into the food processor with the coconut. Blitz for a few seconds until smooth and then press firmly down into a small, cling-film lined container. To give you an idea of size, I use an old plastic takeaway container. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge to set for 3-4 hours or overnight. Pop the jug with the remaining tea and the four extra dates into the fridge also. 

Once you're ready to make the topping, take the cake out of the fridge and lift out onto a serving board or plate, peeling off the cling film. You should have a pretty solid slab. 

Open the coconut cream and spread it all over the top of the cake, evenly. 

To make the salted chai tea drizzle, tip away all but a couple of tablespoons of the chai tea and add a good pinch of sea salt to the now very-soaked dates. Blend this, with the dates that are still in the jug, so you end up with a caramel-like mixture. Using a spoon (or a piping bag if you like), drizzle this mixture all over the top of the cake. Cut into squares and serve. 

Like this? You might also like 25 Recipes for an AIP Compliant Afternoon Tea...

This post was supported by Typhoo, who provided the tea and a contribution towards the ingredients used in the recipe. 

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Autoimmune Wellness Bundle - get $500 worth of resources for $39. Seriously.

So here I am, telling you about a really incredible deal that's out today - and if you're on the autoimmune protocol it has lots of resources that'll seriously help you out.

The Autoimmune Wellness Bundle features all AIP-friendly resources. Recipes, lifestyle advice and coupon codes - they're all in there for you, and they're designed to help make AIP that bit easier to navigate. 

Visit the Autoimmune Wellness Bundle page to find out more and take advantage of this brilliant deal.

You get: 
A grand total of 48 ebooks. I know. Read that again. That's an insane amount of knowledge and AIP compliant recipes for the price. This includes 3 brand new ebooks. 

This consists of: 
16 AIP Cookbooks and Meal Plans
16 Lifestyle and Exercise Guides
16 Beyond the Basics ebooks
Plus... the Best of AIP Cookbook which is a collaborative cookbook featuring 190 recipes from your favourite AIP bloggers - and it's totally exclusive to the bundle. 

There are also 22 (!) discount codes that can save you even more money on your AIP/paleo shopping. 

We're talking about a bundle that's worth about $500 (or about £330). 
Selling for just $39 (about £25).

I've personally contributed a few recipes to the Best of AIP Cookbook, as have lots of other bloggers in the AIP community. And my ebook AIP and Paleo Snacks and Quick Lunches is also included in the ebook part of the bundle along with authors such as Terry Wahls, Mark Sisson and The Paleo Mom herself, Sarah Ballantyne. I know, it's exciting! And I'm so proud to be part of such a brilliant resource for the AIP community. 

Me, part of the Autoimmune Wellness Bundle - squeeee!

But you'll have to hurry - the bundle's only available for a few days - until 30th November, 2015. So get your skates on and pick up this incredible bundle for just $39 (around £25). It's a lot cheaper than buying even a few of these books individually - with the bundle, you can get them all. You'll never be stuck for AIP recipes or lifestyle advice again.

Want to find out more? Go to the Autoimmune Wellness Bundle website for more details. 

This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you do decide to go ahead and click on to make a purchase, the price you pay stays the same but I might receive a small commission to help keep the blog going and more free recipes for you all. Thanks for your support.