All posts by mirandasnotebook

T&T 60 | Discussing Gretchen Rubin’s Personality Quiz

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

This week, I’m so delighted to say that my co-host, Sophie, is back on Tea & Tattle, after having some time away following a sad bereavement. Today on the podcast, we catch up with each other, swap our theme words for 2018 and discuss Gretchen Rubin’s fascinating book, The Four Tendencies.

Gretchen Rubin hosts one of my favourite podcasts, Happier, and she’s written several bestselling books on human nature, happiness and habits. The Four Tendencies is Gretchen’s most recent book, and in it she describes the framework she developed to help people better understand themselves in order to achieve their goals. Whether you’re an Obliger, Rebel, Questioner or Upholder is determined by how you respond to both internal and external expectations. I found The Four Tendenciesan illuminating read that helped pin-point my own strengths and weaknesses, and it was so fun to chat about it with Sophie and find out her tendency.

ALSO: I make a special announcement in this episode, concerning a change to Tea & Tattle Podcast (it’s a good one!), so do listen to the end to find out what I’m launching on Friday.

Listen to learn more about The Four Tendencies and which tendency we identify with the most.

UK Travel | The Gannet Inn, Cornwall

UK Travel | The Gannet Inn, Cornwall

I’m so pleased finally to be sharing the rest of my trip to Cornwall back in October. Life got so crazy in the late autumn, that I wasn’t able to write about my St Ives experience, which was a shame as I had such a fun time and thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to that part of Cornwall.

I’ll be publishing posts about exploring St Ives, particularly our visits to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden and Leach Pottery, but for today I’ll start at the beginning with our arrival at The Gannet Inn, a charming boutique hotel in Carbis Bay, just a few minutes from St Ives. We’d hired a taxi from the Bedruthan Hotel in Newquay, and the drive to Carbis Bay took about an hour, which I didn’t mind a bit, as there was such attractive scenery to admire along the way.

I must say, that if you’re planning a visit to St Ives, then I very much recommend staying in Carbis Bay, rather than St Ives itself. Although there was much I appreciated about St Ives, I found its extremely touristy town centre rather disappointing. Many of the streets were lined with charming cottages, but the impression was rather spoilt by the placards on every door with engraved website links to book a stay. I started to wonder if anyone actually lived in St Ives! Even though it was off-season, the town was crowded, and it was a relief to get back to the tranquility and beauty of Carbis Bay. The Gannet Inn was very close to the sweet little train station, where it was easy to catch the train to St Ives – only a 3 minute trip, but one of the most beautiful train journeys I’ve taken, as the tracks hug the cliffs, and you get the most beautiful views of the coast and St Ives as you chug into the station.

The Gannet Inn

UK Travel | The Gannet Inn, Cornwall

The Gannet Inn is sister hotel to the larger and grander Carbis Bay Hotel, in which we also stayed (I’ll be writing about that soon too). Although not situated directly on the bay, The Gannet still offered lovely seaside views, and the gorgeous, quiet little beach was only a short walk away. I liked the cosy, comfy rooms, which were decorated in the style of a country home, which instantly made me feel welcome.

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by the very friendly and helpful receptionist, who had our bags whisked to our room and provided us with very useful information about train times to St Ives, as well as a map to the area and tips about what to see and do.

Sea View Room

Before having lunch, we went up to our room (called The Oyster Catcher) to unpack, re-apply lipstick and brush our hair. Our double-bed room was on the top floor, accessed by a winding stair case, and I was charmed by the attractive furniture, neutral decor and view of the sea over the rooftops (where a glimpse of the lighthouse that inspired Virginia Woolf’s famous novel, To The Lighthouse, was clearly visible).

The freshly baked biscuits were a nice touch alongside the plentiful supply of tea, coffee and water, and both Mum and I were thrilled by the large bathroom, with a big bath and shower.

UK Travel | The Gannet Inn, Cornwall

The room was pristine and very comfortable, and I especially appreciated the large cupboard space, equipped with iron and ironing-board so I could press a few of my dresses before hanging them up.

Scallops for Lunch

By this time, we were feeling distinctly peckish, so decided to have lunch in the hotel restaurant before heading into St Ives for an afternoon of exploring.

The food at the Gannet Inn was really outstanding – some of the best from the entire trip. Our lunch of plump, fresh scallops, toast and avocado salad and cool, crisp wine was perfection. Feeling ready for adventure after our meal, we set off to catch the train for St Ives.

St Ives

Despite its high tourist foot fall, St Ives manages to retain a great deal of character and appeal. We happily wandered along the narrow, twisting lanes, flagged by brightly coloured doorways and attractive shops.

I, of course, nosed out the local bookshop in record time and couldn’t resist choosing a couple from its well curated selection: The Illustrated Letters of Virginia Woolf and Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell: a Childhood in St Ives. I was eager to learn more of the famous sisters’ connection to Cornwall, and I even managed to find the house they lived in as children when they visited St Ives for summer holidays.

I also did a bit of shopping for family and friends, picking up postcards and tea-towels from Poppy Treffry, as well as magazines in the beautiful fashion and homeware shop, Academy & Co.

The Best Apple Pie I’ve Ever Had

After our afternoon in St Ives, we returned to The Gannet Inn in time for supper. Heading down to the large, attractive restaurant, we were ushered to a table and given menus. All the walking had rekindled our appetities, so we decided to share a bottle of the house red wine, with a baked camembert cheese and toast as a starter, and roasted venison Wellington for our mains.

There are few delights as simple, but as tasty as baked cheese. The camembert was studded with garlic cloves and rosemary and tasted heavenly spread over our toast. I’ve since replicated this easy starter several times at home – it’s a Friday night fail-safe!

Our main dish was delicious as well, and an excellent twist on the usual Beef Wellington. The venison was very well cooked – perfectly pink in the middle – and served in a tasty jus with mushrooms and broccoli.

Finally, dessert: we’d both chosen apple pie with custard and calvados. Oh my! It was amazing. I’ve had plenty of good apple pie in my time, but none as magnificent as this. It was a real English – rather than American – pie, without any cinnamon, but the pastry was crisp and light, the apples perfectly sweet, and the combination of custard and apple liqueur absolutely inspired. I have yet to attempt my own version of this dessert, but I definitely want to soon!

Breakfast

You’d think after that supper, we’d barely manage more than a sip of tea the next morning, but the early morning spread was so tempting when we went downstairs after a good night’s sleep, that somehow I found myself managing a plateful of pancakes, and Mum went for a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel.

As we’d come to expect from the food at The Gannet Inn, everything was delicious and set us up very well for another day spent exploring and enjoying beachside walks. I look forward to sharing the rest of my St Ives recommendations very soon!

The Gannet Inn, Cornwall – www.gannetstives.co.uk

Room rates at The Gannet Inn are from £160 per night. This is based on double occupancy and includes breakfast, taxes and fees. To book, please visit www.gannetstives.co.uk, email info@thegannetinn.co.uk, or call 01736 795 651.

Note: My stay at The Gannet Inn was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Wellbeing | The Seven Wonders of Olive Oil

the seven wonders of olive oil

Rather than embarking on the typical ‘new year, new me’ routine of crash-dieting, I’m more interested in how small changes to daily habits can improve overall wellbeing. One of my health related ambitions is to consume more healthy fats, so I was intrigued when olive oil specialists, Alice Alech and Cécile le Galliard, sent me their book, The Seven Wonders of Olive Oil.

I’ve always loved olive oil – fresh bread and a little bowl of olive oil is surely one of life’s true pleasures, and one of my favourite ways to serve vegetables is roasted with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. In recent years, though, my favourite oil has been getting some rather bad press, and different oils, such as coconut, are often put forward as being the healthier option.

In their book, Alice and Cécile break down the research to showcase the oil’s numerous beneficial qualities, from reducing the risk of life-threatening illnesses to being an excellent make-up remover,  and many more surprising facts. I asked both authors to answer a few questions about their favourite subject, for anyone else who’s keen to incorporate more healthy fats in their diet and use more olive oil.

***

MN: To start off, would you tell me how you both became friends and decided to write The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil together?

Alice: We were ‘internet colleagues’ for a long time before we finally met. Cécile is a qualified olive oil expert and so is very knowledgeable on the practical aspects of olive oil. I often turned to her for additional information when I wrote for the American Review Olive Oil Times. When I suggested that we write a book, Cécile did not hesitate: her enthusiasm was instantaneous, so we proceeded. What’s great about working with Cécile is her energy and passion- we work and collaborate well. Her French/ Spanish background and my English/ French one were very useful for our research.

MN: How did your passion for olive oil begin, and what made you want to study the health benefits of the oil more deeply?

Alice: My interest started when I interviewed olive oil enthusiasts my for Olive Oil Stories; here were producers, growers, men and women who were passionate about their work and what they produced. I knew very little about this precious oil but soon became intrigued. As a health care worker (I am a radiographer specializing in breast work) it seemed important to go further. Interviewing the different specialists for this book was an amazing experience.

Cécile: I lived in Madrid, Spain for over six years and I fell in love with Spanish gastronomy and of course extra virgin olive oil. I’m from Brittany in France, where butter is predominately used for cooking, so it was a new experience for me to cook with olive oil. I was surprised at how tasty the dishes cooked with EVOO were. When I realized that it was also incredibly good for our health, I wanted to study these benefits more and more and to promote olive oil consumption.

MN: For those who haven’t read the book, would you summarise what the ‘7 wonders’ are?

Alice: Our research and writing covered the following benefits of extra virgin olive oil:
1. Slows Alzheimer’s disease
2. Reduces the Risk of Strokes and Heart Attacks
3. Strengthens Bones
4. Works as an Anti-Inflammatory
5. Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
6. Kills Cancer Cells
7. Protects, Rejuvenates, and Beautifies Your Skin

MN: Your book is meticulously researched! What was one of the most surprising discoveries you made about olive oil whilst researching and writing the book?

Alice: That’s a difficult question because I learnt so much from the different researchers and from everyone I interviewed. There was an awful lot to understand and to take in. Also, I was surprised at the enthusiasm and how willing the contributors were to share their knowledge. On the research side, I had no idea oleocanthal was such a powerful polyphenol, we could have written so much more on this natural component contained in extra virgin.

Cécile: Yes, Alice is right. It’s very difficult to choose one wonder among the seven we have listed! For my research on “Understanding fats” I worked with a nutritionist who is also a pharmaceutical technician. It was very interesting to understand the function of Fats and how important it is to select the best quality for your body.

MN: I know you always recommend buying extra virgin olive oil. Would you share some more tips on how to shop wisely and buy the best oil?

Cécile: You should always buy extra virgin olive oil or virgin olive oil and not another name or category because these two are genuine olive juice.

the seven wonders of olive oil

MN: I especially appreciated your chapter about olive oil being a wonderful product for skincare, and I now like to remove my mascara using it (it’s so gentle!). Do you have a favourite beauty ritual that involves olive oil?

Cécile: For my baby, I used a mix of olive oil and lime water every day to protect and nourish her skin especially for diaper rash. You can buy this in pharmacies, but it’s so much more convenient to make it at home.

Alice: I used to suffer terribly from brittle nails. Ever since I started rubbing my nails with olive oil, they have improved wonderfully.

MN: I love cooking with olive oil, as well as drizzling it over salads. I was relieved to learn in your book that it’s healthy to use it for frying, as I know there’s been a trend lately for swapping to coconut oil instead. Do you have a favourite dish that involves olive oil as a star ingredient?

Cécile: I love EVOO at breakfast, something I got from living in Spain. Olive Oil with bread and honey is delicious, and with it, you have all the energy you need to begin your day.

MN: You share so much valuable information in the book, but if people could only take away one factor lesson from the book, what would you want it to be and why?

Cécile: Extra virgin are the two most important words! Ignore other labels for olive oil; they are not as tasty and as healthy as the pure unadulterated juice of the olives.

Alice: So many people think that you cannot cook with olive oil. That is, of course, a myth. Part 3 of 7 Wonders — Olive Oil in the Kitchen explains smoke point of cooking oils and the latest research on cooking with Olive Oil.

***

Thanks so much to Alice and Cécile for their informative responses to my questions. If you’d like to learn more about them and their research, do check out their website, where there are also some signed copies of The Seven Wonders of Olive Oil available.

If you’re trying to make any positive health changes this year, good for you and good luck!

T&T 59 | Johanna Basford Discusses the Mindful Art of Colouring

Johanna Basford Interview

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

Happy Tuesday! In today’s Tea & Tattle episode, I’m so delighted to be in conversation with the fabulous illustrator, Johanna Basford.

Johanna took the world by storm when her first adult colouring book, Secret Garden, was published in 2013. The book sold a million copies within the first year of publication, and since then, Johanna has gone from strength to strength, producing many more bestselling colouring books and being awarded an OBE in 2016.

Johanna Basford InterviewJohanna Basford in her studio in Scotland, photographed by Hayley Fraser

I love Johanna’s distinctive, hand-drawn ink illustrations, and I’ve collected several of her colouring books over the years.

In our chat together, I ask Johanna how she stays grounded when experiencing such tremendous success, and how she balances her busy working schedule with her family life. Johanna also gives some great tips on what pencils and techniques she likes to use for colouring in, and she shares the inspiration behind her latest book, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, which charmingly combines storytelling with drawing.

‘Ivy and the Inky Butterfly’ by Johanna Basford. Stylist: Clare Nicolson. Photographer: Yeshen Venema. 

This is a brilliant episode for anyone who loves illustration and the mindful art of colouring, as well as being a truly inspiring success story showing how hard-work and passion really do pay off.

Listen to learn more about Johanna’s journey to success, as well as her latest book and colouring tips.

T&T 58 | The Girl Who Climbed Everest

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Episode here or on iTunes.

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope you all had wonderful holidays and are having a fantastic start to 2018. I am so delighted to be back with Tea & Tattle Podcast, and I’ve got a fabulous episode for the start of the New Year.

Bonita Norris is a mountaineer who has broken many records. She is one of the youngest British women to have climbed Mount Everest, and last year she published a book about this experience, The Girl Who Climbed Everest.

Even though I am far from sporty and would never dream of climbing a mountain, I found Bonita’s book completely engrossing. It was fascinating to learn what being in the Death Zone of Everest is actually like (downright terrifying), but even more interesting to me was learning how Bonita uses the skills of mindfulness and living in the moment to push through fear and self-doubt and achieve incredible success.

Bonita Norris, photographed by Martin Hartley

I feel I read this book at exactly the right time: during a period when I was struggling to stay positive and to keep pushing forward. The Girl Who Climbed Everest is a fantastic read for anyone who’s trying to achieve a goal, as Bonita shows that simply not giving up, taking one small step at a time and trusting her instinct led her from randomly attending a lecture on mountaineering with a friend, to climbing the world’s highest mountain less than two years later. Big dreams are possible – as long as you don’t give up!

In today’s episode, Bonita shares more about what she’s learnt from tackling death-defying climbs; how a near fatal descent from Everest taught her to overcome a fear of failure and how climbing has helped her become more courageous in other areas of her life. It’s a fantastic listen that will be bound to inspire and encourage you to stick to those New Year resolutions!

Listen to learn more about climbing Everest and what it takes to achieve incredible goals.

My January Reading Goals

Although I don’t generally consciously articulate any reading goals I may have, I’ve come to realise that I often do have reading targets I like to meet on a monthly basis. I thought it would be fun to start writing them down properly and sharing them with you. Here are my reading goals for January:

1/ Read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This month celebrates the 200th anniversary since Frankenstein was first published, so I thought it was about time I finally read it. When I announced I was going to start it on my @mirandasbookcase account, people’s opinions seemed quite divided on it – many loved it, but some said they’d be glad never to read it again. I’m curious to see what I make of it!

2/ Continuing the Frankenstein theme, I also want to read the latest biography of Mary Shelley by Fiona Sampson, which sounds fascinating. Someone also suggested I read Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon, which describes the lives of both Mary Shelley and her famous mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. I’ve bought the book, which looks fantastic, but it’s enormous so I doubt I’ll get to it this month.

3/ Keep a Reading Journal. This January, I’ve started a journal where I write down a list of books I read, buy and am given. I’m finding it so much fun already, and I think I’ll love looking back on it at the end of the year.

4/ Read a book that helps me keep better habits. I’ve knocked this goal off my list already, as I read The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin, which describes the framework she uses to help people better understand themselves and their ability to form good habits.

5/ Take part in a book discussion on Instagram. This month, I’m joining in Shelbi’s discussion of Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’m half way through the book, so I’m keeping up fairly well which pleases me!

As always, too, I am constantly looking out for good books and reading a great deal for Tea & Tattle Podcast. I’m changing the layout slightly to my joint episodes with Sophie, and I’m including a section that will help our listeners to read more in less time, which I’m very excited about and enjoying researching at the moment.

Do you have any reading goals for the month?

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva Covent Garden

Godiva has always been one of my special treats. One of my favourite things to do (a habit started as a teenager!) is to choose just two of their truffles, have them tied up in a little bag, and then enjoy each small bite whilst reading a magazine and a cup of tea. I was certainly delighted, then, to be offered a Godiva gift voucher in exchange for a blog post about my shopping spoils at the Godiva Covent Garden branch.

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

My voucher was certainly enough to get me far more than two truffles, and a lot of the joy in my expedition was in deciding what treats to get for friends and family. Of course, I wanted to get a big box of chocolates for my Mum, but I also had a friend’s birthday in mind, as well as stocking up on some useful hostess gifts.

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

There was so much to tempt, I spent a lot of time dithering! In the end though, I settled for the Chocolate Truffle Delight Gift Box for my friend’s birthday, three boxes of milk chocolate biscuits for hostess gifts, or be stashed away for when friends pop by for tea, and a gold box of hand-selected truffles for my Mum. I couldn’t resist a cone of chocolate-dipped strawberries, which are only available in the shops, for myself! The strawberries have tiny, Hercule Poirot-like chocolate moustaches, in a nod to Godiva’s Belgian roots. Isn’t that adorable?! I think the Great Detective would have approved – he had a sweet tooth after all!

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

After my shopping, I decided to have a wander around more of Covent Garden, which was still dressed up in all its Christmas glory (is it Scrooge-like of me to feel Christmas decorations look rather tired after the 6th?!).  I stopped by Aesop to pick up a new cleanser, and then headed to Petersham Nurseries for a cup of tea and to admire their flowers.

When I got home, I unpacked all my purchases, stopping to take a few photos, of course!

I hope my friend will like her chocolate box – isn’t the blue and pink pretty? And here’s a shot of some of the truffles I chose for my Mum (who’s being very generous with sharing them! ).

I like the chocolates with little bows on especially – they’re so pretty, as well as being delicious! If you’re a fan of coconut, I particularly recommend the yellow ones….

Thanks very much to Godiva for the fun afternoon out!

Find Godiva on Instagram at:
@govidauk #alwaysgodiva #godivauk

My Theme Word for 2018

Hello, and a somewhat belated Happy New Year! I’ve been enjoying a slow start to 2018, getting back into my rhythm of blogging, podcasting and teaching. I’ve also been thinking about the year ahead and reflecting on what I’ve learnt from 2017. Although a lot of good things happened last year, 2017 was, overall, a stressful 12 months, and my mum’s diagnosis of breast cancer towards the tail end of it really put things in perspective for me (thank you to everyone who has been sending through good wishes – she is recovering well from surgery and starting her radiation treatment).

When it came to deciding my ‘theme word’ for the year ahead, it didn’t take me long to settle on ‘nurture.’ 2018 is my year to take care of those I love, prioritise my own health and protect and nurture my time and my creativity in order to truly thrive. I’ll be discussing my choice of word a little more in my first Tea & Tattle Podcast episode back with Sophie, when we’ll be sharing some of our goals for the coming year. Thank you so much too to everyone who sent such kind messages for Sophie after her Mum so sadly passed away in November. I know she very much appreciated them, and for your understanding as she took some time away from the podcast. We’ll be resuming our joint episodes from 30th January, although Tea & Tattle will be back next week, when I’m interviewing one of the youngest women ever to have climbed Mount Everest. It’s an incredibly inspirational episode, and I can’t wait to share!

I’ll also be back to blogging much more frequently from now on, and I’m looking forward to sharing the content I have lined up for Miranda’s Notebook too. There’s still my wonderful holiday in St Ives to publish, some great interviews with authors and health experts, fun times in London, good books and so much more.

I wish you all a healthy, joyful and successful 2018!

T&T 57 | Dickens, Books and Food

Pen Vogler Interview | Dinner With Dickens

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle podcast here or on iTunes.

For the last episode of Tea & Tattle before the New Year, I’m so pleased to bring you a wonderfully festive conversation with the writer and food historian, Pen Vogler. Pen’s new book, Dinner with Dickens, is packed with delicious recipes inspired by Charles Dickens’s life and novels.

Pen lives in London and works for Penguin Press, but she has also written books on the history of food in literature, including Dinner with Mr Darcy and Tea with Jane Austen.

In today’s episode, Pen tells me what inspired her latest book, Dinner with Dickens, as well as a little about her research process in sourcing recipes. We also chat about the legacy of A Christmas Carol, and how the novella influenced the type of Christmas dinner we still eat today. It was fascinating, too, to learn about the types of dinner parties Dickens enjoyed hosting and how experiencing hunger as a child influenced his relationship with food later in life.

Listen to learn more about the importance of food in Charles Dickens’s life and books.

T&T 55 | Tatiana de Rosnay Discusses Daphne du Maurier

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

This week on Tea & Tattle, I’m thrilled to be speaking with the celebrated author, Tatiana de Rosnay, about her biography of Daphne du Maurier, Manderley Forever. Tatiana lives in Paris and writes in both French and English. She is the author of the international bestseller, Sarah’s Key, which is one of the most moving books I have ever read.

A consummate story-teller herself, Tatiana has often cited Daphne du Maurier’s books as being highly influential on her own work. Daphne du Maurier is one of my very favourite authors too, so I was delighted to read that Tatiana had written a new biography of the famous novelist.

Tatiana de Rosnay. Image credit: Denis Felix/Albin Michel

Manderley Forever was originally written in French, but was translated into English and published in the UK in October. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy, and found it an absorbing read. Tatiana draws a brilliant picture of Daphne du Maurier’s character and life and fleshes out details that have previously been rather obscure: like Daphne’s time in France, her love for Paris and interest in her own French heritage.

In this episode, Tatiana explains how she came to write Daphne du Maurier’s biography, what she discovered about the French edition of Rebecca, and the complex nature of Daphne’s personality. This is a brilliant listen for any Daphne du Maurier fan, and if you haven’t read one of her novels yet, then I’m sure you’ll be tempted to get reading right after this episode!

Listen to learn more about Daphne du Maurier’s fascinating life.