The Oh Comely Perfect Strangers Swap Box

This week, I sent off my swap box for Oh Comely magazines Perfect Strangers project. For those of you unfamiliar with the idea, it involves matching up two readers - who can choose to be either connected with someone in their country or overseas - who send each other a box of gifts based on a brief submitted bio. I opted to swap a box with someone in a different country to me - just to keep it interesting! After a few weeks of signing up, I was paired with Julia - a freelance graphic designer and keen gardener from Portland, Oregon in the USA.

I was immediately excited about compiling a box full of gardening treats. As someone who lives in Dorset, inspiration isn't hard to come by! I wanted to go for a quite a rustic look to keep with an outdoorsy theme, so picked up a cardboard box from Hobbycraft to fill with natural box filler for padding.  I then got to work on a small postcard print, on which I painted a small floral wreath and bee. I love painting bees lately - don’t ask me why! Although I’m definitely no artist, I had fun painting this and was pleased with the outcome… I’ll just say I was going for the imperfect approach! 

I then picked up a mixture of Dorset related seeds and - as lavender was one of my favourites -  I included a small Yankee candle inside a mini terracotta pot - just for effect, which I thought looked cute. I also ordered a three stack soap sample pack from chillyB in Dorset, who make organic homemade soaps to order, in addition to a Holistix Gardener’s Balm that I spotted at the Vegan Fair (post here!) a few weeks back. I thought both would be ideal when seeking some post-gardening TLC!

And - of course - I made a small card just to introduce myself and fill Julia in on her Dorset related goodies. I hope she liked them!

You can imagine my excitement at finally getting to open my own swap box from Julia this week (I’d saved it especially for until after I’d finished hers - I was a little late sending mine due to going on holiday - and it only seemed fair!) 

I was immediately in love with everything! I’d included in my bio that I was a self confessed tea lover with a penchant for the written word, so my box was filled with stationary, stickers, cards, stamps and a bundle of different teas to try. I’m super excited to try the Pearl's Jasmine Tea - I’ve never tried them before. 

I loved the hand written letter from Julia, who seemed so lovely - I’ll definitely be sending her a letter in response, just to thank her for the beautiful gifts that summed me up perfectly. I can’t wait to use my personal “From The Desk of Lottie” cards - even though I don’t want to ruin them! 

The Perfect Strangers is such a lovely idea in a world thats so tech based. It bought back the excitement of sending letters (which I did on rare occasions as a young kid) and the fun of sending a parcel across the world. I’ll definitely be signing up again for next year!



Flourless Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I confess, I’m not usually the hugest lover of cookies, chocolates or sweets. I’m the one who gets excited about new Nakd bars or sugar free cereal. I kid you not. When it comes to food, even I admit I’m pretty boring. So, when my Oh Comely swap box partner asked me to include a favourite cookie recipe in her parcel, I was a little stumped. I decided to look at it as a challenge - find some healthy, vegan cookies that would tempt me out of my savoury snacking ways. 

Whilst searching online, I came across a recipe that used almond flour, agave nectar (which, understandably has had mixed reviews concerning its sugar content - this could easily be subbed for a natural sweetener like Stevia) and dairy free chocolate to make them not only vegan, but gluten free. I thought it sounded ideal and, with the help of my trusted culinary partner in crime, Kieran and I set to work to seek out the ingredients in the hope of making something edible!

We were first held back by our inability to find almond flour ANYWHERE. Okay, slight exaggeration. Neither Sainsburys nor Holland and Barrett stocked any, so we opted for ground almonds instead. Close enough, right? Plus, protein. It’s a win win… we hoped! We picked up some dairy free chocolate drops and dark agave nectar and, as we already had the other ingredients needed, headed home to begin.

The recipe itself is pretty straightforward. 125 grams of almond flour (or, ahem, in our case, ground almonds) mixed with a pinch of sea salt and half a teaspoon of baking soda. 

We then mixed in the wet ingredients, including 125 ml of agave nectar, 125 ml of rapeseed oil and one tablespoon of vanilla extract. Finally, we added the best part: the chocolate drops!

After stirring with a spoon, we then lined a tray with grease proof paper and set the oven for 180 degrees. I then rolled the mixture into small balls and pressed down onto the paper to create 1cm thick cookies, spaced evenly apart. We ended up with 14 overall. 

We then left them to cook for around 15 minutes, even though the recipe said 7 - 10. We figured that, seeing as we’d swayed from the recipe slightly, going by eye (and poke!) would be best. 

When we returned, we were surprised to see how much they’d grown! Clearly we’d underestimated how much space they’d need, as they were now verging on square shaped. 

After leaving them to cool for roughly half an hour, we tested our first cookie, accompanied by a glass of soya milk… well, it had to be authentic! I loved the texture, even though they were slightly crumbly. Kieran wasn’t as won over as me to start with (which later changed after a few more!), as they weren’t quite the tough cookie texture he was expecting. Maybe next time we’ll use a banana or something else to firm them up a little, but for me personally, they were great. 

We've already been ordered to make another batch for my Mum who fell in love with them too, so I think we're on to something!

Am I a cookie convert? Well, with these, yes. It might take a few more tries and different recipes before I’m fully won over. Which means more excuses to bake. Who’s complaining?

Ingredients List

- 325 grams ground almonds
- Half tsp baking soda
- Pinch of sea salt
- 125 ml agave nectar 
- 125 ml rapeseed oil
- 100 grams dairy free chocolate drops
1 tbsp vanilla extract


Bournemouth Vegan Fair, 28.06.2015

As a vegetarian, I have often considered veganism after reading (and hearing) about the many health benefits the diet and lifestyle (not to mention environmental!) changes it has brought. So, when I heard that this year, the Bournemouth Pavillion would be home to the first Vegan Fair (organised by Lizzi Shaw) I didn’t hesitate to grab myself a ticket before the event on 28th June. 

On the morning, we waited outside the venue in astonishment. I’ve never seen a queue so big! It seemed never ending, and wrapped around the car park and pavement along the street. When we got inside, the excitement I felt from everyone around me was understandable: there were so many stalls, I didn’t know where to start! 

The first stall we saw was this amazing counter of vegan and organic chocolates. It was obviously a very popular hotspot, as I found hard to get close but from what I briefly saw, it looked amazing - and had so much choice! I imagine even the fussiest chocolate lover would have found something here. 

We then ventured around the organic makeup and beauty stalls. From balms, body lotions, butters and cosmetics, I really was in my element. I would have taken it all home with me, if I had the space (and time to use it all!) As soon as I got home, I ordered a Holistix Gardener’s Rescue Balm for my Oh Comely swap box project due to be sent off soon, as it seemed like a perfect little gift to include!

There were so many food stalls to wander around (naturally!) with some great samples on offer. I had certainly had my fair share of Pulsin bar pieces and raw juices! The stand from Sweet Greens looked amazing also, with numerous bowls piled high with the most delicious looking things to try. 

There was also some beautiful jewellery on display by some very talented sellers.

We finished up by stopping off at the Lush stand who were showing off some of their gorgeously scented products, including their GayIsOkay bar - because of course no vegan fair would quite be complete without them!

Overall, the event did open my eyes to the array of food and products on offer that made the vegan lifestyle seem all the more appealing for me. Not only that, but it was heartwarming to see such support for a community thats expanded in popularity over the past few years. 

I hope to see the Vegan Fair back for a second year!