A Shout Out to The Farmers Market

* by Mark

I am a sinner, for I partake in the nasty habit of smoking and so I am often relegated to the cold and wet outside to satisfy my cravings. Over the years I have grown accustomed to the downside of my habit and accept it as a norm. Oh yes before you think it I have tried to quit and sure one day I will quit with the help of vaping but for now success eludes me. So you may now be wondering what on earth this has to do with a farmers market, let me explain…

We smokers are often told from learned and wise people that one of the many downsides to our habit is a reduced or even the total loss of our sense of smell and taste and as they are indeed wise I for one took them at their word.

In a busy and hectic modern lifestyle we as a society have reduced our foraging for food down to the weekly visit to one of the main supermarket chains, its normal and everyone does it. Now as I wander around the fruit and veg section of our local supermarket the smells are muted and in many cases missing, even in the cut flower section. Once home and dinner is prepared my taste buds experience the same muted sense. It must be because I smoke right, my fault right….

A Shout Out to The Farmers MarketNow we live in the deepest darkest corner of Bulgaria, miles from anything resembling a supermarket and having missed the summer so the veg patch is currently bare we have to go foraging in a new way. So to the farmers market we go on a chilly but sunny Wednesday morning to browse a hundred different stalls stacked high with seasonally appropriate vegetables and fruit. This is where I had one of my life changing experiences.

Maybe it was a miracle, maybe Bulgarian cigarettes are made different whatever it was my sense of smell was reeling from all the inputs. I could smell everything and in many cases I didn’t even have to be an inch away but several paces away was close enough to smell the produce. It was an amazing experience and has left a lasting impression on me. When we returned home and prepared some of our newly acquired food my taste buds also joined in with the revelation of working again as the taste of everything was distinct and filled my mouth. I am hooked.

…and yes I still smoke, probably more now than ever as the novelty of £2 a pack makes quitting just a little harder!

So why, I was left wondering, why have my senses returned to me so suddenly after all these years of being dormant. Turns out if you eat stuff grown in clean soil, that’s clean in the sense of not being saturated in chemicals and in a natural environment as it is meant to be grown as stated by Mother Nature the end product smells and tastes amazing. If you eat stuff grown out of season, stuff that grew in a polly-tunnel and that was fed chemicals to facilitate the fastest possible growth cycle to maximise profits the flavour and smell is muted. It is all to do with the micro-organisms in the soil, all the creepy crawlies who defecate and die in the soil, the rain water and the whole ecosystem that the plant grows in. Things we probably don’t want to think about as we are eating but are vital to the amount of smell and taste we experience at the end of it all. Commercially grown stuff tends to be shielded from all that stuff and we pay the price.

So I return to my starting point, with a huge shout out to the farmers market, they are not perfect but they are a far better option than the supermarket shelves of commercially churned out produce. So support your local business person and visit your farmers market and spend a little extra cash, trust me your nose and tongue will thank you.

5 Benefits of Walnuts

Who knew that walnuts are truly the nut of wonder… well actually they aren’t nuts but seeds but you get the point. They are among the oldest foods grown by humans, dating back to 7000BC, super rich in nutrition and with countless benefits to our body.

Who knew that walnuts are truly the nut of wonder… well actually they aren’t nuts but seeds but you get the point. They are among the oldest foods grown by humans, dating back to 7000BC, super rich in nutrition and with countless benefits to our body.I was never a huge fan of walnuts. I do like them, don’t get me wrong, but given the choice of different nuts I would usually go for almonds, cashews or even hazelnuts. Since coming to Bulgaria we have discovered that walnuts are the only protected tree in this country, which obviously means no chopping without very special permission, as a result there are walnuts everywhere! And I really mean everywhere! I can go for a 5 minute walk to my local village shop and come back with a basket of walnuts if I was to collect only those that have dropped from the trees along the sidewalk.  With such an abundance of these nuts I have started to look closer into them and to my big surprise I have discovered that they are truly nuts of wonder with many benefits which really shouldn’t be overlooked.

Heart health

Walnuts contain the plant-based omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an anti-inflammatory and may prevent the formation of pathological blood clots. Research shows that people who eat a diet high in ALA are less likely to have a fatal heart attack and have a nearly 50 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death. They also decrease LDL cholesterol, which is the so called “bad cholesterol” and increases production of the good one.

Brain health

Walnuts have a very high antioxidant content, which means that they can improve your brain functions including the memory function, comprehension and possibly even slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.

Weight control

Surprisingly those fatty, fairly high calorie nuts can help us lose weight. If added to your diet they will help to keep us fuller for longer. One study has shown that people who included walnuts in their breakfast had a sense of fullness for much longer than the group which didn’t, which means less snacking, less other foods, less calories…

Source of vitamins and minerals

Walnuts are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals including: folic acid, vitamin B, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, phosphorus.

Beauty nut

Well, walnuts can help us with the quality of our sleep (thanks to melatonin), they will strengthen our hair (thanks to biotin / vitamin B7) and make our skin glow (thanks to vitamin B and antioxidants) so how could we not call it a beauty nut?


Those are just five of the main benefits of walnuts. According to many articles on the net there is many, many more, some less proven then others but the bottom line is: walnuts are good for you, really good! Now, it’s just a case of finding some “healthy” (aka organic grown) walnuts near you. And if you struggling give me a shout I can share our stash with you 🙂


Following the Dream

I don’t want a perfect life; I want a happy one!

Just like the quote says, we are on a mission to have a better quality of life… but let’s start from the beginning…

Following the DreamAll of this started about two years ago. We were getting fed up with living in UK, it was all work, work, work (more commonly referred to as the “rat race”) and there never seemed to be a lot of time for anything else and even if there was time there was never enough money no matter how hard we worked; couple that with the endless gloomy weather and seemingly daily rain resulting in it always feeling damp and meaning a lack of sunshine. There was also the issue of a growing hatred of the ever encroaching nanny state with the 1%ers amassing total control over, what felt to us as every aspect of our life in the end led to a level of dissatisfaction that resulted in us one evening deciding that it was time for a change… so we took the giant map of Europe out and started to look for a new place to live.

Yes, I know this might sound a bit extreme but life is short, we aren’t getting any younger and frankly it felt like the right time for our next start.

After going through all the obvious suspects aka favourite spots for Brits to emigrate to such as the south of France, Spain, Italy maybe even Switzerland but they were realistically outside of our budget, we were shortly running out of places to live… all we wanted was an affordable for us country with sunny weather, good food, friendly people and you know what… we found it…. In Bulgaria!

I can imagine that most of you at this moment are either thinking good for them or as is usually the case sat there thinking WTF! Well, trust me when I say we have kind of gotten used to this reaction from people by now. Most people can’t understand why on earth we would want to move from such a well-developed Britain to an underdeveloped country like Bulgaria… well, at the heart of the matter we just wanted a simpler life and after extensive research we truly believe that we can achieve our dream here.

It took us a long time to get to this stage. Four months ago we sold our UK home and by completion day we had managed to move all our belongings into my parents’ house/garage/garden shed in Poland.  From there we filled the car with diesel and started the long drive, 48h later we arrived in Bulgaria. The search for our new home began in earnest…

We came prepared with a long list of houses that we wanted to view. After a few weeks of driving around and viewing properties with endless hours of discussions about all the pros and cons of each place we had whittled the original list down to a short list of three favourites. At this time we enrolled the help of my dad… He desperately wanted to come, probably as much out of curiosity as wanting to make sure his daughter wasn’t about to buy a disaster and from our side it’s always good to get the opinion of someone more sensible than you may be. So we had him fly over just to check out our potential list of a new home. As it ended up all three passed the “dad inspection” and it was time to start making offers… long story short last month (yes, we have a small mini anniversary today) we become the happy owners of our new Bulgarian home.

I have to say it was a real roller-coaster… up and down and up again… so many new experiences, so many things to learn but you know what… we are for the first time in a long time truly happy. We own a lovely house with a garden big enough that we could hire a man with a tractor and plough to plough a section of it in order to get it ready for being a veggie patch next year, we are surrounded by kind, helpful people (no, we can’t understand them most of the time but no one seems to care), we are eating simple but real food, which tastes amazing but most of all we are debt free, we have no mortgage, no loans, no worry… I wake up, brew my morning coffee and go out to drink it in my warm sunny November garden (yes it’s the middle of November and it’s still warm), looking around and thinking to myself: “this is all ours”! This makes me happy!

I know we haven’t been around much lately (and thank you for the many emails checking up on me) yet as I sit here writing to you all with this update I can hand on heart say that all boxes are unpacked, the house is taking its final shape and we are now on the mission to do what we enjoy most… cooking, baking and blogging about it 🙂

Take care, speak soon and remember it’s never too late to follow your dreams!