19 August 2016

Chocolate Beetroot Cake with Frosting


I had such a lot of fun on Facebook this week asking for cake flavour suggestions and then I promised that the one I picked as the winning flavour to bake, would have a free slice sent to them through the post! The overall flavour winner was a Lavender and Vanilla cake suggestion, which sounded wonderfully summery and unusual too, so the lucky lady that suggested it, actually did receive a slice of her bespoke, specially created flavour cake through the post, just a few days later and she was delighted. That recipe however, is for another day!

There were so many excellent suggestions that I have decided that I will indeed bake every single one that I feel could be attractive and appealing and made my way. Cakes made my way are wholesome, vegan and glutenfree.

I would make myself bankrupt sending off a free slice of cake to everyone who had made a suggestion, so I have decided to give back in another way, by baking the cake and tweaking it and then sharing my recipe so that anyone can make it!

An important point for me to make is that I don't like faffing around in the kitchen, making things complicated and fussy, I want quick and tasty results. When I work with a recipe, I want it to be easy to read and not have to weight out lots of ingredients first, into lots of bowls and create lots of washing up! No way. I do not like washing up and cleaning up, so space used is minimal and ingredients are measured out with cups, rather than weighed out on scales, a lot easier. This is why my recipes don't have an ingredient list at the beginning. The way to use my recipes is to read through them once to check you have everything you need, or suitable substitutions. Then follow the step by step instructions.

Chocolate Beetroot Cake with frosting.

The Cake

1/ Preheat the oven to 180°
2/ Line a 9" x 9" brownie tin with greaseproof paper and then grease it with vegetable oil.
3/ Put the following ingredients into a large jug and stir well:
1 cup of Essential Buckwheat Flour
1/2 a cup of Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour
1/2 a cup of sugar
1/2 a cup of Divine Cocoa Powder
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 a smashed up bar, 100g of Divine Dark Baking Chocolate
4/ Put the following ingredients into a blender and blend well:
1/2 a cup of cooked beetroot
1 cup of water
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons of Biona Apple Cider Vinegar with Mother
5/ Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well.
6/ Pour the batter out into the greased and lined baking tray and pop into the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
7/ Take the cake out of the oven and cover with foil, then bake for another 10 minutes, or until a knife stuck into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
8/ Leave the cake to cool, with the foil taken off.

The Frosting

1/ Combine the following ingredients finely in your blender:
Just ripe peeled and stoned avocados x 2
10 x tablespoons of Agave Nectar 
1/2 a cup of Divine Cocoa Powder.
2/ When the cake is cool smooth the frosting over the top. If you are lucky, there might be some mixture left in the blender which you will have to eat, to make cleaning easier!
3/ Slice this cake into 8 equal slices, or even 16 little cubes and store in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

This cake didn't last for one day, as everybody loved it!
If you have any questions about this recipe, please let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading and I'd love to know how you get on when you make yours.

13 August 2016

Could Online Shopping Help to Regenerate Our High Streets?

Karen Mercer, My Coffee Stop. Photo by Anne-Marie Sanderson.

Save time by not reading this article and just buy something straight away from my website, to see if my theory is correct!  


Ok, if you must, here is the article, enjoy! 

Where does my money go to, who do I buy from?

I specifically ensure that my money is mostly spent on independent local businesses! So, when you buy from us, no matter whether it's from our shop in Shepton Mallet, or online, you know that we filter that money back into the local, independent and small business, circular economy. Buy from us and we make a concerted and conscientious effort to spend it in our local high street. We go to Peppers, The Hive, Denela's, Dredge and Male, Steve's Fish Restaurant, The Swan, The Bell, The Club Lounge, Hidden Treasures, The Dusthole, Anna's Attic, I-do Vintage, The Furniture Workshop, Minsky's Barbers, C.H. Penn the Jewellers and Starlight Studios and support numerous home businesses and charities in the local area, doing what we can. I've probably missed a very big one out there! We even support Haskins by choosing to shop at Aldi and other shops in their building! So, when you buy from us, you are absolutely supporting your whole high street because we make damn sure you do!

I'd really like to do more and for that, I need your help, please!

What I am asking for you to do is to please help my family and myself to contribute even more to our town. 

Since closing our shop in Enfield, we are totally reliant on you making a conscious effort to buy from us. I know it's hard to come into town when you've been working all the hours that you can, that's why I have created a website, so that you can still support our family and our business ethos, by ordering online from us. We deliver FREE to you if you live in the BA4 postcode area, we also have click and collect as an option. If there is one thing that you can buy from us instead of a supermarket, then please do just that.

What if you can't find the healthy, or vegan, or gluten-free thing that you want on our website? Then please just comment on this blog post and tell us the product name and size that you are looking for and we will update our website, to sell you the things that you are looking for.

We don't lead an extravagant lifestyle, we don't have massive needs but we would like to provide you with a business that you want to use and sells the things that you want and need at a fair, reasonable price. We want to create a business that is successful here in Shepton Mallet. 

When we closed our shop in Enfield, I thought that our customers/friends would love to buy from our online shop, I imagined people buying our Yogi Tea Bags, or Protein Powders, or our Coffee but this hasn't really happened but I still feel sure that it could, maybe I just need to say, please buy from us, we need you to help us and we would like to be give the opportunity to sell you the things that you need.

Since closing our Enfield shop, we have had to claim Housing Benefit, to help us be able to pay our rent. I don't want to have to claim housing benefit, I want us to be able to sell our friends and our family the things they want, at the price they feel able to pay.

In writing this blog, I might earn a few pennies from advertising revenue and I really mean, a few pennies! In creating my website that takes many hours, I have sold a few things but it could do a lot better. I need my friends and my family and my children's friends, to make a concerted effort to use it and if there is something that you want to buy that is health food or whole food orientated, then please let me know. 

I understand that you can't always get to visit my shop in person, or even get to it EVER, BUT please support my family and I in our venture to continue our Coffee and Health Food shop on the high street of Shepton Mallet.

Anna Perra's shop on the high street is closing this month, I haven't been able to visit for ages to buy at least a little something because I just haven't had the money. I've seen Penny's Sweets go, I've seen No 21 go, I've seen Nostalgia go, Tina's Pet Pantry, Fred's Shop, Twice as Nice, Mendip Fireplaces and Just Jo all these shops added character, personality and enjoyment to our high street and now Anna Perra is going, there'll be another empty unit. Anna is keeping her business going as an online shop and doing events too, so she's cutting one massive overhead from her business and concentrating on creating an income from decreasing her overheads. Seeing another shop close is always a shock to residents and especially, I feel, to other shopkeepers. It is a reminder of our own vulnerabilities and how needy we are for your continued support. Yes, I look at Anna Perra's shop closing and feel scared, very scared for the future of my shop too.

I want to support the high street, I want people to know about the shabby chic charm of Shepton Mallet but I cannot do it on my own, I need you to help. This is a two way process, I will help you get the things you want and you can help me to stay where I am on the high street, adding a big dollop of personality and charisma to our wonderful town!

People used to say that online shopping caused the demise of the high street, I see online shopping as a tool to help regenerate the high street and keep supporting those little independent shops that you love, even if you're working so hard that you don't even get a chance to visit them!

I look forward to receiving your order today!


24 July 2016

Listen to your inner voice!

So, last week, I went to my youngest son's sports day. To my surprise there was a race at the end for the ladies, the MUMS, in other words. I was just going to sit back and watch the others run in the sunshine and heat, then one of the teachers cajoled me and said, 'Come on, come on, you can do it!', well it didn't take much, after a few verbal nudges like that, I was 9 years old again, good at running 100 meters and ready to RUN! Just let me point out here, that if I do anything to keep fit these days, my choice is not running but anything that involves dancing and music to lift me up and along into the realms of exercise, that ethos was quickly shoved out of my mind as I imagined the glory of winning, especially after Elijah had just used Sports Day to display so beautifully the fact that he hasn't picked up how to skip whilst running yet, the slow painful embarrassment that I had felt watching him would soon be turned into a success for the Mercer-Hollenstein clan and our family would climb up to grace once again! I stood on the white line, waiting to begin and as I did so, I looked down at the boots I was wearing and thought, loud and clear, if that is possible, 'No, I shouldn't be doing this!', the thought was so very loud and clear that I almost stepped away from the line to go and sit down again but the logical part of my brain saw no logical reason why I should not take part in a fun little race, so there I stood, poised for action. Whilst my mind was off in another realm, 'Go' had been shouted out and as I saw the other Mums set off in slow motion, it seemed to me and stretch out far in front of me, I knew I had to close that space and catch up, overtake and win! There was NO WAY I was going to lose, I urged myself forward, pushed my toes into the ground with extra might and found myself flying, NOT towards the finishing line but towards the ground that was now rapidly coming up to meet my face and body. I lay on the ground, completely shocked, then for some reason, decided it was important to get up and finish the race. I don't know what lesson that taught the children watching at that young impressional age, at this stage of life, maybe keep going even if you're a loser, or don't let your Mum embarrass you at sports day ever again, (That one probably a personal one for my son Elijah).
After going over what happened in my head, I realised that it is very important to listen to your inner voice, in particular for me, my inner voice. I took this as a message from the universe, as a warning, a little hand life tip to heed for my future and to help me make important decisions and to tune into my instinct. I told Elijah the story about how, even though I had managed to fly in the race, I had missed the opportunity to listen to my inner voice.
Today, I had the perfect opportunity to listen to my inner voice. We went with some friends, our children and their child, to Glastonbury Abbey and Joshua my 13 year old, was doing commando rolls all over the place and running and jumping, just yesterday we were watching some Parkour videos on YouTube and having studied gymnastics when I was a girl, I noticed Handsprings, Somersaults and  Arabsprings (Are they still calles that?) buried in the sequences. Of course when Joshua started doing all this, I revert to my 13 year old self and try to copy what he's doing, not very successfully, so I decide to show I am quite good at some things still and do a nice little controlled headstand. Having built up my confidence, I do a quick little cartwheel, then decide I show Joshua how to do an Arabspring, 'Er, should you be doing this, ' my inner voice said, 'You don't want to hurt yourself!'. Then my logical brain responded with the logical and end conclusion that there was no reason that I would hurt myself, can you recognise a pattern here?
'This is how you do an Arabspring Joshua', I eaxplained, as I took a run up and did the preperatory hop on my left leg, before going into the spring which would be where I would go upside down on my hands.....I didn't get to the upside down on my hands bit, my sequence was completed with the hop and a tightening in my left leg and a cramp like searing pain, as I crumpled to the grass, screaming out a very long ow!
Just as with the running experience, I lay still at first, this time, on my back and Joshua thought it might be a joke but it wasn't. I have bloody hurt my left leg so much, after having not listened to my inner voice that I am now in bed, worried about going to the toilet and getting there in time, down our very long corridor with two sets of steps. I can't walk properly, only with a limp and if I do a wrong move, it makes me yelp with pain. I need a walking stick, tomorrow is Monday, I do not know how I will cope in our shop and on Tuesday, a TV crew is coming to film us, with Heather Bryson-Banks, Columnist from The Shepton Mallet Journal and her family, in our shop and I am lying here and hoping that it will all be sitting down stuff. At this moment in time, my inner voice, rather than stomping off in a mood, has decided to look at my situation and laugh at me, jumping up and down with glee whilst shouting out, 'I told you so, I told you so!'. What kind of childish attitude is that for an inner voice to have? I can hear my inner voice saying back to me, 'Yup, the same kind of childish attitude that I have to put up with from you, when you choose not to listen to me!'.
'Yeah but what about feel the fear and do it anyway?' I question, stubbornly.
'Not at Forty Six Years old, just ACT YOUR AGE.' Inner voice replies in frustration.
It's taken me years to even get to this level of maturity, I do NOT accept the age 46, in which case, I feel there are a few more injuries to be had. I am still wondering to myself how I can make sure I do my Arabspring correctly, with no injuries next time, in the meantime, when you see me hobbling around Shepton Mallet, let it be a reminder to listen to your innervoice, your instinct and take heed.

27 June 2016

Why did my partner vote to leave?

After the 2nd world war, to encourage peace the EU was created. Britain joined in 1973, when I was just 3. So basically I don't have a concept of Britain not being a part of Europe.
In 1995, Austria became a part of the EU. In 1996, I went over to Austria to work and met and fell in love with Gunter Hollenstein. I was able to stay there without a problem, open a bank account easily, be taught German, have a job as a singer and a dancer and sometimes barwork too, all easily because we were united. Gunter came with me back to the UK to live and to work, he easily got a NI number, he easily got German speaking jobs and a bank account. I went on to broadcast the traffic and travel news for ten years and we had Joshua and Elijah on the way. Then Gunter and I decided to open a coffee shop in this country and for a while we had two coffee shops in this country.
Then one day, somebody decided we should have a referendum about something that I thought had already been decided in 1973.
So, I went along and voted. Gunter is Austrian and wasn't meant to be able to vote but he had a polling card and his name was on the list at the polling station. I told him he'd better vote, just in case he is allowed and he did.
We are living history, that is why both sides of the debate feel so passionately, that I can see but what I don't think I'll ever understand is why an imigrant in the UK would vote leave, after enjoying all the freedoms that EU gave him.
Why would a man with two sons in Britain and two sons and a Dad and brothers, sisters and lots of family in Austria vote for the UK to leave the EU?
Being in the EU was a strategic idea to keep the peace, that worked. I still do not understand why my own partner would vote leave. I wish I could.
At the moment I am in bed with flu, I'm calling it the Flexit virus because it bowled me down on Friday when the Leave win was announced.
Illness always makes me think things through and think about life and I've been mulling that one over big time, I can tell you. When I saw the online petition stating the grounds for a second referendum, I thought that it was a very good idea. I posted it onto my Facebook profile to encourage a friendly discussion but generally leavers accused remainers of 'Throwing their toys out of their pram' and 'Childish-like tantrums' and yes my glee was delightfully childlike when it was revealed in the press that the petition was started in May by a Leave campaigner, in case the vote hadn't gone his way!
Like many others, I am left wondering why a person so close to me voted for something that would tear his family apart and give his two youngest sons less opportunities than they ever had before.
Hey, forget the 2nd referendum petition, the poll wasn't run properly and no one is even admitting it.
The truth will out in the end but at the moment each one of us is living with this great divide, this great rift and one day, when people read our history they will wonder why we let it happen and how it came to pass.

22 June 2016

Bin There, Done That But...

What a great job, in front of the iconic Pyramid Stage!

The reason that I find it difficult to imagine enjoying Glastonbury Festival is because I do not enjoy being in any type of queue, the traffic chaos of last night (June 21st) is something that I would not be able to put up with at all, I cannot tolerate changes in temperature very well at all, especially cold, so being wet and muddy and feeling cold doesn't appeal to me whatsoever. For many years I thought I was just a snob, as I felt the only way I could enjoy the festival would be in a special bit away from the crowds and with no queues and looked after properly. Then after photographing Collett Festival, the other week and being able to go backstage and right up in front of the stage, to get my shots, I realised that perhaps I need to be just working at Glastonbury Festival, in order to enjoy it, rather than being a member of the public. I need to be involved from the inside. I find the whole concept rather overwhelming and the space huge and the amount of choice of what to do just incredible, so for me the whole thing is about getting myself accustomed to the sensory overload that I would experience in these conditions. I've suspected for a long time now, that I am on the high functioning end of the autistic spectrum and that is why I have these issues, that 'Neuro Typical' people just don't seem to have. So, when a very special family, customers of our shop, told us that they were organising bin painting at the festival, I was very interested in seeing what it was about. They told me that if I did 10 shifts of bin painting, that I would be able to get free tickets to the festival! I didn't know if I would like the vibe, or painting bins, or even if I would be able to do it, or anything, so I just kept saying 'No'!

From left to right: Andy, Thali and Holly.



However, Holly, Andy, baby Thali and brother Sky, are lovely, lovely people and really encouraged me to do it, even if it was for just one hour. (Well baby Thali didn't encourage me verbally but he has such a lovely way with him and a gorgeous beaming smile too, very hard to resist!) My problem was I was just very, very scared! I was worried about going there, finding them, doing it and just everything. I was frozen by the thought of stepping a bit outside my comfort zone. So frozen that I dressed in old clothes specially for bin painting for three days in a row before I finally managed to convince myself to get into my car and drive down to where I didn't know where I was going.

When I found the Worthy Farm Festival site, the security where wonderfully smiley and welcoming and not intimidating at all and there was a very friendly lady in the office called Emma, who offered me chocolate biscuits as I awaited Holly to pick me up in her 4x4.

I eventually got dropped off in a field and Sky, Holly's brother was my leader. I was introduced to his team of bin painters and then given brushes, paint, a bin and instructions to do something happy and bright! So before lunch, I painted bunting going round my bin and then after lunch, which was a very delicious vegan option from Goose Hall, the onsite restaurant for staff, I painted flowers around the bottom half. I took a sneaky peak at some other finished bins to get an idea of the technique that I could use to paint some pretty flowers. I LOVED being let loose on a bin! It was a happy, relaxing time. I didn't really want to chat, I loved being in my own little world just happily painting, whilst someone blared out some tunes from their phone and a speaker. ( I think I was expected to interact a little more though, as John, another volunteer bin painter told me about the bonding exercise that they had done as a team and how it was really good to break the ice and so on). After I finished my bin, I said goodbye to everyone and planned to come back again the next day.

My first and only bin so far, with bunting and flowers.

The next day, I had to park up in a lay-by and then walk into the site. I found a great little spot to park up and due to my inexperience with Glastonbury Festival and where everything is, I ended up walking, not knowing where I was going for a couple of hours, I was completely lost and found a perimeter fence, there was a sign about a gas main and phoning the site office for permission to dig, so I decided to phone that number to find out where I was and how to get in, then as I dialled the number, Michael Eavis' office number came up, I described to them where I was but they didn't recognise it either, there are a lot of places looking the same, so they advised me in the end to just keep walking around the fence and I would bump into someone to help me eventually. I had actually got straight through to Michael and I was really shocked that it was him who answered the phone and he was just as shocked that it was me who was phoning, different reasons to my shock of awe and admiration, I think! After a quick chat his PA, was the one who gave me the guidance to follow the fence and there was I imagining special treatment, like a rescue helicopter loaded with food and drink for me and a special guided tour by Michael himself but I really should have known better!

Eventually, I came across the right people to help me and I marched all the way to the Bin painting field where I discovered, there was no-one and I realised that it was lunch! Yippee, so after walking all that way, pass The John Peel Stage, pass The Pyramid Stage and taking some pictures too, I arrived just in time for lunch. There was a queue, I didn't have a meal ticket but for some reason the very lovely security took pity on me and put me at the front of the queue and asked a bin painter, with purple paint marks on her face to explain why I would need a meal. Then I bumped into Sky! So synchronicity was starting to kick in at last and it kicked in so perfectly, that as I sat down to enjoy another beautiful vegan meal at Goose Hall, torrential rain banged on the tin roof of the structure we were in and I felt extremely lucky to be fed, watered and dry and not still lost!

In the afternoon, we were told that we wouldn't be painting bins but we would be painting a mural! Which sounds really exciting but I just wanted to go home, as I find working in a team really difficult indeed, unless I have my own role nicely mapped out, starting to panic a bit, I made a joke about there being no 'I' in team, so I'd better F@*"k off then but Andy told me to stay and paint my own little piece of wall on the end. That felt ok to me, so I stayed. It suddenly felt very not ok when other painters came by looking at what I was doing, maybe thinking I must be a really good painter to get my own bit of wall, until I explained to them that I'm rubbish at working in a team, that put the score straight for them and immediately lowered their expectations of what was going to appear on that wall. I was blown away by the murals that they were creating, I couldn't understand how they managed to communicate with each other within about 5 minutes what they were going to map out and how they were going to paint it, they were all extremely talented! The rain was relentless whilst we were painting but we kept going as luckily we were undercover. Then, when I finished my piece, Holly, Thali and her Mum picked me up and very kindly gave me a lift to my car.

Do I want to do this next year? Oh yes please! Would I like to do the ten days for a ticket to Glastonbury Festival? Absolutely! So yes, I've 'Bin There, Done That But...' I haven't done the festival yet and I really would love to because now I see that the festival is a place that pulls many like-minded people together! How could I, a lover of performing arts, not be involved in the festival in any way, when I live in the nearest town? So, yes, I am a convert, I admit it, I am a Glastonbury Wannabe and I want to paint those bins next year!

If you would love to be a volunteer bin painter for 2017, then you need to email Holly!




15 May 2016

Easy 5 minute Raw, Vegan Soup

Sometimes it is really hard trying to eat healthily and especially when you're hungry, rushing around, trying to do so much and have hardly a moment to think about nutrition. That's why I created this Easy 5 Minute Raw Vegan Soup Recipe.

Influenced by the tastes of my customers and a lady who came in the other week and told me what I could do with my copious amounts of wild garlic!

This is so easy, so good for you and so very enjoyable, so, here goes:

1/ Put the following into a blender.

A handful each of WildGarlic, SpringGreens and Spinach.

A quarter of a Kallo stock cube.

3 generous teaspoons of MellowBrown Rice and Soy Miso.
Chilli to taste.

A drizzle of Clearspring Japanese Toasted Sesame Oil.

Organic Tamari Soy Sauce to taste.

A shake of Turmeric.

And around 600ml of hot but not boiling water.

2/ Whizz blender until required texture. I whizz until there are still little chunks of leaves but you might prefer it throughly blended and smooth.

3/ Pour into a mug or bowl, drink to your health and enjoy.

This recipe creates around 4 portions but of course that depends on the size of bowl or mug that you are using.

10 May 2016

Powerful and Passionate Protest Comments to Support Library Petition!


I started the Leave our Library Alone petition with just my own voice. I do have a habit of saying out loud what everyone is thinking, which usually causes some offence and is generally something I have to try hard to control but when it comes to creating a petition, that's when my weakness is a strength. I write it from the heart and write what I feel is my truth and if people agree with it, they sign the petition, it's as simple as that. A petition isn't just about what I as an individual think, it is a tool to accumulate power for our collective voices to be heard and that's why, I think that if you sign a petition, it's really important to write your own personal comment about what you think about the issue. A petition isn't always a perfect document and society is of course made up of many individuals, each with their own story or angle on the situation. The petition I have created isn't a list of perfect wishes of mine, that need to be magically turned into reality, it's a starting point to attract like-minded individuals, to campaign for what our town needs and to encourage discussion with Somerset County Council. The people on Somerset County Council are real people too, they are not some ogres and I truly believe that when they understand how much our library means to us, in the position it is, that we can come together and create a solution. Nope, I don't know what that solution is but that doesn't mean that I can't campaign against something that is just plain wrong!

So, the petition that I created has three main points:

1/ For our library to be left where it is at the heart of our town.

2/ For opening hours to be longer.

3/ For staff to be supported by automation and not cut because of it.

In just a few days, the campaign has been gathering momentum and there are several powerful comments already on the petition which is just about to reach the 400 signatures landmark!

Please join your voice with ours and get our message heard:

Please sign and comment on the petition, here. 

Please share this article on Facebook and encourage your friends and family to sign too.

Thank you so much for all your support so far.

Here are some of the other voices joining the protest.


It's a vital resource for the community, and should be kept in the centre of the community.

Mary Boston, Cranmore, United Kingdom

I do not think that Mendip will be happy until the whole of Shepton has become a dormitory town with only the shops at the top of the town to serve the town. This is a beautiful town and yet the agenda of Mendip is a brain teaser. LEAVE the library where it is, at least when people go there then they are passing shops who may benefit from a visit from them also, if it is at the top of town in Mendip then what is the point?
Lindy Wilson, Glastonbury, United Kingdom

Libraries AND librarians are a wonderful resource that help reduce crime, improve social mobility and make people happy especially older people and children
Helen Clemence, Shepton Mallet, United Kingdom

Libraries are important for the future of our children and should be kept in the heart of the town