The Golden Girl donut

A few weeks ago I discovered the joy that is getting cookery books out of the library.

I’ve always gone to the library, obviously, I’ve not just suddenly discovered it as concept. I’ve facilitated my fair share of summer reading challenges with the girls, and been to story times, and done all the usual library things, but for some reason it had never occurred to be to get recipe books from the library. Silly really, as they are BOOKS, dur.

So anyway a few weeks ago I went along to the library, with my tote bag, and there were shelves and shelves of them! I sat on the floor and looked at all the pictures of all the things I’d probably never get around to making, but liked looking at nonetheless. I concentrated on baking because I find it more enjoyable cooking when I’m not hungry, just for the fun of making something. When you’ve been answering the ‘what’s for tea’ question every day at 4.30pm for over 20 years then the joy of cooking actual meals becomes a teeny bit diminished.

I ended up with a big stack of books for my tote bag and one of them was DONUTS by Vicky Graham. (Only £3 for a hardback on Amazon at the time of writing, should you want your own non-library copy.) View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Southampton International Boat Show

On Sunday I took myself off to Southampton for a day at the International Boat Show – the biggest on-the water-boat show in Europe, (fun fact), which runs this year until September 22nd. When my mum saw the pictures on Instagram she was surprised.

‘I didn’t know you were interested in boats!’ she messaged me.

‘I’m not!’ I replied.

I’m really not. In fact, I can’t even really swim*, but it turns out you don’t have to know your jib from your mainsail to enjoy a day at the Southampton Boat Show, especially on a gloriously sunny day.

(I Googled ‘sailing terms’ for that sentence.)

Southampton Boat Show discount View Post

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The technical challenge on the Great British Bake Off last week was figs rolls. I absolutely love a fig roll – a much underrated snack in my opinion. They are properly sturdy and wholesome feeling, not like you’ve really had a biscuit at all, more like an oat cake and a fruit salad.

This fig roll recipe is even more wholesome than usual because it comes from The Happy Pear cookbook. I bought this book after my sister took me to visit their cafe in Ireland, which was LUSH.

They are really into healthy eating, so it’s all piles of homemade Medjool date energy balls and massive, colourful bowls full of couscous and olives and pulses you don’t recognise but feel like you should. It’s basically how you imagine your own kitchen would be if you lived in Greece and had seven children and wore long, flowing dresses. You know that anything from their recipe book is going to be oozing with goodness. Eat one of these fig rolls and feel smug AF.

This is a gluten free fig roll recipe, with a pastry made with ground almonds instead of flour. I know on the Bake Off the fig rolls were the technical challenge, but I don’t honestly think you need much technical skill to make these. They’re a bit fiddly maybe, because the pastry is quite crumbly, but you’ll manage it, I have faith in you.

homemade fig roll recipe View Post

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Can you believe I’ve been in my new house for over two years? It’s weird – it’s one of those things that hardly feels like any time at all, and yet I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

When we moved in I spray painted my bed pink in an act of newly single rebellion, and then I had the wardrobes built, but apart from that I’ve done very little to my bedroom. (Can you imagine if I had had to share the wardrobes? What a nightmare. It was almost worth breaking up just for that.) For ages my bedroom has been basically like a cheap hotel room – a bed, the wardrobe and a couple of bedside tables, and that’s it.

For quite a while I didn’t even have curtains, which added a fun, extra dimension to getting dressed, but then I got the new blind and it started to feel a bit more like a space I wanted to enjoy being in, rather than just somewhere to go to sleep.

The next step then was pictures.

I always say that plants and pictures are what make a house into a home, and yet for the last two years the only picture I’ve had in my bedroom has been a black and white photograph of the inside of an abandoned factory. I love the photo, but it’s not exactly bedroom vibes. It doesn’t scream sexy.

What I needed was some kind of lovely collage of beautiful images that made me feel uplifted and inspired and like I might at any moment fly to Venice or stand in a field of wheat with my hands in the air. You know the kind of thing.

Enter Desenio.

Desenio sells a massive range of primarily Scandinavian inspired prints, posters and frames, some from well-known artists and photographers and other designed exclusively for Desenio.

Desenio is really big on gallery walls, so they have loads of collections of pictures put together on different themes if you want to choose and customise something that’s been curated for you, or they have a brilliant tool to help you create your own gallery wall, where you can pick your favourite prints and frames and see how they look in different combinations.

You even get to choose the background colour so you can see how it would look in your room. It’s a really useful tool.

I spent a loooooong time choosing my pictures and in the end I took a couple of different routes. On the wall above my bed I picked out a couple of text based prints – one to replace the abandoned factory photo and one to create a cute mini scene above one of my bedside tables. I will say here that I’m not a fan as a rule of motivational quotes – the whole ‘dance like no one’s watching’ thing – but I can be swayed by a sassy affirmation.

Desenio prints quotes View Post

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This is the first September in 37 years when I haven’t done ‘back to school’.

That’s bonkers isn’t it?? 37 years!

I was still at college when Bee was born, and she had started school by the time I finished my degree, so it’s been genuinely 37 years of either me or one of my children being in full time education.

Donkey Sanctuary

No special relevance to this picture of Bee and Belle, I just love it. ‘Welcome to this special documentary about donkeys, over to you Bee.’

Last year was a little different as it was Belle starting college rather than going back to school, but it was the same rituals, the same slow build of anxiety and worries about outfits and timetables and friendships.

Belle has decided college isn’t really her jam, which is totally fine, it’s not for everyone, but it means that my life, for the first time since I was four years old, isn’t held in place by the academic year. The day doesn’t flow from 9am to 3pm, there are no regular school holidays to dread and look forward to in equal measure, it’s just this now. Forever I guess.

It’s kind of scary. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Infacol

Did you know that September is Colic Awareness Month? No, me neither. Only I do now obviously, as do you. To celebrate, if that’s the right word, I’m hosting a giveaway in association with InfacolInfacol is Britain’s number one colic remedy and has been used by generations of parents to soothe trapped wind, colic and griping pain.* It can be used form birth onwards, it’s sugar, alcohol and colourant-free.Colic awareness month

The prize bundle includes lots of treats for a new baby, including a sleep suit, some Infacol, Izzie the elephant cuddly toy and muslin cloth – head to the end of the post for details of how to enter.

Before you do that though, Bee has written a letter to her partner about all the things she was worried about before baby Joey was born.

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When I visited my mum at the weekend I took with me two large plastic bowls.

I’d noticed when we were there last time that there were a lot of blackberries growing over the fence where she parks her car, and I wanted to collect some and imagine, briefly, that I was living some kind of Tom and Barbara life of self-sufficiency. What I hadn’t realised was that there were also a couple of apples trees tucked away at the back, so I came home with a big haul of blackberries, eating apples and cooking apples.

apple and blackberry

The trick now is to use them all up before they end up just rotting in my kitchen rather than on the floor next to my mum’s car.

One of the first things I did with the eating apples was to slice them thinly, sprinkle them with cinnamon, and pop them in the oven for about half an hour until they dried out. This is one of Belle’s Best Things and a sure fire way to get her to eat at least four apples without realising it.

I’ve used the blackberries a couple of times this week to make overnight oats, which made me feel especially wholesome as it involved forethought, and today I made some mini spiced blackberry and apple pies.

They were a combination of recipes from BBC Good Food, including this one for the sweet shortcrust pastry and this one as inspiration for the filling and cute apple shapes. View Post

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Today I have a guest post from Jon at The Money Shed. Jon’s written before for me on things like making money from home and matched betting – he’s all about getting stuff done and bringing in cash and is very knowledgeable. This post contains affiliate links.

When you decide to create a blog it can seem there is quite a high learning curve involved at times. What is WordPress? How do you install WordPress? What is self hosted? How will I link my domain name?

Maybe you just want a creative outlet for your writing, maybe you want to build a blog you can earn money from via paid sponsored posts or promoting affiliate links to your favourite online retailers.

Having your own self hosted blog comes with some HUGE advantages compared to going for one of the free options such as Blogger.

Advantages for going self hosted include :

  • Owning your own URL
  • Being able to receive better technical support
  • Having your data backed up
  • The ability to customise your blog more
  • You own ALL the content
  • The ability to monetise your blog
  • Being taken far more seriously by brands and their PRs.

Some people will have you believe that setting up a blog is quite a technically long winded process but actually it can be all done and dusted in 15 minutes. I’m going to break it down to just two simple steps and you’ll be up and running!

Now before we get going I am going to make the assumption that you already know the domain name you want for your blog. If you don’t then now is the time to give it some thought as you don’t want to fall into the same trap and everyone else when it comes to choosing your domain name. View Post

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A few months ago now, back in the dark and dreary depths of February, I was having a bit of a MEH day and decided to cheer it up with a homemade fish finger sandwich for lunch. I don’t mean ‘homemade fish finger sandwich’ as in a sandwich that I made at home that happened to have fish fingers in it, I mean ‘homemade fish finger sandwich’ in that I actually made the fish fingers myself, from scratch, like some kind of frickin’ culinary goddess.

(Which we know I am, because I made my own party rings and they were quite possibly better than the real thing.)

I posted this picture of it on Instagram at the time and honestly, barely a day goes by when I don’t think about that sandwich.

homemade fish finger sandwich

God it looks so good doesn’t it?

(‘Didn’t you already do a post about that sandwich?’ Belle asks, looking over my shoulder as I type. ‘I did,’ I say, ‘but just on Instagram.’ She nods. ‘People deserve to know how it’s made,’ she says, sagely.)

If you ask Belle about my cooking, she will tell you about the ONE TIME that I ALLEGEDLY served her up three solitary, burnt fish fingers for tea and on a fish finger scale, with those at one end, this sandwich is at the other. I cannot thing of anything that could beat it in terms of fish fingery deliciousness.

I thought I’d write a little post telling you how to make it, in the hope that this would then help me process it mentally, and I wouldn’t have to see it in my dreams every night. Fish finger sandwich closure if you will.

So, here’s how to make the ultimate homemade fish finger sandwich. View Post

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Collaboration with Just Landlords

Do you have Britain’s most beautiful garden? This post is my entry into the competition from Just Landlords to find the most beautiful garden in the Britain. The winner will receive a £250 Love2Shop voucher. Find out how to enter here.

We don’t live in a big house. It’s two rooms downstairs, one bathroom and two and a half bedrooms. It feels spacious because it has huge windows and I try not to fill it full of clutter, but it’s essentially NOT BIG.

There are only two of us of course, plus cats, so it’s not a massive deal, but sometimes, when Belle is into her fourth episode of *insert some random Netflix series here* in the living room, I want somewhere to BE that isn’t sat on my bed like a despondent teenager.

My garden is that place.

Luckily for me, Belle isn’t keen on ‘outside’ as a concept, and so the garden is the place that’s totally mine. Even in my bedroom I can’t be sure that she won’t be hiding under the bed to grab my ankles in some kind of hilarious (for her) prank, but the garden… I’m safe there. The garden is the place I can go to be by myself.

What’s extra special to me about my garden is that when I bought my house two years ago, it was essentially a gravelled prison yard. I mean literally nothing, just a square of fenced in misery, complete with spider nests, one random patio slab, and patches of pink where I had taken advantage of the space to spray paint my bed after a break up.

It was not a thing of beauty.

(The bed is though.)

garden makeover tips

It’s wasn’t exactly the kind of place you wanted to escape to. More escape from. Possibly by tunnelling, or bribing a guard for a length of rope.

One of the things I love most then about my garden, is the transformation. Transformation of any kind gives us hope doesn’t it? It’s why we love before and after pictures so much – we want to know that anything is possible, even if we never get round to it. The idea of it is comforting.

Once the basic landscaping had been done, the garden was a bit of a blank canvas. I wondered for a while how on earth I would make it look like an actual garden. How did you make things grow? I wasn’t sure.

garden makeover View Post

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Taunton (where I live) has a toad trail going on at the moment. It’s one of those things that’s meant to get kids excited about being outdoors and walking further than the toy shop to McDonald’s. There’s a trail map, an app and colourful painted toads dotted in and around Taunton.

(I just had a look at the website to find out exactly how many toads, and it says ‘over 22’, which seems weird to me. ‘Over 20’ maybe, but ‘over 22’? What does that mean? Are there 23?)

We lived in Bristol when the original Gromit trail took place and honestly, we got a bit obsessed with it. I say ‘we’, but I don’t remember Bee being exactly cock-a-hoop about it. Bee is adamant though that in a picture we have of her with a ball, not even two years old, (which I can’t find), she was thinking to herself ‘this is boring, I wonder when I’m allowed to stop?’ I told her she seemed to be enjoying it at the time but she says she was just pretending because that’s what she thought she was meant to like.

Belle got on board with the Gromits though, and we found all 80, although on reflection she may have been humouring me. She even let me have fridge magnets made of the photos.

Where am I going with this? Oh yes. At the time, wandering all over Bristol, following a map and looking for giant dog statues, I thought I was doing it for the kids. Ditto years of crazy golf, murder mystery trailers, organising stationery drawers, watching animated films at the cinema, that sort of thing. Oh the sacrifices I made! So selfless! Of course I’d have rather been at the opera or reading the news or whatever it is grown ups like to do.

Only it turns out it’s not true.

Turns out IT WAS ME ALL ALONG.

‘Do you want to see if we can find all the toads?’ I keep asking Belle. I want her to ask me how many there are so that I can say ‘over 22’ but she has yet to show that level of interest.

‘No,’ is always the disappointing answer, which makes me sad because IS a 41 year old woman allowed to look for giant painted toads on her own??

Taunton toad trail View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Love Fresh Cherries

Is there any nicer way to start the day than with pudding? No is the answer, especially on a Monday, as I proved to myself conclusively this Monday morning by making a cherry and dark chocolate clafoutis and eating it for breakfast.

I’ve never eaten a cherry clafoutis before, let alone cooked one, so I wasn’t sure what to expect – something cakey maybe? In pictures it looks a bit like a sponge? It wasn’t like that at all. It was much lighter and more delicious and gave me that happy face when something is so good that you scrunch up your shoulders a little bit, and your eyes, and do a contented sigh.

I’d say a cherry clafoutis is a bit more like a baked egg custard (which I love) but with a teeny bit more texture. Because Bee became severely gluten intolerant while she was pregnant, I always try to think about how I can make my recipes gluten free and with the cherry clafoutis it’s simple – just switch regular flour for ground almonds. Almonds and cherries always work brilliantly together, and to be honest even if you’re not particularly wanting to make a gluten free clafoutis, it’s worth making the switch anyway.

I love fresh British cherries at the best of times – so juicy and sweet and such a delicate flavour – but I can’t think that I’ve ever done anything with them other than scoff them straight from the box. (I stuck glace cherries on top of my piña colada cupcakes but that hardly counts).

Cooked cherries were a revelation – warm from the oven, plump and delicious and oozing with flavour, an absolute joy. British cherry season is currently in full swing, and cherries are full of good things like antioxidants and melatonin, which helps promote better sleep, so there’s very little reason not to make a cherry clafoutis really.

In fact, although the whole ‘pudding for breakfast’ thing might seem rather decadent, the cherries in one quarter of my cherry clafoutis count as one of your five a day and will give you 25% of your RDA of vitamin C. Then it’s basically eggs, milk, nuts – a kind of hearty pancake if you will.

cherry and dark chocolate clafoutis View Post

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