This pork and cider casserole recipe post is brought to you in association with Thorner’s Farm Shop.

pork and apple and cider slow cooker casserole recipe

I don’t know about you but it feels to me like the further we get into this pandemic, the more my life revolves around food.

I’ve always been the sort of person who thinks about what they’re going to have for lunch while they’re eating breakfast, but when food shopping is pretty much the only sort of shopping you can do, and the days and weeks stretch ahead for miles, snacks become EVERYTHING.

Not that I’m complaining. I love eating, and not being able to eat out and get my brunch fix has meant I’ve spent more time trying new recipes and eating delicious things at home. Like last weekend for instance when I had a delivery from Thorner’s Farm Shop in Shepton Mallet and cooked a feast of slow cooker pork and cider casserole and pineapple cake with Malibu frosting. (You heard me.)

I’ve been a fan of Thorner’s since I discovered their award-winning pies recently, and I’ve had my love for them reinforced by the fact that the adorable deli that I walk to across the fields – Gaia Garden – has become a stockist.

Lovely walk through the countryside? Delightful! Pie to take home for dinner? Don’t mind if I do.

Thorner’s stock all kinds of things besides pies though, including an ever-expanding range of local meats. I wanted to showcase the variety of their online farm shop through this post, so in my weekend feast I used a fruit and a vegetable box, local cider, outdoor reared diced pork, local butter and eggs. I also had a very lovely Somerset wine – the Aldwick Estate Buteo – but I have to confess that this was so good that I drank it all before remembering to take a photo. Do go and check it out though. I recommend.

I was particularly impressed with the veg and fruit boxes. My fruit box for example included apples, satsumas, pears, bananas, a lemon and a lime, blueberries, grapes and a whole pineapple. (Hence the pineapple cake.) I think this is really good value for £9.99. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Competition Finder

I don’t know about you, but over the last year my life feels like it has got smaller and smaller.

I not unhappy for the most part, but it has shrunk down until now it’s really just about food, drink, walks, cats and Instagram stories. And let’s face it, even some of the walks and the food is really just about the stories.

It’s quite an exposing state of being when you think about it. I imagine it like a series of concentric circles, with the furthest out ones being all of the things you do and the people you see that you normally engage with the least – in my case gym classes, children* etc – and gradually each layer has been peeled away until we are just left as these exposed inner cores, clinging onto the few keys things that make us human at least. I feel like the connections I do have with people are more real – there’s no small talk, you both know you’re in that park for a reason, so you get right down to it.

Food has become a much more significant pleasure too. I’ve taken to just eating whatever I want, whenever I want, but in an almost spiritual way. I don’t just munch on snacks for fun – I take my time choosing, and I savour the experience. When your pleasures have become fewer, they deserve taking more seriously.

What I do miss about food though is constantly being the one to have to cook it and wash up. Eating out has always been one of my best things, hence brunch club, and I miss the novelty of something new, of not being sure what something is going to look and taste like until it’s on your fork and in your mouth.

If I had endless wealth and lived somewhere cosmopolitan then a substantial part of my diet would be takeaways, but as I didn’t even qualify for any freelance financial support, it seems a bit foolhardy to spend all of the money I’m saving on my mortgage repayment holiday on satay chicken sticks and king prawns with cashew nuts.

I’m rambling. I apologise.

The point of this post is that I’ve teamed up with the competition website Competition Finder to provide you with some lockdown food inspiration and relaxation in the form of a selection of easy recipes and £50 TO SPEND ON TAKEAWAY. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Thorner’s Farm Shop

Okay, so not just pies, but that’s the beauty of this giveaway from Thorner’s Farm Shop – if you did want to spend your whole £50 prize on pies then you could. No one’s judging. Their pies are award-winning after all.

The idea behind this competition is that we all need a bit of a pick me up don’t we? Winter is coming, the nights are drawing in, (I’ve banged on so much about dark evenings on Instagram that I’m boring even myself), and really, a pie WOULD HELP. There’s no getting away from it, when the weather turns nasty, a cheeky cheese and leek pie can do wonders.

Jon Thorner's pie competition

(Confession: this is a picture that I pinched from the Thorner’s website because even though they sent me a pie to try, amongst other delicious treats, I got over-excited and ate it before I remembered I was meant to take a picture. Also this is way better than anything I could take, so.)

Although the Thorner’s pies are award-winning and delicious in every way, they are about much more than pies. They are a butcher, so sell all kinds of fresh meats, as well as deli meats. When I was little my mum says that, in a bid to get me to eat, she used to leave little plates of ham and cucumber around the house so I would happen upon them and eat them, so I know a good ham when I eat it.

They sell cheese, quiches, fruit and vegetables, even fresh ready meals, and the beauty of it is that it’s all online, so you get all the wholesomeness of a farm shop without having to get your shoes muddy.

They also make cakes, and although generally I’d consider myself more of a homemade biscuit girl, the toffee apple slice is a think of magic and wonder. Put one of these in your virtual basket and you won’t regret it.

(I also make an exception for this ricotta and raspberry cake but you do have to make that yourself, sorry. Unless you want to pay me to make it and bring it to your house.) View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Competition Finder

Every so often I take a good look at Instagram and think to myself ‘what is it that I really want to see?’ We can all be guilty of that mindless scrolling, but if we’re going to get hypnotised it might as well be by pictures that fill us with joy right? For me that means colour, pattern, beautiful interiors and houseplants.

I bloody love houseplants. They’re one of the things that I think really makes a house a home, along with pictures and cats, obviously. I love looking at other people’s pictures of houseplants, and even better if they also have cats in them.

If you’re a plant lover and want to fill your Instagram feed with beautiful houseplant accounts then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve picked out seven of my favourite Instagram accounts for houseplant lovers, to help bring some green to your ‘gram.

To celebrate all things botanical, I’ve also teamed up with Competition Finder to bring you the chance to win £50 to spend on houseplants of your very own! Competition Finder is a brilliant one stop shop to help you find all of the latest competitions and giveaways, so if my competition gives you a taste for comping, do go and check out Competition Finder.

In my giveaway, one lucky winner will win £50 to spend on their favourite houseplants from Patch Plants. How cool would that be? New plant babies! As a nation, the recent enforced time at home has only fuelled our love of houseplants – Patch Plants has seen a massive 500% increase in sales over the period of lockdown, especially amongst plants popular on Instagram. ‘Rapunzel, the golden pothos continues to be our most popular houseplant,’ Patch Plants told me, ‘with 31,000 sold so far this year. Susie the Sansevieria and Big Ken the Kentia Palm also feature regularly in our top ten. Our Instagram following tend to opt for more exotic plants like Ray.’

So there you go houseplant fact fans.

For a chance to win £50 to spend on houseplants, you’ll need to read on to the end of the post. First up though, seven Instagram accounts for plant lovers… View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with ARK Skincare

I feel like the world is divided into two different types of people.

The first type – me – buys whatever shampoo is on special offer, slaps on a bit of moisturiser as a ‘skincare routine’ and considers scrapping a bit of dead skin off her feet with her fingernails in the bath a pedicure.

(Sorry.)

And then there’s the second type, (the non-grotty type), who actually takes a bit of care of themselves. The type of person, like Belle, who puts thought into what they put on their skin and loves nothing more than spending an evening giving me a top notch makeover.

ARK night cream

ARK Skincare

IMAGINE MY SURPRISE then, when a year or so ago I discovered a skincare range that I loved so much that I went out of my way to get more of it, even if it wasn’t on a half price offer.

I know! Me! The ‘feet in the bath’ woman!

This amazing ‘skincare range that makes me care about my skin’ is ARK, a vegan-friendly, cruelty free range especially developed to support skin at different stages of its life, with individual ranges for teens and 20s, 30s and 40s and 50+ skin. You can also shop by skin concern if you prefer, so if you struggle particularly with redness, sensitivity, oiliness, or anything like that, there’s a product for you. View Post

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Not a real panda I hasten to add – a toy version. A really lovely toy panda actually, silky soft and with a very cute face. I’m a bit of a sucker for a cute animal face, as you will have noticed recently if you follow me on Instagram and saw my latest charity shop find. (Those rosy cheeks!)

You can win this panda plus a cute badge and sticker as part of a new fundraising campaign from Sudocrem and premature baby charity Ickle Pickles – Soothing The Smallest.

Ickle Pickles

Every year, 1 in 8 babies are born prematurely or unwell, that’s 100,000 babies every single year. These babies need to spend weeks, sometimes months, in neonatal care units before they are strong enough to leave. 

This summer, Sudocrem and premature baby charity Ickle Pickles are teaming up to raise funds for the vital neonatal equipment premature babies so desperately need. In honour of the partnership a new, limited edition pot of ‘My Ickle Sudocrem’ has been created and will be sold in Boots and Tesco stores across the UK for six weeks from the 26th of August.

Each sale of the ‘ickle pot will mean 50p donated to Ickle Pickles. It’s an historic event for the brand, Sudocrem have never before adapted their classic packaging for a charity campaign such as this. View Post

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Collaborative post

Hands up if you’ve been spending an unusual amount of time in the garden lately?

*Raises hand*

I know that I’m lucky, that not everyone has the luxury of a garden, but if you do have one, or even just space for a few window boxes, then you might be interested in this competition that I’m hosting on behalf of Sudocrem to win one of three family gardening sets.

Gardening competition for kids

That’s not the whole kit, don’t worry.

With schools closed for the foreseeable, millions of parents all over the UK are looking for new ways to keep children busy and so Sudocrem has launched their new Back to the Garden campaign, an initiative to get families back into planting and growing, wherever they are. Encouraging your children to plant seeds and take an interest in growing can give them a long-term project to focus on, away from the computer. And the good news is, you don’t need a garden to get involved: creating a window box full of edible herbs can be just as inspiring as digging a vegetable patch.

I’ve thought about Sudocrem quite a bit on and off since I had my ridiculously naive realisation about them last year. Please tell me I wasn’t the only one who didn’t realise this? It’s listed in the ingredients AND there is lavender coloured lettering, so I feel quite stupid, but I’d always just thought the smell was ‘Sudocrem’. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with SockShop

Socks are like peas.

Peas are underrated in the vegetable world, but are incredibly versatile, can jazz up the blandest of dinners and are VERY tasty. Socks are just the same, apart from the tasty bit. Socks just sit there, balled up at the back of your drawer, when they could be making a massive impact on your wardrobe, breathing new life into old outfits.

To make the point, I challenged Belle, who has far more imagination and fashion sense that me, to style a working week’s worth of outfits, based around five different pairs of socks from the bamboo range at SockShop. Bamboo is a brilliant material for socks. It’s super soft, has natural anti-bacterial properties and thermoregulates – helping your feet stay warm even when it’s cold outside. SockShop sells a huge range of bamboo socks, including lots of novelty socks and a rainbow socks collection, where 20% of every sale goes to the LGBT Foundation.

My hope is that Belle’s sock styling will inspire you to take your socks more seriously, and that by the end of this post you’ll be desperate to enter my competition to win £30 to spend at SockShop and bring some new sock sassiness to your own wardrobe.

Let’s take a look at Belle’s looks…

Monday – the sassy ankle sock

It’s Monday, you’re feeling the back to school vibes, but rather than get down in the dumps about it, why not embrace it with a pair of cute ankle socks and shiny black patent shoes? These super sweet pink ankle socks have cushioned soles, so they’re a comfy way to start the week. View Post

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This post is in collaboration with Poki – the ultimate playground for kids of all ages

As a mum, I’m often asked about the best way to entertain kids. (I’m an expert don’t you know.) Every child is, of course, different; your kids might thrill to a good movie or they might be bored stiff by Toy Story (honestly, it’s unlikely, but it does happen). How exactly you can keep your little ones entertained and enraptured through a wet and wild Sunday afternoon is the question asked by desperate parents everywhere.

If your kid is partial to the odd online game, then you might want to check out Poki. Poki.com is a gaming portal and website billing itself as an “online playground” for kids and adults alike. It’s designed to be inclusive, with something for everyone, whether you consider yourself a gamer or not. There is so much to choose from, you’re sure to find a game that your kids (or you) enjoy.

Bee and Belle are basically both grown ups now, but they both still enjoy playing games on their phones. They particularly love the games where you have to move people through a series of spa treatments or run a cafe, although I think Belle’s favourite aspect of this is getting me to have a go and then laughing when I burn all the burgers and all my customers walk out without paying.

To make playing online games a little easier, Poki have generously offered me a 32GB Fire HD 8 Tablet, worth £99, to giveaway. The Fire tablet is ideal for playing games – read on for more details of how to win!

Win a Fire tablet competition View Post

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This is a guest post from Bee, who was sent a gluten free apple cake from Sponge for the purposes of this review. 

Gluten free cake reviews

I need to talk to you all about the best (gluten free) cake on the whole of the internet. I say internet because my sort of sister-in-law made me a really nice gluten free birthday cake that was definitely as good as this one, so they have to take joint first place in the very important cake league table in my mind.

Anyway, when I was about six months pregnant I was becoming really ill after food and I soon worked out that wheat, and more specifically gluten, was the culprit. It took a couple of months of going cold turkey but it finally helped my skin breakouts, heartburn, digestive issues and a host of other crappy stuff I had been dealing with that I had just put down to pregnancy symptoms.

I optimistically thought that when I gave birth I would regain my tolerance to gluten but alas, it was not to be. I’m quite sad about it because even though I like feeling good in myself and not hideously ill, there are so many things I miss that contain wheat and other gluteny stuff. (Looking at you, Starbucks fruit toast.)

‘Free from’ alternatives have come a long way in recent years but gluten free stuff is still really hit and miss and with it often being so expensive I feel reluctant to try too many new things in case it’s a total waste of money. That’s why when Sponge offered me one of their gluten free cakes to try I jumped at the chance.

Gluten free apple cake View Post

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Gifted product

Is there anything better in the whole wide world than a good cup of tea?

Okay, so winning the lottery or marrying the love of your life or getting stranded on a desert island full of cats or something, but APART from those things… Is there anything better than a cup of tea?

Win tea competition

And before you say anything, yes, my milk jug is very cool, thank you. It’s part of my collection of ‘milk jugs in the shape of chickens where the milk comes out of their beaks’. It’s fun because it looks like the chicken is throwing up in your drink. It’s a fairly niche collection, but I like a challenge.

The tea that my chicken was ‘helping’ with today was a rather lovely earl grey from Blue Tea Box. I was excited to try them because their coffee – Blue Coffee Box – is my favourite coffee of all time, not even an exaggeration. The tea is a new strand to the business, offering rare and single-origin teas, ethically sourced from across the globe by specialist tea merchants.

Blue Tea Box works on a subscription model and you can choose either one large bag or three smaller bags delivered to your door every month, either for yourself or as a gift. Tell Blue Tea Box what kind of tea you normally like and your tea concierge selects your perfect teas. Fancy!

Your tea comes beautifully packaged in a letterbox friendly box and includes information abut the teas and tasting notes. View Post

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Advertisement is association with Thicker Fuller Hair™

I’ve always had fine hair.

As a teenager I would read hair tips in Just Seventeen magazine and spend ages lying on my bed with my head hung backwards over the age, trying to encourage blood to flow to my scalp. At the same time I’d be reading the problem pages and looking at the ‘Position of the Fortnight’ in More and wondering what it would be like to actually have sex with another person. Like how would you even go about it? You’d have to actually talk properly to a boy for a start. I couldn’t get my head around it, hung upside down or otherwise.

(Funnily enough, not long after I drafted this post I found myself talking to some women about More and Position of the Fortnight. How is that feature the only thing people ever remember from the whole magazine?)

Over 25 years later and I do less of the head dangling, although I do still wonder sometimes about how to talk to (now grown up) boys, and my hair is still just as fine. In fact, if anything I probably have even less of it now, what with the impending *whispers* menopause. Hopefully I have few years yet, but I’ve definitely noticed my hair getting dryer, so it’s probably only a matter of time before it starts thinning too.

(Yay! Life is so kind.)

Fortunately there may be something that can ease the thinning hair crisis at least, if not help with the men thing – a new naturally-derived haircare range called Thicker Fuller Hair™. Clue’s in the name with this one isn’t it? While I can’t afford a personal stylist waving products and a professional hair dryer at me every morning, this is the next best thing.

How to get thicker hair

If you have thin hair, or are worried about hair loss, you’re not alone. View Post

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