I was scrolling through Instagram the other morning, kidding myself that it counted as work, when I came across one of those alleged inspirational quotes.

It was pink and in the kind of shitty font that you see in Powerpoint presentations made by 13 year olds.

‘I don’t sweat,’ it said, ‘I sparkle!’

‘Fuck off,’ I said. (Sorry Daddy.)

I have recreated something similar for you, to give you an idea of how much it made me want to punch my phone in the face:

I don't sweat, I sparkle

Can you FEEL MY PAIN?

Aside from it being awful on a superficial, design level, the message is truly terrible. I’m assuming because of the pink and the flowers that it is aimed at women, and it seems to be implying that sweat therefore, for a woman, is a BAD THING.

Um, why exactly?? View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature in association with McCoy’s

That title’s a bit of a mouthful isn’t it? ‘A Mexican feast with McCoy’s Muchos’. Try saying it after a few shots of tequila, see how you get on.

I’ll tell you what DOES make for a bit of a nice mouthful, (smooth Middleton, smooth), and that’s Muchos – three feisty Mexican flavours of folded tortilla crisp from McCoy’s, the UK’s number one ridged crisp.

To be honest, I tend to think of myself as more of a Jaffa Cake kind of girl than a crisp person, but when I sat down with a bag of Nacho Cheese flavour Muchos last week, (just for research purposes you understand), I found myself half way through a sharing bag before I’d even got to the first ad break in Celebs Go Dating. They’re just too damn moreish. That crunchy texture, the flavour… I had to get Belle to take them away from me in the end.

New McCoy's Muchos

Available in Smoky Chilli Chicken, Nacho Cheese or Sour Cream & Onion, you could quite easily just chomp your way through a big bowl of Muchos and dips with friends, but I thought it might be nice to use them as part of a feast.

I’m calling this feast ‘deconstructed nachos’ because everyone knows that calling something ‘deconstructed’ makes it fancy. I mean sure, it’s really just laziness – you can’t be bothered to finish making something so you call it deconstructed and then you can get away with serving it in bits – but let’s brush over that and enjoy the splendour of my Muchos inspired Mexican extravaganza shall we?

Mexican feast

Thank you, thank you.

*takes small bow* View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature

Can you believe that this easy lamb curry is the final scoop of lamby deliciousness in my series of lamb recipe posts? I’ve made five different lamb based recipes now over the last few months, including treats like these lunchtime lamb meatballs and roast neck of lamb with honey and lemon. (Probably good for colds.)

I have to say that taking part in this project with the ‘Lamb. Try It, Love it’ campaign has definitely made me more inclined to buy and cook lamb. Six months ago lamb was one of those things that I would eat if I was in a restaurant but not something I would buy to cook at home. I always figured that lamb was probably a bit too expensive for me, or that I wouldn’t know how to cook it well, but turns out I was wrong on both counts.

Even something like an overnight lamb curry doesn’t have to be complicated, as I’m about to show you.

easy lamb curry recipe View Post

Follow:

This morning I accidentally went to an old lady aerobics class.

I belong to this group of council gyms you see, with a very vague programme. I’ve been to two different ‘dance aerobics’ classes for instance – in one of them I was given glow sticks and made to bounce around in the dark to 90s dance music, and in the other I turned up to find everyone is professional dance shoes, ready for their hour of salsa.

This morning then I had taken a chance by signing up to a class just called ‘aerobics’.

On the way in, I bumped into the woman who normally teaches my yoga group, who it turns out was covering the class.

‘You’re not here for the aerobics are you?’ she said, eyeing me suspiciously.

‘Yes,’ I said, and quickly added ‘I’ve not been before,’ as though that would excuse me from whatever blunder I’d inadvertently made.

‘Only I think it’s more of a senior class,’ she said, ‘I’m not sure how much aerobics will be actually going on.’

Super. Old lady aerobics. I didn’t actually mind, because I imagined it would be more my pace, and I am going to be a granny in a few months after all. So there I was, in a room full of senior women many of whom, to be fair, looked in much better shape than me. And I was right, it turns out they WERE in much better shape than me, or at least they LOOKED it, because they don’t have my BRIGHT RED BEETROOT FACE.

View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature in association with California Walnuts

Walnut salad recipe

When I think of walnuts, I always think of my Dad.

When I was little, my Dad has this little wooden pot for cracking nuts. (He probably still has it). It was a cup shape, and you put the nut inside, and then a wooden sort of stumpy pole shaped bit screwed in through a hole in the side, and cracked the nuts. All of the bits were caught in the bowl, and there you were. I loved cracking nuts in it, slowly twisting the screw, applying just enough pressure to crack the shell without shattering the walnut inside.

It was very satisfying. View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature in association with Hello Fresh

Mexican tostadas recipe

I’ve been answering the dreaded ‘what’s for tea?’ question for over 20 years now, so Hello Fresh is really the ultimate dream for me. I don’t mind the actual cooking so much you see, as the PLANNING. After such a long time it’s really difficult to think up new twists on stuff kids like, (plain pasta, dry bread etc), and then if you do find a recipe you like you have to go shopping, and spend £2.99 on red wine vinegar, knowing you’ll never use more than one tablespoon of it.

I’ve used Hello Fresh quite a few times in the past, as they totally cut out all the tedious and wasteful bits of cooking, and just present you with recipes and ingredients, nicely prepared for you in the exact amounts you need. Honestly, it’s bliss, even if it’s only for a couple of nights out of every week.

What I hadn’t realised though was that Hello Fresh, who are the UK’s leading recipe box people, also have a recipe archive, so you can benefit from their food knowledge without having to necessarily buy a box. Even if it does mean having to go shopping yourself, it still cuts out the THOUGHT part, which is the worst bit in my opinion.

Hello Fresh asked me if I’d like to have a go at recreating one of their recipes, so I chose Mexican spiced chilli tostadas. Even though Belle won’t eat things like peas, she will eat spiced Mexican food and guacamole, so I knew she’d enjoy this one. It sneaks in all kinds of wholesome stuff but still presents like a delicious treat from a street market – who’s not going to love that?

If you fancy giving it a go, I’m going to talk you through it now. View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature in association with Ring Automotive

Pretty much every single time I put petrol in the car I look at the tyre pressure machine in the corner of the forecourt and think ‘I really probably should pump the tyres up’. Then I remember that I don’t have any cash, or that it’s pouring with rain, or that I can’t be bothered, and I pay for my petrol and drive away.

In the grand scheme of chores, keeping my tyres properly inflated ranks way down alongside ‘wash the inside of the outdoor bin’ and ‘fix that bit on the banisters where the screw keeps coming out of the wall’.

I.e. it never happens.

It’s silly really. I am a grown woman who owns a box of greetings cards for all occasions for Christ’s sake. I pay into a pension and I once made a hanging basket – I AM CAPABLE. I shouldn’t be neglecting jobs like tyre inflating, jobs that actually have an impact on things like safety and fuel economy.

I’m assuming this isn’t JUST me, which is why I agreed to test the Ring RTC1000 Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator AND managed to wrangle an extra one to giveaway as a competition prize. No more wistful stares across the petrol station forecourt for the winner of this sexy giveaway!

Ring digital tyre inflator review

It’s a pretty straightforward gadget really, but let’s have a quick talk through what’s involved. View Post

Follow:

I visited Elements Boutique Spa free of charge for the purposes of this review. All opinions my own.

Do you ever have those fantasies where you’re so rich and your house is so massive that you have a private cinema in the basement, with a selection of velvet sofas, and a private gym with a lycra-clad personal trainer standing by for whenever you fancy doing a few guided squats?

God, it would be lush wouldn’t it? I’d probably have a chef too to cook me complicated, delicious vegan meals, and perhaps a fully equipped bar with a cocktail waiter. (You had better buy Playgroups & Prosecco so that I can become a millionaire.) In the meantime, I basically recreated the ‘private spa in the grounds of my mansion’ vibe last week by taking a mid-week trip to Elements Boutique Spa.

Now I have to confess that even though it’s only about half an hour away from me, in the middle of the Somerset Levels, I hadn’t heard of it before. Not surprising I guess as it only opened last year. Depsite being new, Elements Boutique Spa has managed to pull off looking like it has always been there, nestled in the countryside, a beacon of relaxation and tranquility with views over the levels to Burrow Mump.

Burrow Mump

Because it’s still relatively new, and because I was there by myself on a Wednesday morning, I managed to time it so that for over an hour I had the entire thermal spa area to myself, thus creating the illusion of being a hugely successful authoress, Barbara Cartland style. I steamed, I saunaed, I took experiential showers (ooer) and I floated about in the pool pretending to be a mermaid – it was blissful. I also discovered that by taking deep breaths in and out I could make myself float and sink on command. I’m not sure if this is normal or not, but it was quite fun. View Post

Follow:

We were loaned the Peugeot 5008 for a week for the purposes of this review. All opinions my own.

Peugeot 5008 review

A couple of weeks ago we were loaned a Peugeot 5008 SUV to drive around for a week. On the one hand I was excited – it’s always lovely to drive something that doesn’t need topping up with oil every few days – but on the other hand I was anxious. We’ve done a couple of different car reviews lately and I couldn’t help but wonder what I was going to find to say about it.

That’s kind of the trouble with new cars isn’t it? Unless you’re spending huge amounts of money, they’re all fairly similar in what they offer, all incredibly safe and comfortable and practical. I actually took part in a video last year that was comparing compact SUVs, and they were coming up with all kinds of unusual tests just to try to tell them apart.

With the Peugeot 5008 then, I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to say other than ‘the back seats were really comfy’ and ‘I found it really smooth to drive.’

BORING.

Fortunately I was proved wrong. The Peugeot 5008 goes above and beyond a lot of the cars I’ve driven over the last few years, as though it wanted to make the point to me that yes, it might be spacious and intuitive to drive, but it can also give you stuff you’re not expecting. It didn’t come as a surprise to find out that it recently won the What Car? award for best large SUV. View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature – homemade mozzarella sticks with Pik-Nik

homemade mozzarella sticks like mcdonalds

When I was younger there were certain things in your lunch box that marked you out as the sort of person who’d NEVER be picked last for the rounders team. I’m thinking mini bags of animal biscuits, Monster Munch, that sort of thing. Then there were the lunch box ‘treats’ that didn’t do you any favours in the friend stakes, like egg sandwiches and carrot sticks. I’m not sure Bee will ever forgive me for sending her into school with sunflower seeds wrapped up in little bits of tin foil. (I hate making packed lunches though, so.)

In my mind, peelable cheese sticks definitely fall into the first category. When you’re a child you get points for any food that gives you the opportunity to say ‘yeah look at this, I always do this with my cheese’, while performing some elaborate ritual that you’ve made up on the spot.

(This isn’t just me is it? I have a vivid memory of going to a friend’s house for tea and having sausage, mash and beans, and spreading the mash all over my plate, sticking the sausages into it like flag poles, pouring my beans on top and saying ‘oh yeah, this is how I always eat them’.) View Post

Follow:

Can you even believe it?? Playgroups and Prosecco, my debut novel, is out on Kindle on Friday March 1st, which is this week. THIS WEEK!

Hooray!

It’s a bit weird really to think about people reading it. When I wrote it I just imagined it as a really LONG blog post, and once it was done, that was sort of IT. Doh! It’s not it at all is it? In a couple of weeks I’m going up to London to watch some of the audiobook being recorded, and then come May 2nd, when the paperback is released, I’ll be driving around the country visiting bookshops and rearranging displays to put Playgroups and Prosecco to the front.

(I’ve also heard that if you go into any Waterstones with a pen and say you’re an author they will let you just sign copies, so maybe I’ll do that too. Or maybe I’ll pretend to be someone else and sign THEIR books.)

To celebrate the publication of the ebook on Friday, I’m having a bit of a virtual blog tour. Every day for the next two weeks a different blogger is going to be posting their review of my book, and I’ll then be sharing these (if they’re good obviously), so that you can read what people think and decide whether or not it’s worth you investing the mighty sum of £7.03 in pre-ordering the paperback.

Playgroups and Prosecco Jo Middleton View Post

Follow:

I was reading something in The Guardian this week about a new concept called ‘refridgerdating’. It’s basically a ridiculous gimmick being used by Samsung to flog their smart fridges, where you get paired with potential lovers based on a shared love of halloumi, a lactose intolerance, or an obsession with Chinese cabbage.

The fridge has a browse at your shelves, notices that both you AND Arthur from the next town seem to buy a particular brand of beer every single week, and sends you out for dinner together and to have babies and live happily ever after. Something like that.

Okay, so it’s stupid.

BUT.

I can actually see some sense in it. Not in a ‘your fridge makes a match for you’ way, but in the sense that perhaps a peek into someone’s fridge could actually tell you a lot more about them than a Tinder profile. If anyone read my ‘what weird crap is in your freezer?‘ post for example, and saw that I had three different kinds of chips, they may well make some judgements about me that would be more useful than reading that I ‘love sushi and French martinis.’

In case you’ve never used Tinder, or other, similar apps, it’s TOUGH, because essentially 95% of people’s profile pictures look the same. For men, they normally fall into one of the following categories:

  • Mid-air shot of a skydive (can’t see face because of goggles)
  • Gym selfie, top pulled up slightly (to tempt me???)
  • Selfie from below, enhancing chins. Face looks sad, as though questioning existence.
  • Holding large fish
  • Posing with one leg on the rock at the top of Pen Y Fan
  • Giving camera the finger (WHY???)

If you could cut through all this crap and get a look in someone’s fridge instead, now THAT would be revealing wouldn’t it?

To make the point, I’ve taken some pictures of my fridge, right now, me having resisted the urge to rearrange things to make them look neater/take out the mini-pasties.

First up, the door, which is home to some of my collection of ‘ugly fridge magnets from around the world’. I’m imagining several people have turned their lights off already. (‘She’s clearly a weirdo.’)

What your fridge says about you View Post

Follow: