Today I put Belle to work in the kitchen to create this mermaid tail cupcakes tutorial for you, because as you may know, she secretly wishes she WAS a mermaid. I hovered about taking photos and offering ‘constructive criticism’. Great fun was had by all.

Mermaid tail cupcakes tutorial

A while ago I went to a black tie dinner thing in a silver sequinned jumpsuit and crimped hair. The look I was going for was ‘disco mermaid’. I scoured the shops for mermaid jewellery, thinking for sure that I would find some big, tasteless scallop necklace in Claire’s at least, but no luck. Apparently mermaid jewellery isn’t a thing anymore.

Mermaid cupcakes though. Mermaid cupcakes are very much a thing.

I thought it might be fun to put together a little mermaid tail cupcakes tutorial for you using the new Dr Oetker mermaid cupcake decoration kit. They aren’t paying me to write this, but they did send me the kit to try, and it was fun, so here we are. View Post

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Post in association with Serenata Flowers

Next to my bed, on one of my bedside tables, I have a white, ceramic jug. Whenever I remember, I buy myself fresh flowers for it. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy as it’s not a huge jug – just a little bunch of freesias maybe for the smell, and a couple of sprays of gypsophila.

I can show you in fact, with a photo that is DEFINITELY NOT an excuse just to post a cat picture.

flowers in the bedroom

(It definitely WAS that.)

There’s something lovely about fresh flowers isn’t there? Partly for me it’s the idea of bringing a little bit of the outdoors inside, especially in the winter when the garden is lacking colour, but partly it’s what they represent – spending just a few pounds on something that’s just for me, something that feels indulgent.

Getting sent a proper big bouquet of flowers in the post is this same feeling, multiplied by about four, because someone else has gone to the effort to think of you, and what flowers you might like, and then spend money on having them sent right to your door. It might feel like a bit of a cliche, but I don’t think that being sent flowers will ever get old.

Last week I was sent a bouquet from Serenata Flowers. View Post

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Welcome to the final part of my fascinating freezer series – freezer staples! Do go back and read part one: Weird Crap You Have in Your Freezer, and part two: How To Defrost a Freezer Without Doing Anything Stupid.

I have to say I’ve been feeling pretty good about life since I defrosted my freezer last week. I’ve sorted out my freezer staples, arranged the shelves into three categories – meat, non-meat, random crap in bags – I’ve frozen leftover pancakes and soup and even some leftover cheese sauce. It’s been pretty empowering. On the back of defrosting the freezer I felt inspired to replace the broken headlight bulb in my car all by myself, and I’m almost feeling brave enough to call Sky and cancel my TV subscription.

In this post I want to go back to the tweet that started me thinking about my freezer, where I asked people about their freezer staples – cool or weird stuff they always kept in their freezers because it was actually super useful. I asked the question as an antidote to the fact that I always seem to have half a loaf of bread in my freezer, but never actually use it. (NOT useful.)

The tweet had over 100 replies, which just goes to show how people honestly need to get more hobbies, but it was really interesting for me to read everyone suggestions. I was heartened to find that around 83 of them were advising me to freeze lemon and lime wedges for gin and tonic – proof that I have my target audience on point.

Based on the answers to my tweet, plus my own research, I’ve pulled together a list of 11 freezer staples I think would be genuinely useful for you to have in your freezer for NOW AND ALWAYS.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what your freezer absolutely couldn’t do without.

Frozen fruit for drinks

I’ve never frozen a lemon wedge before, but what a genius idea! It makes me feel slightly ashamed to be honest that I’ve spent at least 20 years buying lemons, cutting out a wedge for a drink, leaving the rest in the fridge until it dries up and smells of onions, and then throwing it away.

As well as lemons you can freeze lime or orange wedges, or fruit like raspberries. You could even go with thick cucumber slices for gin? The added beauty of this is that the fruit doubles as an ice cube! Huzzah! Make lemon and lime wedges one of your freezer staples RIGHT NOW.

freezer staples How to freeze lemons View Post

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I’m going to put it out there – peas are, in my opinion, a severely underrated vegetable. They’re tasty, low calories, and as you will know from my freezer reveal, everyone always has peas in their freezer. Pea soup is one of my favourites and this easy pea soup recipe is so simple, you can have it in the bowl in ten minutes.

I’ve found over the years that working from home can lead to bad lunch choices. I’m never going to be the sort of person who forgets meals, but it’s too easy when you’re sat next to the fridge, (that’s where my desk is, I don’t just put a chair there), to graze on slices of cheese dipped in the mayonnaise jar in lieu of a Wholesome Meal.

Making a quick pea soup is an easy way to break the snack habit and pack in some vitamins and minerals. As well as being yummy, peas are high in fibre and contain vitamin C, folate and vitamin B1. If you love peas as much as me you might also enjoy these mini frittatas or this pea and pancetta pasta recipe, both of which would make an easy work-from-home lunch.

Fun pea fact: the average Brit eats 9,000 peas a year!* Challenge: why not count the number of peas you eat over the course of a year and see if your pea consumption is above or below average?

This easy pea soup recipe is just for one person, but you can easily scale it up. It makes one large bowl, (larger than the one in the picture – that’s just to look pretty), but could stretch to a bowl for lunch and a small bowl mid-afternoon.

I’ve used ingredients that you probably have already, to keep things simple. No point changing out of those freelancer pyjamas if you can help it.

quick pea soup recipe View Post

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This ‘how to defrost a freezer’ post is part two of my ‘cool posts about freezers’ series, so do go back and read ‘What weird crap do you have in your freezer?’ and check out 11 things you should have in your freezer now and always.

There are many aspects of general house care where I feel I’ve really got it together. My bathroom is always reasonably clean and I do that thing where you put a whole set of bedding into one pillowcase so you never have to rifle around in the airing cupboard for a matching set. (Honestly, that changed my life.)

Other things though, not so much. Take my car windscreen for example. It turns out that scraping off ice with the base of a tin of paint that you happen to have in your hand is not a good idea. I mean it looks fine – you couldn’t tell – except when it rains. Gawd.

Defrosting the freezer regularly is a similar weak spot for me, as you can see here:

How to defrost a freezer

I haven’t done it since we moved in 18 months ago and it has started to do the thing where it’s difficult to open the doors because there’s ice in the way. Also, it could really just do with being cleaned. The bottom of the freezer is a mess of peas, crumbs and, weirdly, hair. View Post

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I was sat on the sofa on Monday night, having had a really unproductive day. I’d had a migraine the night before and was feeling generally yukky and like I’d just not achieved anything. When I feel like this I often find myself wanting to do weird jobs around the house that are kind of not very important but also somehow wholesome feeling.

I had a flash of inspiration – my FREEZER. I would to write a three part blog series about my freezer. I mean come on, you’re excited already aren’t you? Not even just a single post – a three part series!

The freezer thoughts all started because of the fact that I’d had a rather difficult time during the day with milk, as you can see from these tweets:

https://twitter.com/mummyblogger/status/1084816158468030464

https://twitter.com/mummyblogger/status/1084837922598203392

The second one is the worst and will probably result in me, come summer, having to burn my car in a field somewhere. View Post

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Quark cheesecake recipe in association with the Queen of Quark

I had an email a couple of weeks ago asking me if I wanted to ‘Quark up my life.’

Well. Who doesn’t?

I immediately burst into song. ‘People of the world!’ etc etc

It turns out the project wasn’t music related, but was actually a call to action from the Queen of Quark – Bavarian royalty on a mission, with World Quark Day on January 19th, to inspire the people of the UK to love Quark as much as she does for its low-calorie, high-protein, all round versatility.

All hail the Queen of Quark. *makes fanfare noise*

I decided to run with the musical theme anyway, and set myself a challenge – just how many Spice Girls can you crowbar into a Quark cheesecake recipe title? (Two apparently.)

Quark is a fat-free soft cheese, that’s similar in texture to sour cream. It can be used in all sorts of recipes, sweet and savoury, as a healthy substitute for yogurt or soft cheese. Think protein-rich fruit smoothies, avocado dips, quiche… or in my case, think ‘posh ginger spice Quark cheesecake.’

The ginger element comes from the use of ginger biscuits in the base and ground ginger in the topping, and the posh bit is the chocolate swirl on top. Have a look. Admire my swirl:

Quark cheesecake

Impressive yes? It reminds me a bit of the lovely Metis cheesecake I made a while ago – that had a VERY pretty swirly top.

If my Quark cheesecake gets you thinking about what other things you could make with Quark, then do check out the FREE E-BOOK of Quark recipes from the Queen of Quark, which you can download here. View Post

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I had a round-up email this morning from The Pool. One of the headlines, from Viv Groskop, immediately caught my eye:

‘THROW AWAY YOUR PLAN B – AND GET WHAT YOU REALLY WANT’

I didn’t get as far as actually clicking and reading the article as I was very busy lying in bed and looking at the cats but I immediately got what it was talking about.

A few days ago I was in town with a list of jobs in my head. ‘I’m going here next,’ I said to the person with me, ‘to organise this.’ The ‘this’ was an event I wanted to put on at a particular venue.

‘What if they say no,’ said the other person, ‘what’s your Plan B?’

I stopped for a bit and looked confused.

‘Plan B?’ I said. ‘I didn’t think to make a Plan B?’

It literally had not occurred to me that the venue wouldn’t be falling over themselves to let me do what I wanted, when I wanted to do it, and I think that this is a GOOD THING.

Why you don't need a Plan B View Post

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Post in association with On the Beach

I’ve got this thing with my nose.

When it gets cold, it goes red – a shiny, bright red, Rudolph style. I would like to say it’s kind of sexy and adorable, but it’s not, it’s just RED. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, now Grannyhood is looming, before I start walking around with drips on the end of it. I may also grow warts on my chin.

What I really need is to be out of this cold, miserable weather and lying on a warm beach somewhere, living my best body-confident bikini life. Any nose redness then can be passed off as me being ‘sun-kissed’, which is a much better look.

family beach holidays

Perfect timing then for a 2019 Family Beach Index from holiday experts On the Beach.
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Feeling hungry? I’m back today with more inspiration as part of my partnership with the ‘Lamb. Try It, Love It‘ campaign, so if you need a bit of meaty inspiration read on…

One of the things I desperately wanted to do this year was find myself some new office space. When I moved back to Taunton, (five years ago this June, can you believe??), I started sharing a lovely room with a couple of guys in the centre of town. Last spring I moved with one of them to share with new people, but then there was a change of circumstances, and as the summer holidays rolled around I found myself back at my kitchen table, between the fridge freezer and the cat litter tray.

I was not really living the aspirational freelance life.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy working at home, it’s just that when it’s just you and a teenager and three cats in the house, you really do need to leave it from time to time, for everyone’s sake. Also when I’m at home I get easily distracted watching old episodes of First Dates and roasting random vegetables I find in the bottom of the fridge*, so it’s good to have somewhere to go where you can’t do this.

This week then I started a bit of casual office sharing somewhere new, away from the lure of the limp cauliflower. Starting a new office, a bit like the first day back at school, is an excellent excuse to buy a new lunchbox, so I bought this cat bento box:

cat bento box office lunch ideas

Honestly, I am LIVING for it. View Post

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Since discovering I’m going to become a GRANNY this summer – read all about it here – I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my Granny name to be.

In terms of the more traditional options, Granny is my favourite. I’m not particularly keen on Nan or Nanny. I don’t know why, but when I think of Nan I imagine a woman in one of those cleaning tabards, leaning against a back door, smoking a cigarette and looking cross. No offence to all the Nans out there. Nanny is just Nanny McPhee, and I don’t have any hairy moles (yet).

My mum and her mum are/were both Gran, and my Dad’s mum was Grandma, so I want something a bit different from those, and Granny has an air of mischief about it that I like. I imagine a Granny would do thinks like hide miniature bottles of prosecco in her handbag when she took her grandchildren to soft play. Although come to think of it, my Gran used to take a thermos of gin and tonic when she took me to the beach, so perhaps that’s more genetic than name based.

Me as a Granny emptying my vast handbag, Mary Poppins/portable gin bar style

So what should I be called?  View Post

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While I don’t really have to think about structured childcare anymore, lots of families with young children do. I still remember the nightmare of trying to fill a seemingly never-ending six weeks of the summer holidays with a carefully compromised combination of family and friends helping out, ‘fun’ football summer camps, time off work and days and days of activities that needed to suit a teenager who didn’t want to do anything and a small hyperactive child. There’s only so much money you can spend on Tango Ice Blasts at the cinema before you go a little bit crazy.

I was lucky enough that despite being a single parent, I’ve spent a lot of my children’s school lives working from home which made it so much easier on a day to day basis, not having to think about long term childcare or after school clubs. But lots of families don’t have that luxury, with both parents needing to work full time. It can be really daunting leaving your child in the hands of a childcare professional for a large part of the day, and you might not know which sort of childcare is right for you. What’s the difference between a nanny and an au pair? How do I know they can be trusted and have the right references? Will I need someone every day or just for a few hours a week? All these questions can have you second guessing your choices while deciding which childcare is right for you.

how to choose a nanny View Post

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