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easy homemade lamb burger recipe

Okay, I know, June this year hasn’t exactly begun with a barbecue vibe, but it’s only going to be a matter of time surely before the rain clears up and we all start rushing out to buy charcoal and burger buns at 4pm every Sunday?

I’m confident.

*looks doubtful*

To make sure you’re ready for the sunshine, I’ve been practising my barbecue skills by making some homemade lamb burgers. This is the latest in my series of lamb recipes to support the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it‘ campaign, and if you haven’t already, do pop back and check out some of my other lamb posts, like a Green Eggs and Lamb breakfast recipe, (genius, if I do say so myself), and a Game of Thrones inspired rack of lamb, which I feel has to be seen to be truly appreciated.

The aim of the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it’ campaign is to highlight the health benefits of lamb – lamb is rich in niacin and vitamin B12 and a fantastic source of protein, zinc, potassium and phosphorus – as well as show that cooking with lamb doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult.

In this vein, I’ve made what are quite possibly the easiest lamb burgers you will ever make. I came across a lot of recipes while I doing my lamb burger research that had long lists of ingredients – breadcrumbs, egg, vinegar even – but I just don’t think you need them. Lamb has a lovely flavour already, and lamb mince holds together really well, so all I’ve done is add a couple of ingredients to enhance the natural lamb flavour at the same time as keeping things super simple.

Also, who wants to be slaving away in the kitchen making breadcrumbs on a sunny day?? Not me. You want to be sat outside drinking beer and pretending that life is sunny and full of possibilities don’t you?

Quite right.

So, get the barbecue lit, crack open the beers and let’s go. View Post

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I was on the brink of joining an amateur dramatics group and auditioning for a role in the Christmas production of Aladdin when I finally concluded that I am in the midst of some kind of midlife crisis.

I’d volunteered as a Brownie leader a month or so before, which I’d let slide because I actually like making peppermint creams and hanging out with children who still find joy in life, but pantomime? No.

The trouble I’ve had is that at no specific point do I feel like I am actually IN crisis. No switches have been flipped, I’ve not lost it in Waitrose and swept a shelf of artisan artichokes onto the floor or anything, and yet… for quite a while now something has been OFF.

When I tried to explain it to a friend at the weekend it sounded kind of lame.

‘I just feel kind of BLAH,’ I said, ‘like the stuff that used to feel meaningful just doesn’t. Every day is FINE – I get on with things and I enjoy stuff on one level, but I have no idea what I want to do or where I want to go. I kind of thought by now that I would KNOW, that something would have clicked in. But what if it doesn’t? I used to feel like I had time to decide things and make stuff happen, but what if this is it? I feel like I’ve trapped myself.’

I sighed a bit.

‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘I just don’t know. I swing from the urge, albeit brief usually, to make a grand life plan and act upon it, to just wanting to run away in a mobile library.’

It sounded kind of whingy to be honest.

Midlife unravelling

Mood courtesy of Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Luckily it turns out that I’m not alone in feeling like this. My friend confided that she’s felt the same for a while now, like she just wants to jack everything in and move to France and write novels and not think about anything. What I found really interesting is that although we are similar ages, we are at very different life stages with our families, and so it can’t be just about children growing up.

‘Maybe I’m having a midlife crisis,’ I said.

‘It sounds,’ she said, ‘like more of a midlife unravelling.’ 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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I’m going to tell you an embarrassing secret – when I was younger, I used to count my friends.

When I say younger, I don’t mean like eight or anything, I mean into my early twenties. And when I say count I mean actually count, on my fingers.

I wasn’t what you’d really call a popular child. I was precocious and bossy and a bit of a know it all if I’m honest. Adults liked me, my peers, not so much. Even into my teens, if I knew the answer to something in class, I wanted the teacher and my classmates to know it.

As a result, I didn’t have a lot of friends. Basically two – one at school, one out of school.

Things did start to pick up when I was 15 and my mum inexplicably let me have an outrageous house party, (possibly pity?), and then I turned 16 and somehow, out of the blue, got a boyfriend. (He didn’t go to my school, which definitely worked in my favour. I met him quite literally sat on the street.) Then a few months later I was at college, and pregnant, and probably had a certain mid-90s teen pregnancy glamour about me, sat in the common room, my charity shop Bob Marley t-shirt stretched across my bump. View Post

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87% of British households have a garden, but how many children get to experience a garden as more than just somewhere to play on a trampoline or in a paddling pool?

Here are some scary facts, based on research conducted amongst 300 4-8 year olds*:

  • Over half of British children between 4 and 8 are unable to name 5 vegetables or fruits that could be grown in a garden
  • 95% were unable to name 3 herbs
  • Only 8% able to identify a trowel
  • 79% believed worms are bad for plants 
  • Only 8% had ever picked an apple
  • Only 6% had ever eaten a fresh pea from the pod

This is crazy isn’t it??

When I was little, getting a little patch of soil in the garden to grow my own flowers and vegetables was an absolute joy, and one that as many children as possible should be able to experience, whether or not they have a garden of their own.

It’s why, this month, Get Out and Grow will award school gardening starter kits to 20 schools nationwide, giving young children the chance to have a go at gardening. The kits, which are sponsored by British skincare brand Sudocrem, will include children’s wheelbarrows, gardening gloves, mini-trowels, seeds and lessons on how to make the most of a school garden.

school gardening kit View Post

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Advertisement in association with Smart Home Week

Can you believe it’s a whole year since I bombarded you on social media with a load of gadgets as part of Smart Home Week? It feels like only yesterday that I was showing you how I could switch the heating off from the middle of town, or make a thunderstorm with my lightbulbs.

It was a really interesting week to take part in actually as I’m not a natural when it comes to technology and I was curious to see how easy the various gadgets would be to set up and use and whether or not they would really add value to my life. As part of the week I had a go with a Ring video doorbell, a tadosmart heating system, Philips Hue lightbulbs, a Yale Conexis L1 smart door lock, a Yale Smart Home Alarm, the Samsung SmartThings system and Google Home.

I know right? My house was officially smarter than I was.

Smart Home Week

It looks so innocent doesn’t it?

What I discovered though, which is kind of the whole point of Smart Home Week, is that smart home technology doesn’t have to be scary or difficult to use. In fact, most of the technologies I tested were incredibly simple – pretty much you switch them on and they install themselves. Some things, like the smart lock and the heating system, needed a bit of actual, physical installation, but once you’ve done that, you’re good to go.

(I actually really enjoyed installing the tadosmart heating system myself. It involved doing a bit of wiring to take out the old thermostat and put in the new one, but the instructions were VERY clear and I felt a huge sense of achievement at the end.)

I wrote a pretty comprehensive introduction to each of the technologies at the time, so that’s probably a good place to start for an overview, but of course one year is a long time in the world of smart homes, so it’s worth having a quick look at what’s changed. Then I’m going to focus on a few of my favourite products, to tell you a bit more about how we’ve used them over the last year. Also, a quick side, I didn’t get to try a smart alarm clock but they’re worth a look too – check out the best ones here. View Post

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Irish stew easy recipe

Is there a word that means the opposite of heritage? Opposite in that it’s about looking forward rather than backwards? Forwardtage maybe? No, that’s terrible.

What I’m looking for is a word to describe the fact that my sister has been living with her Irish husband and my neice and nephew in Ireland for a few years now, and the longer they stay and the more often I visit, the more I feel a connection to Ireland as a place that part of my close family is growing up in. I may have no Irish heritage, but I feel a growing sense of Irish forwardtage.

When the latest theme for my lamb recipe project came through then, and it was all about cultural influences on food, an Irish stew seemed like an obvious choice. I’ve never cooked an Irish stew before, but the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it’ campaign is all about inspiring you to try new lamb recipes, so this felt perfect. View Post

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It’s a couple of weeks now since Playgroups and Prosecco came out in paperback and whenever I see people I know they want to hear all about it.

‘How’s the book going?’ They ask. ‘How are sales?’

‘I don’t know,’ I tell them, and they look confused, as though I should be getting hourly updates from supermarkets up and down the country.

‘Oh right,’ they say, ‘how do you find out then? Haven’t you asked?’

‘No. I haven’t.’

And that’s that.

To be honest, I don’t think I want to know. But then also I REALLY want to know. Only if I know ONCE then I can’t go back and NOT know, and what if no one likes me? I’d want to not know that. It’s so stressful.

It feels very much like getting a new boyfriend.

For the record, I am BAD at having new boyfriends. I’m an absolute sucker for it mind – the thrill of a new relationship, falling in love, cups of tea in bed, the excitement and newness – and I think I’m a decent girlfriend – thoughtful and fun and kind and what not – but I also find it quite difficult. I’m normally very laid back and relaxed about stuff, definitely not a worrier or an over-thinker, but relationships trigger a vulnerability in me and can feel quite overwhelming.

I swing wildly between desperately wanting to know how someone feels about me EVERY MINUTE, and then ignoring them because who cares, I don’t need them anyway. (I’m a CATCH.) In fact, when I was at the Swindon Spring Festival last week, I met the lovely Laura Mucha, who has written a book about love called Love Factually* and she sent me a copy afterwards so that I could read up about my potentially ‘disorganised attachment style.’

(‘Don’t Google it,’ she told me, which sounded ominous.)

Jo Middleton

‘Haha! No of course I don’t care that it took you 2 hours and 37 minutes to reply to me, even though we were in the middle of a conversation.’

Where was I going with this?

Oh yes.

My point is that while in most aspects of my life I am very secure and confident and generally awesome, love is not always one, and it seems that publishing might be the other.

It’s weird, because I’ve been writing here for 10 years and never particularly been bothered about who reads it, but there is something about the fact of the physical book, being in real life shops, that makes it different. You can’t change it – you can’t go back and edit it once it’s on a shelf – and that can be unsettling, even when you try your best to be super cool and professional.

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Advertisement feature in association with Plusnet and Internet Matters

plusnet internet safety plays

Internet safety can be a really overwhelming topic for parents. It seems as though every week there’s something new we should be looking out for online and it’s becoming ever harder to monitor everything our children come into contact with on the internet without physically looking over their shoulders all the time.

While many apps and content designed for kids can seem safe at first, it feels as though some people online are going to new lengths to get inappropriate content in front of children. It’s easy for kids too to accidentally find themselves Googling inappropriate images, as evidenced recently by my 10 year old nephew, who is not very good at spelling, trying to search for Pokemon.

As they get older though, is it really reasonable to ban them from all social media and video content, especially when they’re coming up to being teenagers and want a little more online freedom? How do we really know what they’re seeing on their phones and tablets if we can’t watch with them every single time? Do you feel confident that your child would highlight unsuitable content to you and know how to correctly report it to stop it from happening again, or do you think they would they be more likely to be drawn in by things they knew they weren’t allowed to be seeing? View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Tesco Jersey Royals

Is there anything more spring-like than a huge bowl of Jersey Royal new potatoes, slathered in butter and fresh mint?

I mean sure, there are lambs and primroses and what not, the smell of grass, cut for the first time after winter, but give me a Jersey Royal, butter dripping down my wrist, and I’m a happy woman.

Jersey Royal new potatoes

I didn’t take much persuading then to get on board with creating a spring recipe using Tesco Jersey Royals. In store now until the end of the season in July, Tesco Jersey Royal new potatoes have a heritage that dates back over 140 years. They’re still produced and harvested using traditional methods like planting the seed potatoes by hand and fertilising using seaweed from Jersey beaches.

‘Delicate and nutty’ it says on the bag, which describes most of my ex-boyfriends, so it’s no wonder I like them. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Naked Wines

I’m going to subtitle this post ‘how NOT to look like you’d normally pick whatever was on offer at around the £6.99 mark in the supermarket, even though you’re 40 years old and should know better.’

Catchy isn’t it?

The truth is though, that despite having ‘learn more about wine’ on my mental to-do list for about the last 15 years, I haven’t quite gotten around to it. On dates, when faced with the wine list, I find myself smiling at my date coquettishly and saying ‘you choose for me’, as though it’s 1953 and I can’t possibly make a decision on my own, but really it’s just that I have no idea what’s what.

One way around this is to buy your wine online through a company that helps you to choose decent wines and provides you with information about them, so you can drop in impressive sounding key phrases at dinner parties. This option can sometimes feel too pricey though, especially if you don’t drink a lot. Surely there’s a middle ground?

There is.

(You knew I was going to say that didn’t you?)

It’s the Naked Wines ‘Angels’ scheme.

Naked Wines Angels

I was sent 6 bottles of wine to ‘test’ them, (tough job…), but I accidentally drank one bottle before I remembered to take a photo.

The Naked Wines Angels programme is a kind of crowdfunding scheme for wine, designed to benefit you, the buyer, AND the winemakers. It comes from a desire to stop wine producers having margins squeezed endlessly by supermarkets, and to give them the investment they need to produce exclusive, exciting wines. View Post

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This week I went to Swindon.

I know, I’m so glam.

I actually went to speak at the Swindon Spring Festival – my first literary engagement since publication day – and it was very exciting because I had a dressing room with my name on, with lights around the mirror, and I stood on a STAGE and showed off with my book.

It was a lot of fun.

Playgroups and Prosecco Jo Middleton

Image by Fernando Bagué, via Swindon Spring Festival

One of the questions I was asked though, the first question in fact, kind of threw me for a minute.

‘I’m interested to know,’ said Matt, who was hosting the session, ‘why you write?’

Well. That’s a big question isn’t it? View Post

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