I’m not honestly sure why I added ‘read a Mills and Boon’ to my list of 50 things to do before 50. I guess because I would consider myself a wide reader, and yet here was a massive chunk of writing that I had completely ignored. I may as well admit that it was pure snobbery – I imagined they’d be bad, and I didn’t want to waste my time with them.

I didn’t want to be that person though, dismissing something without even giving it a try, so I did a bit of research, (i.e. spent three minutes Googling ‘best Mills and Boon writers’), and settled on this second hand Regency Christmas trilogy. (I love Christmas.)

Mills and Boon reviews

As you may have deduced from the title, these are historical romances, which I’m imagining basically means a lot less sex that the modern ones. In one of these stories the hero has to marry the heroine simply because he’s caught touching her leg in a medical, if unorthodox, capacity.

I was okay with this though, as I’m not massively into reading erotic fiction. I think it’s REALLY hard, (pun intended), to make sex sound sexy when you’re describing the nuts (again, intended) and bolts of it. I’d much rather something a bit subtler – sexiness implied – and use my imagination. I do think too that there can be just as much erotic charge in a meaningful exchange of looks as in a throbbing member being thrust vigorously anywhere – in real life as well as in writing.

So there I was, Regency Mills and Boon trilogy in hand, ready to be unimpressed. View Post

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As you may have noticed, but probably haven’t because, let’s face it, you have more important things to think about, I’ve been pretty quiet on the old blog front over the last few weeks.

It’s because last week – Thursday to be precise – was the paperback launch of my novel, Playgroups and Prosecco. For a month or so beforehand I’d been feeling a bit weird, kind of unmotivated and despondent and like I wasn’t really sure what I was doing with my life. I was spending quite a bit of time imagining myself dying alone, surrounded by cats, and was worrying that I didn’t have a LIFE PLAN.

It turns out that this was just pre-book launch stress, because as soon as that was done, suddenly I didn’t care any more that I didn’t have a 5 year plan or an investment portfolio or anything – it was enough again just to have pretty hanging plants in the garden and nice shaped mugs. (I am quite particular about the shape of my mugs, but I take a lot of pleasure in that, so it’s fine.)

You’d have thought really that the book launch anxiety dreams would have given it away, but I am rubbish as REALISING things, even when they seem obvious. I’m like it every month with my period – ‘oh THAT’S why I wanted to kill somebody yesterday’ – and have even been surprised in the past a couple of times by people telling me they loved me, like I was apparently meant to know we were anything but friends.

Anyway, basically I’m kind of slow on the uptake, and I was worried, but then loads of people turned up to the book launch event and Waterstones sold out and had to dismantle the window display to get more copies, and everything was okay again.

Hooray!

So, I just wanted to say thank you really. Thank you to everyone who came along and made me realise that I probably won’t end up actually getting eaten by my cats after my death, and thank you to everyone who has bought Playgroups and Prosecco or posted pictures of it spotted in supermarkets and bookshops, or said nice things on Amazon. Or any things at all actually, because I don’t expect everyone to think it’s amazing, and I appreciate people just taking a chance on it, and the time to share their thoughts.

Thank you to Mandy and Keiran at Waterstones in Taunton for hosting us and making it such an enjoyable occasion, even though we overwhelmed them slightly with the amount of prosecco we were able to get through in such a short amount of time. Thank you to I Heart Wines for the prosecco, thanks to Ebury for publishing me.

Thanks for coming guys!

(That was basically the full extent of my ‘speech’ in case you were worrying that you’d missed some kind of Olivia Colman style extravaganza.)

Here are some photos so that even if you couldn’t make it, you can imagine me mingling, clutching a glass nervously, trying to look glamorous.

And no, no sponsorship deal with McVities, but believe me it’s not for want of trying.

Playgroups and Prosecco Jo Middleton View Post

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I was gifted these products for the purposes of this post

I seem to spend most of my life vacuuming.

Okay, that’s a lie, I spend most of my life thinking about vacuuming – looking at the cat hair collecting on the carpet, the dust building up on the skirting boards, and thinking ‘God I really should do something about that.’ And then I don’t, because I can’t honestly be bothered to wrestle the vacuum cleaner out from under the pile of shoes in the understairs cupboard and anyway, almost as soon as you do it you stroke a cat and POOF, everything is fluffy again.

What I really need is a series of upright and handheld vacuum cleaners that I can leave strategically around the house, ready to suck up the fluff.

Oh HELLO there new range of Beldray electrical cleaning appliances, now available exclusively at Wilko.

Beldray Quick Vac Lite review

(This is the Quick Vac Cordless Lite and is my favourite because you can arrange the nozzles to make it look like a pet.)

I have VERY generously been given a bundle of THREE Beldray products to give away, worth £95 in total, so I’m going to tell you a little bit about each of them and then you’ll have the chance to win the lot. The range is designed to be easy to use and affordable, so have a read and see what you think. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Black Tower

In case you’re thinking ‘low alcohol wine – what even IS that and also WHY?’ then stay with me for a second.

I like a glass of wine as much as the next 40 year old single parent who sometimes wonders about the practicalities of dying alone in a house full of cats, but I don’t always get the opportunity to have a drink whenever I want. Belle hasn’t learnt to drive yet – roll on August – and because I’m the only grown up, anytime we go anywhere it means I’m in charge of the car.

I’ve also heard that there are people who actually just don’t ENJOY drinking all the time. It seems unlikely, but apparently it’s true.

Seriously though, I am joking (a bit) because the older I get, the less I seem to be able to tolerate alcohol. What I DO like though is the whole ritual of opening a bottle and pouring a glass of something. Chinking glasses with a friend in a sunny garden, feeling your shoulders drop that little bit. All of that is just NICE isn’t it?

Alcohol free wines though, or drinks claiming to be alternatives, are often a bit disappointing. I’ve tried drinks called things like ‘Chardonnay without the hangover’ and they are really NOT. Some alcohol free beers are okay, others taste like week old sandwiches.

I was interested then to give the new Black Tower Deliciously Light range a try.

Black Tower Deliciously Light review View Post

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I have a love hate relationship with Tinder.

A lot of the time I don’t use it at all, because of all the skydive pictures, and then other times I have vulnerable moments like this where I worry briefly that I might die alone, surrounded by cats, and Tinder is my only way out:

https://twitter.com/mummyblogger/status/1114436371454754816

While I’ve never had any truly horrible experiences on Tinder, I’ve also never had any amazing ones. I’ve had a LOT of perfectly pleasant first dates, but very rarely a second one. I was fiendishly seduced by one man who played a game where he pretended to interview me for Desert Island Discs, only to say ‘by the way I should probably tell you I’m not looking for a relationship’,* but most of the time it’s just me swiping left past endless pictures of men who look so sad that you wonder if they have set up a Tinder profile as an alternative to suicide.

I have been doing a bit of swiping lately, to pass the time, and have become increasingly aware of just how similar everyone is in terms of the frankly bizarre pictures they post and the tedious things they say in their profiles. It astounds me that a grown man can decide he wants to impress a woman, and think that a selfie in the mirror of a public toilet, complete with background urinal, is going to be the money shot.

‘When she’s sees this she’s going to be putty in my hands,’ he thinks to himself, content with the fact that you can’t really see his face but CAN see a large toilet cistern.

And the fish! So many fish!

To make the process of finding a match on Tinder slightly less hideous, I have made you a Tinder bingo. It should help to pass the time at least – a distraction from the thought the only men left in the world are permanently sat astride motorbikes, wearing helmets. Why not share it with your single friends, or invite people round for dinner and play competitively? Perhaps do shots every time you complete a row? The toilet selfies might seem more appealing by the time you’ve completed your card.

I would also be interested in particularly on brand screenshots.

Tinder bingo

And yes, I know this is cynical and bitchy and all these men are PEOPLE blah blah blah, but come on guys, make an effort.

Are you a Tinder user? What would you petition to have added to the bingo card? Perhaps you’re a man and are sick of women hiding behind Snapchat filters?

Leave a comment and let me know!

*I mention him because we are still friends and it might make him feel important.

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If you’ve ever been to a festival you might recognise this scenario:

It’s a month before the festival and you get an email. ‘We’ve announced the dressing up theme!’ the festival organisers tell you. ‘This year it’s post-apocalypse Alice in Wonderland/1970s disco mermaid/pansexual party pirates!’ (Delete as appropriate.)

Excellent.

You set to work on your costume – gluing scales to your sparkly tights, fashioning a hat made entirely from cucumbers, whatever. You’re proud of your look, you’ve nailed it, you’re ready to go and FESTIVALISE.

Nozstock festival

Image courtesy of Nozstock festival

Then you get there and it pisses down with rain and no one sees your hand-sequinned pirate blouse because you have to spend the whole time in a large waterproof mac.

Sad face. View Post

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easy mint rack of lamb recipe

Pin me for later!

You heard me, Game of Thrones.

I have to say that the brief to create a ‘lamb recipe to tie in with the new series of Game of Thrones‘ presented a bit of a challenge to me initially, as I’ve never even seen an episode of Game of Thrones, not even five minutes of it. When I read ‘Game of Thrones’ then, my first thought was ‘sexy dwarfs’. I have no idea if there even are any dwarfs in it. The sexy bit I think was just because I’ve heard there’s a fair amount of nudity.

I asked around, and was given clues that mentioned brutal violence, murder and dragons.

I still wasn’t really feeling the lambiness.

The ‘Lamb. Try It, Love It’ campaign is all about making you think differently about lamb though, and I was definitely doing that.

I remembered a few years ago how we’d gone to Northern Ireland to tick ‘visit the Dark Hedges‘ off my list of 40 things to do before 40. The Dark Hedges is a country road in the middle of nowhere, where massive trees have grown over the road and intertwined to make a tree tunnel. Tree tunnels are one of my best things, and when I’d seen a picture of this one in a magazine a few years earlier I knew I wanted to see it in real life.

What I didn’t know when I visited was that The Dark Hedges was actually used as a location for some of the action in Game of Thrones.

Here at last was my way in!

I looked back at the photos, and an idea started to form in my mind… View Post

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Favourite Haribo Starmix

One of my fondest memories of Belle as a child was the time, about ten years ago, when she found a cola bottle in a mini bag of HARIBO Gold Bears. Belle is the kind of person who likes everything JUST SO, so whereas a more typical child might not even notice, or just think ‘oh a cola bottle’ and eat it anyway, Belle decided that she needed to take action.

She was still surfing the wave of justice from having recently received a £2 voucher from Walkers because of finding a crisp that was ‘a bit funny looking’, so she was confident that she could make cola-bottle-gate work in her favour. She took photographs, sent them to HARIBO with a stern note, and a couple of weeks later was rewarded with an apology and a large packet of Starmix.

Her work was done. Justice was served.

HOWEVER…

If you find something you’re not expecting in a packet of HARIBO over the next few weeks, don’t be too quick to trade it in for a second bag of sweets, as it could be your ticket to a luxury UK family break with Forest Holidays. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Planted

Homemade vegan hot cross bun recipe

Check me out reflected in the knife – I’m such a super pro food photographer.

This post is a bit of a double win. Not only do you get to discover how to make your own vegan hot cross buns, but further down the post there’s the chance to win £50 of Asda vouchers, plus a load of goodies from Planted, so you can buy everything you need to make your own vegan hot cross buns.

(Or just spend it on 100 packets of Asda’s own hot cross buns, I’m not here to judge.)

Regular hot cross buns normally use milk in the recipe, so I switched this for Planted’s coconut drink with cocoa. Instead of butter I used vegetable oil and I used apple puree as a substitute for a beaten egg. The cocoa in the Planted drink gives the hot cross buns a subtle chocolate edge, but you could ramp this up by adding chocolate chips if you wanted.

Be warned – they do take a while because of the proving. I’d say these hot cross buns are a good Sunday activity. Get the Archers Omnibus on and potter about between stages doing jobs like washing the bin and trimming dead bits off the houseplants. (I actually love those kind of Sundays.) View Post

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I’ve been banging on about Playgroups and Prosecco, my debut novel, for ages now, so I thought it was only fair that I gave you something back – a thank you for putting up with all my ‘buy it on Kindle for only 99p!’ tweets.

In case you’re not up to speed, Playgroups and Prosecco is a ‘laugh out loud debut’ (my words) about the realities of single-parenting a toddler and a teen in a world of Instagram and Tinder. It’s a diary format, easy to read, but also GOOD, even if I do say so myself. If you want a taster, the first week is available to preview through the ‘look inside!’ feature on Amazon.

It looks like this, for when you want to find it in a bookshop from May 2nd, and take a picture to send me, saying ‘look I saw your book!’

(Please do that.)

Playgroups and Prosecco View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Bacofoil®

What will you be doing this Mother’s Day? Delivering or receiving breakfast in bed maybe? A nice meal out?

As much as I like going out to eat, I always feel a bit weird about eating out on special occasions like Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. I feel somehow gullible? Like everyone else is just there because they think they should, and I’m buying into an international money making plot.

What I DO love though is when someone else makes me dinner at home. Belle is actually pretty good at this, and does cook two or three times a week, but even then I have to decide what we’re going to have and do the shopping, which is the most tedious part of the whole thing.

I have two suggestions for you then if you’re looking to do something nice for your Mum this Mother’s Day:

  1. Cook her a meal
  2. Bacofoil® The Non-Stick Kitchen Foil

Note: number two is not meant to be a present – probably go with flowers or chocolates as an actual gift – it’s just to help you with point one.

I can hear you muttering here – ‘Jeez, is there anything this woman won’t write about?’ – but bear with, because Bacofoil® was actually a bit of a revelation for me. If you’re as much of a massive lazy bones as me and you’re not already using it, it’s going to be something you actually want to read about.

I don’t know why, but I never think to use foil when I’m cooking. I’ll use it to wrap up a bit of cheese for the fridge or something, and I use greaseproof paper for baking things like cookies, but it’s never occurred to me before to line roasting trays or anything like that with foil.

Perhaps because I’ve never had Bacofoil® The Non-Stick Kitchen Foil before!

*cue dramatic drums*

Dum dum DUM!!! View Post

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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

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