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

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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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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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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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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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