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Back to school time – lunch boxes for everyone

August 27th, 2014 · Foodie gadgets, Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do, Kitchenwares

I’m sure debates will rage again about school meals versus packed lunches as the school year restarts. If they’re good, then personally I think they’re worth having. In our house, MGG has school lunches, and I try to take my own lunch as often as possible, so we have a variety of lunch boxes going on!

My favourite, particularly if I’m making some form of salad is the Smash Nude Food Movers Meal Box. I love that it has its own little pot for dressing, although the built in fork is not that useful. It has a vent in for using it in the microwave, but I have to admit I’ve never used mine in the microwave.


smash food movers


I also really like the Sistema Breakfast to Go Container. I have used it for breakfast, or maybe to carry fruit and yogurt, or you could even have things like rice in the base and a curry in the top and reheat it.


Sistema Breakfast to go


If I was thinking of a new lunchbox for my own “back to school” then I am quite keen on the Black+Blum Box Appetit, with its own carrying bag which converts into a mat. Given that lunch is eaten at my desk 90% of the time, then I think this is a great idea, not to mention it’s all very neat and tidy. Again, this has an inbuilt sauce pot, which I love, not to mention a sauce dipping area. Perfect.


Black+Blum Box


I think like anything, lack of variety can be what gives packed lunches a bad name, so having a lunch box that means you can fit in more than just a round of sandwiches has to be a good thing. This kit not only has a bag and an ice pack, but sizes of box that allow for a variety of things to be packed up. There’s lots of good things on the Becky & Lolo site, worth a look.


lunch box kit


So, get ready, the morning ritual is about to return! Organisation, and inspiration, seem to make it a lot easier to cope with.

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Back to school time – water bottle stock up time

August 25th, 2014 · Foodie gadgets, Foodie gifts

Hard to believe the school holidays are nearly over. I know that most of the shops have been running back to school since almost the day they broke up, but probably like most parents I’m only just getting round to it.

Water bottles figure in both MGG and I’s daily routines. She is very keen on her Bobble, and is getting ready to test a new one that the team there have sent us. She loves the colours, and I love that she refills them during the day, never complaining about the taste of the school water.


Bobbles ready to go


The only drawback I see with Bobbles is that most of them are not dishwasher proof, although I understand the newer sports ones are. Although they’re not quite as attractive, so I guess you pay your money and takes your choice.

Mine is a little more sedate, an Aladdin although brighter than this version. It’s renowned for having other stuff in it, as I normally add lime or cucumber or mint, or a mix of all three. Which does lead some around the office to question exactly what’s in there!


Aladdin Water Bottle


As more schools catch on to how important good hydration is to concentration then I guess more and more of us will be packing kids off with water. Let’s just make sure it’s a refillable bottle every day, and not getting a plastic bottle every day. I get so cross at myself when I forget to take my water bottle, the world really doesn’t need more plastic bottles of water.

Besides which, it’s much more difficult to get your lime and cucumber in a bottle of Evian!

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Waiting for the Doctor. Again.

August 23rd, 2014 · Foodie gifts

I must have done something right bringing up MGG, as the return of Doctor Who is as much an appointment to view with her as it is with me. As I’ve said before, Ten is my doctor, but am very excited to see Peter Capaldi take on the role.

Now, I could bake the Dalek sponge again, but as it’s probably just the two of us that seems a bit overkill. Put it this way, it’s a sponge recipe with 8 eggs in it!


Dalek Cake Mould


Lakeland did have a good range of things, but I really love the many options on cookie cutters from WarpZone Prints, which are probably my favourite use of 3D printers I’ve seen to date. There’s a 12th Doctor cutter (to be fair, there are all the others if you’re really keen), or a good set that includes the Tardis, a Dalek, a Weeping Angel, a Cyberman and a Sontaran, although substitutions are possible.


All 12 Doctors


To be honest, I wouldn’t know what to choose, as there are companion cutters, there’s K-9…though no Captain Jack. Or Mickey. Which would be right. Possible best to order a few as shipping is $8.95.

You might need a cuppa to dunk your cookie in to, and this one would seem appropriate at this point in time.


Fan mug


That said, the purists might be upset at the missing out of Hurt.

And I guess a Tardis teapot could be perfect. Because if it’s bigger on the inside then surely that must mean never running out of tea again!


Tardis Teapot


But I think even I would draw the line at drinking tea out of David Tennant’s head. That’s just plain weird!


Tenth Doctor


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What does an Edinburgh Fringe show have in common with a small food producer?

August 21st, 2014 · Foodie gifts, Foodie things to do

Enter the mayhem of the Fringe


You might think the answer to the question is “not much”, and I might have done too, apart from the insight from eavesdropping on a phone conversation! Well, not so much eavesdropping, this is an actor we are talking about, so each word beautifully enunciated from the table behind us.

This actor was from a two man show we’d seen earlier in the week, and from the biog this man has a “proper” job but is obviously looking to see if this might go full time. His comments to a mate back home made me laugh and reflect that plus ça change…well, see what you think!

Word of mouth hadn’t taken off – well, you know what? Sometimes it doesn’t. And quite often certainly not in two weeks, even at the biggest arts festival in the UK. I know when I’ve chatted to some producers at different shows it’s a bit the same, that there’s been no big order. Well, sometimes you have to do the graft. Which brings me to the next point.

It’s all down to the work we put in – when isn’t it? Even getting a lucky break is usually backed up by a lot of slog. Right time, right place maybe, but you have to have the right product, which probably means you’ve honed the product and its presentation over time.

It’s really tiring – when isn’t it? I am sure pitching their show every day to punters looking for tickets is knackering, but if they hadn’t done it we wouldn’t have gone to see the show, as it wasn’t on our radar. We’re not looking for you, whether you’re a show or a new food. You have to find us.


So much choice...


We’re living in a caravan – sometimes the Ritz (or, in Edinburgh’s case, perhaps the G&V) just has to wait. I can’t think of many food producers I know who are living it up in top hotels when they are out doing shows. It’s about where you put the investment, what’s really important to you.

There’s an agent coming tomorrow – maybe it’s a buyer from a big chain, maybe they’ll turn up, maybe they’ll order. Whatever, your product needs to be great every day, not just tomorrow. Because who says the big chain is the best thing? Who says that someone you have a conversation with today couldn’t just bring something really important to your business. Which brings me to the next point.

We have met some interesting people – a little more positive. Networking, sharing experience and skills, all of that can help build the business just as effectively, if not more sustainably, than one big break.

We’ve sold 85% of our tickets – I don’t know how you make money at Edinburgh, I can imagine it’s not a moneyspinner, in the same way I can see most of the big food shows may not be. There’s a lot of expense, but it’s about the exposure. And the networking. And maybe the lucky break. But 85% would seem like quite a good result to me, compared to a couple of shows we saw. Even Michael McIntyre had to begin somewhere, and that beginning is unlikely to be selling out Wembley. Likewise with food, you might start out at the East Midlands Food Festival, but you have to start somewhere.


I don’t know whether they will make the big time or not. Personally, I didn’t love the show, it was funny but not particularly clever. Or different. I certainly didn’t feel a need to see it again, and yet there are several shows that I would race back up for tonight (if you see Luke Kempner out on tour with The Only Way is Downton, that’s worth the ticket price, as is Beyond from Circa).

The same for me applies to food. I meet businesses all the time, sometimes with a really unique idea, though not so often. For the rest, there has to be a spark of something that makes them stand out. And then they have to deliver. And with food, as with theatre, you have to keep on delivering. You’re only as good as your last batch!

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The Foodie Gift Hunter is away

August 9th, 2014 · Foodie gifts




MGG and I are off to Edinburgh for our first experience of the Festival, and I can’t wait. I think it’s testament to the great food and drink of Scotland that my house-sitting uncle has suggested a long list of things he’s going to do around the garden and house whilst I’m away.

I think the price may well be some good smoked salmon and probably a single malt. Still cheaper than a full time gardener!

Twitter updates will no doubt continue!

Photo by Dimitry B on Flickr

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Go on, you know you’re going to want to bake today!

August 7th, 2014 · Foodie gifts

What Sunday afternoons are made for


Last night was definitely all about Great British Bake Off here, and looking at my Twitter feed I was definitely not alone! Which is probably going to mean a run on baking ingredients and bakeware today!

One of the things I love about the web is that it puts so much stuff within your grasp, that before would have meant tracking down a specialist shop. These are some of my favourites, that I’m sure would be able to provide just about anything you wish to bake!

Cake Cookies and Crafts Shop – I’ve used this a lot for things like icing and food colours, but they’re also really good at cookie cutters.

Lakeland – I know they are not new, but I love Lakeland. And I love that they are always moving forward, and I never know what they are going to come up with. I mean, Dalek cake tin anyone?

Sous Chef – perfect for things like freeze dried berries, chocolate couverture and a red velvet spray. I know, who knew? Even less appealing is the green velvet spray, but you just never know, could be all the difference on next year’s bake off!

The Cook’s Kitchen – this is a fantastic source for baking tins, amongst many other things. There are tins here that I never ever thought I needed. It doesn’t mean that I can’t find space for them though.

To be honest, it doesn’t matter what kit you have, you can bake with the simplest of kit, the simplest of ingredients. And turn out something better than anything you can pick up in the supermarkets.

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Starting my Christmas list early!

August 5th, 2014 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Kitchenwares

Dear Santa…if I *continue* to be very good this year, please could I have some very lovely tea cups and saucers for Christmas?Polka Tea Cups


I’m not sure the photo really does these justice, but I spotted these when I was out shopping today. They have a beautiful mother of pearl cast to the beautiful colours. I would have to leave them out so I could see them every day, as they are so beautiful.

Did I mention that I think they’re beautiful?

They’re from LSA, who I really think have been producing some beautiful products recently, not just in glass. You could buy them direct from their website, or they have them in John Lewis as well.

There is only one drawback. Well, 75 drawbacks really. At £75 these were not just an off the cuff kind of purchase, hence why I’m asking Santa, nicely!

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Remembering the fallen

August 4th, 2014 · Foodie gifts

On this day, it’s good to take a moment to remember the fallen of the Great War. So poorly named, as we see every day that there is nothing great about war.

But the personal sacrifices should never be forgotten. And whilst any place is good for a moment’s reflection, I found the National Memorial Arboretum to be incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking. I found the Shot at Dawn memorial to be particularly moving.


Shot at Dawn Memorial


You can’t fail to be moved by this place, and I’m sure this evening’s candelit vigil will be something very special to experience. But I would say go any day, and offer up a moment of quiet reflection, wherever you felt most appropriate. You could also stop in for a good cup of tea and some great cake too, which I think was all made on site, as it was delicious.

You could enjoy the art of the different memorials, you could enjoy the beautiful plants. You could just enjoy some quiet moments.

And remember.


National  Memorial Arboretum

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The Friday Five – Life without an oven

August 1st, 2014 · Cookbooks, Foodie gifts, Friday Five

I’ve never really loved the double oven in my kitchen, mainly because it was rubbish for baking. It bakes really hot, and even though it’s a fan, it was damned uneven in its cooking. And then the darned thing packed up a couple of weeks ago in the middle of cooking dinner.

But I’ve decided not to rush into replacing it, particularly at this time of year. When I looked around me, I realised I had quite a lot of other options available, so this week’s choice is based on books for my other cooking possibities.


Texas BBQ


Texas BBQ – well, the BBQ is probably an obvious one, particularly given the gorgeous weather we’ve been having. I’m a big fan of proper American BBQ, and this book is all about that. Not your typical British BBQ, but slow cooking over low heat, with plenty of good wood. But I have a bit of a thing for recipes liked pulled pork and slow cooked brisket, and this is perfect for those kind of dishes.


I love my slow cooker


I ? My Slow Cooker – I’ve written before about how much I love mine, so love the title of this book. It’s certainly a great option for my non oven days, and I’ve also loved the sheer variety of things that I’ve cooked in mine, not just brown stews. It’s also perfect for really hot days, as you get a cooked meal without the heat in the kitchen. Perfect. I might even give the lemon pudding a go.


Magic of the microwave


Magic of the Microwave – in my kitchen, the microwave is the least utilised piece of kit, usually just on a Saturday morning to defrost a bagel. So I suppose if this living without an oven were to continue for long then I might have to get used to using it a bit more. This book apparently covers snacks to special occasions. Which I would find hard to believe, but hey, who knows? I shouldn’t knock it until I try it.


One Pot Wonders


One Pot Wonders – I still have the gas stove top, and a well used Le Creuset casserole. And whilst the weather possible doesn’t lend itself to casseroles right now I’m sure it will turn imminently and so a cosy one pot dish will go down well. I really like Lindsay Bareham’s writing, so sure I would find quite a few things to work through. I would probably start with the saffron chicken with apricots and cardamom. Definitely my kind of flavours!


no cook no bake


The No-Cook No-Bake Cookbook – well, I guess this would always be an option! I like the subtitle about recipes for when it’s too hot to cook, which for once, this summer, we have got into considering. Things like salad and ceviche are in here, so not dull stuff for sure.

So far, other than thinking about some baking, I haven’t missed the fan oven, and I still have a small top oven to work with. But it may just be fun to play a bit with the other options! Which one would you go for first?



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Celebrating the dinners of the home nations

July 30th, 2014 · British favourites, Foodie gifts, Places to shop online

Well, most of them! I’m enjoying the Commonwealth Games, they probably had me at the dancing Tunnocks tea cakes to be honest!

As long as  you’re not from Northern Ireland, then you can show your support for whichever home nation through the glory of their national dinner dishes, thanks to Victoria Eggs.

You could wave, and dry up, with the English Dinner Tea Towel:


English dinner tea towel


Cook your own dinner in the Welsh Dinner Apron:


welsh dinner apron


And then sit down to a nice brew in the Scottish Dinner Mug:


Scottish dinner mug


And if you don’t want to show favouritism, get a full set. All the nations come in all three products, so you could have a full set of one nation, or mix it up. Some great dishes featured on each one of these, makes me hungry just reading them!


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