How to beat the back to work blues


Here we are, for a great many this is the Sunday ahead of the Monday of going back to work. Which tends to feel a bit like this:


How to beat the back to work blues in 5 easy steps


Here’s a few ideas, sort of based around food, that might just help. A little.


Make Bircher muesli tonight for a better morning tomorrow

  1. Make a good breakfast ready to go the next morning the night before. I love Bircher muesli or any other version of overnight oats.


Roasted Parsnip & Carrot Soup - perfect for leftovers

2. On a similar theme, get your own lunch ready for tomorrow, unless you have a spectacularly good canteen at work. I’m thinking of a homemade soup with the leftover carrots and parsnips from Christmas. I like this recipe from Real Simple.


Treat yourself well with a dinner out


3. Let someone else cook dinner. Go on, it’s Monday, you’ve done a day at work, and there’ll be lots of offers around. You don’t have to go mad, but it’ll just feel really good to not cook or wash up tomorrow night.

4. Plan a trip. Doesn’t matter if it’s just a day trip or a full blown holiday, just having something to look forward to is a great feeling. There was a good guide in the Guardian of the places to visit in 2016, including Nottingham, Dublin and Penzance, for places that won’t necessarily break the bank. Do some research and make a table reservation or two as well.


Shopping lists at the ready


5. Plan some good meals for the rest of the week, and organise your shopping to be delivered on Tuesday evening so you’re ready to go. You’ll be too busy being out at dinner on Monday night.

Personally, I’m delaying the inevitable and not going back till Tuesday. If you need me, I’m taking a day of R&R at Champneys Springs and cannot wait.


Bircher muesli photo by Alpha and shopping list by Ex Smith on Flickr.


The worst Christmas gift ever?


Disappointment is out of place at Christmas


Hopefully “you’re all done on the Christmas shopping front, as the countdown is definitely on now. And hopefully you’re really happy with everything you’ve got for your loved ones, and you’ll love everything that you receive.

So come on, lets ‘fess up: what’s the worst Christmas gift you’ve ever received, or indeed given?

I’m going to start with one that I’ve was gifted, which is indelibly ingrained in my memory. It appeared 13 days after giving birth to MGG, and after 4 nights unexpectedly in hospital with her.

So, tired, hormonal, feeling fat and frumpy…so a lovely gesture wouldn’t have gone amiss. My list had been out for months, given I was always having a mid December baby. Happily opening gifts to get to the one from MGG’s dad.

A glitter wig.

A bloody glitter wig.

Not ticking any boxes. Not buying the “I thought you’d find it amusing”. Not buying the “well, I’ve been busy”.

Yeah, not for one moment was that ever going to fly with me.


The Worst Christmas Gift Ever? In my book, yes!


I don’t think it ever got that bad again. Thankfully.

So come on, you can email me anonymous tales that I can update with, or comment below, let’s share some Christmas laughs. What horrors lurk in your past? Or did you gift something horrendous, either knowingly or only now looking back do you think that?

Here’s hoping your gifts and gifting this year show great thought and love. Or at least set you up with some fabulous stories to dine out on.

Great photo by Sarah Horrigan on Flickr.


Some more gin research needed


Did I mention that I like my gin?

So I see this book as a bit of a challenge!


101 gins to try before you die - I like a challenge


But the challenge starts now, as got into a bit of a twitter conversation with Kandula Tea, as it turns out they like gin as well as tea. So we thought we might compare starting points, to see how many we had each clocked up already.

Can’t wait to get started and then see how many I’ve got left to go at! It may or may not answer definitively which is the best gin, but it might answer which is my best gin.


Peas in my guacamole?


Heavens! You know it must be an incredibly serious issue when Obama weighs in:


Guacamole - as ordered by the President


Who knew that adding peas to your guacamole would be such a big deal? And honestly, I can’t say I wouldn’t give it a go. I love guacamole but a bit like (another heresy coming up) adding stuff to the basic hummus recipe, I say why not?

It’s not as though it often gets served without other flavours.I mean, once it’s loaded with a load of sour cream and salsa, who’s going to spot the peas? Or even the avocado, with some salsas I’ve tried.

A quick look on Pinterest (source of all recipe quirkiness) showed recipes that included tinned pineapple, an Italian guacamole with basil and even a broccomole. For now, I’ll stick to my favourite version which comes from Mexican Food Made Simple.


making guacamole


To be honest, this week’s was very simple, in that I left out the red onion and had very little coriander, but still darned tasty in my book. But next time…well, I may just give those peas a go. Sorry, Mr President, #peaswin.


A little Teapigs update


No, really, I don't want to go...


For those of you remember a post I did back in 2012 about Teapigs, I thought this might give you a smile. I still get lots of questions about Teapigs on the back of that post and the BBC follow up, I guess it’s one that just doesn’t go away.

I just happened to google Teapigs ownership today in an idle moment on the back of a question, which I hadn’t done in an age. Which meant I had missed that Teapigs had created a “Starting Up” page on their website.

Fascinating, it’s much more honest and open than some of the answers I got. But not entirely.

Which is why the comments, and the follow ups make for even more interesting reading. I just find it fascinating. Why would you decide to set the record straight, but not really? Surely if you decide it’s a fair cop, then you have to put your hands up? Not sort of, half way, to the story you want to keep telling?

But then we know that Nick Kilby believes us all to be “very ill-advised”.

I would say whoever thought that “Starting Up” page was a good idea was very ill-advised. This one just keeps on running. Like I said, your mother was probably right, always best to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Photo by The Wolf on Flickr.


Celebrating with beautiful roses


This weekend saw the first anniversary of some great friends, whose wedding took place in their beautiful garden in New Jersey. To celebrate their love, and love of all things English, then I sent them three beautiful roses from David Austin, after a wonderful afternoon at their nursery wandering round, looking and smelling.

I didn’t choose by theme that time, but for this post, I am choosing by food and drink connections, as I’ve never chosen a bad rose yet from their collections.


Champagne Moment from David Austin Roses


Champagne Moment – for any kind of celebration, this is described as starting as apricot and paling with age to creamy white. Like a good champagne, it develops and changes.


Chianti from David Austin Roses


Chianti – this apparently was David Austin’s first red rose, it’s really rich and deep in colour, like the wine. It also has a strong old rose fragrance, so a delicious choice for a fragranced garden.


Grouse 2000 from David Austin


Grouse 2000 – laughing slightly that this is a ground cover rose, I’m sure the grouse would like that. Pale pink flowers that turn almost white eventually, it also says it’s very disease resistant, which has to be a good thing.


Ice Cream from David Austin Roses


Ice Cream – I wish I had this one, as it is a pure white, and I’m a Yorkshire girl at heart. I love the description of the fragrance, which is spicy with a hint of a cinnamon. Not what you’d expect from a rose.


Lady of Shalott from David Austin Roses


Lady of Shalott – oh, ok, tenuous and a dreadful pun. But it’s a beautiful looking rose, a most unusual colour, very vibrant.


Tea Clipper from David Austin Roses


Tea Clipper – now, this one really has a good sounding fragrance, apparently of tea mixed with myrhh and fruit, although sometimes it’s apparently entirely citrus scented. Love a bit of a surprise!

What I love about David Austin roses is that you cannot go wrong, they are all beautiful, and you can find something appropriate for every kind of occasion. And it’s a gift that just keeps on going. I’ve always found them incredibly hardy and easy to grow. I’ve got A Shropshire Lad (keep up, it’s a rose) that blooms amazingly well each year, even though I don’t treat it particularly well. If I can grow them, anyone can!


Celebrating the humble chip fork


Chip forks at the ready


And that’s about as close as this post is going to get to fish and chips!

But one of the great things about my blog is that the subject of great gifts for lovers of food gives me plenty of scope. And this one just appealed to me.


Chip fork pink


I love a good scarf, and I love a good portion of chips at the seaside, complete with the the little wooden fork. And so this design just really tickled me.


chip fork detail


Now, it’s a fantasy purchase from the scarf room at Liberty, one of my favourite places to window shop in a shop, but if you’ve got a significant event to buy for, or just bigger budgets than me, then it’s a great piece for someone to keep.

In the meantime I’ll hope the design comes out on a postcard!


Chips photo by Iain Tait on Flickr.


Not just my food cupboards that are full!


You might remember I’m working through a back of cupboard challenge? Well, it wasn’t the only area that needed a good sort out!


Oh dear. Having sorted food cupboards time to tackle the bathroom!


My day job with No 7 working on cosmetics means an awful lot of product testing, but it was rather out of control. I mean, how many mascaras?


How many mascaras does a girl need?


Or lipsticks?


Like champagne, I am not convinced there can be too much lipstick


But at least I’m well sorted for minis for hand luggage only flights!


Sorted for flying: minis galore

To be honest, I should know better than anyone that cosmetics, like food, have a finite shelf date. That little symbol with the words PAO is the clue. To be honest for most things, I’d stretch that period after opening on the basis of does it look or smell right, and if not, ditch it. The one exception really is mascara, which really does need to go after 3 months.

So, the top now looks somewhat different:


It is actually a bathroom!


And the cupboard below is now well organised, but I’m going to get tough on myself, and if I don’t touch stuff in the cupboard in the next 3 months, then I’m chucking it. I did the same with clothes last year, if I didn’t wear it by the end of August then I took it to the charity shop.

I think life is better when it’s simple. And I’m liking the simple bathroom!


Something to keep the gin on


Gin Coasters for the nightly gin. Or maybe that's just here.


These made me smile, even though I’m not big on coasters, but I might make room for these. Even if only because gin is still the spirit of choice in my house!

From Have a Gander, who also have a number of gin themed prints that might be good for other gin lovers out there, as I’m quite sure I can’t be the only one!


Helping kids get into noodles of all kinds


Noodle Kids


I got a great new book to review recently, called Noodle Kids, which has just been published. This is a great book for families who like to cook and eat together, or just looking for new recipes that kids might love, without them being all cutesy.

This is noodles in the broadest sense, not just the bowls full of the Chinese or Japanese style variety. So there’s stuffed noodles, covering everything from potstickers to ravioli, or saucy ones covering spaghetti to ramen.

I like that there are lots of ideas for getting social with food, how to really encourage kids to get stuck into making food, cooking food and enjoying eating food together. None of it is too complex, though some of it is going to be messy, but that’s got to be half the fun of it. Kids will love it, and cleaning up is an important part of learning to cook as well.

Cooking together, cleaning up together, eating together. Any book that gets us doing all of this together gets my vote. Published by Quarry Books, this is currently £15.99 at Waterstones.