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How to take the dread out of Christmas – 5 simple steps

war on waste (1)
Does the thought of Christmas sometimes fill you with despair?

Follow our 5 step plan to resolve this dilemma.

1. Set up a Christmas list on
2. Start putting stuff on it that you want. You still have plenty of time, but start now so that when people ask what you want for Christmas you can…..
3. send them your list number – do this in good time, with a gentle suggestion that……
4. they set up a list too, so you can get them just what they would like.
5. Push the thought of mingling with hoards of shoppers, wasting time and money to the tune of jingle bells, to the back of your mind, and …….

…… something you enjoy instead.

Before the onslaught of table manners

If mums ate like their kids

If mums ate like their kids

We feel sure that anyone out there with children – or frankly anyone who has seen them in action – will appreciate this video.

It made us laugh a lot :)

Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownie heaven

Under the pretext of making something yummy for the children as they flop around the house in their unaction packed holiday, I made this recipe from the new Donna Hay ” The new easy” cookbook……. and I am now on my third iteration, with considerably more body mass to hand. But it is most certainly worth it as they are the most delicious thing I have made or eaten for a while.

Photo on 13-08-2015 at 17.04  So, as I am by nature a sharer, here is the recipe so you can join me in my chocolate heaven……

 120g plain flour

 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

 220g brown sugar

 2 eggs

 120g caramel filling/dulce de leche

 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 150g unsalted butter, melted

 150g dark chocolate, chopped

……and the magic ingredient……1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 160 ° C / 325° F.

Mix flour, baking powder and sugar. Add eggs, caramel, vanilla and butter and whisk until smooth.

Stir through the chocolate and spoon into a 20cm square cake tin, lined with non-stick baking paper.

Sprinkle with the sea salt and bake for around 40-45 minutes or until just firm at the edges. the middle bit stays squishy which is mmmmmmmm.

rush to tell other people you have made it, as you risk eating the whole lot otherwise.


Cookery classes


Everyday Kitchen

perfect recipes...

A great gift to give someone who loves cooking is some inspiration. We all need varying degrees of this and what better way, but to combine it with a trip away.

A trip to world renown Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland near Cork would be a fabulous gift,  and where along with a friend and our two daughters, I had a course with Rachel Allen called Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen – which coincides with the her excellent new book.

Rachel Allen is an absolutely lovely person and the course was great fun and relaxed…we covered many recipies from her book, which she prepared and demonstrated in front the class of about 40 people from all over Ireland, the UK and even America. It all looked very easy of course and the next day we were able to choose a couple of the recipes to try ourselves and enjoy later at  lunch.

The teaching kitchens were buzzing with all of us divided into sections, each had their own allocated teacher to advise and remind, whilst Rachel herself would come round to see and answer questions as they arose.

Total emersion in the school and environment was a great break, and gave us new, simple recipes to try and inspiration in bucket loads.
If you can’t get to Ballymaloe then the next best thing would be the new Rachel Allen cook book Everyday Kitchen click to view…its full of easy to do recipes and delicious.

Divorce parties – not very British?

The JWT 100 things to watch in 2014 report is full of interesting insights – many of them happening in the USA, but usually coming to the UK.

Divorce parties are one of the trends observed:

“Given the rise in single people and fading stigma around divorce, more
people (particularly women) are choosing to celebrate their divorces with
lavish parties. Pinterest boards have popped up with cake and party favor ideas,
and some women even order piñatas in the likeness of their ex. But not all such
parties take a “good riddance” tack. For couples who part ways amicably, a
party can be a cathartic way to honor the time they shared.”

A good idea, or just a bit too out there for the UK? Any comments?

The healing property of tea

Manuka Tea - grown in the UK

Another fantastic UK production and one that we have personally tried and tested…and love!

The Tregothnan estate, the first and only UK tea producer, has some fine teas, but we particularly love this Manuka tea.

You may have come across Manuka, famous for its healing properties, in the context of honey.  “Manuka bushes are celebrated for their antibacterial properties used both internally and externally, and are even used by nurses to dress wounds. The Maoris certainly knew what was good for them!
Manuka has a distinctively sweet, floral and spicy flavour. Grown at Tregothnan since it was first introduced from New Zealand in the 1800s, bees feed on this pretty bush to make Manuka honey.”

Well, anything that tastes delicious, is good for you, and is British produced has to be good.

Another one for the wish list.

Minirig speaker – the word is out

The word is out on this fabulous new British designed and British Made device, Minirig – this has to be a top of the Christmas wish list item for anyone who likes to take their music wherever they go, or start a party.

To paraphrase what so many reviewers feel about this wonderfully designed object….it’s a game changing portable speaker, light weight, superbly designed and is wonderfully focused on what it’s supposed to do – that is, play music well and without fuss.

There’s no on/off switch or volume control, you just plug it in to your iPhone/pod/phone/pc… and away you go. The sound quality is amazing for such a small unit.

The absence of airtunes or Bluetooth and the fact that the Minirig uses a cable means it’s compatible with everything…and you can daisy chain multiple devices for stereo sounds, add it to a Minirig subwoofer for extra boost, or buy the whole package, in a rucksack to party on the go. So, get in early and add it to your list before Aunty Mabel buys you another raindeer jumper.


Where is the Salt Pig?

In fact – what is a Salt Pig?

My Salt Pig

Salt Pig at the ready!

Only after a recent visit to Ballymaloe Cookery school did I understand how useful they are.

In the past I dismissed the idea of a Salt Pig as a gimmick. I now have to eat my words…I love it!

Two reasons…its always to hand and sits ready and waiting and it means I use the cheaper cooking salt rather than reaching for the expensive sea salt and secondly, I use less salt as I can see how much I am adding when scooping with the measuring spoon.

Salt Pigs come in all shapes and sizes and if you so wish you can find a pig shaped one, however the point is that they have a wide opening in front so you can reach in, the top of the pig forms a protective shield that prevents debris and foreign objects from falling into your salt while it remains dry.

Easily accessible you have greater control over the amount of salt added…I love it!
A great gift what ever the occasion – click the link here for a similar salt pig from notonthehighstreet.

A Festival to plan for…

Busking in Edinburgh

Put this in your diary – next year’s Edinburgh Festival (7th – 31st August 2015).

A truly international festival, Edinburgh’s streets come alive with performers from all over the world. Visitors too come from across the globe to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the busy streets…You cannot avoid being entertained in Theatres, Bars, Churches, Squares and many unlikely venues too and you are bound to encounter something you have never seen before.

The exciting atmosphere pervades the whole city and as you stroll through the streets you will never be stuck for something to do, see or experience.

As well as the Festival there is the Tattoo which you will need to book well ahead…there is never a spare seat and is well worth seeing to believe. So before the Festival and Tattoo are a distant memory …plan to go now and do something different next Summer.

You can book with British Airways click the link here

Summer meadow memories

As it is fashionable if you have a patch of lawn to grow yourself a meadow and put all the weed seeds you have been trying to get rid of in the past to create a wild meadow that is good for the bees and good for you (unless you have hay fever) and saves using the lawnmower.
Well creating this meadow has not been easy and after 3 attempts (3 Years!), this summer is the first decent attempt.

This summer's meadow

Went to sow a Meadow

First of all you have to have poor soil… so no feeding, watering or TLC at all…Then we had to kill the grass! and being the most successful plant on the planet…grasses are hard indeed to get rid of…and we had to poison and then rake  as best we could.  Then we sowed masses of flower seeds (and watch the birds and pets jump all over them) and then put up with and explain to all our visitors the brown patches of dead grass on our sad looking lawn.

Still, this summer we have had more success than ever before and now with the long indian summer we plan to cut the grasses and let them lie and dry so the seeds have no excuse but to re seed and regrow again to improve the meadow next year…watch this space.

Do let us know any tips or suggestions. We need all the advice we can get!

My wish list has a load of new wild flower meadow seeds on it just in case click here to see