Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Teenager turns 18

The Teenager turns 18
Finally, after months of counting down the days The Teenager turned 18 yesterday.

It was a great day, filled with happiness. There were balloons, presents, cards, a meal at her favourite restaurant, cocktails, and the perfect cake for a mega-fan of the Foo Fighters.

The Teenager is a great girl.  Yes, I know I'm biased but honestly, she is. She's fun, she's smart, and she's got a great, bubbly personality. What's more, she knows what she wants out of life and is determined to get it.

I'll be honest, she hasn't always made the past 18 years easy for me - she's very headstrong and at times it's felt like she challenged almost every decision I've ever made, and she probably has, but my God, I admire her strength of character.  Speaking as someone who has spent their  whole life being compliant I love that she questions everything, even if it does drive me crazy sometimes.

So, I'm now the parent of a fully-grown adult. It's unchartered territory for us, but I'm sure it'll be fine.
Foo Fighters 18th birthday cake
Her Foo Fighters birthday cake

If things go to plan (and my goodness she's working hard to make it happen) this time next year she'll be at university studying law or criminology. I'm not sure how I feel about her leaving home, the house will be very quiet, and much tidier, without her but I know she can't wait. And that's her in a nutshell really, she's always been ready for the next adventure.

Happy birthday to my lovely lovely girl. Cheers!

p.s. Today is the turn of her sister as it's her 15th birthday.  You might think that was bad planning to have two birthdays the day after each other, but I prefer to see the positives - in 3 years time they can share a joint 18th and 21st birthday party. Genius.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Lest We Forget ~ In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 John McRae

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Pamper Parcels ~ the perfect Christmas gifts

Pamper Parcels is a new business set up by my very clever friend Rosie Shelley (who blogs as Rosie Scribble) and in the run-up to the Christmas shopping season I thought these would be perfect presents.

I've already started doing my present shopping but there's always a question mark over what to send to the people we won't get to see over the Christmas period and these would be ideal. Here's how Rosie describes the philosophy behind it.
"The idea behind the business is to encourage us all to take time out from our busy lives, and enjoy a little me-time. We believe taking time out to relax and enjoy a little pampering is now essential rather than a luxury, and it has wide health benefits.

Each of our pamper boxes contains a mixture of carefully selected natural, organic and Fair Trade products, plus products sourced from independent businesses. The aim is that each product gives something back in some way – to the environment, to nature, to the community and to workers in the developing world.
 Each pamper box also contains one small extra gift, boxed with the words ‘pass it on’ stamped on, for you to pass on to someone else, promoting the gift of giving and spreading the happiness a little further. We’re calling it Pass the Parcel."

The range includes a variety of pamper boxes for men, women and teens, for a variety different occasions at a range of price points so there’s something for everyone.  A couple of friends who have received them as gifts were all equally impressed with the care and attention to detail that had gone into each parcel.

You can buy one for yourself or send it as a thoughtful gift to say thank you, good luck, take care of yourself, get well, happy birthday, or just because.

All of the items used have been ethically sourced, including the packaging, and are animal friendly too, which is a nice touch. Boxes are hand wrapped with care and sent through the post with your personalised message.

The website also offers a free me-time download to help you plan your time out.

And just in case anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas I like this one...

Monday, 27 October 2014

British crime dramas worth watching

I watch a fair bit of TV, and autumn is traditionally the season when new dramas are rolled out. I love a good drama series - Broadchurch, The Killing, The Bridge, Top of the Lake - I loved all of those, and these recommendations are in the same vein.

The Fall is a psychological thriller which was broadcast earlier this year on the BBC, and although I missed it first time around I'm watching the repeat on BBC2 at the moment (I believe it's also available on Netflix).

On paper, it's a fairly predictable story - serial killer targets single women -  but it is brilliantly done. Tense, dark and quite scary in parts, it is a top notch drama that's won a bucket-load of awards and rightly so.  It's quite challenging to watch due to its subject matter and quite graphic and brutal images in places, but my goodness it's well written and creatively directed.

It stars Gillian Anderson who is mesmerising as DCI Stella Gibson, the head of the police investigation team, and Jamie Dornan as the serial killer, as well as an excellent ensemble cast including the very underrated Irish actor John Lynch (who I've fancied for years) it's definitely worth watching before the second series airs in November. So, so good.

Happy Valley is another excellent BBC drama and was aired earlier this year. Set in Yorkshire and starring Sarah Lancashire as police sergeant Catherine Cawood, and rising star James Norton as psychopath Tommy, it centres on a staged kidnapping that goes badly wrong with terrible and far-reaching repercussions. It's fairly brutal in parts, and not suitable for children, but I can't recommend it highly enough. Stunningly good.

Anyone old enough to remember Cagney and Lacey?  Well, Scott and Bailey is the modern-day, Manchester based equivalent of it, and bloody good it is too.  The series was created in 2011 by Sally Wainwright, who coincidentally also wrote and produced Happy Valley, and is currently in its fourth series. It is a very realistic police drama, and the lead characters, played by Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp, are portrayed as imperfect women (is their any other type?) one mouthy and impulsive, the other steady and methodical, who are good at their jobs but not so great in their personal lives.  It's a gritty, intelligent drama with terrific female leads and is extremely watchable, I love this programme and will be sad to see this series' final episode this week. Catch it on ITV iPlayer.

What are you watching on TV, and what would you recommend?

Friday, 24 October 2014

Aromatic lamb burgers with mint raita

Last week I was set a challenge to make a recipe using lamb mince, or keema, and I made Keema Shepherd's Pie with a sweet potato mash which was delicious (even if I do say so myself).

This week I've made aromatic lamb burgers with a lovely mint raita to go with it.  Lamb and mint are a food marriage made in heaven, so I wanted to use both in the same meal.   As always with the recipes on this blog, it's easy to make and perfect as a mid-week family meal.  The burgers use spices, but they make the burgers 'aromatic' rather than spicy hot - but you could add more spice if you wanted, and one or two chillies to the mix if you want a bit of a kick. I left the chilli out this time because my daughter doesn't like it.

Makes 6 burgers

250g lamb mince
1 small red onion, finely chopped
Fresh breadcrumbs made from 2 slices of white bread, processed into crumbs
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-2 red chillies, finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 egg
salt and freshly ground pepper 
Oil for cooking

Put all of the ingredients in a bowl, and mix well together. I find it easier to do it with my hands.

Shape the mixture into 6 burgers, put on a plate and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Lamb burgers

While the burgers are in the fridge, make the raita. Use 250ml of natural yoghurt, half a cucumber (grated and excess liquid squeezed out), a few leaves of fresh mint, chopped, and salt to taste.

Mint raita ingredients

Mix together in a bowl, that's it! 

When you're ready, take burgers out of the fridge about 10 mins before you're ready to cook to bring them back to room temperature.  

Brush the burgers with the oil and place into a hot frying pan. Cook for 5 minutes on each side.  Your kitchen will smell amazing at this point!

Aromatic lamb burgers

To serve, toast pitta bread for 30 seconds then open it up into a pocket.  Place the burger inside, serve with tomato and salad leaves. Top with some of the mint raita. We loved these, so easy and quick to make and the final result is really tasty. I'll definitely be making them again.

***To be in with a chance of winning one of 5 Indian Food Hampers, please vote for my recipe on the

Friday, 17 October 2014

Celebrating Apple Day

I love autumn. Not only is it time to break out the hot chocolate and woolen scarves, but it's also the time when Apple Day is celebrated. I think it's something that's only celebrated in the UK, but I could be wrong.

Last weekend I persuaded Tall Daughter to join me at our local Apple Day.  I say persuaded because these family days out are getting increasingly rare as they spend  more of their time with friends, boyfriends (eek!) and following their own interests. How very dare they!

But I was pleased she came because it's my favourite local event and we've been visiting since both girls were tiny. 

As usual there was lots to do and see, and it was a beautiful autumnal sunny day. There was food produce on sale, craft stalls, food stalls, games, activities and of course, apples. Plenty of apples, including dozens of different varieties.  My favourite variety McIntosh Red wasn't there, but it's 'relative' Lobo was so I had a taste. McIntosh Red is a very fragrant apple, crisp and juicy, just as all apples should be.  I used to be able to buy it at our local outdoor market, but alas the market is no more.

Is there an apple day event where you live? What are your favourite local events?