Monday, 30 March 2015

Cinderella and the Ladybird

Lily James as Cinderella

This weekend, I managed to persuade Tall Daughter to come to the cinema with me to see Cinderella, the new Disney live action version.  I say persuaded, but chocolate was promised, so you could call it bribery.

We loved it, it's a very charming version of the traditional tale with a terrific cast.  Downton Abbey's Lily James is also perfectly cast as the sweet Cinders, and Cate Blanchett is fabulous as the wicked step-mother.

I couldn't help thinking that whoever designed Cinderella's beautiful ballgown had taken some inspiration from one of my favourite Ladybird books, at least I'd like to think so anyway.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Sponsored video: Flavours of home

Home cooked food, particularly meals cooked lovingly by your mum, has to be one of life's greatest pleasures.

When I was 19 I went to work abroad for two years, and one of the things I missed most was the food. More specifically, I missed my Mum's home cooking and on the few occasions I went home for holidays or Christmas the first thing I wanted to eat was Mum's Lancashire Hot Pot, or double egg and chips. Fat chips, with dippy yolks, brown sauce and sliced white bread, not the healthiest choice perhaps but it meant home to me. I dare say I could have made both meals where I lived in Germany, but there was something special about the way they tasted at home.

This video shows Carmen who works in the Arctic as a husky guide (what a amazing job!). We see Carmen talking about home and getting a bit emotional, completely unaware that Knorr have flown her mum out to cook her favourite meal for her.  It's a lovely feel-good video, and it gets extra brownie points from me for featuring the gorgeous huskies.

Of course you can recreate the flavours of your favourite meals wherever you are with the right ingredients.  A couple of years ago I followed one of Mum's recipes but the final dish didn't taste quite right until I added white pepper.  Such a simple addition, but that extra flavour made all the difference.

You can find more flavour inspiration on the Knorr website.

Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Knorr, but all thoughts and words are my own.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The perfect weekend in London for teenagers

Trying to find a weekend away that will interest teenagers can be a bit of a challenge, but when Superbreak invited us to take a weekend break in London with a very cleverly designed itinerary that ticked all the boxes for Tall Daughter (aged 15), we couldn't wait to go.  

Living in the North West, we don't visit London very often which is shame as the express line from Liverpool takes just 2 hours, but on Saturday morning we caught the early train to give us as much time as possible in the capital.

Things To Do

We packed quite a lot into our weekend, arriving on Saturday morning and leaving on Sunday evening. On Saturday we visited the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London which, if you're a fan of Sherlock is a must-see.  Entering through a secret door, the exhibition uses early film and photographs to evoke the London of Arthur Conan Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes stories are brought to life with artefacts, early manuscripts and film posters. The highlight for me was seeing the original Monet 'Pont de Londres' painting on display, which was totally unexpected. 

After a quick lunch break, we hit the shops. For a teenager London has to be shopping heaven, and Tall Daughter loved it.  One of the shops she insisted on visiting was Victoria's Secret which was so busy, hot and oppressive, it felt like being trapped inside a teenager's wardrobe. But still, she was happy. 

On the Saturday evening we took a short stroll from the hotel to find somewhere to eat, and decided on 189 Piccadilly, an Italian restaurant, where Tall Daughter had a very tasty lasagne and I had one of the best seafood risottos I've ever eaten. 

After our meal we went to see Billy Elliot the Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre. We loved it, not only is it laugh-out-loud funny, but the singing and dancing is phenomenal and there were also a few poignant moments, with a few tears shed (mine, not theirs). It's a really uplifting musical, and I guarantee you'll leave the theatre wanting to dance down the street.  Fantastic.


On the Sunday, after a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we went on a tour of London on a vintage red Routemaster open-top bus.  Our tour guide Dan mentioned that, unusually, all of the passengers that day were British so he amended his commentary to suit (no explanations about pubs or the Royal Family).  We really enjoyed the tour, and Dan's commentary was entertaining, informative and very witty. I learned a lot about the London's history, and we covered a lot of the city in just over 2 hours, with the bus stopping at three places (Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's cathedral and the Tower of London) for photos and a coffee break.  At the end of the tour we had afternoon tea at the Park Plaza hotel, overlooking Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. 

We stayed at the Cavendish Hotel in central London, close to Fortnum and Mason, and central enough to walk to some places of interest and within easy access of the Tube. The hotel was fabulous and we were impressed by how friendly and helpful the staff were. 

The beauty of a Superbreak weekend is that they do all the planning and arranging for you, and at a lower price than if you book everything yourself.  They also send all the tickets, vouchers, and a full itinerary in the post so that you have it all before you go.

Our weekend cost £362.90 per person for a one night say at the 4* Cavendish Hotel in London including breakfast, plus 12pm entry to the Sherlock Holmes Exhibition, Vintage London Bus Tour with afternoon tea, top price evening tickets to see Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre and return rail from Liverpool to London Euston. 

For more inspiration and to book simply visit or call 0800 042 0288.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Choosing the right door for your home

We're in the midst of making a few changes to our home: decorating the living room and one of the bedrooms; finishing off a few neglected DIY jobs; and generally getting the house looking a bit smarter ready for when it goes back on the market next year.  Some of the internal doors have seen better days, so they are on the list of things to be updated, and this guest post explains how changing a door can have a big impact on the look of a room.

Whether you’ve just moved home, are in the middle of a huge renovation or just fancy a change of theme in one particular room, changing or refinishing your doors can completely update the overall look and feel of a room. On the opposite end of the scale, having a door which does not fit the décor can leave a room feeling inconsistent and out of odds.

What to consider when choosing a new door

Internal doors do not have to be as sturdy as external doors as they do not face as much weathering. They are usually made of a timber frame, with either real wood or foil veneers. Real wood veneered doors have a very thin layer of wood bonded onto the timber frame to replicate the look and feel of a solid oak door, at a more affordable option. Foil veneered doors are even more affordable, as they use a synthetic foil which replicates the look of real wood. There is also the option for moulded doors – these are made from moulded wood fibre to replicate the look of a wood panelled door, however are not built upon a timber frame. Instead, they are made with different core types to provide different weights. A heavier weighted core acts as a great sound buffer, but may not be practical for doors which are used frequently.

There are several styles of internal doors to choose from – flush, panelled and glazed. Flush doors
have a smooth surface so are great for contemporary, sleek rooms. Glazed doors incorporate, or are made up of, glass panels and are perfect for opening up small dark rooms and for providing continuation between two rooms, such as a kitchen and dining room. Panelled doors can come with various numbers of panels embossed into the surface, creating a more traditional look, and would suit both modern, traditional and rustic home interiors.

When it comes to the door frame, there’s a choice of traditional swing, sliding doors, double doors and folding doors. Traditional swing doors are the easiest option when simply replacing a door rather than going through a full renovation, and the frame can be stripped and painted to match your new door. Sliding doors and folding doors are great for small spaces as they do not require room for outswing, and they also add a contemporary chic feel to a room so suit modern and sleek décor. Double doors are a great option for large spaces as they break up blank walls and bring light and depth to a room.


Colour is generally one of the easier things to take into consideration, due to the existing or intended colour themes. White doors look great with minimalist interiors made up of whites, blacks and neutrals, however also look great providing a stark contrast against brighter colours. 

Dark wooden doors, similar to mahogany colours, work well with grandeur décor and darker furnishings, however can be too much for small spaces so ensure there’s enough light and space in the room. Natural wood doors tend to fit with most décor, but looks particularly at home with natural earth based colours and rustic, shabby chic themes. Cream doors also work in place of wood doors for a rustic interior, and can replace white doors when a room is overly white and clinical to add warmth.

Monday, 9 February 2015

A one-pot recipe ~ chicken jambalaya

Chicken jambalaya

I love a one-pot recipe - if I could get away with it I'd make all our meals in one pot, imagine the amount of washing up you'd save.

I'm also a fan of easy recipes, and this one couldn't be any easier for a mid-week meal, so a one-pot, easy-to-make recipe - what's not to love?

Chicken Jambalaya
Serves 3-4

1 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 red pepper cut into chunks
75g of chorizo, cut into slices
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
250g long grain rice
Can of chopped tomatoes
350ml chicken stock
Ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large frying pan with a lid and brown the chicken for 5-8 mins. Remove and set aside on a plate. Tip in the onion and cook for 3-4 mins until soft. Then add the pepper, garlic, chorizo and Cajun seasoning, and cook for a further 5 mins.

Stir the chicken back in with the rice, add the tomatoes and the stock. Cover and simmer for 20-25 mins until the rice is tender.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley, season with black pepper, serve immediately.

For this recipe, I used the Schwartz ground black pepper, which we were sent along with spices and a recipe book.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Run free, sweet girl

Tess (Russanda Lark) 2004 -2015

Yesterday we said our final goodbyes to our beautiful greyhound Tess.

We adopted her in 2009 not long after she had been retired from her successful racing career (racing name: Russanda Lark) and from day one she was pretty much the perfect dog for us: loyal, calm, house-trained and just a lovely, gentle soul.

She quickly became one of the family, and we loved her.

She loved her comfy bed, and her cuddly monkey, and tummy rubs and bacon snozzles, and she was thoroughly and completely spoiled.  We had over 5 happy years with her before she started showing signs of old age at the end of last year, and her health grew steadily worse over the last few weeks. After spending several days in the care of the vet, she came home last night for what I thought would be her final 24 hours with us.

Sadly, in the early hours it was obvious that she couldn't continue and we returned to the vet who helped her on her final journey.

She was such a sweet, gentle soul, and we'll miss her so much.

Run free, sweet Tessie, all is well x

The last battle poem

Tess and Tall Daughter

Monday, 26 January 2015

Easy breakfast smoothie recipes

I don't know about you but I find January a really difficult month. It's the darkest, longest, coldest month of the year and a bit of an anti-climax after Christmas.  It's also a good time for making new year resolutions, and one of those for us has been to eat more healthily. After over-indulging in December we started the year feeling bloated, sluggish and generally meh.

So, one of the best things I've bought recently is our smoothie maker.  It's one of those where you make the smoothie in the plastic cup that you drink it from, so cuts down on the washing up which is always a good thing, and it means we can knock up a breakfast smoothie in a matter of minutes.

It's an easy way to get a couple of portions of our essential 5-a-day, and we use a variety of fruits and vegetables. Buying lots of fruit can be costly, but we've found that by keeping frozen or freeze dried fruits in the freezer (read more information here) we have a steady supply of berries which can be expensive if bought separately, and it makes the drinks nice and cold without using ice.

We didn't follow any recipes at first, and basically just chucked in a load of different fruits so it's been a bit of trial and error, but here's our favourites so far.

Berry smoothie
1 banana
cup of Frozen or freeze dried berries
half a cup of low-fat natural yoghurt
cup of skimmed milk
a squeeze of honey

We use a small cup to measure, although you can just adjust the ingredients according to taste. Break banana into pieces, put everything in and blend until smooth. It couldn't be easier.

Raspberry and pomegranate smoothie
100g raspberries
1 banana
125g low-fat natural yoghurt
300ml pomegranate juice

Put everything into the smoothie maker/blender and blitz until smooth. Drink, enjoy and feel virtuous!

You can find plenty of other recipes here.

After just a few weeks of drinking smoothies every morning we're already feeling the benefits - more energy, clearer skin and just feeling generally better.

Have you made any resolutions to be healthier? How are you getting on?