You’ll probably already know that I’m a huge fan of Attraction Tickets Direct: they’re one of the world’s largest attraction ticket brokers, and we’ve been everywhere from the West End of London, to Disneyland Paris, and even Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando with them. Last week I headed to the gorgeous Sea Containers in London to celebrate their 15th birthday with them, and to hear some really fabulous news about new Attraction Tickets Direct Disney hotel, ticket and dining packages!
I think I told you a while back that I’ve been working with Nat and her team from The Hair Secret in Berkhamsted to save my poor, frazzled hair. I love being blonde, but I find it quite damaging on my fine hair, so Nat’s been using Organic Colour Systems colour on me, which is a lot kinder (and also ethically sourced and cruelty free), and suggested that I try their new Organic Colour Systems Rep-Hair Follicle Strengthening System: a great range of products designed to strengthen hair and reduce the amount of hair that falls out. I was keen to give it a go.
As a family, we’ve always used this blog as a bit of a recipe resource. If the boys are making brownies or a pasta bake, they’ll look up the recipe on here, and I love that they’ll always have that connection with home. With Charlie just about to go off to university (we’re going to Universal for Halloween Horror Nights – yay! – then he goes practically as soon as we get back – boo) I thought it would be nice to share a few of our family favourite recipes so that he (and any other student looking for decent, great-value recipes for sharing) would be able to recreate them when he’s away from home. I’m starting with this easy, step by step lasagne al forno. If I’m taking my time and making a lasagne at home, I’ll make the sauce with red wine, carrots, celery and tomatoes (hit me up for the recipe, I’ve got a fab one), but there’s no shame in using a jar of tomato sauce, especially not when you’re in a hurry (or on a budget – a 500g jar of Tesco Bolognese pasta sauce is about 75p – also, look out for any that are on offer and stockpile them in a cupboard at home). Likewise with the cheese: Parmesan is lovely, but cheddar is cheaper.
I’ve never been particularly tiny or particularly big, so apart from the few occasions over the years when I’ve completely and unhealthily starved myself down to a ridiculous and completely unsustainable size 8, I’m generally around a healthy size 12. We eat quite well (we’re experimenting more with meat free, veggie-rich recipes at the moment and loving it) and try to be sensible with alcohol. Add that reasonably healthy lifestyle to the fact that, thanks to the NHS Couch to 5k programme I’m now running 5k three times a week and I’m kind of annoyed that I haven’t really toned up that much. Cue, then, the most exciting email I’ve had in ages from the fabulous S-Thetics Clinic in Beaconsfield, inviting me to come and try SculpSure body contouring: the first ever treatment to use gentle heat technology to eliminate stubborn body fat without going under the knife.
Okay, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s definitely autumn now. Regular readers will know I’m an absolute autumn obsessive. I always think of it as a time of new beginnings. It’s a ‘new notebook month’, not just because of the new term connotations, but because it’s maybe a time when we retreat indoors a bit more, giving us time to reflect, take stock (see my positive life plan if you’re interested in exploring this a bit more) and to welcome a bit of softness and comfort, even – dare I say it, more joy – into our lives. Autumn is snuggly jumpers, soft throws, cushions and flickering candles (and let’s not even get started on comfort food, shall we?). The change to cooler weather also brings the opportunity for a bit of a wardrobe refresh – retiring our summer pieces and exploring new collections from lots of our favourite brands, and – wow – the M&S autumn winter 2017 collection has so many nice things – I’ve taken you through a few of my favourites.
We’re a bit obsessed with kiwifruit in this house. (remember my kiwi and coconut breakfast bowls?) Sam always makes me laugh as on his late-night borrowing expeditions, he’ll sit with a big pile of them and eat them with a spoon, straight out of the skin. I particularly like the yellow variety: Zespri SunGold kiwifruit. Have you seen them? They’re deliciously sweet and particularly pretty, with their naturally golden glowy yellow colour. They’re also super-healthy: one Zespri SunGold kiwifruit contains three times the amount of vitamin C than an orange.
First of all, I’d just like to point out the glaringly obvious, that I’m not a scientist, so my thoughts on these collagen supplements are literally just my own views – however, I must say that before I was offered the absolute collagen protein rich marine collagen oral liquid supplements for review, I’d actually read quite a lot about collagen supplements and was quite keen to give them a go. Here’s how I got on.
You all know I love Anthropologie: I love the quirky collections of kitchenware (I have far too many Anthro mugs), and the ranges of clothes that will almost guarantee you’ve got something great quality and original in your wardrobe. As far as I know, apart from the lovely kitchen things, bed linen, and towels, etc, Anthro has never really ventured into the realms of furniture, but oh, they’ve done it now and it is spectacular, with the introduction of their brand new partnership with none other than Liberty: they of the fabulous floral print and the beautiful, must-visit mock-Tudor store on Great Marlborough Street (built from the wreckage of HMS Hindustan and HMS Impregnable – I don’t know why I retain useless information – I just do). Anyhoo, Liberty’s iconic prints have now found a new home in this wonderful collaboration with Anthropologie. And oh, it’s breathtaking. Dive in to Liberty for Anthropologie:
This week I’m playing with The Snaffling Pig Co’s brand new Crackling Crumb – it’s the perfect way to add texture and crunch to loads of different dishes. I’ve already tackled a delicious, crunchy brunchy breakfast burger and a herby crumb-topped extra cheesy mac & cheese. In my final recipe, my crispy chicken with an Asian inspired noodle salad, the crackling crumb gives the chicken a delicious, crunchy coating, which is the perfect addition to this fresh veggie and noodle salad with a peanutty, Asian-inspired dressing. The hot dressing works really well on spiralised veg too, and the low carb crumb coating also works with fresh salmon or even crispy prawns. Yum!
I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for pork crackling: one crunch takes me right back to sitting on the steps of the cricket pavilion on endless summer evenings, bottle of Coke in one hand and bag of ‘pork scratchings’ in the other. Of course, things have moved on a tad since then: apparently The Snaffling Pig Co’s unique tasting crackling is double cooked to produce a softer product that retains its bite without the teeth-breaking qualities of traditional scratching. They use the finest ingredients and add some pretty bold flavours too. This week I’m playing with The Snaffling Pig Co’s new Crackling Crumb and as my boys would happily live on mac and cheese, I created this extra special bacon mac and cheese with a herby crunch topping just for them. This version contains delicious, smoky bacon pieces, plus mozzarella for extra gooeyness, and the crunchy, herby, crumb topping gives that all important texture.
You know me – any excuse to get into the kitchen and have a fiddle with a new product, so imagine my delight when the lovely chaps at The Snaffling Pig Co, makers of high quality, deliciously flavoured pork crackling products, got in touch about a great new product called Crackling Crumb. Essentially, it’s exactly what it says on the tin: delicious Snaffling Pig pork crackling, minus the seasoning, ground into a crumb so that it can be used to add a scrummy crunch to all sorts of meals and it recently won a Great Taste Award 2017 too. I’m devoting this week to all things crunchy and crumby, starting with my delicious crunchy brunchy breakfast burger. Plus I’ve got a range of The Snaffling Pig Co products to give away!
This week saw the announcement of the new hush autumn 17 collection and it really is a gorgeous one. I’ve seen them go from quite a niche online company to wandering the racks of their clothes in John Lewis like a proud mama, and I continue to love everything about their relaxed, grown up style. I absolutely love it when a new season collection lands and it’s no secret that autumn’s my favourite: all those snuggly jumpers, muted colours and soft fabrics make me so happy. Let’s face it, our summer’s been pretty nonexistent, hasn’t it? During our dog walks recently (yup, in wellies and rainwear), we’ve picked handfuls of blackberries for crumble, and the crabapples and sloes are dotting the hedgerows already… It’s like mother nature wants us all to forget it ever happened and move straight on to autumn. And honestly? At this stage, I’m pretty happy with that.
I love cooking with pork medallions. They’re so easy as there’s no trimming or waste, and they cook so quickly too. I tend to pop them in my shopping basket as they’re a bit of a family favourite and make a nice change from chicken (we eat far too much chicken). They’re ready in about 20 minutes, so they’re ideal for healthy, tasty midweek meals. My preferred cooking method is to pan fry them, just enough to get a lovely golden colour on them, then cover them in something yummy and oven bake. Often this is just a layer of sliced fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, a few herbs and plenty of seasoning, but this glaze is soooo good, it’s our new favourite. I serve these honey and mustard glazed pork medallions with a sweet mash of butternut squash and sweet potato, with a little fresh thyme.
As we had some travel plans cancelled in August, Mr E and I have really been enjoying exploring our lovely local area. The Chilterns are stuffed full of historic stately homes and manor houses: from Waddesdon Manor, designed in the style of a romantic French Renaissance chateau, to Sir Francis Dashwood’s extravagant, Italianate West Wycombe Park, we have a huge diversity of beautiful buildings to visit. One that might have escaped your radar is Latimer House, now the De Vere Latimer Estate, a stunning mansion house estate that has recently undergone a huge (£7m) refurbishment that has transformed the original mansion house, including a beautifully renovated library, a coffee shop, a brand new restaurant: 1838 Restaurant and Bar, and the new Huntley Bar as well as additional luxury bedrooms and an elegant new reception.
Fashion seasons are so fickle aren’t they? I always think it’s weird how in the middle of August, when we should all be enjoying the sun (okay, I appreciate this really hasn’t happened), all everyone is talking about is school uniform, and things that are ‘new in for Autumn’, ‘new season’, etc. Still, I get it. If you’ve got kids going back to school (I haven’t – for the first time ever – sniff), you need to get uniforms and school kit organised, and if not, if you’re anything like me, those little glimpses of deliciously soft knitwear, leather boots and coats still make my heart do a little skip – autumn is by far my favourite season! Recently I’ve been considering investment handbags. I tend to buy a handbag – generally leather but not hugely expensive – and use it until I get sick of it, or ruin it. I’ve currently got a cavernous, ‘chuck it all in’ soft leather bag that I bought in John Lewis. But September, with all its back to school newness, does seem the season to maybe invest in something new and beautiful – a kind of new school bag for grown ups, if you will.
Do you do much to your brows? I actually don’t mind the shape of mine, but I do think that every time I go and get them threaded, they seem to take a tiny bit more away and I’ve started to notice recently that this means they’re a bit thinner than I’d like them. I mentioned this to Nat Lupton, owner of The Hair Secret in Berkhamsted (my favourite hair salon – I’m going there tomorrow for a mega-makeover – watch this space!), and she recommended that I book in for HD Brows at Bloom Beauty Bar, located just inside the salon, with their mega-talented make-up artist and HD Brow specialist Zoe Kennedy.
- Things I learned during Alcohol Awareness Week November 21, 2017
- Weekend wishlist: scented Christmas candles November 18, 2017
- Slow cooked beef and red wine stew with dumplings November 16, 2017
- Alcohol Awareness Week: my Drinkaware Challenge November 15, 2017
- Battling the common cold (with a little help from Olbas) November 14, 2017