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Habitat 'Radius' oak bed and 'Mauzy' bedding

Champagne lifestyle, lemonade budget…

So with news that the House of Bodily Fluids could soon be ours (I guess we shouldn’t totally get our hopes up until we’ve actually exchanged contracts), we’ve started doing that nesting thing where you go out window shopping for things you’ll never really be able to afford but you’d buy if you had unlimited funds (known as ‘champagne lifestyle, lemonade budget’ in our house).

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M&S Summer of Flavour

Marks and Spencer new store opening and Summer of Flavour

We’re so lucky where we live to have an amazing choice of food shops – I shop all over the place: our lovely local farm shop, several different supermarkets and sometimes at a local, but quite small M&S Simply Food.  We love M&S food and wine, and we often pop in, especially if I’m going to be away, to stock the boys up on their pizzas, which are amazing, and their meatball pasta sauce, amongst other things.  Plus, of course, I need to keep myself stocked up with Penny Pigs.  My fave.

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Foodie roundup: what I’ve been scoffing

I’m very lucky, and the postie often brings me all manner of yummy bits and bobs (he doesn’t miss out – he’s got a bit of a thing for blue cheese, which I’m not massively keen on, so he’s often rewarded).

Here’s the latest bunch of postal bounty that we’ve loved:

Abra-ca-Debora pancakesAbra-ca-debora pancakes made me my very own pancakes in time for Shrove Tuesday – isn’t that amazing?

But pancakes aren’t just for pancake day – these beauties are the perfect storecupboard ingredient all year round – fill them with creamy chicken and spinach, or roasted veggies in tomato sauce.  Scrummy.

SteenbergsSteenbergs Organic were established in 2003 and are based in North Yorkshire.  They sent me a fabulous selection of products from their amazing array of fairtrade and organic goodies.  The spiced chai sugar is absolutely gorgeous, and the flavourings are incredibly good quality.  Check out their website as I can’t even begin to list all the stuff they sell.

Villa MariaWe’ve been drinking a ridiculous amount of this delicious Villa Maria Gewürtraminer.  It was on spesh at Majestic but is sadly back up to £9.99.  I’ll be watching out for the next time it’s on offer.

CawstonCawston Press brought out a range of ‘grown up’ fizzy drinks (just in time for my failed attempt at alcohol free January): the sparkling apple & rhubarb was my favourite, closely followed by the sparkling lemon and lime (which tasted sublime with a dash of gin).

Mullion Cove fairingsLovely Sophie at Mullion Cove makes traditional Cornish fairings.  They’re gorgeously soft and spicy, and the fig and ginger had us all fighting over the last one.  Oh, and apparently the word ‘fairing’ comes from the fact they were sold at Cornish fairs and feasts and in Victorian times they were brought by a gentleman to give to his sweetheart as a love token!

French's new Smooth and SpicyFrench’s have brought out some new products this year: our faves by far were the Jalapeno Tomato Relish and the Sweet Onion Relish (scrummy on hot dogs, but I’ve taken to putting it in toasted cheese sandwiches too).  I’m not keen on mustard, but English Dad insists that the new Smooth & Spicy version of their original yellow mustard is fabulous too.

Elizabeth Shaw chocolateElizabeth Shaw have brought out two new scrummy new flavoured bars: Pear and Almond and Blackberry and Ginger.  We liked them both, but I would have liked to see larger chunks of nuts in the almond one that came across as slightly gritty.  I was, I admit, in the minority in this view, though, and they were both scoffed in seconds.

Farmison Cheese

The lovely chaps at Farmison sent me an ENORMOUS  British artisan cheese box.  Really well packaged, with lots of ice packs to make sure the cheese stays in perfect condition, the selection was varied, interesting and creatively put together. The Caboc Highland Cheese, which is covered in oatmeal, I think, was especially delicious (just as well as there were two of those in the box), and my other favourite was a sharp, but still creamy Keens of Wincanton Traditional Cheddar.  For blue lovers there’s a hand-made Yorkshire Blue and a seriously strong Colston Bassett.  The quince paste and water biscuits are delightful extras. The whole box would make an amazing present for any cheese lover.

WagamamaWagamama‘s new chilli, coriander and ginger dressing is fab on salads and in chicken wraps, but SUBLIME on avocados, mushed into rye toast.  Don’t question me, just do it.  We also tried Nando’s Smokey BBQ marinade which is lovely with chicken, sausages, ribs and any chunky white fish.

I think that’s it.  Go forth and get shopping!

Review: the Littlewoods online shopping experience and the Philips GC3320 iron

Firstly, can I say that this review is about the online shopping experience and not about the iron – although this iron has given me so much entertainment, I’ve popped a little video at the end, just for you.

When Littlewoods asked me to give their online shop a go I was a tiny bit dubious.  I think probably because I’m remembering the Littlewoods catalogues my Mum had when I was a kid.  Now, happily, you can buy just about anything you could possibly want, and, although you can still do that thing where you pay for things weekly, you can also pay by credit card very easily.  And now, with the addition of the gorgeous Myleene fronting their adverts (check out her lingerie collection, it’s gorgeous), Littlewoods is fresh, modern, and just a little funky.  Brand-wise I was really impressed: there’s all the big guns like Coast, Lipsy and Ted Baker for the ladies and stuff like Superdry, Diesel and – my teenagers’ favourite G-Star RAW for the fellas, as well as all the usual big household brands.

It also got the boys’ vote for things like the ability to pre-order games such as Halo 4 and for good value gaming bundles too.

I purchased an iron (more of this later) and was able to pay, and chose a delivery time and date all within a couple of clicks.  I was also sent tracking information and was kept up to date with emails.  You can also reply to the emails to easily change the delivery date if it turns out it’s not convenient after all.

Delivery was very smooth and there was no waiting – the van was waiting for me on my return from the school run on the date requested. Impressive.

All in all, I came away with a completely positive experience of shopping online with Littlewoods and will definitely be back (well, now I’ve got an account it would be rude not to) to do my Christmas shopping.

And the iron?  It’s great: it has a massive 300ml water tank, a huge 3 metre cord, and is heavy enough to feel substantial whilst not breaking your wrist every time you iron a shirt.  The soleplate is pointy so it’s easy to get in between buttons on school shirts and it gives a big, hefty shot of steam when you need it.  There’s just one downside:

WHAT?

I SAID, I’M  I R O N I N G!  NOPE, I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!

It is, quite simply, the loudest iron in the world.  Now I don’t really care, as its strengths outweigh  the single flaw, but if you routinely iron while you’re watching TV, or with a sleeping baby in the room?  Forget it.  WHAT? I SAID FORGET IT!

Many thanks to Littlewoods.

Review: Tesco’s barcode scanning and the Gatwick virtual store

So you know the feeling, you return from holiday, suffer the Gatwick Express, then the tube, then possibly a taxi too, finally open the front door and the first thing you can think of is a nice cup of tea.  But the problem is that the milk you left in the fridge two weeks ago now resembles furry blue yoghurt.

During the summer, Tesco tested out  a brilliant service at Gatwick Airport’s north terminal: the Gatwick ‘virtual store’.  Customers could view a range of products by whizzing through some very flashy moving screens on large virtual ‘fridges’.  They could then scan the barcodes (iPhone or Android) to put goods into their online baskets, then book a home delivery and pay.  With hour slots, you could practically predict that your shopping would arrive home at the same time as you.  Here’s a link to the video of the ‘virtual store’ in action:

Tesco let me have a dabble with their online app, available here, so I could see the technology in action.  I’m not massively techno-fabulous so I enlisted the help of the Death Wish Dude (my first mistake).  After an easy (and free) download, he set about roaming the house, randomly scanning barcodes, to see whether we could arrange an entire shop using just the barcode scanning.

The technology, though fabulous for when you get back from holiday, is also fabulous when you’re stuck at home.  Someone on Twitter asked me if you could scan goods as they run out throughout the week, and yes, you can.  It remembers the goods in your online basket, ready for you to ‘check out’ at the end of the week.  No more shopping lists stuck on the fridge.

The dude’s verdict? Generally positive although it didn’t recognise the barcode on Nutella and we noticed random things like if you want to re-order a box of Bud, you can’t do it unless you kept the box as there are no barcodes on the bottles. Still, easily searched for on the search engine.

The delivery: spot on time, VERY friendly and helpful, took away all my plastic bags for recycling, gave me loads of tips about busy/quieter delivery times, and my order was perfect, not a single replacement.

A massive thank you to Tesco for letting me have a go with the app, and huge apologies for the randomness of my order which, thanks to my youngest son, included such delights as two massive jars of coffee (‘what? It was buy one get one free.’) a large amount of Double Deckers, and some David Beckham aftershave.  I vote to make the service permanent at Gatwick too.  I, for one, could do without furry blue tea after a week away.

 

Tesco’s new price drop: vote with your keyboard.

Read any self-respecting food blogger’s posts and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only things in our supermarket trolleys are stuff like truffle oil, organic this, free-range that, puy lentils and 90% dark chocolate.

Of course I’d love to tell you that’s true, but the reality is that my teenagers hit the kitchen like a plague of locusts every evening after school and yes, I’m afraid they demand crisps, sliced bread, gallons of milk and digestives as well!

Now I’ll be the first person to shout that our obsession with cheap food isn’t always a good thing, but everyday staples have to be bought, and essentials like eggs and bread, and those after school bickies, really add up.

Handily, Tesco have now given us a way of voting with our keyboards and actually influencing the items that we all want to see added to their new price drop campaign.  All you have to do is click on The New Price Drop on Facebook and you can really help to make a difference to the price of the food in your trolley.

Of course, I shall be demanding price drops on caviar and quail’s eggs too.  Worth a try, surely?

For more information on Tesco’s New Price Drop, go to tesco.com/pricedrop.

 

It’s not you, it’s me: five reasons why woman should shop alone

One thing about being back in the same country together after our long period of job-enforced separation is that we can now go shopping together.

I’d kind of forgotten about this. I’d happily tootled around shops in Ireland (just happy to be there, frankly, after the epic journeys that necessitated getting to any decent shops), picking out just what I wanted and never thinking twice about it. Now there are several things about co-shopping that drive me insane:

The trolley

Before we’ve even got into the shop, we’ve started.  I like a big trolley and I like to push it.  I also like to bring my own bags (they’re bigger and stronger and yes, more environmentally friendly).  He favours trying to cram everything into one of those small granny trolleys and has no truck with bags hanging on the front (‘they give you bags at the checkout, FFS’), so I have to hold them.  And apparently (bag-free)  trolley pushing is the man’s job.  Sexism: alive and well and living in Hertfordshire.

Dithering

I know what I like.  And I know what I don’t like.  I don’t like shopping a deux and wish to be finished as soon as possible.  Therefore I don’t want to stand around and look at all the cheeses in the deli (we always buy Cheddar – what’s the point?).  Neither do I want to discuss the merits of wild vs farmed salmon at the fish counter  (he doesn’t like salmon so it’s kind of pointless).  The only time I like to dither is when I’m shopping alone in Waitrose – then I could spend hours.  Fickle?  Moi?  I also like to tut loudly at those silly arses that stand in the middle of the aisle and chat, whilst blocking everything up with their trolleys.  Want to chat?  Sod off outside.  Shops are for shopping.  I’m thinking of writing to the supermarket bosses and suggesting a special ‘dithering/gossiping’ aisle, so the rest of us can bloody get on with it.

Chicken

I will only buy free-range chicken. As the awesome Jimmy Doherty says in his book, A Taste of the Country, ‘if the chicken you buy in your supermarket is not labelled free-range, I’m afraid you are responsible for terrible cruelty’. I can’t have this on my conscience. The husband, however, cannot see the point in picking up a pack of two chicken breasts for £5, when there is a pack of four just below them for same price.

The chicken, being relatively near the front of the shop, causes us to bicker all the way round the store. We’ve kept chickens, I argue, and you know what intelligent and freedom-loving little chaps they are.  He knows, he says, but somehow his wallet rules his brain…

Hence, every time he picks up biscuits (we don’t need them – I can make my own), chooses Perroni over Budweiser, or adds ridiculous items such as Rice Krispie bars to the trolley, he is reminded that he’ll spend money on that, but not on the welfare of a poor little innocent chook.  It’s all wrong.  In return, of course, I get told off for buying fresh herbs ‘in bags! Pointless‘ and arborio rice.

Yogurt

We’re just speaking by the time we get to the dairy aisle, then it all goes pear shaped again.  It has to be Yeo Valley.  I’m sorry, but I can’t be doing with that watery shite and I’ve a special affinity with the Valley of Yeo, seeing as I’ve visited a couple of times.  The husband picks up Mullers.  I put them back.  Then we spot the big pots of Yeo Valley lemon curd and grab several.  Marital bliss is resumed.

Stackage

After relenting to his requests for the small trolley AND his insistence on being the one to push it, he then proceeds to do the worst stacking job in history… milk is rested on top of eggs and salad is squashed with beer.  I tut and move things.  He tuts about pickiness.  There’s a lot of tutting.

So by the time we’ve bickered all the way round, him dithering to look at things, me charging ahead tutting at the gossipers, got to the checkout where he’s flirted outrageously with the woman behind the till (he’s never that nice to me), and we’ve huffed out to the car with my ‘ridiculous’ bags… we end up driving home in silence.

So I’m afraid I’ve asked for a trial separation.  Oh not permanently, just every time we need some shopping.

I just need to be on my own… to find out who I really am.

I hope you understand, Hubby, it’s not you, it’s me.  I hope we can still be friends…

The Party Times’ Ten Tips for a Perfect Family Christmas

My lovely friend Lorraine runs the incredible website The Party Times.  Here are her ten tips for a perfect family Christmas:

Christmas is a time when tiny lights shimmer in shop windows, gifts twinkle beneath the tree and the smell of decadent festive treats wafts from every home. Share the spirit of Christmas with family, friends or neighbours and enjoy a fun, festive and completely stress-free December with our top 10 Christmas tips

1. First impressions …

Welcome family and neighbours by lighting pathways with garden paper lanterns, LED light sticks and fairy lights wrapped round tree trunks or branches. Have guests met by a beautiful red berry wreath and windows decorated with ‘Ho ho ho’ stencils or stencils of snowmen, reindeers and Christmas trees using snow spray.

2. Sprucing up the tree …

A tree full of glistening lights and an array of colouful decorations heightens wonder and expectation around Christmas. Colourful fabric decorations and other beautiful pieces will stand out against dark green trees. Pick out timeless and unusual decorations with a nostalgic touch such as charming wooden decorations or for something unique, silver and red personalized baubles.  Add a few edible chocolate treats and candy cane sticks; something the younger members of the family will love. Save any spare fir branches from the tree for napkin decorations or to add above the fireplace for a touch of nature. Look out for make your own angel kits or fabric heart decorations, a fun weekend activity to do with your children and a perfect creative accessory for the top of the tree.

3. ‘Tis the season to be baking …

Cookies and biscuits are great additions to a family Christmas and children will love helping you make them. Look out for christmas cookie cutter sets that come in a variety of shapes such as star, reindeer, snowflake or Christmas tree designs. Store your baked treats in tins and hand them out to friends who drop by, served with a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Hang biscuits on the tree by piercing a hole and threading pretty ribbons through them or wrap them in cellophane, tie with curling ribbon and hand them out as end of term gifts.

Other wonderful festive treats include Christmas popcorn (caramelized and dusted with cinnamon) chocolate snowball truffles (coated in desiccated coconut) or chunks of gooey marshmallow-filled rocky road. Hand these out as end of term gifts or to family members, sealed in festive christmas party boxes.

4. A gingerbread house …

Create a Scandinavian fairytale gingerbread house, good enough to eat. Not only will it look and smell appealing, it will bring out the child inside of everyone. Get your children to help build and decorate it with you and you can put it in a windowsill lit up or use it as a table centerpiece, adorned with hundreds of sweets!

5. All dressed up …

Christmas themed tablecloths do all the ‘dressing’ aspect for you, there’s so much colour in the print you just need to add a centerpiece to give it some dimension such as vintage santa themed tableware. But if you’re opting for a more traditional table setting with plain red partyware, greens and whites then choose decorative cotten napkins, fun placemats and novelty place card holders. Fill bowls with colourful treats such as candy cane, peppermints and other shiny wrapped treats (Roses or Quality Streets).

Alternatively festive baubles in vases or cardboard cut-out reindeer centrepieces or sleigh and reindeers or Christmas trees. You can then arrange candles and nightlights at differing heights to create a dramatic and cosy atmosphere. Red crystal gemsand festive confetti scattered in blank spaces on the table will glisten and catch the light, evoking a sense of enchantment.  And don’t forget party poppers, chocolates and make-your-own party crackers – a few essentials that make a big difference.

6. Winter brews …

Hot chocolate ganache sticks stirred into mugs of warm milk are wonderful seasonal treats for the family. Then top your steamy brews with frothy cream or mini marshmallows – heaven on a cold wintry night. Yet nothing fills a house with festive aroma faster than mulled apple simmering on top of the stove. Children will love drinking this too (without the alcohol) and can help prepare the apples, studding them with cloves.

7. A flicker of an idea …

At this time of year everything seems to gleam so fill your house with lots of tiny lights such as green christmas fairy lights. Fairy lights play an essential part and can be draped from beams, twisted round staircases and hung around door frames for a winter sparkle. Rustic rattan reindeers nestled in a corner and wrapped with fairy lights look stunning and magical.Light your Yule log or homemade cupcakes with angel flames – candles with a party piece of their own! When lit their flames burn red, blue and green creating a magical effect that children will go crazy about!

Tie white LED illoom balloons (filled with helium) onto the backs of chairs using curling ribbon or tie them in clusters around the room.

8. Shop online …

Make life easy and buy your children’s Christmas present online which will eliminate aimless shopping trips and mean you won’t have troubles trying to hide their gifts whilst you’re out shopping with them. Write a gift list and a budget before you shop online, otherwise you can get carried away.

9. Wrap, tie & tag …

Try to wrap all your gifts as far in advance as possible, this will make you feel more organized. Look out for Christmas tissue paper, perfect for wrapping stocking-fillers and use some red curling ribbon for a special touch. You can add ribbons, tags and bows later on, but label with sticky notes so you don’t forget what’s what. Chic satin ribbon can add colour to the simplest wrapping paper and can be used to tie around napkins or to hang decorations. Run out of gift tags? Cut up old Christmas cards into gift-size tags and use them instead.

10. Don’t leave it to the last minute …

Brainstorm all the jobs you need to do in preparation for Christmas and put it up on your pinboard at home. Mark off the jobs as you do them and give yourself an extra day to get everything done. Think what food you can prepare in advance, (things like sauces, brandy butter etc), what you can freeze and try to avoid the supermarkets during the weekday evening rush and at weekends. It’s always useful to update your address book, in preparation for sending out Christmas cards. You could always get your computer-savvy child to help you type out all the addresses to avoid having to use your scribbled out address book.

A few special touches …

Buy a few small things that will make your Christmas celebrations extra special. Things like edible green glitter trees will add sparkle and shimmer to cupcakes, biscuits and festive popcorn and children will love the magical element it brings. A pack of sky lanterns and a giant Christmas musical cracker game or snowball splatter game hidden away and brought out on Christmas day will add a special touch and if you don’t use them they’ll be perfect for New Year parties too. Shaped sugar lumps in fun festive shapes such as mistletoe, fir branch and pinecone are thoughtful additions for after-dinner coffee and guests will love them (visit Cox & Cox).

Last but not least …

Fill gorgeous mini fabric party cones with little surprises as going home gifts (they work well as a room decoration too) and can be kept to keep little gifts such as jewellery and toys inside. Hang the party cones between two fixtures or above the fireplace. Can also be saved and used year after year.

The shopping news

Photo c/o Bitterwallet.com

Enniskillen today, then.  Our once a month trip up North to replenish the cupboards and restock the freezer usually begins with a very fast drive-by of the school, pushing #2 out randomly by the school gate and shouting ‘bye!’ before performing a nifty handbrake turn and hightailing it up to the North.

RANDOM FACT: I have been stopped for speeding three times since we moved to Ireland.  The last time (erm… yesterday) I was doing 117 kph in a 100 kph limit.  This is patently not my fault as I just don’t think in kilometres per hour.  I’m not hard-wired for it.  In the same way that I’m not hard wired for adding up, dividing or taking away, working out exchange rates or changing pounds into grams.  Sorry.  It’s just my biology.  I blame my mother.  Anyway, when I’d explained all this (at considerable length) to the very large, impatient-looking Garda standing at my car window holding the speed gun, he sighed, muttered ‘well just slow down anyway’ and walked back to his squad car.  Hubby is disgusted that I got ‘let off!  Again!’ as the last time he got stopped for speeding he was doing 117kph too and he got an €80 fine.  He still starts muttering under his breath (something about ‘blonde’ and ‘cleavage’ and ‘fluttering eyelashes’) every time anyone mentions it.  Men – they’re so bitter.

So where was I?  Oh yeah.  Cue the ‘Catch the Pigeon’ music and here’s how our shopping expeditions go:

  1. Fling out the child (oh, done that bit).  It’s okay, he’s quite hard-wearing.  Screech off in a northerly direction.
  2. Get to Tesco.  Park.  Visit the ladies’ room (no, just me.  What?  I have a small bladder)
  3. Perform a high-speed two-man trolley dash.
  4. Get tutted at a lot.  This can be for anything from checking ingredients, commenting on what other people have got in their trolley, striking up random conversations with people about what they’ve got in their trolley, suggesting things to random people that I think will go nicely with what they’ve got in their trolley, thinking that something will go really well with something else that I haven’t got and having to go back and look for it, complaining that ice cream should be made with cream, eggs and sugar, and not weird re-something-or-othered vegetable oil, taking ice cream not made with eggs, cream and sugar out of Hubby’s trolley and putting it back in the freezer, striking up conversation with really nice checkout lady and sharing secret eyebrow-raising smiles at the packing/hopping about bit (see step 5)… anything, really.
  5. Get to checkout where one person packs the stuff while the other one places it on the conveyor belt, then the first one (guess who) hops up and down with frustration as their end is now full up and they need the trolley, which is still being unpacked at the other end. 
  6. Look at total.  Sigh.  Roll eyes slowly towards wife.  Raise eyebrows in very judgmental manner.  Sigh again.  Pay.  (Guess who).  Visit the ladies’ room.
  7. Rush out to car, unpack trolleys
  8. Rush back in to Tesco, grab two more trolleys, rush to wine section and repeat trolley dash but with alcohol.
  9. Repeat step 5.  Repeat step 6.  Visit the ladies’ room.
  10. Rush back to car.  Stuff bottles in on top of everything else, crushing fruit and breaking eggs. 
  11. Hightail it back (under the speed limit, naturally) whilst mentally composing new recipes (me) and moaning about how much it bloody costs to do these massive great shops, how bloody annoying it is doing the packing when the other person doesn’t pull their weight, how blondes never get speeding fines etc etc (him), arriving in time to screech up outside the door of the school just as it’s kicking out time, grabbing child and hurtling back to English Towers where the great unpacking fest begins.

So not stressful at all, then, really.

Stuff, but certainly no nonsense.

It occurred to me recently that I’ve loved so much stuff  lately that I really should share it all with you.  There’s been pictures I’ve really enjoyed… new blogs I’ve visited… websites I’ve loved… competitions I wished I had time to enter… you name it.  So here, for your delectation, and with apologies to Nutty Cow, who did this first, and better, is all that is wondrous about the internet this week.  Enjoy.

Stuff to read:

DBM’s wonderful book review.  If this doesn’t make you want to rush out and buy this book, I’m a monkey’s uncle (apologies to my nephews and nieces there, only joking  x).  And yes, I know little Bugs is my cousin, but bloody hell she writes so effortlessly, doesn’t she?  I’m feeling seriously inadequate.  I’m going to take this book to Walt Disney World (did I mention I’m going to Florida??)

Baino’s lovely ‘Mummy Meme’.  I’ve been tagged for this one and really must get round to writing it, but Baino sums up everything that’s wondrous (and horrible) about being a Mum.  I just loved it.

On the same theme, K8 the GR8′s lovely piece.  If answer no 2 doesn’t melt your heart, you’re that rock bloke out of that film with the man who bursts into flames and that fella who used to be in Nip/Cut.  What the hell was that called?  Anyway, you’re him.

Laura runs into an ageing serial killer in the supermarket.  No, really.

Brighid’s Easter egg hunt  was surely the weirdest I’ve ever heard of.  I laughed out loud.

Blogs to visit:

A whole blog about chocolate.  Seriously.  I visit there just to drool on my keyboard sometimes.

Canelle et Vanille.  Possibly the prettiest food photography ever.

Gorgeous photos:

The photos on Lors’ fabulous Italian Foodies website.  Definitely the most beautiful blog on t’internet.

Coastal Aussie’s beautiful dingo, Taj, pretending to be a lion.  In fact, check out all Aussie’s amazing photography.

Things to do:

Enter the competition at allrecipes.co.uk.  It’s called ‘Share your secrets to win £500′.  Submit an original recipe and photo for the chance to win. The winner will be decided by the recipe that has the most reviews on the closing date of 15 May.  And yes, of course I’m going to enter.  Just as soon as I have a spare second.

And then there’s shopping:

The fab teenage t-shirts at Cool Green Attitude (ethical and organic too).

Le Creuset’s new white glossy cast iron collection.  Droooool.  

Oh and I wish I could afford one of these delicious Orla Kiely bags to take with me to Florida (did I mention I’m going to Florida?).  I’d like the pink one, please, Fairy Godmother.

Oh, and finally I thought you’d like to see this: the view out of my kitchen window as I was cooking Sunday lunch.  A sunny day, a comfy spot and a friend to hug, eh?  Who could ask for more (oh and check out the sparkly new birthday trainers.  That won’t last).

Sunbathing

Oh and did I mention I’m going to Walt Disney World?  Oh, right.  Sorry.

The Friday photo: simple pleasures

Shopping today, then.  And it struck me that so many of the things that really make my day certainly aren’t of the Gucci handbag/Jimmy Choo variety.  Here’s today’s list:

  • A nice new copy of Red Magazine
  • A couple of bunches of tulips (and a sunny walk up to give C her share)
  • Some lovely fresh limes (I’m thinkin’ Margaritas, baby!)
  • The dog doing a ridiculously gangly happy dance on our return
  • A pink and sparkly early birthday card from my beautiful mate Tummy in the postbox (ah, she knows me so well)

Just little things, but I’m as happy as a pig in poo.  Oh, and filling up the marshmallow pot for those hot chocky moments:

a few of my favourite things...

And you can keep your Jimmy Choos – I’m far too discombobulated to walk in heels anyhoo.  How about you, then?  Any simple pleasures?

The Friday fridge photo

The Friday fridge, no less

So you’ll like this.  I’m bored of the Friday photo.  I’m always hunting around for something interesting to happen, and then when it does, it’s Saturday, and by the time Friday comes around again, I’m wondering if it’s not really so interesting after all.

So anyhoo.  I’ve just been shopping.  Yup, up to Enniskillen – naughty, I know, not supporting the Euro and all that, but I only go once a month, honest, hofficer.  The rest of the time I drive miles to pay double for less choice.  And I thought how nice my fridge looked, all full up with goodies.  So I thought I’d show you.  And guess what?  Next week it’s your turn.  A description and a lubly photo of your fridge, please.  And we’ll carry it on until we run out of photos, or get bored, or er…. well, you get my drift.  Off you go, then.

 

Oh, and just in case you don’t fancy looking at my fridge, here’s a snow angel, competently demonstrated by #2 (‘y’see, Mum?  You have to kind of flap yer arms and legs’.  ‘Okay, darling, I promise I’ll come and have a go in a minute’).

 

Snow angel

Fun with teenagers

So for some reason #1 has a random day off school.  This is a bugger as I have quite a bit to get done and, not trusting him to stay at home (he could well burn the house down) I decide it’s safer to take him with me.  My first mistake.  On the way there, we have a very in-depth chat about global warming, the methane produced by Ireland’s dairy herds, how Johnny Gatillo is, like, the wickedest greyhound EVER (apart from Bert, obviously), why Razldazl Billy dropped dead, why Eric Clapton’s such a legend, and I explain, yet again, why he doesn’t actually have to drink the wine we’ve laid down for his 18th birthday all on the actual day.

We decide to split up initially, then to regroup an hour later in the game shop.  This is my second mistake.  When I find him, he is standing playing an X-Box game in the corner of the shop:

The Game Shop

Me: Well, have you decided what game you want?

#1: Yes, I want this Star Wars one

Me: It’s a 16.  You’d better phone the boss.

There follows a long, tedious phone call and even longer rambling explanation to his father about what the man behind the counter said about why it’s got a 16 rating and why it’s totally, like, random as it’s only the same amount of violence as the film, y’know, like light sabers and stuff…  While this conversation is going on, I stand imagining the look on Hubby’s face (and those of his colleagues) as he interrupts his meeting in Knock to have a one-sided conflab with a thirteen year old on the amount of violence, fake-blood and flying body parts in a Wii game.

#1: Dad says yes if it’s ok with you

Me: Okay then, let’s get to the till.

#1 (lingering by the PC games): Or there’s this Spore one I quite like…

[Half hour pause while #1, who has obviously befriended the spotty lad behind the till, has a protracted chat with him about the merits of Spore versus the merits of the new Star Wars one]

#1: Nah, I’m deffo going Star Wars.  Erm…. yes.  No.  I definitely am.

Me: Thank Christ.  Quick, pay before you change your mind.

The Guitar Shop

(via McDonalds where he woofs down a Big Mac, large fries, large coke and an extra cheeseburger, burps and stands up to leave before I’ve even touched my lunch).  I have orders to buy four new sets of electric guitar strings and two plectrums:

#1: Ooh they’ve still got that savage French electric guitar in the sale [flutters eyelashes hopefully]

Me: No.

#1: It’s a bargain…

Me: No.

#1: Look how cute I am when I beg.  And you have a credit card… I know you do…

Me: No.

#1: Can I have a plec in the shape of a skull, then?

Me: Yes, if we can go.

#1: Done.  Ooh, and I’ll have this one in the shape of an alien too…

The Shoe Repair Shop

We have to get him a back door key cut in the shoe repair place.  #1′s eyes light up in wonder at the sparks coming off the key.  He fiddles with the plastic key covers on the counter, knocking them everywhere:

#1: Oooooooh, deadly!  Can I have a green plastic thingy on my key?

Me: No

#1: Oh go on

Me: NO!

#1: Plllleeeeeeeease???

Me: NO!!!!!

Man behind the counter when passing over the key, taking pity on me: Here you are, you can have the green thing for nothing.

#1: Serious?  Wow that’s savage! Thanks!

Finally, we’re off to Specsavers where I’ve still failed to choose the new glasses I need.  #1 rushes around sporting an enormous pair of Terry Wogan frames, fetching every ridiculous pink, spotty, stripy and violent green pair he can possibly get his hands on for me to try on, before getting bored and playing with the machine that takes your photo to help you choose glasses to suit you.  I give up trying to find glasses and my last glimpse as we exit the shop is seven different views of my son’s ugly mug gurning out of the photo machine.  On the escalators back up to the car park he has a violent fit of the giggles because the lady in front has a hairnet over her pony tail which apparently makes it look just like a willy.  Everyone turns to stare at us.  On the drive home I am treated to a précis of the combined plot of every one of Garth Nix’s Morrowdays books, an insight into how much he’s going to earn when he’s a fighter pilot, how he’s going to work in the game shop in the holidays to earn extra money, and reminded of the story of how Obi Wan Kenobi first gave Luke a light sabre and how he cut off C3PO’s head with it.

We get home.  He goes off to play his new game.  I go for a lie down.

*sigh*

A postbox full of loveliness

Postie please stop here

 

Ooh, I love post.  One advantage to living here is the extra excitement that builds on the walk down the drive to the postbox.  Nobody in Ireland seems to have a letterbox in their front door.  They all have a lovely little tin box thing on the front gate that you have to open with a key.  A key!  Hubby hates post because he gets all the bills and crap, so I get the special job of walking down and emptying the post box.  Sometimes it’s even a parcel. I reallylove a parcel.  I must be the only 38 year old woman who still gets excited opening her pressies on her birthday (and I got some right corkers this year).  I am also lucky to have incredibly thoughtful parents.  Me Ma sends little cards and letters (often with a very welcome €10 for the boys) and The Disreputable One will often send jokes and stuff to the boys, and cut clippings out of the newspaper about things that he thinks will interest me.  A recent photocopy of an article about censorship in Ireland being a good example: did you know that as late as 1967 (when the Censorship ofPublications Act was finally reformed) Ireland had probably the toughest censorship laws in the ‘free’ world?  And did you also know that the list of authors whose books were banned by the Irish Censorship of Publications Board included Hemingway, Steinbeck, Shaw and even Raymond Chandler (my goodness, how did the people of Ireland live without Philip Marlowe?)?  Anyhoo, digressing.  The point is that my Disreputable Dad knew instantly that I’d like it, and was kind enough to stick it in the post.  Ripping it open and reading it as I wound my way back up the drive absolutely made my morning – like a little chat with the aul’ boy even though he’s not here.

One downside of this love of parcels is a serious Ebay addiction that knows no bounds.  This, though, combined with the memory of a goldfish, means that I’m permanently pleasantly surprised by my purchases.  I’ve been trying to cut back, as you know, but this morning even our seriously overworked Postie had to admit defeat and leave one of those little yokes in the box that means you have to pop to the Post Office and pick up your bulky items (I love those too).

Four parcels offered up such wonders as ‘The Water Boy’ DVD (LOVE that film: ‘Youuu can doooo it!’), a DVD of the original ‘Italian Job’ which I really want the boys to see (‘you were aownly suppaowsed to blaow the blardy doors off!’), a copy of Helena Frith Powell’s ‘Two Lipsticks and a Lover’ which I’ve wanted for ages (I just really need to learn the secrets of Parisian women), and the pièce de résistance: a signed copy of Nigel Slater’s ‘Eating for England’.  I just love a deliciously new pile of books by the side of my bed.  And you can almost guarantee that by the time the pile’s back down to two or three, the ‘To Do’ list in my phone will have another huge list of books and films that I’ve read about, or been recommended, or just remembered that I liked, and after a couple of glasses of Merlot and a lubly Ebay session, the little tin box at the end of the drive will be full again.  Bliss.