Monday, 31 March 2014

Monday mood lifter: colourful kitchen book ends

If you're anything like me, you've got a stack of cookery books and recipe tears leaning on a shelf in your kitchen. It's great to have them to hand but book ends are a must. Great news then that I stumbled across these fun bookends in bright colours and quirky designs.

You can shop the Tea Cup Book End and Kitchen Utensil Book End, both £20, at the Imperial War Museum online shop.

I think I like the red one best; it would go perfectly in my flat!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A little bit of history

As I was growing up, I loved the stories my grandparents told me about their lives. From my grandad's days in the navy to my nan singing on stage across the country. When my nan died I found it fascinating sifting through her box of treasures and travel diaries. On her first trip to South Africa she even kept a note of every new type of food or drink that she tried, as well as all the places she visited. It made me realise how much of my life I record online, but  how little is actually written down. What physical personal mementos will be left for future generations?

Just before Christmas I spotted the 'My Life Story' 100 year diary  while browsing online and it went straight on my Christmas list. At almost 30 years old, there's so much of my life that I haven't jotted down, but I've decided I'm going to fill in the gaps as best I can and start writing properly from now. I also think it makes such a great gift for new parents too so they can start recording the life of their little one as soon as they are born.

But, back to my nan and her stories of singing across the country. When I was at my parents house earlier this year I spotted an old theatre poster in a clip frame that was passed on with my nan's belongings. It's been years since she died, but we'd just never done anything with the poster so I decided to bring it back to London with me and get it framed.

tivoli theatre new brighton vintage variety show poster

The poster features my nan's name (Doreen Gilbertson) as a performer in a variety show at the Tivoli Theatre, New Brighton. My nan was a nurse in the Wirral when she was younger but also used to cycle around the region to sing at theatres and events. The performance in question was put on by The Rakers, a local football team, and unfortunately the poster doesn't have a year on it so I have no real idea of the date. I have done a bit of research about the theatre though and discovered that it opened in 1914 and closed in 1955, after going through various management and periods of closure in that time. The presence of F. V. Ross on the poster, indicates the show would have been before 1940. I'd love to find out more if anyone has any more info about the show.

Getting the poster framed wasn't cheap. I went to a local framers in Crystal Palace and after parting with more than £60 I had a bespoke frame and mount for the poster, but it was worth the money. The poster goes so well in my flat, and has pride of place on a lit brick wall by the dining table.

tivoli theatre new brighton vintage variety show poster

The reason I'm writing about all this now is because, for the past week, my boyfriend and I have been on a break in York and Lancashire. We decided to travel home via Liverpool and pop along to New Brighton to see what was there. The theatre itself was demolished in the '70s, but in its heyday, New Brighton would have been a bustling seaside resort. The town boasted the largest outdoor bathing pool in Europe, as well as several theatres, piers and attractions. Now, there isn't so much to see. It's a great spot for walking the dog or going to the cinema, but the crowds of tourists have long since died down.

While we were in York we also visited the National Railway Museum and on display there was a fab tourism poster for New Brighton.  I wonder what it would have been like when my nan was there?

New brighton vintage railway poster

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Tiny Toads recipe for British Yorkshire Pudding Day

It seems there's a day for every kind of food these days, but I don't mind as long as the food is tasty. 2 February 2014 is British Yorkshire Pudding Day – the first Sunday of every February is bestowed with this honour.

The folks at Weber® have a little recipe to give the traditional Yorkshire pud a fresh spring this Feb, and it's a great dish to share with friends or family. Plus, it gives you a reason to break out the BBQ and make some use of it in the colder months... that is if the rain holds out long enough.


  • 2-3tbps vegetable oil
  • 85ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • 50g plain flour, sifted
  • 12 mini cocktail sausages


  1. Preheat the barbecue to a medium/high indirect heat.
  2. Pour the milk into a jug, add the egg, flour and a pinch of salt and whisk everything together, with a whisk, until it makes a smooth batter. Allow the mixture to rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Divide the vegetable oil between the 12 indents on a pattie tin.  Place the tin over the area of direct heat to preheat the oil.  The oil should be very hot before adding the batter mixture.
  4. Divide the batter mixture between the 12 indents.  They should be approximately two-thirds full. 
  5. Drop a sausage into each cup and bake indirect for 15-20 minutes until golden brown, well risen and crisp.
Serves 12

Cooking method: indirect
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Looking for more Yorkshire pudding inspiration? My granddad swears by Yorkshire puddings with a dollop of jam, which I have to agree is delicious. I'm also quite partial to heating up a couple of Aunt Bessie's frozen Yorkshires in the oven after a night out, served with a little minted gravy... you just can't get any late-night grub where I live, and they only take about four minutes to cook. It doesn't get much faster than that.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

January's tried-and-tested Weight Watchers meals

At this time of year many of us try and focus on being healthier. I am no different, but I am doing things differently this year. I've found that I enjoy and appreciate what I am eating so much more if I cook it myself from scratch. Convenience foods are, well, convenient, but they rarely taste as good as when you've thrown it all together yourself. Luckily, my boyfriend is happy to try some healthier recipes with me so we've definitely not been missing out on flavours.

My motto is not to cut anything out entirely, but to be mindful of what I am eating – making sure I don't deny myself a treat, but always keeping track of things too. I've lost 6lbs since New Year so something appears to be working.

Here are a few of my favourite dishes from January...

Saturday 4 Jan, breakfast
Spinach and Mushrooms on a Muffin with Balsamic Dressing
The mushrooms and spinach are 0 ProPoints so this is a lovely breakfast for the weekend without the points. Simply add a poached egg if you want to make it even more filling.

Sunday 5 Jan, dinner
Pork, Apple & Cider Casserole
I wasn't sure if I would like this recipe, but it was really tasty. I used pork shoulder steaks and cooked everything in the slow cooker instead of on the hob which meant the meat fell apart beautifully.

Tuesday 7 Jan, dinner
Beef Steaks with Creamy Tarragon Sauce
This was the first time I've made a sauce from scratch and it was delicious. Sour cream thickens it up perfectly. The tarragon would go just as well with chicken too.

Wednesday 8 Jan, dinner
Baked Focaccia Tarts with Basil Chicken
I thought this would be really fiddly to make, but actually everything went perfectly. You can switch the focaccia for flatbreads and I opted not to use the pine nuts. Without the chicken they would be great as a light lunch.

Thursday 9 Jan, dinner
Crispy Garlic Chicken Breasts
I served these crunchy stuffed chicken breasts with sweet potato wedges.

Friday 10 Jan, dinner
Nandos Butterfly Chicken
When I eat out I try and take a look at the menu ahead of time to make sure I can make the right choice. At Nandos, I go for a hot butterfly chicken breast with a side salad and portion of halloumi. It works out at 11 points which means even if I'm really hungry and add a pitta bread for an extra 6 points it's not a blow-out.

Sunday 11 Jan, dinner
Garlic and Rosemary Roast Lamb
You can't go wrong with roast lamb for a Sunday dinner. I always try and choose a joint without too much fat. This time though I used the juices from the slow cooker to make the gravy and added mint sauce too – naughty, but so tasty.
Thursday 16 Jan, dinner
Roast Fish and Tomatoes with Parmesan Herb Crust
This was so easy to make but full of flavour. It's only 4 ProPoints per serving which meant I could have a portion of oven chips with it and not go over my daily allowance.

Sunday 19 Jan, dinner
Crock Pot Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
I served this tender, slow-cooked pork with roasted potatoes, carrots and parsnips and broccoli. Delicious.

What have you been cooking this month? Any recommendations.

Save paper with clever ceramic notepads

eco-friendly ceramic notepad

I am always on the lookout for a great idea, and these ceramic notepads definitely fit the bill. They look good and are really versatile too. Some designs can be hung on the wall so you can leave notes for other family members, or leave reminders for yourself as you head out of the house. There are some other great ideas below... what about scoring a family game, or using your ceramic notepad as a plate to leave a little message for someone along with their slice of cake. Plus, every time you use it you're using less paper and helping the environment in the process. 

You can get your hands on these at BOUF – medium ceramic notepad, £9.99, large ceramic notepad, £14.99.

eco-friendly ceramic notepad

eco-friendly ceramic notepad

eco-friendly ceramic notepad

Monday, 30 December 2013

Monday mood lifter: the Desk Bunny

While many of you may be waking at noon and not changing out of your pyjamas all day, I'm afraid I'll be at my desk. At times like this a Monday mood lifter is 100% required. Today's is office-themed in the form of the Desk Bunny, £22.50, from Cotswold Trading. This cute little fella holds a pair of scissors and paperclips keeping the essentials at hand and raising a smile in the process. What a charmer!