The Season of Good Will…

How did it get to be December already? Where has the time gone? We are now officially in the countdown to Christmas (or whatever winter festival you celebrate). It’s the time of year people try to be a little kinder and more charitable, and perhaps they start thinking of ways they can help others.

I watched a video yesterday that got me thinking. It wasn’t about the festive season, it was about menstruating. I know – that can be a bit of an icky subject, despite it being something that 50% of the world’s population do at some point in their lives – for a very large part of their lives, to be honest.

This is the video – please do watch it, because it’s quite interesting.

It really got me thinking, because although I donate to a local food bank on a semi-regular basis, and although it’s not always food products I donate, there is something I never thought about donating at all, and it’s something I have used every month of my life since before being a teenager. Why did it never occur to me? Well, probably for the same reason it doesn’t occur to other people too – it’s something we’re so used to, that we don’t consider it – it gets pushed to the background.

So, although we’re now half way through December, here’s a thought. How w0ould it be, if everyone who has the means to do so, made up a package to give to their local food bank this Xmas? You can backdate it and made a sort of reverse advent calendar, putting in 24 items to donate, or you can do it from today, whatever is easiest and within your means – just pop stuff in a bag or a box to hand over.

Here are some things you might like to include:

  • Food:
    Dried goods such as pasta, rice, and lentils are good, as they keep for ages without going off. Also tinned and jarred food of any kind – beans, vegetables, fruit, canned fish and meat, are all staples to consider, along with jams, chutneys and pickles. And don’t forget condiments – salt, pepper, sauces, herbs and spices, and stock cubes – they can zing up a meal and make it much taster and less boring.
  • Feminine hygiene products:
    Next time you’re picking up your tampons or pads for your own use, pop an extra pack in your trolley to donate.
  • Other hygiene products:
    Soap, shower gel, deoderant, toothbrushes and toothpaste – take advantage of three for two offers and pop the third “free” item in your giving box. Or if you get loads of smellies at Xmas, consider donating some of those. You might also consider popping a packet of condoms in there too
  • Cleaning products:
    Cleaning wipes, antibacterial spray, toilet cleaner and bleach, rim blocks and cistern blocks, washing up liquid, washing powder, and fabric conditioner. All essentials that might go by the wayside when people can barely afford to put food on the table.
  • Baby products:
    Nappies, wipes, nappy sacks – again, take advantage of multi-buy offers and pop the extra items in the box.

None of these need to be expensive brand name items – you can donate supermarket own brands, or even the bargain range items if that’s what your budget will stretch to. Even if you can’t donate an item for every day of the month, perhaps it could be a new year’s resolution to save one item every week of the year – imagine what you could accumulate in 52 weeks, at just the cost of a few pennies extra on your weekly shopping bill? Even if you donated like this quarterly with a dozen or so items each time, that can make a huge difference to someone who needs it.

Maybe this way we can ALL have a brighter festive season. And you never know, you might get bumped higher up on Santa’s “Nice” list!


Catching up with everything…

Snickerdoodles for the coffee morning

Crikey, it’s been a good fortnight since I last posted anything – I’ve just been so busy!

I’ve bagged myself a bunch of new pen pals. so there has been letter writing and crafting going on there. I’ve also been in rehearsals for Sister Act, which is challenging, but highly enjoyable. It turns out Nun #11 (or Sister Sara of the Two Mules, as I have dubbed her) has a few tricky things to do, such as performing Latin tongue twisters, repeatedly, at speed, to a tune; or where other nuns have one note to sing, Sister Sara has eight of them, and has to sustain them. I am enjoying it immensely!

Little white chocolate mice with strawberry lace tails for the coffee morning

Then there was a fundraising coffee morning for the Beaconsfield Operatic Society, so I baked snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, and cheese scones, as well as making white chocolate mice with strawberry lace tails. Of course, I had to taste-test the goodies too, so several went into my own gob (naughty, I know, but so worth it!). We also had Grom round for Sunday dinner – she comes round every few weeks for that, and we always look forward to it. It means a flurry of activity in the kitchen, though, as when she comes, we eat our main meal at midday, instead of in the evening.

On top of all that, Choochie isn’t very well at the moment, so he requires extra hugs and kisses and general Mummy time.

And throughout all this, I have completed and added another row on my Sky Blanket. That’s thirteen rows now finished – one more and we’ll be at the half way mark!

Thirteen rows of Sky Blanket completed!

20.06.16 - Brunette KellAnd then I dyed my hair brown in preparation for shaving it all off in August for Macmillan Cancer Support and sending to Little Princess Trust to be made into wigs for kids who have lost their hair to cancer treatment. My cousin’s fiance will be doing the honours, and to be honest, I can hardly wait to have it all taken off! For the record, I will be having my head SHAVED, not just having my hair cut short!

Incidentally, if you’d like to sponsor me in my Brave the Shave efforts, you can do so at my Brave the Shave page HERE. Every little helps! Thanks in advance. 🙂

No Meat March

1279376409_origNumber 11 on my list of 52 Things in 52 Weeks is to go vegetarian for a week. However, I recently heard about No Meat March, and thought, what if I went vegetarian for a whole month instead?

It’s no secret that I love meat – I really do. I eat it pretty much every day at some point – but there are also quite a few vegetarian dishes I enjoy too. I have no idea if I’ll make it for the whole month, or if I’ll unthinkingly snaffle a piece of chicken or ham or whatever, but I think I’ll look at this as an opportunity to try some new recipes.

The fact is, I’ve been thinking about becoming vegetarian for some time, and this might be a way into it, but even if I don’t ultimately go full vegetarian, I can at least cut down on my meat consumption considerably. There are many reasons I’ve been considering making this change, but the main three are the detrimental impact on the planet made by farming animals for consumption, the treatment of animals reared for slaughter, and the long-term health effects of eating lots of meat products. I’m not a heartless person – I’m an animal lover and I’m an eco-conscious person, who worries about the long-term consequences of my personal life choices.

Please note, I would never berate or belittle anyone who is not vegetarian – it really is all down to personal choice and I fully respect that – it’s something every person has to decide for themselves. And in that vein, I will be the only person in our household going vegetarian – Hubby, Tadpole, and Choochie will all continue to eat as they usually do. After all, just because I prepare their food, it doesn’t give me the right to say what they can and cannot eat (within reason – obviously I would never let my kids eat bleach from under the sink etc – I’m not stupid!). If any of them should decide on their own to become vegetarian, then I will support them in that choice, although in the case of Hubby, I’ll eat my hat the day that happens, because he doesn’t like vegetables!

Either way, I’ve signed up for the challenge, and I shall give it my best shot.

If you’d like to join me, you can join the challenge by signing up via the link below:

No Meat March 2016


Sausage and Bean Hotpot

I am suffering with a horrid cold on top of it being my time of the month, so all I want to eat is good, old-fashioned comfort food. Is there anything more comforting than a nice sausage? This hearty meal will fill your belly right to your boots, and it is great for using up all the odds and ends of veg knocking about in your fridge and cupboards, looking a bit languid and forlorn, a day or two before you do your grocery shopping.

If you’re vegetarian, you can use vegetarian sausages or leave them out altogether, as it also makes a very nice bean and vegetable hot pot.

944098_10156311643150386_8876319933887294806_nSAUSAGE AND BEAN HOT POT
Serves 4-6


  • Sausages – allow 2 per person
  • 1 ltr passata
  • 2 tins of beans in water (not in sauce!)
  • a good-sized handful of lentils
  • a good glug each of balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sweetener (to take away the acidity of the tomatoes)
  • whatever herbs and spices take your fancy
  • as much veg as you can cram in there


  • Cook your sausages however you prefer – I grill mine, but you could oven cook or fry them if you like.
  • Cut your sausages into small chunks and chuck them in a pot with all the other ingredients, and let them all simmer away together till the veg is tender and the lentils are soft.

This time I used black eyed beans and butter beans, but other times I’ve used chickpeas and kidney beans, barlotti and cannelini beans – I just use whatever is in my cupboard at the time.

On this occasion, the veg I used was:

  • butternut squash (diced – I just cooked it in the sauce)
  • onions and garlic (which I sauteed lightly before putting in the rest of the ingredients)
  • baby corn
  • peppers
  • chillies
  • muchrooms
  • courgette
  • spinach

I tend to go with my old favourite combination of chilli powder, paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and dried mixed herbs for flavour, but feel free to use whatever combination you like best.

It really is one of those dishes where I just see what’s looking a little limp or what’s rolling around in the bottom of the fridge that doesn’t look too suspect or like it’s about to grow legs and walk to the bin by itself. No matter what I’ve put in, it’s always turned out tasty.

I used a combination of four Asda Reduced Fat sausages and four Linda McCartney Rosemary and Red Onion sausages, and it made five very generous portions.

I served mine with chips, but it’s also delicious if you top it with mashed potato (or a mixture of potato and root veg all mashed together) and whack it under the grill to brown. If you fancy it, top that with cheese, and serve with even more veg, steamed to perfection.

You can cook this in your slow cooker if you like – just brown the sausages, cut them up, and chuck everything in the pot. Whack it on low in the morning, and it’ll be ready for dinner when you get home from work. Equally, you can do it in a casserole dish – I reckon it’d take anything between 30-45 minutes, but I don’t tend to cook that way, so I couldn’t say for sure.

This recipe freezes well, so if you have an extra portion or two, pop them in freezable containers, label them, and whack them in the freezer to enjoy another time.

If you try this recipe, I’d love to know what you think of it, so please do leave a comment below!

Pulled Pork with Spicy Onion Gravy

Be prepared to fall in love with your food, people, because this is the most delicious syn-free pulled pork you will ever taste, and when it’s coupled with the thick, rich onion gravy, it is out of this world! This is the dish slow cookers were created for, so if you don’t already have one, go out and buy a basic model slow cooker immediately – they cost as little as a tenner, so you have no excuse not to have one, and I guarantee you’ll thank me for it once you have tried this pulled pork It’s one of my favourite recipes!

12509569_10156299358645386_5555115970830740673_nPULLED PORK WITH SPICY ONION GRAVY


  • One pork loin joint (large enough to feed however many people you’re feeding) (P)
  • 2 small/medium onions per person (S)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed (S)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed (F)
  • 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs (F)
  • 1/2 tbsp garam masala (F)
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika (F)
  • 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper (F)
  • 1 tsp jerk seasoning (F)
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning (F)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (F)
  • Stock cube(s) (F)
  • Boiling water (F)


  • Mix together the garlic, herbs and spices for the rub.
  • Coat the pork in the spice rub, pressing it into the meat, then wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour (preferably overnight, to really get those flavours into the meat).
  • Roughly quarter the onions and place in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Place the meat on top of the onions, and pop any remaining spice rub on top of it.
  • Switch on the slow cooker – I usually leave a 4-person joint in there for a good 4-5 hours on high, or 6-7 hours on low.
  • When you’re ready to serve, remove the pork loin from the slow cooker and put it in t a large bowl. Attack it with a couple of forks – it will pull apart very easily.
  • Remove half the onions from the slow cooker and add them to the pork (I cut mine up with scissors for ease and speed), mixing them all in nicely.
  • Pop the stock cube and a little boiling water in a large jug and whisk together, then add the remaining onions and any juices or scraped up “gubbins” from the bottom of the slow cooker, and blend till smooth to make a thick gravy.
  • Serve the pulled pork and onions with the gravy and bask in the golden glow of compliments from your family as they dig in.

For my gravy, I use a Knorr ham stock cube and an Oxo beef stock cube – the beef one is simply to give the gravy a deeper colour and a little extra “oomph” to the flavour. The onions have been soaking up flavour from the meat and the spice rub, and they add a lovely juiciness to the meat.

You can serve this with veg, or it is equally delicious served on a wholemeal bread bun (your HEB choice). If you have any leftovers, it’s very nice chilled with a salad too.

Pork loin can be a bit expensive, so do what I do and look for a nice piece that’s been reduced because it’s on it’s short dated – you’ll save yourself money and it’s just as good!

If you try this recipe, I’d love to know what you think of it, so please do leave a comment below!

Pick your own fruit…

15.08.15 - Fruit Picking 2Today I went to a pick your own fruit farm with Tadpole, my big sister, and one of my nieces

Despite feeling a little under the weather, it was lovely to get out in the sunshine and pick our own fruit. We filled our baskets with the sweetest most delicious strawberries and raspberries (and more than a few were eaten while picking, as those jewel-like beauties were just too hard to resist!), and got in a little exercise at the same time – all good!

Our resultant haul was a lot cheaper and far tastier than we would have got from any shop, and we had fun doing it too.

Definitely a worthwhile endeavour.

15.08.15 - Fruit Picking 3It’s worth mentioning, when we got there, the sign said the strawberries and raspberries were “extremely limited”. I have to say their idea of limited wildly differs from mine, as there were loads to be had and we didn’t even have to look very hard – they were right there and easy to find.

If you have a pick your own fruit farm nearby, I highly recommend going along and doing a little Body Magic while you bag yourself some delicious speed food!

Growing things…

So, we now have our allotment plot, but not much has happened to it yet! I have the plot, and I have a shed on it (as of Thursday!) with a nice, big padlock on the door, and some tools. I’m next on the list to get the rotavator, which will break up the earth nicely.

According to one of Hubby’s customers (who has an allotment that produces bumper crops), chicken manure is the way to go, so I’m looking into a supplier for that, so I can enrich the soil ready for planting. I know it’s a bit late in the season to plant much there just now, but I’m plan to get some winter vegetables planted, before getting down to a major, full-on planting schedule next spring.

In the meantime, however, I am not idle! My kitchen windowsill is beginning to look a bit like a mini allotment all its own!

At present, we have some cress (Tadpole loves to plant that stuff as he loves it in his sandwiches!), a tomato plant, two little pepper plants, and some garlic sprouting nicely. And as of about half an hour ago, we have planted pumpkin seeds, peas and golden courgette seeds (which were neon pink – I was so surprised when we opened the packet to see such a flash of colour!).

I’m hoping my allotment will be entirely organic, as I like the idea of not having any nasty chemicals on our food. Of course, this means planting everything from seed to be 100% sure, so it’s going to take a lot of work and a steep learning curve – I’ve never been particularly green-fingered!

I have such wonderful plans in my head. I have to get them onto paper and then into practice, along with a timetable of when to plant and harvest the crops I want to grow.

I am so excited to get started!

Getting green-fingered…

22.05.15 - World Goth Day 1 (2)
My empty allotment, ready to start work!

I don’t have the best track record with plants, but I’ve long harboured the wish to grow my own organic fruit and vegetables. Till now, I haven’t had the room to fulfill that wish, but now I do – as of a couple of days ago, I have an allotment!

At the moment, it’s completely empty, but I have big plans.

Of course, there’ll be a shed – everyone needs a shed! But the rest of it, well… My plot is right at the edge, so one side doesn’t overlook any other plot, meaning I could have some fruit trees and not have them encroach on anyone’s light. So I plan to have several small fruit trees – perhaps apple, plum and cherry – along the outside edge. I might also have room for a blackcurrant and a gooseberry bush. Along the fence that abuts other plots, I plan to grow raspberry canes. And in guttering hanging from the shed, I will plant strawberries. That takes care of the fruit!

22.05.15 - World Goth Day 1 (3)
Tadpole with the allotment key!

The rest of the allotment will be divided up into various vegetable plots, where I plan to grow potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, squash, peas and beans, tomatoes, and all manner of wondrous things. Both the boys will have their own little plots for growing whatever they like too.

But that’s not all.

You see, I’ve been in touch with someone. A very special someone. Someone who keeps bees and needs a place to put a new hive. My allotment will be home to a new hive of bees! How wonderful is that?! I won’t have anything to do with the beekeeping – that will be left to the other person (and all the equipment is hers too) – but the bees will pollinate all the plants and I will get a few jars of honey out of it too.

So, it’s an empty bit of land at the moment, but it won’t be for long! It’ll take a while to get everything up and growing, but I’ll get there, and so will the lovely bees!

Power to the people?

wind-turbines17It’s no secret that the majority of electricity in the UK is still produced using fossil fuels. It’s also no secret that one day, at some uncertain point int he future, these will no longer be available. Let’s face it, we’re using these resources at a far greater pace than nature can produce them! Renewable energy is increasingly becoming the preferred option, and individual turbines and wind farms are springing up all over the country (sometimes to the horror and protest of locals, which I’ve never understood – I love to see them and find them very peaceful to watch), and solar panels are becoming an increasingly common sight on rooftops everywhere.

But imagine a time when these were the norm and we could phase out fossil fueled electricity completely. he way I see it, it could happen a lot sooner if those in power got off their butts and did something about it.

Solar panel and sunI read an article this morning about all new buildings in commercial zones in France now being required to be either partially covered in plants or have solar panels installed. This is a great idea, but now imagine it was rolled out to include ALL new builds, not just commercial ones. How could this work?

Well, we all hear about how councils struggle with not enough money – if all social housing (both council and housing association) underwent a rolling programme to fit solar panels to all their homes, then the tenents would have decreased energy bills, and the councils and housing associations, under current government rules, which cannot be rescinded retroactively, would also make money back selling the excess electricity back to the power grid. While this is happening, institute a ruling than all new builds, including housing, should have solar panels installed, whether social or private housing, and you’ve already started making a big difference to how our country’s energy is produced and its effect on the environment.

Man picking pear from tree, close-up of handIt would be a massive undertaking, but the payoff would be immense and lead to a greener Britain.

Now let’s go a step further. Let’s make it even greener and healthier. How do we do that? Well, if the councils could then plough some of the money from solar panels into parks, planting fruit trees and other food plants for anyone to pick and eat as they please, and you have a great social food situation going on. Kids could pick and eat a piece of fruit to enjoy while playing in the park, instead of chowing down on crisps and sweets.

I read about this happening in a few parks in America the other day (take a look at one such project HERE), so it can be done!

Next, we roll it out to planters around the villages and towns – all those large planters in market places and on roadsides filled with carrots, onions, strawberries, and all manner of fruits and vegetables.

The knock on effect of this would be that homeless people and those living on the breadline would also be able to supplement their diets with fresh produce at no cost.

Community service could include the care and upkeep of social food areas. Schools could get involved, showing children where their food comes from as well as interesting them in growing their own food.

And while we’re at it, shouldn’t all schools have at least a small vegetable plot? Again, it can be used as an educational tool – children can help tend the plots and the school can use the produce to supplement the kitchens, even if only in a very small way – the kids would be eating what they grow!

Now, imagine the sense of achievement and of community we would gain from all this.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

I’m doing my part. We’re about to have solar panels installed on our roof and I’m on the waiting list for an allotment which should hopefully be available later this spring, where I will have Tadpole and Choochie help to grow our own produce, teaching them how to tend the plants and help look after our planet.

I look forward to a greener, healthier future for all of us.

A new challenge…

The sign on my fridge, just to remind me!

My 52 things in 52 weeks list of challenges is going rather well: Fourteen challenges are now completed (not bad for under two months!), and some others are part way through (some of those will take all year, but some are half done already).

This week I decided it was time to try being vegetarian for a week. The first year I did these challenges (back n 2013), one of them was to be vegetarian one day every week for the year, which I did. I like a lot of vegetarian food anyway, so that wasn’t too difficult to do and I enjoyed it, but I have never consciously chosen only vegetarian foods for a longer period.

So, this week, starting today, no meat or fish will pass my lips (eggs and dairy produce is allowed – I’m not going vegan). I already almost had a slip up at lunch time while making Hubby a sandwich with leftover roast chicken – it was an automatic reaction to snaffle a teensy piece for myself, but I remembered with that tender morsel of chicken half way to my lips and I put it down. This was despite the notice I put up on the fridge last night to remind me! That’s going to be the challenge – remembering not to eat meat. Because I like meat. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I love meat, and I eat it most days as part of at least one meal each day. To go for a whole week – breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, and all snacks – meat free is going to take conscious effort.

Breakfast this morning: Natural Greek yoghurt with a drizzle of honey, passion fruit, and dragon fruit – look how colourful! And SO delicious!

Perhaps this will lead to me being more mindful as I eat and more discerning in my choices. It will also give me the motivation to try out some new recipes (another challenge on the list!). I have a wonderful Jamie Oliver recipe book that has some delicious looking meat-free meals gracing its pages, and I’m more than tempted by quite a few of them. It has already lead to my trying something new, and I hope to continue that too (another challenge to cross of the list soon!).

Who knows, if this goes well, perhaps next year I’ll try going vegetarian for a month. Then the next year I might be vegetarian for the whole year – one never knows where it could lead! I just have to make sure I still get enough protein as the week progresses. This could take some inventive thinking!