Thursday 31 December 2015

Another year coming to a close and another list of things to do for 2016.  Let's call them "promises" instead of resolutions because if I feel like I'm promising myself something I'll feel like I'm cheating myself out of something if I don't keep up with them!

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Rice Cookers - What's the Big Deal?!

Do I need a rice cooker?  I didn't think I did until I got this Zojirushi one!  It's small, compact and cooks rice better than I ever could do in a pan!

I'd like to think I'm pretty decent in the kitchen. I've recreated my favourite dishes from restaurants. I've invented my own recipes. Heck, I can even follow instructions well enough that something delicious ends up on my plate. I cannot, however, cook rice. If it turns out ok I'm always a little surprised...

My mum bought herself a rice cooker years ago.  This is my mum who actually turned off her fridge because she never really cooks at home because she's lucky enough to get a hearty breakfast and practically gourmet lunch at the school she works at. Despite this, she's been going on about how great rice cookers are for ages.  I've always thought that it was a lot of fuss over nothing, after all, most of the time I can cook rice that is edible and do I really need another gadget in the kitchen?

Sunday 27 December 2015

Twickenham Farmers' Market

My mum is visiting at the moment so we thought it'd be fun to have a wander down the Twickenham high street yesterday.  On the way there I had a flash of inspiration - the farmers' market was on!  If you know me, you know I love a good farmer's market so can't believe it's taken me this long to visit my new local market.

The market is held in a car park tucked behind Twickenham high street every Saturday between 9am and 1pm.  Well, almost every Saturday - I found out later that this was the last one over the Christmas period…

Saturday 5 December 2015

Photo a Day 2015: November

First frost of 2015

November is done!  Can you believe it?!  It's not felt like Novemeber (or even winter) at all here in London - yes, it's been windy as hell over the last few days and there was that one day we had to scrape ice from the car (using things not usually used for scraping ice like a chopping board because I somehow lost the ice scraper..) but generally it's been really mild and have only been able to wear my Paddington-esque red duffle coat a few times so far,

I also can't believe that I've been doing this "photo a day" project for nearly 2 full years!  I'm pleased that I've kept up with it as it's a great way to catalogue memories…

So!  November!  We had a "welcome to our new home" event at work after we re-located to the new (and lovely) head office…ALL the wine!

Dixons Carphone

This year had to be the nosiest ever bonfire night with fireworks going off from all directions for about two weeks…I joined in by waving a sparkler around…yes, I have a pack of mini sparklers in my kitchen drawer.  You never know when you might need one…

Mini sparkler in the back garden for Guy Fawkes' night

Sunday 15 November 2015

Good enough to eat gifts - ideas for presents for the food lover you know this Christmas!

It's that time of year where you might be thinking about some lovely gifts for the foodie in your life…or yourself…there are plenty of kitchen themed presents out there and last year I wrote a post about with some ideas that were food based.  This year I thought it would be fun to round up all the "food" products I loved the sound of - not edible but things that smell good enough to eat!

Wednesday 4 November 2015

A Cake for Autumn: Courgette, Apple & Beetroot Loaf

Courgette, apple and beetroot loaf - a close relation to carrot cake, this recipe for a dense and rich cake captures the taste of autumn with seasonal veg and spices

The clocks go back, evenings suddenly become darker and you feel yourself craving the more comforting things in life (blankies, soups and stews, chunky jumpers, candles…) - yep, autumn is here!

I knew I was in the mood to bake (another autumnal thing!) and had a vague idea that I wanted to make a courgette (zucchini, for my American friends…) cake but wanted to try something a little different…luckily I recently signed up with Abel & Cole so inspiration wasn't too far away!

Sunday 1 November 2015

Photo a Day 2015: October

Another fairly big month for us - our first full month in our new house and a pretty significant office move!  We had moved house in advance of the office moving so spent three weeks driving back up to the old office (hellooooooo M25, helloooooo hour commute!) but just completed our first week trying out different routes to the new building.  The new office is great!  It's all open plan and spacious, there's a shop near reception and the canteen is miles better than the old one - really tasty options for hot food, freshly made sandwiches and all reasonably priced!

I was lucky enough to be invited to the wedding of an old school friend at the beginning of the month.  The wedding took place at the church around the corner from our old primary school so had a little trip down memory lane…

The reception took place at a gorgeous little village hall so the whole afternoon had a "village fete" feel to it.  Bunting galore, a table laden with sweet treats baked by guests, afternon tea and games outside…congratulations to the happy couple and here's to a long and joyous life together!

Saturday 31 October 2015

Just Eat App & Fresh Fare

Mr Jones was out with work buddies, I'd been working from home due to the head office move at work so though I'd take the opportunuty to *research* some more of my local food places and apps..

I though I'd give the Just Eat app a go because although they offer similar options to the Hungry House app I tried a while ago, the whole format was different in places.

Enter your post code to see who can deliver to you…

Sunday 25 October 2015

Foodie bucket list - now I'm ideally located to adventure out into the food world of London I thought it only right to put together a list of all of the places I feel I should visit!  Be sure to add your suggestions in the comments!

Now that we live closer to central London I am excited to hunt down some new food adventures but as you can imagine there are SO many things to do in the capital I have no clue where to even start.  Only one thing for it - a list!

I've hunted around the internet to try to find some food-based things I want to explore and am pretty sure that this is just a starting point and will be added to!

Sunday 18 October 2015

Mildred's Vegetarian Restaurant, Soho

Photo credit:

I had a great time meeting with two old school friends in London yesterday!  It's hard to believe we've known each other for around 26 years and have still kept in touch with each other even through various house (and country!) moves!  It's now time for another one of us to move so before C skips across the pond to New Jersey we thought it'd be nice to meet up for drinks and lunch in London.

H doesn't eat meat so suggested trying out Mildred's which having been running since the late 80s seems to have built up quite a following!

We were all travelling from different locations (Reading, Leighton Buzzard, Twickenham) and decided to meet somewhere sort of central for us - the French House (one of the teeniest pubs I've ever been in!) was close to Leicester Square so perfect! After a few Breton Cidres we wandered through China Town and into Soho.

Saturday 10 October 2015

Kjötsúpa (Icelandic Lamb Soup)

A recipe for Kjötsúpa, a traditional lamb soup from Iceland with root vegetables and cabbage.  Perfect comfort food - easy to make, affordable and hearty!
Ever since we visited Iceland back in May and I had the most amazing, warming, comforting lamb soup when we went to see the geysirs, I've wanted to try to recreate the soup in my own kitchen.  Now we're in our new house I knew that this was the recipe to christen the kitchen!

I love trying traditional food whenever I visit new places so ordering it from the lunch buffet in the geysir visitor centre at Haukadalur was a given.  To be honest, besides the beautiful stonewear bowl it was served in, it didn't look too impressive.  It seemed really watery with bits of lamb, potato, carrot, turnip and onion floating around…I'm really selling it, hey?!  Not wanting to give up on it too early on I found a table with a great view of the geysirs and got stuck in.

Lesson from this - first impressions are sometimes a bit rubbish.  It was full of flavour, the meat was so tender, the veg had just the right bite and it was perfectly seasoned.  I polished off the meat and veg, dunked wedges of buttered bread and then slurped up the final drops of the broth.  Feeling full and cozy I made myself a promise that I had to have this soup again.  Iceland is a bit of a trek to go just for a bowl of soup so there was only one option - make it myself.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Hungry House App (and Some Tasty Takeaway!)

Having lived in a lovely little town for three years with limited access to food delivery it's not surprising that now I live on the outskirts of London my food delivery options have expanded dramatically….

Friday 2 October 2015

Photo a Day 2015: September

What a month!  The big event this September (and possibly this year) was our house move which happened just at the end of the month.  We are now residents of Twickenham!  Because we decided to treat ourselves to getting the removal company to pack everything and then move us we weren't frantically packing for days before the move so it didn't feel real until the day of the actual house move.

I took the week off work so that I could spend time unpacking and getting everything in its place at a decent pace rather than having to frantically try to find things to be able to get to work the next day.  It's also meant that I've been able to spend a bit of time having a wander up the high street to nose around the shops - there's a sushi shop, a burrito bar, LOADS of charity shops, cafes and a few shops that sell everything you could ever think of including one that has not only a mighty impressive pick 'n' mix selection but also the biggest collection of Yankee Candle votives that I've ever seen outside a Yankee shop!

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Bye Bye Berkhamsted

Some of the sights around Berkhamsted - the canal, the town hall, old advertising and the local florist

Three years ago we moved to Berkhamsted…we're now embarking on the next adventure which involves a move into London.  I know!  Me!  In London!

I'm so sad to leave this lovely part of Hertfordshire but the office we both work at is relocating to Acton and neither of us wanted to do the soul destroying 3+ hour commute each day so decided that the best thing would be to move closer to our new place of work.

At first I was doubtful - I lived in London for a year and it was too busy, crowded and well, too "fast" for me so didn't think that 14 years later I would be moving back in.  We had a vague idea of which areas we wanted to move to and I'd seen them on maps, heard the names mentioned but really had no idea what these places would be like.  Richmond, Twickenham, Teddington, Kew (to name a few) - couldn't be further from the busy Islington I remembered!

So with new and exciting London experiences to come I wanted to have a look back at some of my favourite Berkhamsted specific posts…

Sunday 20 September 2015

Photo a Day 2015: August

Well I am waaaaaay overdue posting "photo a day" for August…I have a good reason though…we've been busy house hunting!  Yep, our time in Berkhamsted is up and in a matter of days we'll be moving to London!  

After spending a couple of Saturdays racing around various leafy parts of London from house viewing to house viewing, a declined offer on a house and a last minute booking to view a house I'd had no information on at all we managed to find somewhere, had the offer accepted and could start planning our house move!

Sunday 6 September 2015

Taste of Berkhamsted

2015 is host to the very first Taste of Berkhamsted - local restaurants and food producers come together at Ashlyns Hall for a delicious day out.

After days and weeks of clouds and rain it was nice to wake up to a bright blue, cloudless sky because today I had plans…a trip to the very first Taste of Berkhamsted!  There are a lot of fantastic and delicious local businesses in this area so knew that I'd be in for a treat…

I met Christine, the festival founder, a couple of months ago and it was clear from the start that she is utterly passionate about food whether it be how food is produced, where it comes from, how it tastes (obviously!) and how to get kiddies interested in good food.  With this is mind (but having no idea what would be at the festival) I set off confident that by the end of the day I would have had an interesting foodie adventure!

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Photo a Day 2015: July

Cider, smoked garlic, jam and a massive mushroom from Dart's Farm, Exeter

July started with a bit of a heatwave in parts of the country.  I was lucky enough to escape the ridiculous temperatures as I was in Devon where it was a lot cooler.  The rest of the month just went downhill - rain, clouds and chilly enough at some points to consider turning the heating on.  Ridiculous!

Sunday 2 August 2015

John West Steam Pots

John West Steam Pots - infused tuna and cous cous - just add water to the cous cous, stir in the tuna and you have a quick, easy and filling lunch!

There is nothing I like more than browsing supermarket shelves for new goodies to try whether it's a new recipe kit, some weird and wonderful veg or a new seasoning or spice.  My latest find are the new John West Steam Pots - a complete meal in one convenient bundle!

Normally I make a little extra when I'm cooking dinner so I can pack up a portion for lunch to take to work the following day but sometimes that dinner-making doesn't happen so have to resort to *cringe* whatever the canteen at work has to offer.  

OR I could just keep a supply of these steam pots in the cupboard so I can pop one in my bag in the morning…

Thursday 2 July 2015

Photo a Day 2015: June

June is when you'd expect the sun to be shining, the world to be BBQ-ing and summer to be in full swing.  Not this June!

It's not been properly warm until the end of the month and then summer hit us with a big sweaty bang!  I've spent the last few days near the south coast and there has been a nice cool breeze to compliment the sun but Mr Jones has reported that it's ridiculously hot back at home.  Time to buy an air conditioner before the entire country runs out?  

Friday 19 June 2015

Iceland Day 3: Reykjavik

The stunning view of Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, from the top of Hallgrimskirkja

After spending a few hours stewing in the Blue Lagoon we headed back to Reykjavik.  There were a few things that I was interested in doing that I knew Mr Jones wouldn't be interested in so we took the opportunity to split up for a few hours and explore on our own.

We walked through the town centre and down to the harbour where I legged it across the main road to have a look at the view across the sea, thinking "the next bit of land from here is Greenland" and breathing in the salty air.

Friday 12 June 2015

Photo a Day 2015: May

May = best month EVER!  Partly because it's my birthday month but mostly because we visited Iceland which is something I've wanted to do for many, many years!

Sunday 7 June 2015

Iceland Day 3: Blue Lagoon

Day 3 in Iceland: The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa located in the middle of a lava field.  Read about our visit (including some top tips!)

Our last full day in Iceland and we had planned for a morning trip to the Blue Lagoon followed by a bit of a wander in the afternoon to do or see things we each wanted to do.

The Blue Lagoon.  I am not a very "warm" person - I don't enjoy saunas, sunbathing is out of the question, I don't think I'd enjoy a hot tub too much and I have been known to take one of those frozen blocks used to keep picnics cool to bed with me in the summer months as a sort of "anti" hot water bottle.  So why would I be even remotely interested in sitting in a geothermal pool?  Well, why the heck not?!  With a cave, a "waterfall", boxes  full of skin-nourishing silica mud dotted around the pool AND a bar right there in the lagoon, why would I not want to visit?!  Oh and did I mention the view?  If you can see anything through the clouds of steam, you can see snowy peaks in the distance. It's a pretty special place!

Saturday 6 June 2015

Photo a Day 2015 - April

Wow…how late am I posting this?!  Not only has April been and gone but so has May!!!

April is one of my favourite months - the sun is out (but not too hot!), flowers are out and I can finally stop wearing wooly tights every day!

We get Easter (did you see that epic egg at Marks & Spencer?!), the London and Boston marathons and  the favourite of every American - tax day!

April has been a bit exciting for me for a few reasons...both kind of linked though's the month before my birthday which is always nice but this year we're going to Iceland so we've been planning and booking things - it's our first real trip away together (even though we've been together for over 7 years) that doesn't include going to weddings or family for Christmas so it's going to be super special!

Saturday 30 May 2015

Iceland Day 2: The Golden Circle

Our first full day in Iceland and we had some pretty exciting things planned…

First of all, breakfast time at the hotel!  Most days I like oatmeal, toast or maybe some egg with a bagel and avocado on the weekend but I am secretly a fan of the "nordic" style breakfasts - rye bread, cold meats, cheese (even fish paste/fish roe when I visited Stockholm)…

Sunday 17 May 2015

Iceland Day 1: Reykjavik

4am on a Thurday morning and the alarm went off.  Normally I would groan, reset my alarm for a more reasonable hour and go back to sleep.  Not this Thursday though.  This Thursday we were heading to Iceland!

Bags packed, car loaded and up the M1 we went towards Luton airport.  I managed to find a pretty good deal for airport parking (Airparks) so dropped off the car and was whisked away by bus to the airport.

When I fly I have a bit of a routine…do you?  I normally get a McD's breakfast then head to the bar for a glass or two of wine.  Not usually things that go together but I'm scared of flying (even though there are a lot of things I enjoy about being on a plane like being able to see the scenery as you take off, the trays of food and the films) and it all helps.  This time was different though.  No stop at the bar because we were picking up a rental car at the other end of the flight and also because rather than the previous solo flights, I had Mr Jones with me.

Thursday 30 April 2015

Wise Words

I'm ALWAYS seeing pins on Pinterest with motivational or inspirational quotes.  I tend to glance over them and then move on to the next pin about cats or food or sparkly things because it takes a pretty good quote to catch my eye but I also have a few quotes that mean a lot to me so don't need to get cluttered up in the sayings and exerpts deparment.

So I thought I'd share my favourites with you - no fancy font or presentation, just the words in situ on my fridge, wall, etc…

Sunday 12 April 2015

Mix & Match Sushi Bowl

Mix & match sushi bowl - how to make fresh and healthy deconstructed sushi full of vegetables, proteins and flavour!  It tastes just like your favourite sushi without the hassle of rolling!

There are times when I want all the fresh, healthy things that you get with sushi but can't be faffed with all the prep and rolling and trying to make it all stay in tight little rolls so they don't fall apart in the space between plate and mouth…I know you're with me on this one…

So here's the solution - fill a bowl with sushi rice and then top it with all the scrummy things you would normally find inside your favourite sushi roll!

Thursday 9 April 2015

Baked Smoked Haddock Fish Fingers

Home made baked fish fingers - using smoked haddock adds a more grown up taste to these fish sticks that kids (and big kids!) will both love and baking them is far healthier than frying!

If you spent any part of your childhood in England then it's likely you will remember having fish fingers for dinner.  I preferred mine to be served with Alphabites (potato-y letters) and perhaps a blob of ketchup.

Fast forward 25 years…fish fingers are still one of my favourite comfort foods but have made things a little more classy by introducing potato smiles and steamed broccoli…

Normally I buy the bog-standard orange breadcrumb coated fish sticks but fancied something a little more grown up.  I wanted a big chunk of cod so I could make some fairly hefty fish fingers but while perusing the fish aisle in the supermarket I spotted some smoked haddock.  Bingo!  Using plain breadcrumbs with this fish makes them a little more grown up than the normal store-bought fish fingers but know they'd be a hit with the little people as well!

Monday 6 April 2015

Photo a Day 2015 - March

March is a funny month…not quite winter, not quite spring.  Here in Berkhamsted we've had some lovely mild and sunny days, we've also had sudden epic downpours and high winds.  The daffodils have ignored the bad weather and have started popping up all over the place so after months of dullness it's nice to see splashes of colour coming through!

March is a good month for you if, like me, you're a fan of greens - kale, cabbage and spinach are all "springing" to our plates!  If you want something a little sweeter, the supermarket shelves are well stocked with hot cross buns ready to be toasted and smothered in butter…

Sunday 22 March 2015

How to start and create a photo a day (PAD) photography project or challenge. Tips, ideas, inspiration and how to prepare.  It's a 365 commitment but the results are worth it!

My resolution last year was to start a "photo a day project".  Nothing fancy, just the goal of taking at least one photo each day.

I have a really awful memory but have found that looking at a single photo can instantly take me back to the moment, probably the entire day, and I can remember the sights, smells, activities of that particular day.  Just from a photo!  Starting a project to capture a single moment from each day made complete sense to me and it seemed like an achievable goal.

I'm now in my 15th month of my photo diary and am really pleased that I did it and proud that I am still doing it and have only missed a few days!

If you're thinking about taking on such a project I hope my tips below will be of some help, inspiration or whatever you need to start your own project.

Friday 6 March 2015

Nonna Floriana's Ragu

Nonna Floriana's Ragu - This recipe for ragu comes all the way from an Italian kitchen in the Emilio-Romagnia region.  Using only a few simple ingredients it is rich, filling and surprisingly easy!

So you've (read: "I") just discovered that you can actually make pasta at home without too much fuss…now you need a sauce that is going to really show off your pasta handiwork.  My sister showed me how to make strozzapreti using a recipe her Italian friend's mum taught her when she visited the Emilio-Romagnia region of Italy.  She insisted that this ragu is the ONLY sauce to have with freshly made pasta.  I'm not a massive fan of tomato based sauces so it took a little coercing but I'm glad my arm was twisted - it's ridiculously tasty and uses only a few simple ingredients!

Sunday 1 March 2015

Photo a Day 2015: February

We're properly into 2015 now that February is over - did you manage to keep up with your resolutions? 

Valentine's Day falls smack bang in the middle of the month and for the second time I took part in the 5th annual Aunt Peaches Valentine Swap.  Getting something in the post that isn't a bill or junk mail is so satisfying - read about it and see what I received here.

We're slowly making our way out of winter although I don't really feel like we had much of a winter here in Berkhamsted.  There were a couple of days when snow fell from the skies, a few more that involved scraping ice from the car but it's been pretty mild.

Aunt Peaches' 5th Annual Valentine Swap

Aunt Peaches hosted her 5th annual Valentine Swap this year - her readers make and send Valentines across the world to each other…these are the ones sent and received!

The internet can be a bit of an impersonal place sometimes what with it being all digital and the only interaction you have is through comments/Twitter/Pinterest.  Then Aunt Peaches and her Valentine Swap comes along…

If you've not already visited her site then please take a look - she loves crafts (especially anything that involves glitter, coffee filters and beads), lives in one of the most colourful, interesting houses I've ever seen and has an absolutely beautiful kitty, Lola.  Do you know when you read a blog and you feel like you're listening to the writer talking to you rather than just reading a post?  Yep, that's Peaches!

Thursday 26 February 2015

Strozzapreti - Fresh Hand Rolled Pasta

Strozzapreti - hand rolled pasta.  Fresh pasta is so much better than anything bought from the supermarket and is so easy to make!  This is a recipe my sister showed me using her Italian friend's instructions.

I have always been a bit nervous about making my own pasta because it seemed like it would be difficult without a pasta machine and I'd probably manage to mess up the recipe somehow.  How wrong I was!  Ok, there might be some types of pasta that are quite difficult to make but these Strozzapreti are hard to get wrong - you don't even need to make sure that they are all the same shape or size.  

Sunday 1 February 2015

Photo a Day 2015: January

Slipper boot cladded feet up in front of the telly watching the New Year fireworks and here were are…

…January - a new year, a fresh page, a clean start, etc, etc.  There will be people around the world who set goals for themselves starting on the very first day of the year.  I'm not one of those people I'm afraid.  I want to have acheivable goals so I won't feel like a failure if I don't stick to them 100% and may decide halfway through the year that I want to set myself a new goal.  And that's ok, don't you think?

Last year my only resolution was to start a "photo a day" challenge and pretty much kept to my resolution.  I loved it so much that (you probably guessed if you're reading this) I decided to carry it on for another year.

My other resolutions I wanted to think about a little more and yes, I could have thought about them pre-New Year but…well…I didn't.

So here are my resolutions for 2015…

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Seaweed Chips

Move over kale, there's a new guy in town that was just asking to be turned into a healthy snack…


I love seaweed but it seems to have dropped out of my diet lately so wanted to make something that was simply seaweed.  I've had Tao Kae Noi seaweed snacks many a time and although delicious, they are very oily.

Then it dawned on me…if kale can be made into a crispy treat then why the hell can't seaweed join the veggie crisp party as well?!

Sunday 11 January 2015

Home Grown Oyster Mushrooms from GroCycle

GroCycle use waste coffee grounds to grow delicious gourmet oyster mushrooms and now with one of their kits you can enjoy fresh mushrooms in your own kitchen

There really is nothing quite like using ingredients that you've grown yourself, is there?  I've tried chillies, herbs and even some beans but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would have fresh gourmet oyster mushrooms sitting in the corner of my kitchen, ready to harvest!

GroCycle very kindly sent me a mushroom growing kit to try out for free and it's been a really fascinating project!  I bet it would also be fun for your little foodies to try.

Oyster Mushrooms with Tofu

Home grown oyster mushrooms with griddled tofu.  I wanted the mushrooms to be the star of the dish so used a simple marinade for the tofu using soy sauce, miso paste and sesame oil.

 Oyster mushrooms are my absolute favourite mushrooms so you can imagine how excited I was to actually have some growing in my kitchen.  No, I don't have an issue with my kitchen being dark and humid - I got a growing kit from GroCycle and after days and days watching them grow (at a rather impressive speed!) they are ready to harvest!

Thursday 1 January 2015

Photo a Day: December

Happy new year!  I can't believe that I've completed my "photo a day" challenge (only missing 5 days out of the entire year!).  I have a pretty poor memory so having a photo for each day of the year is a great way for me to look back at what I've been up to.  I'm definitely keeping this resolution up for 2015!


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