Sunday, 26 February 2017

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 26/2/17

I don't usually play around with my photos but I couldn't resist tweaking the colours in this giant bubble.

This was the original.

Sunday SnapOneDad3Girls

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Red Nose Day Bake Sale recipe ideas from the Hairy Bikers and Nadiya Hussain

As I told you a couple of weeks ago, ahead of Red Nose Day (which is on March 24th this year), HomeSense have partnered with Comic Relief, filling their shelves with a Red Nose Day range that includes leather journals and colouring-in books, as well as exclusive tea towels and aprons designed by renowned fashion and portrait photographer Rankin.

 The apron features a selection of unique animal portraits including Rankin’s own dog and a whole host of celebrities have been photographed by Rankin wearing the apron to support the cause - The Hairy Bikers, Nadine Coyle, Nadiya Hussain, Jodie Kidd, Susanna Reid, Kimberley Wyatt, Lesley Joseph & Linda Robson, Una Healy, The Hemsley Sisters, Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella), Will Poulter, Fay Ripley, Vogue Williams and Tim Lovejoy, to name but a few.

If you fancy joining in with a Bake Sale to raise funds for the charity, here are some recipes to inspire you. Get your Red Nose Day aprons at the ready !

Parsnip and orange spiced cake

Serves 10

Now, before you say it – yes, there are parsnips in this cake. My parents love a good carrot cake, but when it’s the only thing they ask me to bake because they are not adventurous enough for much else ... well, I had to change it up just for my own creative sanity. Carrots may give colour, but parsnips add a similar flavour and sweetness with a whole lot more fragrance, so this isn’t as bold and daring as it might sound from the title. It’s a moist and delicious cake, and an excellent alternative to carrot. You could also give this recipe a go with courgette or beetroot. They all add different things and work equally well.

For the sponge:
 230g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
 2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
200g caster sugar
100g walnuts, chopped, plus extra for topping
3 medium eggs
150ml sunflower oil
500g parsnips, peeled, ends trimmed and coarsely grated
zest of 2 oranges, plus extra for decoration

For the frosting:
 50g unsalted butter, softened
 200g full-fat cream cheese
150g icing sugar
zest of 1 orange

Prep: 25 minutes Cook: 30 minutes
 Sponges can be frozen

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C. Grease and line the base of two 20.5cm sandwich tins with baking paper.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice. Add the caster sugar and chopped walnuts, mix through with a wooden spoon, and set aside.

Put the eggs and sunflower oil in a different bowl, and beat for a few minutes. Now mix all the dry ingredients into the egg and oil mixture, along with the grated parsnips and orange zest. Mix everything together until you have a thick batter; about 2 minutes.

Divide the mixture between the two cake tins, and level it off using a spatula. Bake for 25–30 minutes. The cakes should be golden, and a skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Leave the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack and peel off the baking paper. Leave to cool completely.

To make the frosting: In a bowl, beat the butter with a wooden spoon then add the cream cheese and icing sugar. Beat until it all comes together, but be careful not to overdo it, or the frosting will become runny.

Leave the frosting in the fridge until you need it, if your kitchen is really warm.

Take your cooled cakes and sandwich them together using the frosting. Top the cake with lashings of frosting and sprinkle with walnuts, and some extra orange zest.

Nadiya’s Kitchen by Nadiya Hussain is out now (Penguin, HB, £20). Photographer: Holly Pickering

Photographer: Richard Hill
Victoria Sponge with Blackberries and Spiced Cream
Recipe taken from The Hairy Bikers’ Comfort Food (BBC1)

For the sponge cakes:

225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 tbsp lemon juice

For the blackberries:

A punnet of blackberries
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp crème de mure (optional)

For the cream:
250ml double or whipping cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
½ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground mace

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and line 2 x 20/21cm sandwich tins. Using a hand held electric whisk or a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy – it should be almost mousse like. This should take a good 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour, mixing lightly between each addition, then add the remaining flour. Add as much lemon juice as necessary to give a dropping consistency, then divide between 2 tins. Bake in the oven for between 20-25 minutes until the sponge has shrunk away from the sides slightly, is springy to touch and a very light golden brown. Leave to cool in the tins for at least 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.

For the filling, put the blackberries in a bowl and sprinkle over the caster sugar and crème de mure if using. Leave to marinade for a short while – they will give out some juices.

Whip the cream then fold in the icing sugar and spices – the cream needs to be just beyond the soft peak stage – then pile this onto one of the sponges. Top with the blackberries and pour over any juices. Place the remaining sponge on top. Dust with icing sugar or caster sugar and serve.

 HomeSense has partnered with renowned fashion and portrait photographer Rankin to create exclusive aprons for Red Nose Day 2017 and help people living incredibly tough lives across Africa and here in the UK. The apron is part of a Red Nose Day 2017 range of products available in HomeSense stores nationwide.

New Year Resolutions Review week #8 : Two months in, two down !

Week two of the half term holidays and I really managed to make headway with some of my New Year resolutions and challenges. Two in particular - getting French and getting geocaching.

1. Get Fit(bitting) !
Last week, I hit my 10k steps target every single day, and them some. This week, I had a few light days because I took the kids to see Sing at the cinema and also spent a whole afternoon and the next morning marking, but on the other days, I did get out for some long walks geocaching ... even during Storm Doris (which was called Thomas in France). With two days at 16k steps, my daily average is still 11k and that includes today, which is only at 506 steps because at the time of writing, it's the morning and I'm still in bed ! I said I was focusing on steps, not weight, this year, but I weighed in today and I've lost 2kg since the start of the year, which is better than nothing !

2. Get cooking bookmarked recipes ! 
I've been cooking loads and working through loads of bookmarked recipes, but I don't think I've had time to blog about many of them yet. I found a box of Special K flakes in the back of the cupboard and got all old school, making some recipes that I remember from my childhood. We tried Lomo Saltado, a Peruvian beef stir fry that is served with both rice and chips. Next stop was South Africa - Cape Town tarts are a savoury omelette/muffin hybrid that are great fun to make and would be ideal for picnics and packed lunches. My totally inauthentic but delicious version of gumbo was great for using up odds and ends.

3. Get geocaching !
Last week, I placed my first 5 geocaches and loved seeing everyone going to find them and logging their comments. This inspired me to make some more - half of my glass and plastic recycling this week has been put aside for making geocaches ! - and the kids have been helping me head around town dropping them off in strategic locations - parks, statues, the old maternity hospital where Juliette and Sophie were born but has now closed down, .... I now have  eight caches out there and a few more ready to place. My travelbugs haven't been dropped off yet but they have already travelled 65km. And we fitted in some geocaching around the docks, taking my total finds from 205 to 207.

4. Get comping !
Again, no wins this week, even if I've been entering more than usual as I'm holiday. I'm still on track for one win a month though.
(January : 4 wins - £20 shopping voucher, Mr Lee's noodles, Ambrosia trifle glasses, set of 5 books; February : 1 win - prize for Galina )

5. Get reading !
 I finished reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (click through for my review), taking my total to 6 books read, and I am now half way through Lucky Boy by Shanti Sekaran, which is a tale of a young  Mexican illegal immigrant whose baby is taken into foster care when she is put in detention, so he now has two totally devoted "mums" and, I guess, things will get complicated on her release.

6. Get FLYing !
We tidied up the play room (formerly known as Pierre's bedroom) and I had a good clearout in the kitchen, tidying and reorganising things.

8. Get bloggy housekeeping !
The googlebot put in another appearance and my stats do seem a bit higher on a day-to-day basis but I'll wait until next week to see how things look on a normal week, when I'm back to work and things are ticking over normally again. After my Klout score hitting an all-time low (53.37), it's bounced back up to 54.14 but I still have a way to go to get back to my 90 day high (56.73) My statcounter rankings have stayed pretty much the same at A+/C-/C/C+ (overall B-).

9. Get French !
It's in the post ! All I can do now is sit back and wait !

What about you? Have you set yourself any targets, challenges or new year's resolutions this year?

Fab freebies of the week 25/2

The holidays are drawing to a close - boo ! - but at least I've had plenty of time this week for hunting out a bumper roundup of freebies for you. Enjoy !


From Nail Art Kits : Interested in trying out our products? Fill in the form below with a valid postal address and email and we will send you a nail file plus some nail art stickers in the post. *We do not accept any sample request from regions outside of the United Kingdom.

Request a sample of Giorgio Armani foundation

Provide your details in the form to receive a free sample of Purina® DentaLife® (medium size) and treat your dog to a tasty chew that's scientifically proven to clean even those hard to reach teeth!

This is a cute one ! - use code GROOTENNIS "Thanks for playing the Tiger Mobiles Tennis Challenge. Please fill out the form and we'll send you a free Groo Tiger Toy. This offer is only available to UK based players only who have signed up for and play our tennis game at"

Head over to Aflame and click around - a pop up will invite you to sign up for 6 free fragrance samples - they are only cardboard strips but the fragrance samples come up as £2 each before you add the coupon code (AFLAME1) - you get free p&p too :)

Request a sample of Dermatonics heel balm

Sign up to the newsletter for a free bottle of A2 milk

Sign up for a free Sparkling Ribena

I shared this one a while ago but got an email this week to say I'll be getting one - grab a free Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5 razor

Print a voucher for a free pack of Debbie's & Andrew's Perfect Little Chipolatas

Have you got a Fitbit? Combine the fun of your Fitbit tracker with the motivation of Fitstar. Get 3 months of FREE personalized fitness coaching.

If you're lucky enough to be visiting Canada this year (some of our friends are, so not fair !): Canada turns 150 and the Alaska Highway celebrates its 75th anniversary. It's going to be one big party and everyone is invited! There will be airshows, original theater, ceremonies, public art, tours, dedications, festivals, food and stories, plus souvenir arts and crafts to enjoy along the way. Canada will pick up the tab for free National Parks admissions all year long.

Tea or Coffee Online seem to be offering random new twitter followers a free sample

We have just launched our brand new Velofresh Grease & Grime Remover Power Wipes, and now we need cyclists to test it for us and tell us what they think. If you would like to test it for us, then please request your free sample by filling in your details. (100 packs to give away and they tweeted about it yesterday - the form brings up an error message but I've tweeted them about it and your details go through fine)

@BelcaffeUK We are proud to be supplying high quality Gimoka Coffee blends roasted at Lake Como since 1982. Contact us for a free sample #leeds #coffee

@RealSauceCo1 Private Message me your favourite flavour cooking sauce and we will send you out FREE SAMPLES from RealSacueCo.(UK based only)

Free Trial Super Healthy Swedish Pet Food - click on "ask us" and fill in the form (doesn't say if it's local or nationwide)

@cocotucafe Coffee samples from Yungas, Bolivia arriving this week. Claim your free sample! Contact me directly.

Choose a free sample of YSL Black Opium perfume

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time. Let me know if any have expired and I'll remove them from the roundup.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Globecooking recipe : Lomo Saltado (Peru)

Lomo Saltado is a Peruvian dish but it has Chinese origins, because there are a lot of Chinese immigrants in Peru apparently. When I saw the name go by in a twitter conversation, it was just someone mentioning eating (and enjoying) it in a Peruvian restaurant, but I had no idea what to expect. Wikipedia describes it as "a popular, traditional Peruvian dish, a stir fry that typically combines marinated strips of sirloin with onions, tomatoes, french fries, and other ingredients, and is typically served with rice". Putting rice and chips still seems weird to me, even after eating it, but it was delicious. Next time, I think I'd go with either chips or rice rather than both though.

Lomo Saltado

ingredients :

a drizzle of olive oil
600g beef/steak, cut into strips
3 onions
1 clove of garlic
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
2tbsp soy sauce
2tbsp vinegar (I used balsamic)
salt, pepper
Peruvian chilli paste (optional)
Basmati rice

Put the chips and rice on to cook. Heat the oil and fry the beef.

When it's gone brown and the cooking juices have mainly evaporated, toss in the onions and garlic. Stir fry until they have gone soft and started to caramelise. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the soy sauce and vinegar, then the tomatoes. Cook for just a couple more minutes - you want the tomatoes to stay quite firm.

You can add a small spoonful of chilli paste if you like - I had a jar of Peruvian chilli paste lurking in the fridge which was perfect.

You can mix the cooked chips in with the beef before serving it over rice, or serve them on the side, which is what I decided to do so that they retained their crispiness. The whole family made appreciative noises and I was apparently the only one who had the slightest qualms about having rice and chips on the same plate. It actually reminded me of school dinners when the dinner ladies would say "chips, rice or half and half?", which was a memory I'd totally forgotten !

Fancy trying some more Peruvian dishes? How about :

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 24/2

Back to school next week so I'm taking the easy option and scheduling in some family favourites that I don't need recipes for and some simple dishes that I've bookmarked. I'll be relisting a few dishes that didn't get made over the holidays too.


lunch - time for our traditional Saturday morning trip to McDonald's to ease into the weekend

dinner - split pea and bacon soup


lunch - roast dinner

dinner - leftover soup or smorging with whatever's in the fridge


dinner - chicken curry and rice


dinner -  spaghetti carbonara


lunch - cheesy mince & tomato crumble

dinner - salmon with buckwheat and veggies


dinner - meatballs in tomato sauce with courgettes/peppers/onions and couscous


dinner - homemade sausage rolls with mash and beans

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Get ready for a #PJMasksToys twitter party on 1st March !

Save the date ! @UKmumsTV are running a PJ Masks twitter party on Wednesday 1st March from 4-6pm and as usual, there will be lots of fun and prizes to be won.

After all the excitement of our We're Going On A #BearHunt twitter party last week, I'm making the most of the calm before the storm and the invitations won't be going out until next week !

I'm keeping this one under wraps for a little while longer but I sneaked a peek in the box when the Madhouse kids weren't looking and it looks like it's going to be great fun. I can see icing pens and oooh ... is that a pass the parcel? The brand new PJ Masks toys from Just Play are definitely going to be greeted with squeals of excitement. All three of the PJ Masks heroes are now available in Beanie Plush form, along with their arch enemy Romeo, with an RRP of £8.99 each. They have a really good likeness to their on-screen counterparts.

You can't have a PJ Masks party without masks, but we also have dressing up outfits to really get into character. The new toy range includes three dress-up costume sets, allowing kids to explore their imaginations and transform instantly into their favourite hero, whether that be Owlette, Catboy or Gekko. Each set includes a mask and full body costume and has an RRP of £24.99.

There are also vehicle and figure sets (RRP £13.99), featuring Catboy and his Cat-Car, Gekko and his Gekko-Mobile and Owlette and her Owl Glider. Each signature vehicle comes with its corresponding 3 inch articulated figure but the great thing is, you can fit all three PJ Masks figures inside each vehicle. That will open up a whole world of imaginative play possibilities, allowing for teamwork powered adventures as the heroes speed, zoom and fly into the night to save the day !

Children can also now collect their favourite PJ Masks figures in pocket money-priced blind bags (RRP £2.49). In series 1, there are 12 figures to collect, including a super rare Connor figure.

The range launched at the start of February and the fact that it includes a variety of role play, plastic and plush options means that it will appeal to any little PJ Masks fans. In addition to the toys I've mentioned, there is also an exclusive Deluxe Vehicle Set available at Argos, and the range will be added to during the year.

I'll be telling you more about the toys and our twitter party fun both on the day and in a post-party blogpost so watch this space. You can also follow me on twitter @cherylp59 as well as keeping an eye on @UKmumsTV and the #PJMasksToys hashtag on party day. In the meantime, for more information, you can also check out and

Disclosure : We received a party pack to prepare for the twitter party, including the new range of PJ Masks toys.

Globecooking recipe : Cape Town tarts (South Africa)

When I saw a recipe go through on the Food Network website for Cape Town Tarts, I was intrigued and clicked through to find out more. I wasn't expecting the savoury muffin/omelette hybrid that I discovered but it looked like just the sort of thing the Madhouse kids would enjoy scoffing. The original recipe included black olives and blue cheese, but I left those out because the kids would turn their nose up at them.

Cape Town tarts

ingredients :

12 slices of Parma ham
1 onion
1tbsp olive oil
a good handful of cherry tomatoes
50g mild blue cheese (or I used up some red leicester), cut into pieces
75g pitted black olives, chopped (optional - I left them out)
4 tbsp chives, chopped
6 large eggs
225ml milk
Pepper to season
30g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Use a slice of Parma ham to line the bottom and sides of each hole in a silicone muffin tin.

Gently fry the onion in the olive oil. Chop the cherry tomatoes and, if using, olives and mix them all up in a bowl with the onion. Place a spoonful in each muffin hole.

Pop a small chunk of cheese on top.

Using the same (now empty) bowl, beat the eggs and mix in the milk and chives. (I didn't have any chives so I left them out.)

Put the muffin trays on a baking sheet so they are easier to move. Carefully pour the egg mixture into each hole .

Sprinkle on some parmesan then pop them in the oven, at 180°, for 15 minutes until set and puffed up.

As I had some leftover cooked potatoes, I decided to fry them up in slices, along with some mushrooms, with a little bé rouj (red butter) to use it up. (I told you about bé rouj in my fish with bé rouj recipe so click through if you missed that.)

It gave them a wonderful orangey colour.

Leave the Cape Town tarts to cool slightly before popping them out of the moulds. They can be eaten hot or cold, for lunch or breakfast, and they'd make great picnic/packed lunch food.

Fancy trying some other South African recipes? How about :

This used up the end of a block of red leicester cheese, as well as some cooked potatoes and bé rouj as an accompaniment, so I'm adding it to the #KitchenClearout linky.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Get the kids cooking healthy meals, not just baking !

Sainsbury’s Active Kids recently released a report showing some shocking stats about the health and nutrition beliefs of 11-14 year olds. Apparently, over one fifth refer to social media, YouTube stars and bloggers to find information on healthy eating, which can be very hit and miss as they (we) are not qualified nutritionists. 41% of kids believe they should ‘probably do more’ when it comes to exercise and 43% of kids think that cutting out a food group (such as gluten or dairy) will lead to a healthy lifestyle. 

The good news is that most of the children surveyed understood the importance of healthy eating. The most common reasons for wanting to eat well related to health and fitness, with 55% saying that it is important to eat well in order to feel healthy and 36% saying a nutritious diet is important to avoid becoming ill. So what prevents children from actually eating well? Unsurprisingly, healthy food being dull and fast food seen as cheaper were the top reasons, followed by misinformation from social media and parental influence.

Among the 11 to 14 year olds surveyed, most said that parents made their meals, with only a third of the children preparing at least one meal a week. While children do not necessarily need to cook at this age, their future health depends on them developing these skills before they leave home. Unfortunately, the findings reveal limited cooking skills among young people with nearly half of 11-14 year olds (49%) admitting they are not able to cook a simple pasta dish. There is evidence to suggest gender bias in cooking with girls having stronger cooking skills than boys, revealing a particular need to focus on getting more boys into the kitchen at a younger age.

I felt very smug and virtuous as I read this last statement because all three of the Madhouse kids have been helping out in the kitchen from a very young age. It still amazes me when I see how good Pierre is at cracking eggs into a bowl without getting the slightest bit of shell in there !

However, when I really thought about it, most of our family-oriented culinary endeavours are rustling up sweet treats and bakes. The Madhouse kids definitely know how to make muffins, cookies, banana bread, fruit salad and jelly, but what about real food? I decided that this half term would be the ideal time to get them more involved in helping cook main meals, and I was surprised to see just how much they enjoyed it - not just the food prep and cooking but also the eating ! From mixed bean and tuna salad to pasta bake, they rose to the challenge and were so proud to get compliments from the whole family when we sat down to eat.

Now that she's at secondary school, and school is literally just across the road, Juliette comes home for lunch rather than going to the canteen. A few times a week, she is left to fend for herself and, although she's allowed to use the microwave, kettle and optigrill, the oven and hob are out of bounds (in case she forgets to turn them off and burns the house down !). As I was busy doing the washing up, I asked her if she'd like to make a start on cooking her favourite creamy prawn dish and she acted as if she'd been doing it forever, turning on the gas and stir-frying the mushrooms and prawns ...

Then seasoning to taste and squeezing in the crème fraîche. It's not the most complicated of dishes but she got a real sense of achievement out of making it from start to finish and I was very impressed at how confident and competent she was.

This made me realise that, now that she's turned 12, she is surely old enough to be allowed to be a bit more adventurous and have more free reign in the kitchen. I think that from now on, she'll be allowed to use the oven and hob too ... but I might phone her at the end of my lunch break at school to check she's turned everything off properly for a while longer !

Even though he's only 7, Pierre wanted in on the action so, watching him like a hawk and repeatedly telling him to watch his fingers, I gave him permission to stirfry some veggies.

He did a great job, helping to create our gumbo-style meal right through to the end. (Click through for the recipe.) He took it really seriously and had a real sense of achievement when it was ready to serve.

So there you have it ! It's not just a case of teaching the kids how to cook. It's also a case of teaching myself to cut them some slack and trust them a bit more in the kitchen so that they can learn these vital life skills and not just know how to take part in the Great British Bake Off !

Disclosure : Sainsbury's sent me a copy of their Active Kids Report and a shopping voucher to encourage me to get involved in cooking healthy meals with the Madhouse kids.