Halloween Pumpkin Superfood - Nutritious Deliciousness

Over on the Food Blog

Next Bloggers Network Event

I was delighted to be invited to the Next Blogger Network Event yesterday, a brilliant day of speakers, networking and fun!  Unfortunately the weather had a better idea for us travelling to the venue but I managed to get there just over an hour late.

I used to wear a lot of Next clothes in my younger days, now I cherry pick the odd few pieces but do love dressing TC and usually find some lovely pieces in the Next sales.  Our best bargain buy last year being her gorgeous jacket for half price, she's wearing it again this year, don't tell the Fashion Police!

The Next store brand opened in 1982 and my friend Joanne and I were there!  We were teenagers and fashion crazy as teenagers mostly are, so much so that our mums both applied for a Next card and we made good use of theirs and of course had to pay all most of it back, cue Saturday jobs!

Next at the time was a new retail concept with a co-ordinated collection of own branded clothing and accessories in small boutique-style shops.  I do remember it being so different from anything out there back then.

Home Interiors was added in 1985 and when Mr J and myself set up home it was Next, amongst others that I decorated and furnished our first home with slowly but surely {had my own store card by then!}.  I still have a cushion, matching swatch of fabric {I used to sew back then} and leftover wallpaper, never one to throw anything remotely useful out!

Childrenswear was born in 1987, I also still have a boy's shirt from the early 1990's that my own son wore as a 2 year old and his gorgeous Next jumper is also secreted somewhere in the loft, couldn't bear to part with either.  Both are like new, such is the great fabric quality, maybe a grandchild of mine will wear them again one day.

In 1988 the home shopping Next Directory was launched, which seems a lifetime ago, has it really been that long?  A glossy, seasonal catalogue that came online too in 1999.  The history goes on from there, take a look on the Next website for an interesting timeline.

The Next Blogger Workshop ran 3 sessions, Branding & Advertising, SEO & Web Design and Film & Photography, all very informative and fun sessions, I came away with lots of notes to re-read and put into practice!  I was really surprised to hear from the top bloggers there that they post from 5 to 10 times a day!

It was lovely to meet and chat to some of the younger bloggers too and good to see the cameraderie between them.

The food was amazing too, The Hoxton laid on breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, ending with a cocktail before heading home into the chaos of the remnants of the storm. 

These fabulous branded biscuits were made by Bee's Bakery for the event, they were so delicious, I popped a couple into a sweetie bag {did I mention there was also a tuck/sweetie shop too!} to share with TC & Mr J. 

Thank you Next and The Hoxton Hotel for the great hospitality, it was a fun, relaxed and very informative event and thank you for the very generous goodie bag!


Great Bloggers Bake Off - Week 9 - Canapes

After 9 weeks of the Great British Bake Off I'm so looking forward to the final next week, it has been brilliant with some great competitors.  

It has been so great joining in with the Great Blogger Bake Off ladies, we have built up some lovely friendships and had quite a giggle, we think a GBBO meet up is in order!

This week the bakes were really challenging, The Opera Cake which is a work of art and so technical, I will leave that one to the French Patissiers, a Charlotte Royale, which is something I would love to tackle when I don't have a 3 year old around to "help" mummy bake.  She truly is a budding Nigella and I do encourage her all the way, she loves the mixing, cutting out shapes, etc with her little baking kit, a future Bake Off contestant maybe!

The third challenge was savoury canapes and with party season here soon, knocking up a plate or two was lovely and with a glass of fizz for me & Mr J, I don't mind if I do!

On the menu: Sundried Tomato & Stilton Tartlettes with caramelised onions, Chilli Tomato Whirls/Palmiers, Spicy Chickpeas and Smoked Salmon & cream cheese Blini's.  All very quick and easy to make and made with what was in my fridge mostly!

Tartlettes - shortcrust pastry base, chill, line into tarlette tins, mine are a touch large, bake blind for 10-15 minutes, fry onions for a few minutes adding a teaspoon of dark brown sugar for the last 2-3 minutes to caramellise.  Chop up sun-dried tomatoes and add to the onions, crumble Blue Stilton over the top.  Bake for 10 minutes at 180 C.

Whirls/Palmiers - shop bought Puff Pastry, I rolled out a 10" x 12" piece, spread with Sun-dried tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, chilli flakes, black pepper (put whatever you love in), then roll the longer sides in towards each other, meeting in the middle, pop in fridge for 30 minutes to firm, then slice into half inch pieces, lay on a baking tray, egg wash and bake for 15 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Spicy Chickpeas - drain and rinse chickpeas, place on baking tray and roll in olive oil, sprinkle with spices of your choice, I used chilli powder, black pepper, garlic salt and a touch of cumin. Bake in oven with other canapes for around 15 minutes, delicious!

Blini's - lovely, light, sugar-free little pancakes, as fast as I was making them, TC was eating them!  Luckily the recipe I use which you can find on the Good Food Channel makes a fair amount if you use half a tablespoon of batter for each blini.

Beat up some cream cheese, add smoked salmon (chopped into very small pieces, you can use off-cuts) then roll into a sausage shape and wrap in cling film, pop in fridge overnight, then slice into pieces to top the blini's, finish with a sliver of smoked salmon and a sprinkle of black pepper.

Mr J and I sat down on the floor in the living room last night with a blanket on the carpet and had a mini impromptu picnic... and scoffed the lot! 

Linking up with Helen from The Crazy Kitchen and Jenny from Mummy Mishaps for this penultimate Great Bloggers Bake Off.


Silent Sunday



Great Bloggers Bake Off - Week 8 - Seeded Spelt Loaves

*Thank you to Helen & Jenny for my Star Baker Award this week!*

I never really realised how many weeks the Great British Bake Off took up until I started baking for the Great Bloggers Bake Off every week.  I was determined from the start to join in every week as a personal challenge to bake with ingredients I had never used before.

I had all the ingredients for a Chocolate Beetroot Cake but for the GBBO it needs to be a dairy free version so instead I baked the signature loaf using Spelt flour, the brief was to use a non-traditional flour and Spelt flour is one of the many flours I have bought with a view to trying new bakes, eventually! I made Spelt biscuits the other night when a craving for biscuits set in and the biscuit tin was empty!

I used a recipe based on the Dove's Farm one except I made mini loaves, omitted the nuts and added a mix of sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and flaxseeds to the top as well as the dough.  Before adding the seeds on top I egg washed the dough.

This produced 4 mini tasty loaves and makes a lovely breakfast bread, toasted or untoasted, topped with butter, cheeses, honey or even jam!

Teaming up for the 8th week with Helen at The Crazy Kitchen and Jenny of Mummy Mishaps, pop over to one of them to check out the spectacular array of bakes.


Silent Sunday

HealGel Intensive - Review

I was recently asked if I would like to try out the award winning HealGel Intensive Advanced Skin Formula.  I had wanted to try the HealGel products for some time, definitely on my beauty wish list.
HealGel was created by a team of the world's finest plastic and cosmetic surgeons to provide genuinely effective treatments for all skin types, taking transformative skin care to the next level.


This light, non-oily gel which is suitable for all skin types, smells really fresh and clean and is designed to deliver active elements to the areas where they are needed the most.  It absorbs easily and gives a perfect primer for make-up.  
HealGel Intensive has many uses and was originally developed to improve the appearance of scars and diminish redness, it can also help in a number of skin conditions such as rosacea and eczema. 

HealGel was also created as anti-ageing formula to firm, smooth and replenish the skin, all qualities I look for in a skin-care product these days, I'm all for holding back time for as long as possible and keeping my skin in good shape with minimum interference.  

The list of ingredients is pretty impressive.  Silicone which is firmly established as the optimal healing ingredient for scar treatment.  Arnica (which I have used for bruising and healing for many years, even after my c-section) and Madecassoside which is extracted from the plant Centella Asiatica (aka Gotu Kola) which soothes irritation, stimulates collagen synthesis and protects the skin against ageing.  
HealGel Intensive also contains several powerful peptides to increase collagen production, something that diminishes as we age, and decrease fine lines, swelling and puffiness.  It also contains anti-flammatory active ingredients to encourage a clear, healthy looking complexion.  Like I said, impressive!
For me as an former aesthetician this is fascinating stuff and for the full science bit, you can read how it all works together on the HealGel website.

Using HealGel Intensive over a number of days and nights to give it a real trial I have noticed that it really has enhanced my complexion and I am keen to try the other products in the range, the HealGel Eye which has light diffusers for a more youthful appearance and HealGel Face which along with the ingredients found in the Intensive product has a blend of Omega oils to replenish dehydrated skins and to restore elasticity along with Hyaluronic acid complex to plump and revitalise skin.
Disclosure: I was sent a full sized HealGel Intensive product for the purpose of review, all opinions are my own and totally honest. 

Summer Revisited

A couple of weeks ago we had a lot of rain and I found myself longing for the summer which looked like it was well and truly over at that point.

But after the rain the weather became so mild and so welcome, the winter will seem so much shorter if this continues.

Today, the sun shone all day and it was warm and balmy here, we soaked up the last drops of the sun on the seafront, having lunch, drinks and of course the obligatory ice-cream.  

It really felt like summer again.  I'm going to remember this one fondly, where we crammed such a lot into our days, I even have a little tan this year from running around after TC in the fresh air and swimming in the open air pool near where we live.   I also have very attractive stripey feet from my collection of sparkly flip-flops.

I'm going to miss you Summer, you were so generous with your favours this year.  But Autumn is also a lovely time of year, the leaves are starting to fall from our trees, turning into their golden and red seasonal hues.  The crops in the fields are being harvested too, a sure sign a change is on its way.

Sparkly flip-flops and sun hats have been put away again, but Autumn when you see Winter approaching please can you tell it to play nice this year!

Silent Sunday


Great Bloggers Bake Off Week 7 - Apple Suet Pudding

This week saw the exit of lovely Glenn from the Great British Bake Off making it an all girl final!  I shall miss him, he did make me laugh, the kids he teaches are lucky little people!

On offer this week was Choux pastry, Suet puddings and 3 types of Puff Pastry.  The Great Bloggers Bake Off has encouraged me to try bakes that I have never thought of tackling and having made plenty of choux and my own puff pastry (once!) I thought I would take on the suet pudding as I never prepared one before.  Mr J was delighted, he is a puddings fan, he loves roly-poly's, treacle puddings, etc and this one reminded him of the suet puddings his grandmother used to make.  

I still have a mountain of apples to use so decided to try an Apple Suet Pudding,  I used Delia's Old English Hat recipe and the only tweak I made was to use only Bramley's instead of a mix of cooking and eating apples.  

The apples go in raw (next time I will use another couple or so because they do reduce quite a lot) and the pastry doesn't need any resting time so it was really quick to pull together.  The steaming, however, takes 2 hours which is 2 hours less than I thought it would.  I started this at 9pm, so at 11.30pm we were tucking into steaming hot Apple Suet Pudding with lashings of custard, rock and roll!

Suet pudding is not the prettiest bake I have ever photographed and there was a moment when I inverted the pudding onto a plate wondering if it would come out and when I cut it open whether the apple filling would pile out of the casing leaving it hollow!  All was well thankfully and it was delicious, my lovely apple trees did me proud!  I think I may try some individual ones and add some dried fruit and cinnamon next time, any excuse for lashings of custard!

Linking up again this week with Helen from The Crazy Kitchen and Jenny from Mummy Mishaps for the Great Blogger Bake Off, some seriously brilliant bakes over there!