WIN a Mopp 2 hour house clean (Manchester & London only)

I think most people these days struggle to do everything, I’m a busy working mum and honestly the very bottom of my priority list is scrubbing the grout in the bathroom, and I’d much rather spend time with my family than fling a mop around the kitchen.

This is where the good people at Mopp come in. They provide cleaners for your home and they are available in most of the major cities in the UK, including Manchester and London as well as Aberdeen, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leeds.

They know inviting someone into your home is a big deal. All Mopp cleaners are carefully vetted so they choose the right person to care for your home. Mopp  guarantee your cleaner will always be:

  • Experienced & professional
  • Background & reference checked
  • English speaking
  • Interviewed in-person
  • Insured

Mopp

I’m excited to be able to offer one of my blog readers a free two hour house clean (Manchester and London only). You can enter using the rafflecopter widget below…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:

  1. This prize can only redeemed in homes in Manchester and London, England.
  2. The competition is open to residents of the UK only.
  3. There is no cash alternative offered.
  4. To enter, please use the rafflecopter widget above. Please ensure you leave some contact details or I will not be able to contact you if you win.
  5. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries. The winner will receive a two hour domestic clean from Mopp.com
  6. The competition will close on 17th August 2014 .
  7. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this competition.

Arroz al Horno – traditional dish from the Costa Blanca

I really love cooking and trying new things, but being a busy mum these days the things I cook need to be quick, easy and nutritious, not to mention kind to my purse. When I was asked by Villa Plus to recreate a recipe from the Costa Blanca, I quickly accepted the challenge.

I struggled to come up with a suitable dish which went with my “bung it all in a pan and enjoy your holiday while it cooks” mentality. I wanted something that I could quickly prepare and just leave to cook while I could get on with the business of relaxing. Eventually I came across a recipe for Arroz al Horno. A traditional dish from Valencia which literally means oven baked rice. It’s a popular dish and each town and each family seem to have their own variation of it.

I managed to find all of the ingredients in shops in Didsbury in Manchester; going to the butcher and the greengrocer and then a deli for the last few bits. All of the ingredients could be found much more easily on a sunny Spanish market, but my meal feeding 6 comes in at just £1.66 per head.

photo 1 (7)

Ingredients: (to feed 6, or 4 very generously)

1 lb of diced lean pork
3 small morcilla sausages (if you can’t find then use chorizo)
1 whole garlic bulb
500g of paella or risotto rice
2 pints of stock (I used vegetable but you could use chicken or beef)
4 medium tomatoes
1 pepper (I used yellow, but red or orange would work)
1 tin of cooked chickpeas
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
Olive oil (Spanish if you have it)
Pinch of saffron
Salt and pepper

Method: (Don’t panic, it’s easy)

  1. Cut the morcilla into thick slices and pour two tablespoons (approx) of olive oil into a large frying pan. Fry the diced pork and morcilla until brown.
  2. Slice up two tomatoes and cut the pepper into four or five thick slices and add to the pan. Throw in the whole garlic bulb.
  3. Add the rice to the pan, the morcilla should be giving off some delicious oils by now, stir and let the rice soak up the oil. Tip in the tin of chickpeas. Add half the stock, a pinch of saffron and a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Season generously with salt and pepper and transfer to a casserole dish. Add the remainder of the stock and stir.
  4. Bake in the oven with the lid on for 20 minutes at 220 degrees. After 20 minutes give it a good stir and add more stock if required.
  5. Artistically decorate your Arroz al Horno by pushing the garlic bulb in the middle, draping the pepper slices around it and topping with halves or the remaining two tomatoes. Put the lid back on and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  6. Then remove the lid and drizzle with some more olive oil, bake for a further 10 minutes, remove from the oven and serve.

The garlic bulb? The cloves should be perfectly cooked after their time in the oven. If you like you can squeeze the garlic out and mash a clove or two through your Arroz al Horno, or they’d be delicious spread on crusty bread.

Arroz al Horno

It was incredibly quick and easy to make and it went down an absolute storm. I made the Arroz al Horno with pork, but recipes from the Costa Blanca region also use chicken or rabbit, some top with sliced potatoes or use different vegetables, which is how it should be, true Spanish cuisine is about using the best ingredients you have available to you at the time.

Arroz al Horno

Gin and Tonic Lemon Lollies – Strictly for grown ups!

These gin and tonic lollies are great fun at parties and barbecues, and they’re perfect to make in advance for an easy dessert. Try using your other favourite drinks such as Pimms or Mojitos for a refreshing summer treat.

Makes 6 lollies - Ready in 4 hours
35 ml gin
½ lemon, juiced and zest finely grated
45 ml (3 tbsp) sugar syrup (available in most supermarkets)
250ml tonic water

  1. Prepare the lolly moulds by first rinsing with warm water.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a jug and pour into the prepared moulds, leaving a small gap at the top. Clip the handles onto the moulds and place in the freezer and leave for a minimum of about 4 hours.
  3. To serve the lollies, run the lollies in their moulds very briefly under warm running water and serve immediately.

Gin and tonic lollies

This recipe was developed by an Appliance House Chef. For all your kitchen appliances at discounted prices please visit www.appliancehouse.co.uk

 

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That Facebook Positivity Meme

Ugh, I hate forced positivity about as much as I like making awkward small talk with strangers at weddings; so when I saw that Facebook positivity meme doing the rounds I kept my head down and prayed no one would tag me, but they did *sad face* and now I hate my life and all of my friends.

The premise is that some evil relentlessly cheerful person tags you in their post, and for the following five days you have to come up with three positive things and tag three poor unsuspecting people to do the same. This automatically ensures that each day you make three fresh Facebook frenemies. What joy. What endless, positive joy.

Here’s the record of my forced positivity, there was some significant barrel scraping at times, but I thought it would be interesting to keep a record of my thoughts and the reaction I got to each post. I may put together some pie charts and Venn diagrams to illustrate the results. Or not. I mean who has the time?

Day One
1. Told my husband just what he means to me today.
2. My son is making dry-nights progress.
3. Meeting a lovely friend for lunch & a catch up.

Response: Four likes and a small whinge from one of the poor buggers I’ve tagged.

Day Two
1. Had a lovely afternoon with some good friends.
2. Found out my blog is ranked 155 on Tots100
3. I heard that rarest of phrases… “I’m proud of you”

Response: Five likes and a good natured “why me?” from someone who will curse my birth within 48 hours.

Day Three
1. I’ve had a lovely day with the small boy, despite the plethora of bowel movements.
2. Hubs is ace and he makes me laugh pretty much every day.
3. I’m busy work wise, which is nice.

Response: Three likes, one “I’m pregnant so I can’t do it” and one flip this shizzle I’m at the end of my tether.

Day Four
1. Had a chilled day with the boys
2. I enjoyed watching the storms last night
3. Visited my mum & my dad, which means I’m a half decent daughter for once.

Response: Two likes and one person asking to be tagged the following day. People like this worry me, they really do.

Day Five
1. Greedy day out at the foodies festival, great fun with the boys.
2. Had a delicious and rare afternoon nap in anticipation of a loooong night ahead.
3. I’m loving the small boy to bits right now, love our proper conversations and he’s really funny and affectionate.

Response: Five likes and a “god damn you to hell for tagging me”.

Conclusion: Facebook memes were fun like five years ago, now they’re just dull. Put your bra colour as your status, but don’t say it’s your bra just to confuse the boys. Really? No thanks, is this the most fun thing you could think of?

Whilst I think the hellishly annoying Facebook Positivity Meme was started with all good intentions, I pretty much hated doing it, it was a chore and it annoyed me that I had to publish it publicly, if it’d been private I might have been more honest and less Facebook “isn’t life just peachy” about it.

From the responses I got, and from seeing other peoples positives each day, I think the meme is loved and loathed in equal measure. Me, I’m falling down firmly on the side of loathing it. So whatever you do, don’t tag me again. That would not elicit a positive response from me.

Facebook positivity

Tatton Foodies Festival 2014

On what was possibly the worst weekend of the summer in terms of weather, the boys and I packed up and set off for the Tatton Foodies Festival. We were expecting Glastonbury like muddy scenes, but we were pleasantly surprised and the sun even came out for us.

If I were to describe the Foodies Festival, I’d say it was like a giant farmers market, with lots of street food stalls and beer tents as well as little stalls selling kitchenalia and other foodie items.

Foodies festival

When we got there it was lunchtime and we were ravenous, so we quickly decided what we’d have for lunch. I had a veggie pad thai and hubs went for jerk chicken with rice and peas.

Me being me, I couldn’t resist a drinkie and I headed for the Martin Miller’s gin tent for a refreshing beverage. At just £5 for a double it would be rude not to, and they mixed me up a delicious little number with grapefruit and basil.

Foodies festival

There were a great many treats to be had. I sampled a few gins, I especially liked the Warner-Edwards gin which is pretty new, quite special and something to look out for if you’re a bit of a gin bunny.

There was lots going on, masterclasses and demonstrations, massive queues for the goucho barbecue, good natured jostling to get the last portion of free ravioli (I never did get to try it, but it looked delicious) and hot, lava hot churros, I mean who can resist? Not this blogger!

If I’m honest I’m not sure I’m really keen on paying £12 per ticket, plus £5 parking to go to what is essentially a very big farmers market. Don’t get me wrong, we had a lovely time, but it wasn’t worth nearly £30 just to get there and get through the door.

Would we go back next year? Yes, absolutely. But only if I can get my paws on free tickets or if they drop the price considerably. It’s a lot of money for a family day out, especially when belts are being tightened.

Note: I paid for our tickets myself, this is just an account of a nice day out we had.

My Sunday Photo 20/7/14

Silent Sunday

OneDad3Girls

My Top Make Up Tips

I don’t wear make up. I don’t like how it feels on my skin. I don’t like looking like a painted facsimile of myself.

I’m not beautiful. Painting my face won’t make me beautiful. I’m ok. You’re ok. You don’t need to put a face on. You don’t need to hide behind a mask. You’re fine. You’ll do. You’re cute. Don’t hide it.

Dark circles and blemishes? You’re fine. No one cares. Really they don’t.

Spots? No one cares. Caking your face in concealer is probably making it worse anyway.

Scars? Ok, hide them if you want. But they don’t bother me. You’re not ugly, you’re not horrifying. You’re cute, they tell a story and they’re probably hardly noticeable anyway.

If you want to wear make up for you, do it, but don’t do it because you’re worried about what people think about you. Or because someone tells you to. Or because all your friends do. Because really, you’re beautiful and you really don’t need it.

No make up

Feeling the heat – testing spicy BBQ sauces

I don’t know about your home town but where I live in Manchester, a decent percentage of new restaurants opening are serving American style barbecue; food inspired by programmes like Man V Food and Diners, Drive ins & Dives. It’s tempting, especially during the summer barbecue season to try and recreate some of those Deep South tastes at home.

I was given the chance to try out a couple of the new limited edition Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauces; the Jack Daniel’s Extra Hot Habanero and the Jack Daniel’s Hot Pepper Steak Sauce, and decided to celebrate a sunny weekend by having our own barbecue at home.

We picked up some ribeye steaks from our local butchers, and marinaded them in the Jack Daniel’s Hot Pepper Steak Sauce for an hour or so before they went on the barbecue. The sauce is blended with jalapeño peppers and is supposed to be a sweet but spicy sauce. We tried it before the steak was cooked and it was both very sweet and very spicy.

Once the steaks were cooked to perfection the boys rigorously taste tested both the sauce (and steaks). The husband loved the sauce and said the barbecue had burnt off a lot of the heat and helped enhance the smokey sweetness of the sauce, my Dad who had the second steak, found it a bit on the hot side for him, but both steaks were polished off quickly and efficiently.

Jack Daniels Barbecue Sauce

I rather brazenly drizzled a large amount of the Jack Daniel’s Extra Hot Habanero sauce on my veggie burger. It was a bold move given the spice level, but I managed to eat it and enjoy it. Yes, it was most definitely at the hottest end of my tolerance scale, but I still enjoyed the smokey undertones and the hint of barbecue sweetness in the sauce.

These sauces are not for the faint hearted, but they do make a large range of Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauces, some aren’t face meltingly hot, some are, some are sweet and some are smokey, so it’s worth having a look and seeing what might float your boat if you’re after buying a barbecue sauce. The Jack Daniel’s Smooth Original Barbecue sauce has long been a standard condiment in our fridge, and I tend to smother almost anything with it.

Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauces are available from most major supermarkets. More information is available on their website.

Disclaimer: I was sent the two bottles of barbecue sauce free of charge for review purposes. This is not affected my opinion of the sauces.

How to show me that you love me

Wake me gently in the morning. Maybe spoon me until I wake up in your arms. This will make me happy.

Before you go to work in the morning, even if you’re rushing, pause to kiss me and hold me a little, just long enough for me to feel your heart beating in your chest and for me to wish you a nice day at the office dear.

Text me at some point during the day to say hi. Respond to my texts, even if it’s brief, just so I know you’ve received and read them.

When you get home from work, kiss me and look at me like you’ve missed me just a little bit.

When we eat dinner at the table, which we do most nights, talk to me, tell me about your day, ask about mine, talk to our son. Look me in the eye. Smile your gorgeous smile, the one where your eyes crinkle a little at the sides.

Hold my hand.

Hold me.

Hug me.

Talk to me.

Laugh with me.

At bedtime, tell me you love me, kiss me, hold me, spoon me if you’d like. Let me fall asleep feeling loved and feeling love for you.

That is how to show me that you love me.

Show me you love me

BBQ Burger Maker – The Results

I’m a veggie but the boys eat meat. Where possible I like to know where our meat comes from; make sure it’s been treated right and it’s good quality. We like to cook from scratch, and whilst it’s easy to buy ready made burgers for the barbeque, it’s also pretty darn easy to make them yourself.

We like to buy good quality steak mince from our local butcher, season with salt and pepper, shape them into patties and barbecue or grill to perfection. The only part of this process which tends to fall down is my pattie shaping, I often end up with quite lumpy burgers, which then cook unevenly, which isn’t ideal.

I was sent this Kleeneze Burger Maker and Store to try. It’s a simple piece of kit, you just make up your burger mixture, pop it in the maker and press. It squashes and shapes it into a uniform burger shape and size ready for cooking. It’s really simple to use and easy to clean.

Burger maker

The store is a plastic tube which you can stack your burgers in to keep them fresh ready for your barbecue.

It costs only £6.99 and is worth buying if you like cooking from scratch, especially if you, like me have a tendency towards making wonky shaped burgers, then this burger making kit is really useful.

Disclaimer: I was sent a burger maker kit by Kleeneze free of charge for review purposes.