food, reviews

Product Review: Global Gourmet Water Urn*

This might seem like a slightly random item to review but bear with me.

I have over the years organised and hosted dozens of events from parties and lunches to corporate events and fundraisers. One of the best things to remember is to always keep people fed and watered.

And being British tea is pretty important to keep people happy.

That’s where a hot water urn comes in. This one holds quite a lot of hot water – 8.8 litres, about 35 cups.

It has safety handles and nozzle so you don’t scald yourself which is definitely an improvement on some of the dodgy old ones I’ve come across in the past and some handy indicators so you don’t have to open the lid to check the water’s hot.

I think this would be perfect for events like a charity coffee morning or to keep spectators warm at a sports event. It’s not too heavy or bulky to transport and even full isn’t too much for one person to carry or move.

All you need is some cups, tea bags or coffee and the all important milk and sugar in order to keep a crowd happy. Just don’t forget the biscuits.

*This post contains gifted or sponsored items but all words and opinions are my own.

food, recipes

Celebrating St David’s Day with British Leeks*

Happy St David’s Day to any Welsh followers I may have.

While I’m not Welsh myself my godmother is and I have lots of happy memories of trips to visit her in Cardiff (although she’s originally from North Wales) and having her try to teach me a little Welsh.

I’m sure you all know that the national flower of Wales is a daffodil and the national vegetable is the humble leek.

There’s probably some ancient recipe for cooking with daffodils (although they might be poisonous) but today I’m whipping up a little dinner from the British Leeks’ cookbook.

Leeks make a great ingredient, we like them covered in cheese, grilled with a roast dinner or added to a lettuce gratin. They’re part of the same family as garlic and onions, and like their cousins are great in loads of dishes.

So for dinner tonight we’re having a delicious dish of pan roast chicken with leeks, chorizo and cider.

Serves 4 (or 2 hungry people)

You will need;

4 chicken breasts

100g chopped chorizo

400g leeks, trimmed and sliced

1 chopped clove of garlic

2 handfuls of chopped parsley

2tsp dried thyme

1 tbsp flour

100ml chicken stock

350ml cider

Salt and pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 190°c

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken breasts till golden brown and then do the same on the other side. Then place in an oven dish.

Add the chorizo to pan and fry for a few minutes till golden. Add the leeks, garlic, thyme and parsley and fry for 10 minutes till softened. Add the flour and stir.

Stir in the stock and cider and bring to the boil. Season and simmer.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the chicken was cooked through.

Serve with your choice of potatoes (boiled, mashed etc) or some nice crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Cook’s tips: if you don’t drink, swap out the cider for cloudy apple juice, remember to taste as you season and adjust as you see fit.

The resulting dish is aromatic and deeply tasty, the leeks are soft and buttery, contrasting with the peppery chorizo and the warm chicken.

What’s your favourite way to use leeks? Are you celebrating St David’s Day? Let me know in the comments.

hapus Dydd Gŵyl Dewi

*this post contains items that have been gifted or sponsored but all words and opinions are my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: Driven – Dane Cobain

This is the first book about private detective James Leipfold and his tech savvy assistant Maile O’Hara.

A young woman is killed by a car, a car that doesn’t appear to have had a driver. So who killed her?

Leipfold is a down at heel gumshoe, picking up this case on a whim, no client needed. Along the way he recruits an “intern” to complement his old school methods with newer ones. But is he going to solve the case or end up a casualty of it?

I wasn’t sure about this at first, while the initial set up was intriguing, it wasn’t until the plot picked up pace and the case began to unravel that I really got into it.

The characters are interesting – I am looking forward to book 2 and hopefully more back story about the team that now comprises Leipfold Detectives, especially computer genius but enigma Maile.

I love the little details like the way Maile and Leipfold complete crosswords without speaking, and Leipfold’s relationship with police detective Jack Cholmondley (pronounced Chumley fyi).

The London setting is of course familiar to me – from the run down cafe, endless miles of Underground and leafy suburbs around its edges.

The author, Dane Cobain, is something of a literary polymath, having written novels, poetry, non-fiction and edited anthologies, although this seems to be his first detective novel.

Driven is available now.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Devil’s Poetry – Louise Cole

Today I’m hosting a review stop on the blog tour for Louise Cole’s The Devil’s Poetry.

Questions are dangerous but answers can be deadly.

Callie’s world will be lost to war – unless she can unlock the magic of an ancient manuscript. She and her friends will be sent to the front line. Many of them won’t come back.

When a secret order tells her she can bring peace by reading from a book, it seems an easy solution – too easy. Callie soon finds herself hunted, trapped between desperate allies and diabolical enemies.

The Order is every bit as ruthless as the paranormal Cadaveri.Callie can only trust two people – her best friend and her ex-marine bodyguard. And they are on different sides.

She must decide: how far will she go to stop a war?Dare she read this book? What’s the price – and who pays it?

Commended in the Yeovil Prize 2016, this is an action-packed blend of adventure, fantasy and love story.

Goodreads

Amazon

Louise Cole has spent her life reading and writing. And very occasionally gardening. Sometimes she reads as she gardens. She can be seen walking her dogs around North Yorkshire – she’s the one with a couple of cocker spaniels and a Kindle. She read English at Oxford – read being the operative word – and hasn’t stopped reading since.

In her day-job she is an award-winning journalist, a former business magazine editor and director of a media agency. She writes about business but mainly the business of moving things around: transport, logistics, trucks, ships, and people.

Her fiction includes short stories, young adult thrillers, and other stuff which is still cooking.

Her YA and kids’ fiction is represented by Greenhouse Literary Agency and she is also published on Amazon as one of the Marisa Hayworth triumvirate.

My thoughts: I wasn’t too sure about this book when I started it, ending wars with poetry is something I can get behind but also know it doesn’t work (see the WW1 poetry and the almost non-existent effect it had).

But this book ramps up the action from the moment two teenage girls blow up a barn to escape the creepy Cadavari.

A lot happens very quickly and the writing is pacy and plotting neat.

I liked the routing the more fantastical elements in reality, from the North Yorkshire setting of much of the story to the pop culture references. It made it much more relatable and easier to connect to the characters, especially Callie and Amber.

The sequel On Holy Ground is also out now, which hopefully will explain a bit more about the background of the Order and the sinister Cadavari.

blog tour, books, giveaway

Blog Tour: Something Changed – Matthew Williams

Today I’m hosting a stop on the blog tour for Matthew Williams’ Something Changed, his debut novel.

Life can change forever in a moment…

In the aftermath of marriage breakdown how do we pick ourselves up and start again?

In August 2014 Matthew Williams was forced to do just that. In Something Changed he navigates us through his journey with wit and wisdom, taking in divorce, dating and self-discovery while facing the dark spectre of depression.

Hopes and fears, laughter and tears – all are encountered along the way to learning some important lessons about love, loss and life.

‘Have you ever noticed how life’s biggest lessons are also the most painful? Maybe that’s just life’s way of making sure we don’t forget them…’

Needle in a Haystack – Dating for the Divorced

Who’d have thought dating could seem so much like, well, hard work?
Now, the obvious point to highlight from the off is that I can only speak for myself; if Brad Pitt or, errrrrrr, Harry Styles somehow found themselves on Tinder or Plenty of Fish, chances are it might not be much of a chore. But, for this forty-something from Middlesbrough, it ain’t easy, I can tell you. Even for a Brian Cox lookalike.
In the first flush of single life entering the brave new world of online dating (well, new to someone that has been in a relationship for nineteen years anyway), the overriding sense was one of excitement and possibility. And, in spite of an odd detour (dating, bloody hell…) my first experience of online dating – where I met a wonderful woman very quickly – turned out to be far from representative of the reality of seeking your perfect partner online.
Cards on the table time – I’m a bit weird. Although I’m not detecting many sharp intakes of breath here, let me explain what I mean by that: I’m not really designed for casual relationships and one night stands. I know, I know, I’m a bloke but what can I say, faulty wiring, I guess. I’ve always been the same, I prefer to get to know somebody and want to meet somebody that I can really connect with, someone that I can laugh with as we navigate life’s ups and downs together. Someone whose presence in my life makes me a better person and brings out the best that I have to offer. So you see, basically I’m soft as shite.
Anyway, so far she’s not on Tinder. Or Plenty Of Fish. Or OK Cupid… Hell, I’m getting depressed just typing those out. And really, I haven’t done too badly, I suppose. I’ve met eight or nine women for dates. One week I had dates with three woman planned (separately I might add). To many that might sound great, but you know what? It isn’t. Well, not for me anyway, because it’s not about numbers, it’s about meeting somebody that’s right. And that’s harder than I guess I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met plenty of nice people. I don’t really have any dating disasters to speak of (sorry to disappoint you) and I’m glad for the experiences that I’ve had – in the end you learn from them and when one day in the future I am with that special person I expect I will appreciate her all the more. But when you are looking for that special someone, especially at a relatively advanced age and after nearly nine years of marriage, it can all get… dispiriting. The dating treadmill has tired me out, many times. And not in THAT way.
There are only so many times that you can get to know somebody new, only so many times you can go on a first date, only so many times you can have the same conversation with different people, and there are only so many photos of forty-something women pouting (or suffering the effects of drinking vinegar?) that I care to see.

Goodreads

Amazon

Matthew Williams is an author, blogger, speaker and coach. He lives in the North East of England with his two young children. Matthew is passionate about positive change and turning life’s challenges into lessons for creating a better future. He hopes that by writing about his own experiences he will be able to inspire others to make positive changes in their lives.

Something Changed is Matthew’s first book. More of his writing can be found at his blog, Love, Laughter & Truth.

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To win a copy of Something Changed and a £10 Amazon voucher (two prizes available) click here and follow the instructions.

beauty, beauty boxes, cruelty free, haircare, latest in beauty, make up, reviews, skincare

Beauty Box Review: Winter Glamour by Latest in Beauty*

One of the worst things about winter is once Christmas is over the glamour quotient disappears. The velvet, glitter, sequins all gone.

But when Latest in Beauty sent me their Winter Glamour box it brought back a little sparkle.

This box is rammed with treats – and I’ve already played around with a lot of it.

Max Factor Creme Bronzer in Light Gold – I’m not great with bronzer, I think I get a bit confused about whether it should be like blusher or highlighter in terms of application but this is very pretty and shimmery.

This Works Plus Hair Elixer – this spray goes on your hair at night to improve its quality. It smells quite herbal and I definitely want to see if it helps my grumpy hair.

Nude by Nature Radiant Loose Powder Foundation – I’ve never used a powder foundation before – my bad skin as a teenager required thick cream/liquid and I’ve mostly used various liquid bases since then. I think this is lovely and silky and could work quite nicely over the worst patches when my liquid foundation isn’t enough.

Rodial XXL Lip Liner in Nude – I don’t really use lip liner as the lipsticks I wear don’t really seem to bleed but some of the newer ones I’ve bought are a bit feathery so this might be useful. And as a nude tone I reckon it’ll work under most shades.

Charles Worthington Moisture Seal Leave in Conditioner – I haven’t used this yet because I haven’t washed my hair this week, and it says it should be smoothed through damp hair but having used a similar CW product before I know it was quite nice on my hair.

Moroccoanoil Treatment – argan oil is my hair’s best friend so this will get used quickly.

Ecotools Perfecting Blender Duo – I have these sponges so extra are always welcome. I love a blending sponge.

Kitsch Hair Ties – these are so sparkly and cute. Sometimes I feel like I collect hair ties, I have so many.

The Vintage Cosmetic Co. Duo Pencil Sharpener – this is very helpful, I don’t know what happened to my last sharpener.

Most of the items are from cruelty free brands, with one or two exceptions (I like to check on this website and via Google before I buy).

This is a really nice mix of products, some boxes can be heavily weighted to certain types of products, and I like the inclusion of the beauty tools and hair ties.

*I was gifted this item for review but all words and opinions are my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: Death in Shetland Waters by

Signed on to a tall ship Cass Lynch is sailing from Norway to Ireland as part of a race. Things are about to take a nasty turn and Cass will need to keep her wits about her as there’s a stowaway on board and it could turn deadly.

I didn’t realise this was number 6 in a series but I think you can read it as a stand alone without too much trouble, although there are a few references to previous books.

My favourite characters were easily Cat and Rat, I loved the idea of these two buddies hanging out amidst the human drama.

The setting was also intriguing, the Scottish islands, including Shetland, are fascinating and in my day job I have to know a bit about ships (although not so much tall ships).

I think if you’re after a crime thriller that isn’t Scandi noir but still has clever twists, and is a fairly easy going read, then this book and its predecessors will do the trick.