Saturday, 31 October 2015

Its Pumpkin Time! Lets Get Carving

It's that time of the year again, when witches and ghouls come out in the open asking for treats and threatening to trick you if you don't have anything for them.

Many households will have a carved out pumpkin with a light inside outside the front door (almost all houses will have a Jack-o-Lantern display in the USA).  But David Finkle (aka Pumpkin Dave) takes things one step further - he is a double Guinness World Record Holder:- Fastest pumpkin carver and the most pumpkins carved in one hour.
This year David has gone one step further and has carved famous faces in his pumpkins. These are celebrities you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of and the top 5 are:-
1. Lord Sugar
2. Gordon Ramsay
3. Simon Cowell
4. Katie Hopkins
5. Jeremy Clarkson

Asda sent me a pumpkin and pumpkin carving kit but I am afraid I always carve my 'signature' pumpkin face.
What do you think - does it scare you?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Norwegian Escape Inaugural Cruise - And A Reluctant Cruiser!

The things I do for you dear reader! Anyone that knows me knows how reluctant I am to travel aboard any size boat or ship!

So what possessed me to apply to the Mumsnet panel to review the Norwegian Escape Inaugural Cruise from Southampton - I really can't say but I was looking forward to it.

We were invited to board from 11:30 with a sailing time of 18:00 which would include time for a ship tour and mandatory emergency drill.

For the inaugural cruise we sailed out into the English Channel and back at a leisurely pace with an opportunity to try the staterooms, king size beds and super comfy pillows!
This ship is enormous, with a capacity for 4,200 passengers however there are enough places for food and drink and some venues open 24 hours eliminating the need for long queues at meal times.  Almost a whole deck is dedicated to looking after the younger cruiser giving parents a chance for some 'us' time and plenty of above deck activities to keep them busy and happy.

I kept expecting to feel queasy but aside from a few shudders around 23:00 I really didn't feel a thing.
As a group we attended a drinks reception at the District Brew House and onto Food Republic, a Japanese style tapas restaurant with an up to the minute tablet ordering system for dinner.
We were advised to pick three items each but this was really more food than we could eat!
The ship spans 20 decks with a central atrium connecting decks 6, 7 & 8,
giving easy access to some of the 28 dining options and 21 bars and lounges such as Tabacco Road named after the famous Miami establishment.
Not to mention some of the others:-
There is plenty to do outside, including a joggers track, pools, slides, bars, zip wires and climbing wall.
On floors 17 & 18 is the private key card only entry area called The Haven. The Haven by Norwegian on Norwegian Escape offers 95 spectacular, ultra-luxurious suite accommodation. Imagine sitting in the bath and having a view like this!
The Escape will have Miami as it's home base and operate seven-day Eastern Caribbean trips from Miami; ports include St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas
The final decision is that I would certainly try a longer cruise (in calm waters) with Mr R and will be pouring over the Norwegian Cruise Line cruise book.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet.  I have not paid for the product or to attend an event.  I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. (I have received a voucher as a token of thanks for this post)

Monday, 26 October 2015

Time to Clean Up - Dyson V6: No strings attached!

What was James Dyson thinking when he first bucked the trend and designed a wheelbarrow with a ball instead of a tyre at the front? He wanted to create a product that served it's purpose better than anything else available.

After the wheelbarrow came the revolutionary vacuum cleaner.

A recent afternoon spent in London and I was introduced to the new Dyson V6 cordless vacuum cleaner. This machine has110 revs per minute and twice the suction!
Mat from Dyson showing us the first Dyson vac motor - not looking too big
however look how small the new V6 motor is!! Hardly any size at all but loads of power.
Because the motor is in the handle all the weight is at that end enabling you to lift the V6 right up to the ceiling to even get those pesky and seasonal spiders.
|At the event cereal, rice and baking powder were sprinkled on a variety of surfaces and vacuumed up using the new Dyson V6 and each time and under each circumstance there was nothing left.
All of the adults loved the new machines however it was obvious it was 'child's play' cleaning up the show room!
Compact and cordless they don't take up much room and are available when you need them, all ready to go.
I was a guest of Dyson using the opportunity to get to know the new Dyson V6.  All opinions and photos are my own.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Review: Pizza Express Winter Menu

I always love having a meal at my local Pizza Express. Pizza Express opened it's first restaurant in 1965 in London's Soho and have not changed their menu much whilst at the same time have kept it up to date and interesting.

The current menu includes the classics and has several new items added.

I went with Mr R for a quiet Saturday evening out together, something which doesn't happen often due to my hectic schedule.

For starters Mr R had the new Risotto Mio, lovely and creamy with mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle oil.
I had the new Calamari, rings of really tender squid covered in breadcrumbs and served with a Caesar dressing.  I almost expected to find an onion ring inside as I am used to calamari coming in chunks.
Mr R had the new Soho pizza designed to celebrate the original menu of 1965 and opted for the extra selection of cured meats. He picked the classic base not being that fond of the really thin pizza bases.
I wanted to have a new item but the Pizza Express Calzone is my all time favourite and I am afraid that I had to have one of those.
Calzone means pocket in Italian and this is a pizza that looks like an over sized pasty filled with tomato, salami, spinach, cheese and herbs. Mmmm, delicious as usual and far to big to finish so I have half of it to take home.
Mr R ordered the new mini potatoes from the menu and because it took a bit longer than the manager liked he brought us over a huge piece of mozzarella cheese covered in pesto and sweet mini tomatoes.
The Noci potatoes followed shortly and Mr R also called the Potato Monster got stuck in.
Dessert time and neither of us wanted a really heavy pudding.  The two new additions to the dessert menu were perfect.

Bombolini - little doughnut bites filled with strawberry jam surrounding a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream.
Salted Caramel Profiteroles - just three little filled profiteroles dipped in a caramel icing with little bits of honeycomb accompanied by a cafe late - the prefect way to end the meal and the evening.
All the while our waiter, Fabrizio looked after us perfectly, not ignoring us nor being too pushy and recommending his favourites as well.

We slowly waddled our way back to the car park feeling full and satisfied.

We were guests of Pizza Express and as usual all opinions and photos are our own.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Giveaway: Desert Island Dishes - cookbook

I have an extra copy of this lovely cookbook - a collection of recipes from top chefs celebrating 130 years of Maldon Sea salt.
Beautiful photographs
Delicious recipes
Up to the minute preserves,
All make this book into a kitchen shelf 'must have'. 

If you want a copy of this book follow the rafflecopter instructions below because I have one copy to give away. 

This giveaway is only for the UK and USA  and there is only one copy to give away. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 16 October 2015

Bonfire Night Chicken and Bacon

A great recipe to prepare for Bonfire Night on 5th November is my 'Bonfire Night Chicken & Bacon'. You can get this into the oven early on serve when everyone comes in from the cold either with rice or jacket potatoes.

8-10 chicken thighs
14 slice pack of smoked streaky bacon
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato ketchup
1.5 tsp Tabasco with chipotle
1/2 - 1 red chili, de-seeded if you want to miminize the heat
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp tomato puree
1 large or 2 medium cloves of garlic, crushed
salt & pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together except the chick thighs and streaky bacon together and lay on the bottom of a rectangular baking dish.
Place the chicken thighs on top of the tomato + ingredients
and lay the streaky bacon over the whole meat.
Bake in a 180C oven for about 55-60 minutes. Turn the heat up for a final 10 minutes if you need to crisp up the bacon.
Serve with jacket potatoes or basmati rice.

Judge Cookware - Sizzle and Serve Cast Iron

I love cast iron for cooking and if you look after it you will have the pieces for a lifetime.

Judge Cookware have come out with a new range of cast iron cookware with a wooden serving base plate that protects your counters and table tops whilst making it an easy take to the table piece.
When you get your cast iron cookware home a little pre-care will ensure you can begin cooking and enjoying the unique results straight away. This piece comes with straightforward instructions to pre-treat and season your cast iron piece and how to look after it afterwards.

The benefits of cast iron cookware are:

1. It can be used on higher temperatures,
2. You can use it in the oven, on the stove top and even on the BBQ,
3. After seasoning it when new it will gradually become non-stick with use.
4. Your food will stay hot longer and can be served straight from the oven to the table.
I wanted to try mine on the BBQ for cooking onions, really useful to have on the side when hosting friends to a cook out.  If you have a BBQ with a side gas burner you can cook on that whilst using the grills for the meat or veggies or put it straight on the grills to be heated by the flames.

Due to the wet weather I still cooked the onions but inside on the stove top.
Thanks to Judge Cookware for my Sizzle and Serve Gratin Dish.  As always all opinions and photos are my own.