Monday, 30 March 2015

Footprint painting crafts

You may remember our recent handprint crafts session when we transformed Pierre's handprints into a variety of creatures. I made a throwaway comment that it could be good fun to try with footprints too and he's been begging to have a go ever since so I finally relented and we got the paint pad and some sheets of paper out in the bathroom, so I could plop him straight in the bath when he was covered in paint ! Once they'd dried, it was time to see what we could turn them into.

This was my first attempt. I'm not really sure what it's supposed to be - a duck with legs maybe ?! I had visions of turning the toes into eggs and drawing a nest around the bottom of the duck which would make more sense.

This was my favourite (of my efforts) - a sealion balancing a sparkly ball on its nose.

Pierre decided to turn his first one into Barbapapa.

Then we got the feathers out to create a fluffy bird.

I saw this idea for a tractor online (by googling "footprint paintings").

So Pierre had a go at making an aeroplane.

This bearded man is very cute.

But I have no idea what this one was supposed to be !

Or this one - it's got colourful feathers though, what more could you need ?!

It's amazing how much fun you can have with a simple paint pad and I love seeing how inventive kids can be.

Globe-cooking recipe : Kyuri No Sunomono (Japan)

This Japanese starter, combining rehydrated seaweed and cucumber, really didn't sound very appetising but it was surprisingly tasty. Each individual ingredient separately wasn't particularly nice - the seaweed had a pungent fishy taste like anchovies, the cucumber strips were salty and the vinegar sauce was very acidic - but they all come together in perfect harmony. The star ingredient that really makes the dish is the surprising Ume Plum Sesame Seeds that add a lovely nutty topnote.

Kyuri No Sunomono

ingredients :

4g (half a jar) of dried Wakame seaweed
2tbsp Ume Plum Sesame Seeds
1/2 cucumber
100ml rice vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
1tbsp sugar
1tbsp soy sauce

This month's Japanese-themed Kitchen Trotter box included a jar of dehydrated Wakame Seaweed.

It looks a bit like tea leaves when you put it in a bowl, but it has a very strong fishy smell, reminiscent of the sea.

Add cold water and leave for 10 minutes to rehydrate. It will double or even triple in size so a little goes a long way. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible.

Peel and thinly slice the cucumber into strips. Lay out on a plate and sprinkle with salt, then leave for 20 minutes, to remove excess water. Rinse thoroughly to remove as much salt as possible (but they will stay quite salty). They should go quite soft and ploppy. Carefully squeeze out excess water with kitchen roll or a clean tea towel.

Combine the vinegar, sugar and soy sauce to create a dressing. Stir until the sugar has totally dissolved.

Put the cucumber strips in the bottom of individual ramekins, put a dollop of seaweed on top, drizzle with the vinegar dressing and sprinkle generously with Ume Plum Sesame Seeds.

It's a surprising blend of flavours that creates a light, refreshing and undoubtedly healthy starter.

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! *** 

Fancy trying some other Japanese dishes? How about Horenso No Shira-aé and Kamo No Teriyaki & Yakisoba (Teriyaki Duck with Soba Noodles)? 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Making Jus Rol Pain Au Chocolat

While rummaging through the fridge the other day trying to make space for ANOTHER fridge cake (the Madhouse kids have got slightly obsessed with making - and eating ! - them), I came across this pack of Jus Rol Pain Au Chocolat that has been lurking in there ever since Sophie saw it on the supermarket shelf and asked if we could buy so that she could make them. She was busy on facebook with her friend so didn't want to come and help make them though, so it ended up being Juliette and Pierre who discovered how quick and simple they are to create. (Sophie did manage to prise herself off her laptop to eat them though, funnily enough !) 

The first thing we were impressed by was the innovative packaging - you just twist the inner cannister and it springs apart, revealing the puffy pastry underneath that splurges out. You can't get fresher than that !

You carefully unroll the pastry.

Then pull it apart using the handy perforations.

Put the pastry pieces on a greased baking tray, lay a chocolate strip on each end and fold over to the middle then flip them over.

And that's it. They literally take a couple of minutes to prepare. The kids were a bit dubious though.

They don't look particularly impressive when they go into the oven.

But twelve minutes later, they look - and taste - amazing ! The pastry is soft and buttery and the chocolate isn't too sweet. It is very hot though so make sure you leave them to cool for a few minutes before tucking in, to avoid burning your mouth. They're not as flaky as proper pain au chocolat bought in a French boulangerie but they are better than most shop-bought ones we've tried - we were extremely impressed.

Globe-cooking recipe : Horenso No Shira-aé (Japan)

Despite absolutely loving Kamo No Teriyaki (Teriyaki Duck with Soba Noodles), the first dish from my Japanese-themed Kitchen Trotter box, I really wasn't sure about the other recipes because they just didn't sound like things we'd really enjoy. In for a penny, in for a pound though, so I decided to see if they were as unappetising as I expected ! This was the first of the Japanese starters and it wasn't actually as bad as I'd thought, although I did find it a bit bland.

Horenso No Shira-aé

ingredients :

300g tofu
300g spinach
1 carrot
1tbsp mirin sauce
1tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp sugar
80g walnuts (or I used pine nuts)

The recipe needed two ingredients from the Japanese box : tofu and mirin sauce.

Empty the tofu into a saucepan, just cover with water and bring to the boil then drain.

Don't worry if it falls apart as you'll be mashing it up in a while anyway.

After chilling in the fridge for a while, mash the tofu then add the sugar, soy sauce and mirin seasoning.

Mix it all up then pop it back in the fridge. It looks decidedly unappetising at this point !

Cut a carrot into 2mm thick slices and boil in salted water for a few minutes until soft. In a separate saucepan, blanch some spinach - ideally fresh but I used frozen which worked fine too. Drain both and add them to the tofu.

Mix it all up and put back in the fridge to chill for a while before serving. Serve in individual ramekins sprinkled with walnuts or pine nuts.

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! *** 

#SilentSunday 29/3/15


Sunday weigh-in : A Bump in the Road

This week has been a bit of a meh-week. I had to console a desperately unhappy teen when Zayn quit One Direction (and figured baking cookies and fridge cake would help put a smile on her face - well,you HAVE to taste the first one to check they're ok, don't you ?!). I've been flat out at work with school reports and after school meetings, so it's been a case of speedy eating rather than healthy eating. It's been raining hard so long walks and geocaching are off the menu. It's also that time of the month. So today the scales said 85.7kg, a 500g gain, but I can deal with that !

Positives of the week

- Last week I noticed my ring and my watch have been feeling looser, this week it's my coat and jeans, so even if the scales didn't move in the right direction, something must be happening !

- I'm freshly motivated to start finding time in my busy week to dust off my fitness DVDs and the Wii Fit again

Current targets 

Last week's target : Keep making good choices and listening to the SlimPod. Throw in one session of sport. C'mon, bring on the 84 point somethings ! (HALF DONE, HALF FAILED !)

This week's targets : Let's try again - Keep making good choices and listening to the SlimPod. Throw in one session of sport. C'mon, bring on the 84 point somethings !

Short-term targets 21kg to lose sounds a lot but breaking it down, aiming for 1kg a week, that's only about 5 months - plenty of time for heading off to Turkey in August !

first target, get my "weight to lose" badge down into the 40's (it's currently on 51lb) (done),
 second goal - get back to 85.9kg, my pre-xmas weight (done )
third goal : get my "kg lost" badge back into double figures 
fourth goal : get my "weight loss" badge higher than my "still to go" badge
fifth goal : get back into my (smallest) bright blue jeans comfortably
sixth goal : get back to 77kg - my lowest weight since my pregnancies

Longer-term targets :  Hit my target weight of 68kg. 

STILL TO GO : 17.6kg

Feel free to add your weightloss posts to my weekly linkie - it's great to see how everyone else has been getting on and give each other support and encouragement. You can even grab the linkie code and add it to your own blog if you like. :)

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Saturday, 28 March 2015

Kärcher SC1 Steam Stick review

I'm sad to say, my time as a Kärcher Clean Ambassador has drawn to an end. Well, actually, I can't be too sad because I think I've reviewed pretty much all of their products over the past year ! You can check out my previous reviews to see what we thought when we roadtested their pressure washersteam cleaner, vacuum cleanerfloor polisher and Window Vac, as well as some of the accompanying accessories. For our final review, we received a brand new product from Kärcher, the innovative Steam Stick which is the first handheld steamer that can also clean your floors.

Inside the box you get a small handheld steamer unit with various attachments - a hand tool, a floor mop tool, an extension hose, a power nozzle, a detail nozzle, a round brush and two Terry cloth covers, one for the hand tool and one for the floor.

What I love about Steam Cleaners is that they deep clean without chemicals, killing 99.99% of all bacteria just using tap water. When Allergy UK independently tested them, they concluded that Kärcher steam cleaners remove 99.99% of House dust mites, 99.83% of Cat allergens, 99.01% of Dog allergens, 99.37% of Pollen allergens and 100% of Fungal spores. All without bleach or harsh chemicals so it's better for the planet and safer if you have kids or pets around.

It's not just the hidden germs though, steam cleaning is a fabulous way of tackling the stubborn grime that you never thought you'd get rid of - limescale build up on the shower walls, the grime around taps, the nooks and crannies in the oven, the extractor fan filter, ...

Kärcher are very proud of their new addition. They explain : "In a recent independent study the Kärcher Steam Stick outperformed all leading competitors using just tap water. It features an innovative new boiler system which combines the deep cleaning power of steam with the latest safety functions in a light-weight handheld design. With up to 3 bars of pressure in the palm of your hand, the Steam Stick is able to blast away the most stubborn of stains in the hardest to reach places. The Steam Stick is the ideal solution for all of your household chores, able to clean your kitchen and bathroom on just a single tank of water."

It is a really good product, although I'd have to say it's no better than the original SC 2.500 C Steam Cleaner that we reviewed. It heats up very quickly and provides consistent powerful steam cleaning. It has the advantage of being lighter and smaller, so it's easier to manouever and takes up less space in storage, and it also has a lower price tag (RRP £99.99 as opposed to £219.99 for the larger model, although you can find cheaper deals online). As we already have a bigger Steam Cleaner, I wouldn't bother buying a Steam Stick because they both do basically the same thing, but if you haven't got one yet, it's definitely a suberb ally for the spring cleaning (and winter, summer and autumn cleaning too, for that matter !). It makes cleaning much quicker and easier as well as - dare I say it ?! - rather fun. I may have been heard shouting "I'm a dragon" as I tackled the shower, but it was only to make Pierre laugh, honest !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £99.99

For more information on the Kärcher Steam Stick and other home and garden products visit

Disclosure : As a Kärcher Clean Ambassador, I have received a selection of products throughout the past year in order to write honest reviews.

Book review : White Hunger - Aki Ollikainen

Pereine Press always surprise me with their quirky, translated, contemporary European novellas. I tend to think of them as "Quick Reads for Intellectuals" and The Times Literary Supplement described them as "two-hour books to be devoured in a single sitting : literary cinema for those fatigued by film." That is actually a really good description because, despite being short (this one is only 136 pages long), they manage to sweep you away to a time and a place that you can see, smell and even taste, as they are so rich and evocative in their descriptions.

I recently received White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen, translated from the Finnish by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah, which is the 16th Pereine title and included in the Chance Encounter series. (An annual Pereine subscription consists of three books chosen from across Europe and connected by a single theme.)

White Hunger takes us to Finland in 1867, a year which saw a devastating famine that wiped out the population in vulnerable farming communities and left the glacial wastelands dotted with starving beggars, wandering from farmstead to almshouse, hoping for a charitable bowl of gruel and a safe place to lay their heads for the night before resuming their hopeless trek to St Petersburg (this intially confused me but I learnt that northern Finland was part of Russia at the time) or another bigger town which may provide salvation. Despite the universal hardship they encounter - at best, people have watery gruel or stale bread made from ground bones or bark to offer - most people accept to provide them a safe place until morning, particularly the women, who ignore their less charitable husbands who often say that they have enough trouble feeding themselves.

The narrative follows the plight of Marja, a wife and mother of two who makes the heart-wrenching decision to leave her dying husband and set off into the white wilderness with her two children in the hopes of finally reaching a better place, where they will at least have bread made with flour to eat. As she crosses the icy landscapes, encountering the best and worst of humanity, protecting her children as best she can, you get the sense that nothing is happening - just an endless chain of days spent walking through the unforgiving snow and nights hoping for enough warmth to live to see another day - but when you take a step back, there is actually a lot going on. The death of loved ones, rape and violence, loss of hope - all traumatic events that are shrugged off as trivial in bodies anaesthetised by the biting cold and wracked with constant gnawing hunger.

The book follows one mother's plight but the writing also has a universal quality, not just describing the Finnish famine of the 1860's but also today's refugees, hopelessly plodding on in the hopes of finding a safe place to survive in. It's a bleak read that will haunt you long after you have turned the final page.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £12

Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Peirene Press Ltd (1 Mar. 2015)
ISBN-10: 1908670207
ISBN-13: 978-1908670205
Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 1 x 19 cm

Disclosure : I received the book in order to write an honest review.

There's more to Costa than Coffee ! (review)

When I was a teen spending my Saturday afternoons hanging out in the town centre of Hastings with my best friend, this used to be a shoe shop. That was actually the last time I went in there because, for the last few years, it's been a Costa coffee shop. I don't drink coffee, or tea come to that, so I've never had any desire to call in to Costa Coffee. Until an email landed in my inbox inviting me to go along and try out some of their tasty baked products. It turns out that, all this time, I've been seriously missing out. Costa do so much more than just posh coffee !

To be honest, I did actually know that they served sweet treats to go with your shot of caffeine, but I didn't know they also sell paninis, toasties, sandwiches and wraps. They look really nice and fresh so it's definitely another option to look into when we need a quick family meal out and want to avoid the usual fast food suspects.

But on to the task at hand. We'd been invited along to try out their limited-edition Easter Teacake, described as "a soft sweet dough, jam-packed with juicy sultanas and jumbo Chilean flame raisins and hand finished with an Easter cross."

I'd have called it a Hot Cross Bun rather than an Easter Teacake, but whatever you call it, it was very nice. I usually eat hot cross buns cold, straight from a pack plucked off a supermarket shelf and spread with butter, but toasting them does give them a lovely texture. The Costa Easter Teacake is soft and chewy with a lovely crunchy crispness where it's been toasted. They haven't skimped on the raisins so you get a lovely sweetness coming through - basically, it's a very nice hot cross bun. It's not as spicy as I'd have liked - I always like the warming spices coming through as you chew a hot cross bun - but the kids actually preferred this. I was impressed with the price too - £1.65, which is cheaper than a lot of options, especially as it's big enough to cut in half and share.

The Hot Cross Teacake isn't the only seasonal treat on offer - the Easter specials also include  Chocolate Cornflake Crunch (cornflake cakes topped with Mini Eggs, what's not to like ?!), Pecan and Maple Muffins, Malty Chocolate Crunch and Mini Lemon and Raspberry Cakes.

We'd been given a second task though - it's such a tough life being a blogger ! - and settled down to sample their Layered Carrot Cake. The kids were not at all sure about eating a cake containing carrots - they thought I was joking initially ! - but they were reassured when they saw that it wasn't bright orange, as they expected ! They had a taste and loved the soft texture and the cream cheese icing but they were put off by the nutty flavour of the cake. Which wasn't a bad thing because it meant all the more for me ! The Carrot Cake is apparently Costa's most popular whole cake and since its launch in 2009, Costa has sold over 5.9 million slices, which corresponds to a whopping 23,517 slices every week - I can see why ! The £2.10 price tag is again quite reasonable for the size of the slice.

This was our first venture into Costa but it certainly won't be our last !

Disclosure : We received a voucher to sample the products and write an honest review.