Therapeutic Sunday baking

Therapeutic Sunday baking

Leafing through my signed copy of Simply Nigella, it caught my eye: the Date and Marmalade Christmas Cake that tastes of a fine Christmas pudding, apparently, that Quakers used to say was “The invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon.” Obviously, that sounded to me like a challenge.

So today, dear Reader, I made it. A strange confection, gluten free, dairy free, with a base of fruit and nuts, with coconut oil and eggs. Naturally, I somehow did not have the requisite 20cm Springform tin, though I could have sworn I had one a few days ago, so I improvised with one of those parchment liners from Lakeland that I happened to have in the cupboard. (All my baking tins are in a cupboard in the utility room as even my new kitchen has no space for them. Nigella, apparently, has a whole wardrobe dedicated to baking tins, for the same reason.)

It seems to have turned out OK though I don’t think anyone will be eating it until at least Christmas Day afternoon, so I’ll have to report back. The idea of using coconut oil has intrigued me, though. In India it’s been used since the beginning of time as a skin lotion and hair conditioner, and my mother used it on her own long hair. I remember the bottles of solidified oil warming up to melt on the radiator behind the telephone table in the hall at home. I hated the stuff because I didn’t want to reek of it. How funny, then, that it’s become such a fashionable superfood now.

I have vegetarian guests over Christmas and one of my tasks over the next few days is to make mince pies – I never buy them. I use a combination of butter and white fat for the shortcrust pastry but I’m not happy about using hydrogenated vegetable oil so recently I’ve used lard. Which is, of course, not acceptable for vegetarians.

So I wondered whether I could substitute white fat for coconut oil. People like @VeganNeil, who should know, have pointed me in the direction of sites that use coconut oil for pastry crusts so I think I might well give them a go to satisfy my curiosity if nothing else. I’ll report back when I do.


And another day, another batch of brownies. This time, after many, many years, I finally used the correct sized pan. I added 8 minutes to the woefully inadequate 25 minute cooking time, let them cool completely and they were STILL runny in the centre and had to be saved by microwaving them. I wonder if my brownies will ever turn out properly.


Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer Oil-free: a review

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving started to use primers only in the past few months, I am completely converted to their use under foundation. Somehow they act as a sort of weightless undercoat to smooth skin and illuminate it through the foundation.

I’ve tried a Smashbox primer and the Chanel one but then came across the Hourglass display in John Lewis, tried this and was hooked. I’m not sure whether it makes me look better, though I think it does. It certainly clings onto my carefully painted face all day and somehow gives me a radiance that is difficult to describe. I was told by counter staff that this product renders one’s make-up water-resistant. I can’t vouch for that but my eyes are certainly watery in the sping and the Veil foundation I use over the top of this did not go anywhere.

So let’s establish that I adore this product and would always want to keep some in both my home make-up drawer and in my gym bag.

There’s a big HOWEVER to this, though. Marketing includes the method of consumption and  in the case of Hourglass this is a pump dispenser. I’ve already had to raise a complaint with Hourglass about a faulty pump dispenser for the Veil foundation – I had my pump replaced by Hourglass and a new foundation sent to me by Net-A-Porter- because the product is often too thick to be handled by the pump, which it clogs too quickly.

In the case of the primer, however, the product seems to separate in the bottle meaning that when you pump it out you get only the waterier part of the primer coming out onto your hand and I’m not sure that this wheyish fluid has the same effect as the whole product. What is left in the tube is much thicker and, if you scoop it out onto your hand, it appears more convincing at doing its job properly.

This product is expensive – £50 for 30ml – so I am dismayed that it seems to melt away to next to nothing in its bottle over time. Look at the picture of the bottle: I’m sure I haven’t used that much but now face having to buy more primer after only about 2 or three months. It’s as if I had carefully whipped up an Italian meringue and a few months later the air had leached out of the product and it had ended up as a tiny bit of sugar in the bottom of a bowl.

I have seen squeezy tubes of this Veil primer at £70 for 60ml, which seems better value, especially if the product does not separate or disappear in the tube. It looks as if I’ll be buying one of these imminently so please do help me confirm or deny the feedback I have assumed. Apparently Hourglass are changing their packaging from August this year and I hope it works out with the new delivery of primer.


Happy Easter

My dogs appear to be enjoying a lazy Easter Sunday.



Are you enjoying your Easter Sunday?

Did you have an Easter egg this morning? In our family we all presented each other with flavour variations of eggactly the same egg from Hotel Chocolat in Bromley, so original is our thought.

I’m fretting about my dieting again. I’ve been on the 5:2 fast diet for over a year now, as you know and, although I am quite tired and grumpy on the two fast days, normally Monday and Thursday, every week, I’ve lost a stone in weight quite easily and the fasting has become more a way of life than something imposed on a reluctant me by a hectoring diet-conscious me.

It’s just that last half stone that’s always been the problem. I’m sure that now I’ve reached a bit of a plateau. There have been a couple of times when I’ve been overjoyed at going down to within a couple of kilos of my probably over-ambitious target weight but this  feeling had been ephemeral and evaporates quickly when I inevitably regain a kilo or two within the next couple of days. Not through over-eating, I hasten to add. I don’t do that anymore. That the OH seems to be able to lose weight while not even trying only adds to my irritation. Aaarrrghh! So frustrating!

The things that seem to inhibit my weight loss:


Easter (obviously)



Flying to India and back


Ice cream

Going to the gym.

Not going to the gym.

The odd glass of wine of beer.

Getting inexorably older


I’m doomed, I know I am. I really don’t want to give up all these things but it’s certainly something to consider in order to stay trim for later in the year. (In the current straightened climate I daren’t even think about the possibility of a holiday.) It is, however, much easier to stay away from sweet things in the spring and summer as one tends not to comfort eat. I’m off to India next Sunday and, at least in Neral, there is no sweet temptation around. The good people at Dignity Lifestyle make sure that only healthy food is served so maybe I’ll shed a few ounces there.


I do hope you’re finding your way around this new Minnow theme. I prefer it to the previous Diary/Notebook theme not least because it’s responsive across most digital devices and it was designed very recently so it’s easy to add plugins and posts of all sorts. I like the clean look of it too and captions sit neatly under the photos, which was not the case with the fussy diary theme.

The disadvantage is, however, that I don’t think my readers have noticed that there’s a Menu Sidebar over there on the right hand side where you can see my tag cloud and recent posts and categories and my event calendar. You hadn’t noticed? I’m not surprised. Some of the practicalities have been sacrificed in the name of minimalism, I think.

To access the menu sidebar, click on the menu icon on the top right hand side of this screen. It’s the one with the the horizontal lines. Yes, that’s it. I warn you, though, it doesn’t always work. Like a Phillippe Starck Juicy Salif, it’s not always entirely up to the purpose for which it is designed but persevere and my Sidebar will slide out to the right.

You’ll then be able to see my page structure including my videos and Spotify playlists and there’s a Portfolio page of my reviews in case you want to be reminded. There’s also a day by day progress tracker of photos from our kitchen building work. It’s slightly dull at the moment, composed, as it is of pictures of the moonscape that is currently our garden but I hope it will become more exciting in the next couple of weeks. Which reminds me that there will be no-one to take daily photos when I’m in India. I’ll try and sort that out. Maybe the Boywonder, who returns this week from his Australian winery odyssey, will oblige.


You might have noticed that the classified ad for my Phillips RéAura has disappeared from my blog. This is because I managed to sell it on Gumtree within a week! Yes, I know!

I had been full of seething resentment that I’d had to fork out £800 for a machine that had left me with hyper-pigmentation which, in turn, cost me an arm and a leg and a lot of embarrassing moments in glycol acid peels to try and remedy the situation. It did not remedy the situation. When I raised this issue with Phillips, they denied this could be the case and said that it had been tested across all ethnicities.

They said that the little dots on my face thrown up by the RéAura were excess pigment rising to the top of the face. I ask you! I’m quite offended that they think their consumers so stupid that they’ll fall for that and that the SpaceNK sales assistants spouted this rubbish too. In fact the dots were little scabs but my skin deals with this sort of injury by throwing up melanin pigmentation. Phillips had no answer to this. I know I should have sent the thing back but I thought that time would heal and then I felt completely foolish that I’d been taken in by this injurious machine so it lay in its box in my wardrobe, unloved and unused for almost three years.

I was going to put the RéAura on a skip but decided I’d try and sell it and guess what? Within a week a lady contacted me to say that she’d read up all about the RéAura and offered me my asking price for it. I was concerned that she wasn’t aware of the risks of hyper-pigmentation, and made sure that I alerted her to them, but she seemed happy to accept them. In the end she paid me through Paypal and I sent off the RéAura the same day. Done and dusted! I’m really pleased and I hope she’s pleased with her cut-price purchase of an item that Phillips have apparently discontinued. It was all so civilised and quick and easy. I want to know what else I can sell to raise a bit of cash.

Shade 50 Beige



This photo illustrates my current problem quite well, I think. It’s got to the time of year where I’m at my palest (and least interesting.) My skin hasn’t encountered any meaningful sun for so long that I have faded past the lightest of my foundations. Even the splendidly colour-matched Hourglass Veil Fluid Makeup in shade Beige has made my face take on an orangey look, which means that it is too dark.

I am, by the way, quite embarrassed at how wrinkly my hand appears on this photo. Obviously my hands are not HD ready.

As the Veil Fluid is so expensive, (and I want to go darker later in the year if necessary rather than lighter with that) I cast around looking for options from the dozens of bottles of very similarly hued foundations that I currently own. I settled on Chanel’s shade 50 Beige. I have this shade in three different Chanel foundations. In the photo from left to right observe the Chanel Vitalumière Loose Powder Foundation; Chanel Vitalumière Aqua and Chanel Perfection Lumière. We’ve already established that the Chanel Vitalumière (not Aqua) was too dark or rosy for me, which is why I looked for the Hourglass in the first place. Are you keeping up?

They are all supposed to be the same shade but observe the difference in them! How annoying. You’d expect that foundations marked with the same shade would be the same actual colour! And the wrong shade of foundation can make the difference between carefully matched natural colour and the story of orange tan that one sees on a reality show.

In the end I’ve settled on the Vitalumière Aqua for the time being. I’m making a big fuss of a triviality, I know, and it matters not a jot in the scheme of things but I actually removed my make up in the middle of the day yesterday because I was so self conscious about resembling a satsuma in my fruit bowl. This stuff matters to me, at least.


How nice it was that we sang Happy Birthday to our lovely Choirmaster, Simon, last night at the end of choir practice. He has a Big Birthday coming up in the holidays apparently. 40! I’m amazed that he’s still so young. Goodness. I remember when I was so apprehensive about hitting 40 and it’s nothing. In fact I’m sure that my fifth decade has been the best one yet. He wants to try facing the NEXT Big Birthday.

Speaking of which I’ve finally acknowledged that our joint birthday party, planned for July, is not going to happen until later in the year. Our builder, bless him, was trying so hard to get it all done for us, but he was really working up to the wire, besides which the kitchen would not have been finished in time. Better to do it a few months later at our leisure and hope that the early autumn rain will hold off.


[fdropcap bg=”#333333″ color=”#ffffff”]I[/fdropcap] t’s not been a great day, emotionally. It feels odd sharing those sorts of feelings in public on this blog. I’ve done it before and brought a shower of concerned comments from very kind people down in a sort of warm, rose-scented rain. It almost feels like attention seeking to be less than relentlessly cheery but we all have our less than cheery days, don’t we? It’s a normal part of life.

I am listless, dear reader, melancholy and vulnerable. The day started with a FaceTime argument with Boywonder. It would be really unfair of me to list all those arguments again in a public forum to which he is unable to reply and one which will make you think less of him but goodness, we’ve been over this ground so many times before and I’m so tired of it all. I feel rattled, defeated, my head like a watermelon shattering on brick. Just understand and empathise quietly please. I don’t want any advice, not even of the well-meaning sort. That only exposes my helplessness or idiocy and I really can’t take that at the moment. No-one on the outside really understands the whole situation. Well-meaning advice will make me defensive.

Maybe I’m hormonal but I’m feeling vulnerable too. The enormity of this kitchen project is dawning on us. I’m trying to ensure that all the details are included but again I feel like a mere cost centre acting on a whim, every penny of extra expenditure questioned on, say, limescale filters (in this area of spectacularly hard über chlorinated water,) or integrated knife racks. And the reasonably-priced slate I’ve found, that will save 20% on the cost of the flooring? Not mentioned.

It’s just passing nerves, I’m sure. When the work starts as planned next week, I imagine the jitters will dissolve.


The Bromley Youth Concert Band gave a concert tonight and I had offered to help with interval refreshments. One of the fundraising committee had very kindly whipped up a few dozen cupcakes at the last minute but despite looking fabulous, they didn’t sell well. It would have been good to have offered tea and coffee. I don’t think the audience associated cupcakes with wine or beer.

I’m feeling conflicted having let a member of staff have a complementary beer. Now I’m feeling guilty about that. This is all redoubled fundraising to try and redress the shortfall of having lost half of our funding from Bromley Council and it feels wrong to let people have things for free. We are, after all, having to pay £1 a time for the privilege of a small slice of cake. We parents are having to pay increased ensemble and tuition fees as well as stumping up for raffle tickets (and prizes) at every available opportunity. Mr B shouldn’t have had the temerity to ask, especially since I demanded £1 from a poor 1st trumpet mate of the Boywonder’s for a glass of interval apple juice (I feel equally bad about this), but managed to get around me quite easily and now I’m kicking myself for my embarrassment. Perhaps I’m not cut out for retail. Here is a picture of the beautiful but intimidating cupcakes, anyway:



I’ve finally put my Phillips RéAura up for sale on Gumtree. If you click on the tag down there on the right, you’ll see all the review posts I did where I was happy about the effect on the texture of my skin but deeply underwhelmed at the hyper-pigmentation caused by my skin’s melanin stress response. Here’s a picture of the RéAura. This one, a replacement for the faulty original, was only used once. I’ve been quite honest on my Gumtree ad about not recommending this for those with darker skins but I hope I get a buyer to at least pay some of the huge initial cost of the machine. If you fancy buying it, just message me.

This is my problem: sadly I’m not one of those people who is sent huge amounts of free review stuff, largely because I insist on absolute honesty rather than spinning a product. I’m happy to talk up a product if I like it. It’s so much easier to be honest when one is outside patronage or sponsorship deals. Of course, this means I have to buy all those products myself and I am now completely broke. Poor woman.



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