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Milk shake mix-ins

This is a great way to use up scrappy bits of ice cream ‘n’ bits you may have, or just to amuse yourself for five minutes in the kitchen – it’s permissible to buy ice cream just to make these, too.

I got the idea from an ice cream shop in Aldeburgh called The IceCreamery – which is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Here you select your ice cream ‘base’ – vanilla, chocolate, strawberry etc., then add a ‘mix in’. And here’s where it gets fun, and slightly diabetic-inducingly crazy.

The mix-ins can be M&Ms, Jaffa Cakes, Oreos and a million other alternatives, and these get added/crushed into your ice cream to give you a custom-made ice cream.

Or you can have it made into a milk shake.

My eldest chose vanilla and Oreos and my youngest chose chocolate and M&Ms. I watched, in awe/horror as about four scoops of ice cream were put into a mixer and then – in the case of the M&Ms – a WHOLE PACKET of M&Ms were put in. I would never, in a million years, let my youngest (who is tiny) eat a whole packet of M&Ms in one go, let alone with four scoops of ice cream.

But I had to metaphorically shut my eyes and switch off my inner mummy-OMG-ness and just go with it.

The milk shake was amazing, I hesitate to say the best ever as of course the best ever milk shakes were those my dad made for me in his cafe, when I was a child. But aside from that:

BEST EVER.

The vanilla and Oreos was particularly memory-hogging.

So when I got home I sought to recreate these but using less ice cream and less mix-ins and the way I make them isn’t more calorie-laden than a regular ice cream in a cone, I put two scant ice cream scoops in my Nutribullet, with some milk and some mix-ins (like one cookie if it’s an Oreo, maybe one and a half) and blend the whole thing together.  So far we’ve done:

Strawberry ice cream with fresh mint

Strawberry ice cream with Milky Way Magic stars

Chocolate and fresh mint

Coffee ice cream with Oreos

Vanilla and Oreos

Vanilla and Milky Way Magic stars

Vanilla and jam ‘doughnut’ sponge crumbs (these were left over from some Nigella jam doughnut muffins which my eldest made which stuck to the tin and I scraped out and froze and I add them straight into the mix and it works beautifully).

Chocolate and peanut butter……you get the idea.

Of course I had to buy the special cups and lids and straws.

26 July 2016 update: I made raspberry cheesecake milkshakes today: vanilla ice cream, frozen jam doughnut sponge crumbs, fresh raspberries, milk and a dollop cream cheese. DELICIOUS. I didn’t have one (just tasted it) otherwise I’d be the size of a house come the weekend with all the milk-shaking we have going on..

 

 

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Hinza bags

I love a bag, and these are great. They are Hinza bags, which were designed in the 1950s in Sweden.

They are basically a trug in the shape of a bag. Completely impractical in lots of ways:

The strap digs into your arm if you have carry it in the crook of your arm.

A total pick pocket’s delight as everything is easily accessible.

No interior pockets so everything is chucked in together.

But also totally brilliant in lots of ways:

Because they are the same colour in, as out, you can easily see everything in your bag.

Everything is somehow easier to find as it’s chucked in together and no zips or flaps to undo.

You can sit on a beach and know they won’t get a soggy bottom.

You hose them down if they get dirty.

Really easy to carry in your hands.

They sit where you put them.

You can just chuck everything in.

They are really jolly. This matters.

They come in two sizes and lots of different colours. I got mine (the small) from Hus and Hem, which is a fabulous Scandi website and it cost £18. The service was amazing. I had barely pressed ‘confirm order’ and it arrived. But you can also get from little independents. I saw some in Burnett & Company, a lovely interiors shop in Aldeburgh, last week. (46 High Street, IP15 5AB.)

 

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Microplane foot grater

I think it’s about this time of year that people pull the sandals out and realise that they have neglected their feet all winter.

I have always looked after my feet. This is a legacy of a) never being allowed out of the house until I was 18, hence having lots of time on my hands to spend on my feet and b) I never wore high or restrictive shoes as a teenager so my feet were pretty nice and I wanted to look after them.

This ‘foot grater‘ however, takes things to a whole different level. I bought one about a year ago and the reviews warned “take care as it’s so addictive, you can end up with really sore feet”.

“What idiot would do that?” thought I, as I watched foot shavings fall off my feet. The next day I went to Orfordness on a massive walk and realised my feet hurt and that I was that idiot.

So be careful. What you do is basically grate the hard skin off your feet – it’s that hardcore but leaves your feet really soft – if you don’t overdo it. Nothing works as well as this – forget all other foot buffers/pumice stones etc. It is addictive and the little shavings do look like parmesan (sorry if you’re eating whilst reading this).

Whatever you do, don’t store this grater in the kitchen with your other Microplane graters. I think that’s why Microplane helpfully make it in pink.

This cream is really nice to rub in afterwards.

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Pomegranate and rose lemonade

I tried making lemonade a few years ago. It was a faff and nobody really liked it. But recently I tried this, from the Waitrose magazine and it was not only really easy, everyone likes it, it’s luridly (but naturally) pink, and you make a basic syrup which you then dilute. So it makes tons. Perfect for a summer party. It’s not overly sweet, either and I’m sure it works out that it has less sugar in than shop-bought. You can also make this with your children. Supervise the sugar boiling bit of course, but that bit only lasts a minute.

Ingredients

150g caster sugar + 100ml of water

200ml pomegranate juice – make sure you by juice and not the drink which will already have sugar in it

The juice of about 5 lemons – you need 200ml of juice

Pared zest of one lemon

1 teaspoon of rose water

Ice cue and sparkling water to serve. You can dilute with still water too, if you like, but sparkling is more fun, if worse for your teeth and bones…

Method

Put the caster sugar with 100ml of cold water into a medium sized saucepan and heat it gently until the sugar has dissolved. You can stir. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring it to the boil for one minute, then turn it off the heat. Do take care around boiling water/sugar as it’s very hot.

Add the lemon and pomegranate juice and pared lemon zest and leave to cool. Once cool add the rose water and then pour into a clean (supposed to be sterilised, but straight out of the dishwasher will do) bottle/container and store in the fridge. You can keep the pared zest in if you like (I do) but bear in mind the longer it stays in, the more lemony/sour it gets.

To serve, pour 60ml of the syrup into a glass, top up with sparkling/still water, ice cubes and drink!

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One of the best things I’ve ever bought – a headset with fixed mic for my mobile phone

In the 90s, I used to work at the Independent on Sunday (RIP). This was back in the day when computers were largely for writing on, and phones were for making and receiving calls. My deputy editor had an office next to mine and he would spend a lot of time swiveling his office chair side to side and talking on his headset, which was plugged into to his desk phone. This headset had a fixed band which went over his head and a mic which stuck out in front of his mouth. I’m sure you know the ones.

I spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone, as I researched my pieces and my column (Dear Annie, which was a fashion column and answered readers’ problems), so I asked if I could have a headset and lo, I was able to order one from the stationery department. So I looked like someone from a call centre with this head-set on and a microphone pointed at my mouth. But it was brilliant, as I had both hands free to type or eat a banana or communicate with my colleagues in sign language.

Then mobiles came along and everything changed. We all, largely, started talking on those. Even if you want to, they are impossible to jam betwixt cheek and collar bone, such as you could with a traditional corded phone, and I find the ‘headsets’ that come with that are fine for a brief chat but you have to hold the mic near your mouth and people often say “are you on hands free, I can’t hear you very well?”

And, for long calls, I really hate having my mobile next to my ear for extended periods, as it makes my ear hot.

I still spend a lot of time on the phone interviewing people for my job, so a few months ago I wondered if such a thing as I once had, existed for my mobile (I have an iPhone) and lo, it did. It took a bit of searching but I bought this one which cost me just under £20, and it really is one of the best things I’ve ever bought. I make all my calls using it now (unless I’m out, because I feel like too much of an idiot, but I hardly make calls when I’m out anyway, because I feel like too much of an idiot..) and no-one has ever asked if I’m on hands-free, or underwater, or anything like that. It frees you up to type, essential when interviewing people or when on the phone to friends, you can do your nails, hang out washing or do the ironing, all of which I’ve done.

It plugs directly into your phone, it has a headband which fits over your head, one ear piece, one mic, and a volume button with (I think but have never used it) an on off button for ending calls.

It’s brilliant.

Daw’s Hall Nature Reserve

Daw’s Hall is not far from where we live, yet, in the nine years we’ve lived here, we’ve never managed to visit. A bit like when I lived in London – which I did for decades, I never visited ‘the sights’ unless we had visiting Italian relatives.

Last weekend we finally made it and it was one of those glorious days. Everyone there was charming and lovely, there is a bee house where you can learn all about bees, amazing scenery, you can walk all around the reserve, slowly, in under an hour – so not onerous. And there are ducks and geese and lots and lots of flowers – depending on the time of year. If you’re lucky you can see the little train toot by. At the end, you can stop and have home made cakes (not tried) and cake.

It’s only open at certain times of year, so do check, but I’m reliably informed that in June the roses are magnificent. Open days coming up are this half of 2016: 29th May, June 5th, 12th and 19th.

There is an admission charge, but it’s not much – £5 for adults, £1 for children.

No pictures cos I left my phone at home. Maybe this made it even more magical…

Phone

A great, basic phone: especially good for those who find normal mobile phones difficult.

My aunt is 92 and has had problems hearing for some time. She recently moved into a nursing home and her phone has become more important than ever. Her old mobile phone was no longer up to the job – buttons too fiddly, she couldn’t hear anything. So she asked me to look into getting her a more suitable phone.

I contacted Action on Hearing Loss (what used to be the RNID). It has an online shop which sells lots of phones. One of the advisors was sweet enough to take the time to really take on board what my aunt needed/wanted and suggested this phone: the completely unsnappily named Geemarc CL8450. With VAT it cost £80 (plus there are delivery charges) and it’s a Sim-less phone so there is no contract. I hooked my aunt up to Giff Gaff and she is on PAYG with an automatic top up linked to my card so she never runs out of credit.

This phone has a ‘boost’ button the side so you can really amplify the caller’s voice (this makes it VERY LOUD so you have to be careful if you have normal-range hearing because you will end up deafening yourself) – it’s really easy to switch on and off. Equally however, it would be very easy to switch off by accident.

The buttons are big and the screen is really clear. It’s a clam-shell design so you snap it shut to switch it off: I find people who are not used to mobiles get really worried about whether or not they’ve switched the phone off. The charger is linked to a cradle so you just pop the phone into it – no fiddling plugging in and out of cables, once the charger is plugged in, that’s it. And when the phone is in and charging, a light comes on.

If you have to dial a number not in the memory (I set up my aunt’s phone book so it was all pre-set) the number you’ve just pressed not only comes up on the display but the phone speaks it back to you.

It’s about a simple a phone to use as I’ve seen. Two other great features: it has three present memory buttons: M1, M2, M3 so my aunt has all her super important people at the end of one press of a button. At the back the phone has an SOS feature. If you press the button it emits an alarm, but it also will start to ring a sequence of numbers which you pre-programme into the phone. If one person doesn’t pick up (I believe, I haven’t tried it) it will ring the next. You can also pre-record a message, e.g: Aunty May is in trouble, please call round.

You can do anything you would normally be able to do with an analogue phone – i.e., make calls, text, it has an inbuilt phone book. You can’t take pictures and it’s not a smart phone. Hurrah!

The instruction manual is also better than most, although there is no way my aunt would have figured it out.

I loved this phone, but more importantly, my aunt loved it. I think she’s been ringing the whole of Italy with it. I’ll have to check my credit card..It’s absolutely perfect if you have any one who hates normal mobiles because they are too complicated, or struggles with the size of the buttons or to hear a conversation. It also has loads of other features I didn’t look into. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture so the one attached is a stock photo off the website. Sorry.

Footnote: My aunt died just a week after I wrote this. The last conversation I had with her was on this phone. She loved it and it made her last few days happier as she was able to hear. The last thing she said to me on it was “I love you” and I replied in kind. You do have to love technology at times.🙂