Best Bunny Buys this Easter

Best Bunny Buys this Easter

The Easter Bunny made some recommendations last year, including eggs, hunts, hot cross buns, and lunch. It’s that time of year again and therefore time for an update.

What are the best bunny buys this Easter?

Waitrose Food Magazine

There are some great ideas in the Easter Edition.

A round-up of hot cross buns from Cheddar and Stout to White Chocolate and Lemon – the flavour combos of these delights get ever more inventive.  

Devilled eggs – including beetroot and horseradish, green eggs and ham, and sun-dried tomato and harissa (obviously not everything has to contain chocolate!)

A look at Easter symbolic treats from around the world.

My favourite recipe was an easy no-cook pudding simnel-spiced fridge cake – adding marzipan, ginger nuts, dried apricots, and spices into the chocolate mix, then topped with a circle of Maltesers as a nod to a traditional cake.

Best Easter Egg Buys for 2023

Someone has always done the hard work for us – taste-tested lots of chocolate treats to recommend the best buys.

This year I’ve gone with Delish magazine, who offer us 12 options.

Top of the taste list was Sainsbury’s Milk Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding Egg.

No. 2 was M & S Hot Cross Bun Egg

No. 3 an Aldi White Chocolate Strawberry Sundae topped with filled eggs

I will let you discover the others on the list – they all sound a little too sweet for me (No 6 sounded more up my street – what would your fav be?)

How Crafty are You?

Good Housekeeping has come up with 80 (!) Easter crafts for kids and adults to celebrate spring. Now that should keep some entertained for a while.

BBC Good Food also has some good craft inspiration including making bird feeders and salt dough decorations.

Easter Lunch Inspiration

I’ve opted for a more budget Easter lunch this year and will be serving up Shepherd’s Pie instead of a leg of lamb (it’s made and in the freezer). I did buy the mince from the farm shop and was happy to pay more for a good quality ingredient. Here’s a recipe from Mary Berry as shared on

Making this with lentils is just as tasty and even more cost-effective as well as being veggie (or vegan) friendly.

If you would like more Easter lunch inspiration, then have a look at these options via BBC Good Food. Do come and share your menu with us, I love talking food!

Always a good moment to share some chocolate recipe inspiration too.

Have a very good long weekend, whether you celebrate Easter or not, I hope it’s spent with loved ones and lots of chocolate!

What makes the best hen party experience?

What makes the best hen party experience?

The hens are coming… may think it’s time for rah, rah, rah, noise, and full-on energy. Remember, not all hens are created equal!

A group of people at a hen party

After many years of welcoming hens to my workshops, here’s what I think makes the best hen party experience:

Chief Organiser

You have been put in charge of the hen party celebrations. It may be that you know the whole group, and what they like and it’s all pretty straightforward. Possibly, you don’t know everyone, and you are catering for different ages, people you don’t know at all, and trying to come up with something to please everyone. 

Maybe you are somewhere in between? 

Whatever the scenario, you feel responsible to ensure that arrangements go smoothly and the whole group has a good time. That’s quite an undertaking!  

Here ‘s a list of hen parties hates compiled by Hitched (so you know what to avoid).

When choosing or booking an event with a company, you really need to trust that they will look after you all properly.

Here to Help

One thing I preach to anyone going into business is the importance of customer service.  

It’s not just what you do when you have people in front of you, it’s the whole customer journey that’s so important.

Imagine how much pressure the organiser feels to get this right, their reputation is on the line. Demonstrate to them that you have really thought about what they might be going through. Reassure them that you will do your utmost to look after everyone and give them a good time to the best of your ability.  

Communicate clearly and in a timely fashion. Always do what you say you will, even if something goes awry, keep in touch and let them know what’s going on.  

It’s time to hand over any worries and concerns and leave them with me.

Why a chocolate workshop?

You may think that’s a silly question. Usually, you are onto a winner if you are adding chocolate to an event, however, it’s the inclusivity of the workshop that makes it ideal for mixed ages and abilities.  

It’s not a drink-fest (although you can byo for break-time if you like a little fizz with your chocolate) and that makes it ideal for younger participants or those that don’t like that sort of thing.

If you are a group that likes to party on into the early hours and don your dancing shoes, that is something you can arrange for after the workshop. Nan, mum, and/or auntie can come along and join you all later, or head home for an early night!

Everyone gets to be creative, make and taste delicious treats and go home with bags of goodies that they have made. A shared experience is something that remains in the memory banks for many years to come.

It’s the perfect way for everyone to get to know each other better ahead of the big day.

At the chocolate tanks

You’ve all arrived and it’s my turn to make your visit as memorable as possible. What sort of group are you?  

How chocolate makes you feel

A group is usually an interesting mixture of personalities. There will be louder ones, who really spark up proceedings and are game on for anything. That’s great, but how does it feel for the quieter ones? They matter too, so it’s my job to balance the group dynamics and ensure that the quiet ones feel just as comfortable in the group and don’t get swamped.

Some groups find the whole ‘hen party’ vibe a bit too much, and just wish to quietly create some chocolates together and have a nice time. Other groups are up for the full monty! Everyone is welcome to be what is best for them.

The Lollipops

hen party chocolates

If I want to gauge how a chocolate hen party is going to play out, then the lollipops that each creates would give it all away. Each attendee designs and pipes their own lollipop onto a stick using a piping bag of molten chocolate. Hearts and flowers are popular and, yes, you’ve guessed it, lots of ruder versions too! 

I always like to tell everyone that they can’t shock me, I’ve seen it all (and I think I have)!

One of the best creations was made by a former hen party attendee, who did the bride-to-be!

Get Ahead

Diaries get busy for everyone attending and the person delivering the experience especially if it’s hen party season.  

Make contact as soon as possible – you can always hold a date provisionally while you check with the group.

Action creates momentum. 

If you have been discussing options for ages, but not coming up with a consensus, making a booking with something you think will appeal to everyone will galvanise the decision process.

Hope to see you at the chocolate tanks soon. Stags and Stens are very welcome too.

Brown Thursday

Brown Thursday

In the week that we survived Blue Monday, I thought we might celebrate Brown Thursday!

chocolate heart in melting chocolate puddle

A PR guru I follow said that Blue Monday had been dreamt up by the travel industry to promote holiday bookings. Last year I shared how I beat the January blues by focusing on my holiday plans for the year ahead, so they must be on to something.

It got me thinking, why not promote Brown Thursday this week. Let’s celebrate all things chocolate (you must be over your Christmas chocolate indulgence by now)?

Chocolate is Good for You

“Definitely chocolate is my kind of healthy plant! If over 70 percent cacao and good quality with no more than 4 ingredients.” Tim Spector, Professor of Genetics and Author.  Prof Spector studies and researches the microbiome, the large community of microbes that live in our gut, skin, and body.

chocolate making

A small amount of good quality dark chocolate eaten each day has been proven to be good for you. If you are not yet a fan of the dark side, why not start with something not too strong? You can build up your cocoa content over time. I now prefer chocolate over 80% cocoa. The everyday chocolate that I grew up on tastes more like a sweetie to me now. Once you get used to the dark side, there’s no going back!

Chocolate Makes you Feel Better

There are chemicals in chocolate that are mood enhancers as well as a form of caffeine. It really does feel like it ‘picks you up’ and can be just the treat you need.

The people at Cocoa Runners (a great gourmet mail-order chocolate company) have written an interesting article about whether the claims about chocolate are too good to be true. It includes an interview with Prof Tim Spector (mentioned above).

Enjoy cooking with chocolate

The smell in the kitchen, the satisfaction of creating something tasty, and the delicious treat to share with friends/family. Cooking with chocolate always feels good.

Christmas cake with chocolate icing and sprinkles topped with holly

If you want to make some chocolates at home, here are my tips on how to temper your chocolate – the key to success.

I have some of my favourite chocolate recipes to share with you too. Let us know what you made, and maybe come and share a picture on social media.

Feeling a bit chilly and not up to cooking too much? How about making yourself a hot chocolate follow the link for inspiration!

Treat yourself

Why not treat yourself to some posh chocolate and go gourmet? There may be some good stuff to buy in the sales if you are quick.   

Some good sites to visit:  Fortnum & Mason, Chococo, Cocoa Runners, Hotel Chocolat

Once you’ve invested in some good stuff, you may want some tips on how to taste it properly!  

Chocolate Therapy

Last, but not least, why not come along and try a chocolate workshop experience here at The Melting Pot? 

It really is chocolate therapy.  

Two tanks of chocolate

There’s a large vat of molten chocolate, the smell is incredible, and there are like-minded people enjoying the experience with you. Then you have the making element, dipping fillings into the tank, tasting chocolate, and taking all your creations home to share and/or enjoy.  

Escape from the usual trials and tribulations of life and immerse yourself in the world of chocolate for a couple of hours.

Hope to see you at the chocolate tanks very soon.

Happy Brown Thursday.

5 Reasons an Experience Makes a Better Gift

5 Reasons an Experience Makes a Better Gift

It’s the season to pull your hair out trying to think of a suitable gift for all the people you buy pressies for. If you want to get ahead on this front, then you may find my previous blog useful – 7 tips to make Christmas a Cracker!

Two ladies sitting with chocolate cocktails at the table
Chocolate cocktail anyone?

What about going one step better and considering an experience as a gift this year?

Here are 5 reasons an experience makes a better gift:

It’s more memorable

Buy a gift and it’s opened, used, eaten, and forgotten about by early Jan. An experience is something that needs to be booked up, planned, looked forward to, and then enjoyed. It stays with the recipient far longer and memories are created.

Most experiences are creative – they will likely be learning a new skill, such as cooking or cocktail-making, or making something from scratch to bring home and cherish. They physically get involved in the process and hopefully enjoy doing so. It’s so much more engaging and energising doing something fun/creative/different than just unwrapping a gift.

It’s uniquely yours

Imagine the connection they have to the object they made by hand, rather than receiving the something made by someone else.  

They achieved that – however rustic it may look, their time, effort and newfound skills went into making the item and that’s something for them to be proud of.

The experience could be for you but benefit others. As you know I offer chocolate workshop experiences. Imagine handing round chocolates this Christmas made by you. People who attend my workshops really appreciate the time and effort that goes into hand-dipping and decorating delicious creations. It’s not from the factory, you poured some love and energy into those. It makes all the difference. The making process is fun and therapeutic and giving gifts made by you is totally satisfying.  

It costs more than a box of chocolates because it’s so much more than a box (or several bags) of chocolates!

Spend quality time and make connections

When they take part in their experience they will likely meet new people and make new connections. Spend some quality time with the tutor and/or other attendees and enjoy a shared experience.  

It may be that the friend or family member (you) that purchased the experience has decided to join in too. 

This enables you both to spend some real quality time together, creating lasting memories, laughs, and hopefully something to take away and treasure.

Maybe they are learning an ancient craft or skill and also feel connected to all those that honed that craft in the past.

Escape from real life

An experience enables the person some time away from commitments. It creates some proper me-time away from everything, engaging in the activity, and the chance to forget those worries and woes for a bit of time at least.

My hubby offers experiences for budding blacksmiths. No previous experience is necessary, turn up to the forge and he will teach some blacksmithing basics. Everyone will come away with something wonderful made from scratch.  

Surely, there is nothing like hammering hot metal on the anvil to de-stress from the trials of life.

Boost your confidence

Learning a new skill is good for the brain. It excites and stimulates and we need this to stop us from becoming stale and stuck.

I found this quote in a toilet wallpaper in Shoreditch, London: “Your comfort zone will kill you.”

We all like a little comfort and familiarity but if we never challenge ourselves or try new things, it all becomes a little stale and boring.  Maybe you never use your hands at work, and you really would love the chance to get creative again.

Doing an experience will give you a buzz and in turn, be great for your confidence.

Maybe there is someone you know who would really benefit from a little confidence boost this Christmas?


Hopefully, the above five reasons have made you decide to ignore all the things you can buy and concentrate on buying experiences for loved ones instead.

bag of chocolates

Craftspeople are often small business owners, who love what they do and would love to share some of that love with others. Supporting small businesses makes the world of difference to them and I believe is a satisfying feeling for the purchaser too (I hope).

If you fancy purchasing a chocolate experience for a loved one, my gift vouchers last for six months (post-dated to Christmas). You can book for one person or organise a private group, or join in with others and come as a pair. Please drop me a line and let me know what you would like, I will forward all the purchase details and that’s another gift sorted.

Toasting fork in the forge fire

For the budding blacksmith, my hubby’s gift vouchers last for one year from purchase (also post-dated to Christmas), and for more information on these, please visit his website.

Other experiences are of course available. We’ve found The Indytute have some good options to choose from with lots of different price points!

I hope you are the lucky recipient of an experience this Christmas – enjoy and have fun!

Foodie Hacks to help the Budget

Foodie Hacks to help the Budget

I’m very lucky to be able to grow things in my garden, have a car to drive to discount stores as well as access to a nice kitchen and oven to cook things in. At the time of writing, I’m also still able to pay my energy bills!  

For many, it’s so much harder than that.  

I still hope it might prove helpful to share some of my foodie hacks that help the budget go just a little bit further.

Cook from scratch

I try and do this as much as I can and have ditched ready-made food items where possible. We rarely have takeaways these days and try and save eating out and/or takeaways for special occasions.

It always takes more time and effort to cook from scratch, so you will need to factor this into your meal plans.

There were some cheats I used to buy, such as bean burgers, as they were relatively inexpensive. I now make these myself too, and it’s much cheaper (and hopefully healthier also) to do so.

Bean Burgers

Bean burger in a seeded bun on a plate on the table

Take a can of mixed beans, drain, rinse and throw these in your mixer (or use a hand-blender or masher), add whatever you like to zing up the mixture. I add things like tomato puree, chilli, lemon, herbs, garlic, onion, spices such as cumin, coriander, and fennel; and blend/mash together. I sometimes blend with an egg, but often just add a little oil and breadcrumbs (see below).

One can usually make three large or four medium bean burgers. Form into a patty shape and chill for at least a couple of hours in the fridge.


If I don’t have any stale bread, I will leave a slice or two of bread out to go stale. A quick whizz-up and hey-presto they are done. If I make too many, I pop the rest in the freezer.

Plan ahead – if you need breadcrumbs for a recipe you need to factor in time to make them.


Jar of basil pesto

We love a bit of pesto in our house and always make our own. We use cheaper ingredients but still get great results.

The oil – we use a mixture, usually rapeseed with a little olive oil (keeping the more expensive oil to a minimum).

Use salted peanuts instead of pine nuts. They work well and are much cheaper to buy. You need to keep an eye on the salt content and adjust to taste as you are adding salt with the nuts.

Instead of Parmesan, we buy Grana Padano.


Lentils are such a tasty, versatile, and well-priced ingredient, I’ve already written a blog on them.


To be honest, they are rarely much in the way of leftovers in my house, but when there are, I will always try and get creative and turn them into something else or use them as part of another meal.

What do you do with yours? 

Please come and share your top tips with the rest of us.

Store Cupboard supper

In the past, I’ve often thought I don’t have anything in for a meal and will pop to the shops to top up. 

Now I try and avoid that until the next bigger shop and make something from what’s in the store cupboard.

It might be something really simple such as potato or egg-based. I might whip up a sauce for pasta with a tin of tomatoes as a starting point. 

Create something stir-fried to go with rice, or rustle up a curry from what’s left in the veg compartment in the fridge, or use tins/packets of beans and pulses.

BBC Good Food is a great website to add in your main ingredient and see what recipe inspiration comes up.

Time to get creative with that store cupboard stock.  

Own Brand 

Some of the discount supermarkets own brand products I’ve found to be very good:

  • Tomato sauce
  • Marmite
  • Peanut butter (the good stuff that has no added palm oil)
  • Tonic water

These are much cheaper than the branded versions I’ve bought in the past, and in our opinion, taste just as good.

Would you have anything to add to this list? Please share.

Eat more veg

As a family, we try and eat veggie meals around 75% of the time (100% for our veggie members of course!)

A pile of pumpklins

We spend more on the meat we do buy as we prefer to buy it from the farm shop, so we buy it less often.

Soup is often on the menu, sounds a bit sparing as a dinner, so I will often make it extra thick for an evening meal, maybe add coconut milk to make it more decadent then eat it with a lovely loaf.

It’s pumpkin time, don’t just carve them, why not make soups and curries and pies from your pumpkins!

I recently made a veggie stew with cheesy dumplings from the Good Food magazine for a big family gathering – rather than follow exactly the recipe, I used up all the veg I had in my fridge and bulked out with sweet potato and squash. Thankfully, it was a bit hit!

We have to mention Chocolate!

Supermarket own brands again are very good for chocolate for all tastes.

Look out for sales and short-dated stock – chocolate has a good long shelf-like and often if it’s near its sell-by date will still taste just as good!

Buy in bulk – if you trust yourself not to eat it all! Speak to me if you want to order some bulk chocolate and I can add yours to my order (and let you know the price).

Make your own desserts and treats.

Find out more

The Grocer magazine recently covered the best budget food bloggers and influencers to follow right now if you would like a more detailed and comprehensive guide on stretching your food budget.

Scilly Times

Scilly Times

Imagine a place in the UK that takes longer to get to than most of your standard foreign holidays, costs more than travelling to somewhere sunny in Europe, and has many restrictions and difficulties due to its size and location.  

Yes, it’s the Scilly Isles. 

Not the main island of St Mary’s – that’s got roads, cars, shops, and restaurants! We are talking about one of the off islands. So remote, so beautiful and so worth the effort.

Here’s a little account of our recent Scilly Times.

The Journey

This is a UK holiday, how can it take longer than going abroad?

We live in the Southeast and we need to travel to Penzance in Cornwall to get the ferry over to St Marys.  That’s about a 5 – 6 hour drive, depending on the traffic (sometimes much longer).  

View from our overnight stay to St Michael’s Mount

The ferry, The Scillonian, leaves for St Mary’s around 9am and check-in is approx an hour beforehand. 

If you are camping, you need to deliver your camping equipment to the harbour about an hour before check-in, around 7am.

It’s not much fun travelling through the night, so we booked into Scilly Parking for an overnight stay. 

It’s still an early start, but so much better than being up all night!

The ferry takes approximately three hours to St Mary’s. Once there, all of your luggage is loaded onto the relevant off-island boat. Each boat comes alongside The Scillonian and they slide your luggage down a hatch and manually load up each boat.

Once this is completed, your off-island boat will head to the quay and pick up the foot passengers.

Next a 20- 30 min boat ride over to your chosen island.

Luggage is handed up the quay onto the waiting tractor and is transported to the campsite. The passengers walk!

Journey time: approx. 28 hours (with overnight stop and pub dinner en route!)

St Agnes

St Agnes is on the most south-westerly edge of the Isles of Scilly. It measures just a mile or so across, and its closest neighbour is Gugh. Gugh is joined by a sand bar at low tide. The island has about 85 residents, no proper roads and no cars (the odd car is sometimes used by a local for transportation, but there are not cars in the way we are used to on the mainland).  

There is one pub, one café, and one post office with stores as well as one gift shop. The campsite is housed on the farm and does have a small shop selling produce and some camping essentials.  

St Agnes is the only island on the Scillies not to have a hotel, although there are some self-catering options. Forget these in high season, as they are repeatedly booked by the same families year after year. If you are able to travel out of high season, you might get lucky.

If not, you will need to try your hand at camping!

The Campsite

Troytown Farm, home of St Agnes campsite, is the southernmost settlement in the United Kingdom! 

It is the most incredible setting with stunning views across to the island of Annet, the Western Rocks, and out to Bishop Rock and the Lighthouse. The view is constantly changing along with the tides. It’s very exposed – next stop USA – and the storms regularly blow in.  

View from our tent

The facilities are basic but good. Water is always in short supply, so there are timed tokens for the showers, and everyone is very conscious of water conservation. No electrical hookups are available, and a limited number of dogs are allowed.

The farm produces its own milk, yoghurt, meat and incredible ice cream – there is always an amazing choice of flavours on offer.

Night skies are truly amazing – you have never seen the stars like this before as there is no light pollution.

The Sunsets

Sunsets need their own special mention. They are truly incredible if the weather is kind, and you can see the magical event unfold. 

I think it best to let the pictures speak for themselves.

St Agnes sunsets

The swimming

I’m a keen wild swimmer. 

I much prefer a lake or the sea to a pool, so the swimming on St Agnes is especially good.  

You will often have a beach to yourself, or only be sharing with a couple of others. Crystal clear waters and bright white sand – you can forget you are in the UK and imagine you are on a Caribbean island! The water is fairly fresh, many swim in a wetsuit. Pick your time to swim as the tide turns and comes over the warm sand and it’s almost barmy (promise).

A Day on St Agnes

Pop to the campsite shop for some milk, eggs, yoghurt, top up your ice blocks and get the coffee on back at the tent.

4 pints of beer on a table with a view of the sea at The Turks Head, St Agnes

A slow start, a shower, and a walk around the island with the dog. The scenery, the terrain, the wildlife never fail to amaze each and every day. Usually, lunch back at the tent, or perhaps pop to the café for a crab roll as a treat.

Nip to the Post Office and pick up some food and wine for the evening (the supplies boat arrives around lunchtime so stocks are always better later in the day).

A read and relax and head off to the beach for a swim. A stop at the pub on the way back for a pint with a view. In fact, a pint with the best view ever!

Back to the campsite shop before it closes for some ice cubes and a cheeky gin and tonic while preparing dinner. Eat and watch the sun go down. Maybe light a fire on the beach and chat with some fellow campers.

Some days, you might be stuck in the tent for a while listening to the rain.

The competition

Chat to anyone you meet on St Agnes and they will ask you if you’ve been before.  

Many will tell you how many years they have been coming to the island. Most start enjoying holidays on St Agnes and fail to do anything else. 

It’s that sort of place.

What’s quite funny is the assumption that they have been coming longer than you! My hubby, who would never boast about such things, has been returning to St Agnes for 53 years and counting. We’ve had some years away, but recently returned after an 11-year gap. Too long, the magic starts seeping in as soon as you step off the boat onto the jetty…….

My other travel blogs include the Isle of Mull and eating/drinking our way around a little bit of Spain and Portugal.

As the summer draws to a close and you return to work after a break, maybe it’s time to start plotting the next adventure.

It’s time to simplify

It’s time to simplify

I’ve been making some changes to how I intend to work going forward. This is my chance to say a huge thank you to those that have joined me on various projects and adventures along the way and how/where you can find me going forward!

Here’s why it’s time to simplify

Juggling too many balls means I drop them, or don’t give time and attention to my projects in the way that feels right.

Chocolate is my first love and I want time to focus on this more. Since I have been able to welcome people in person again, bookings have been brilliant.  

As well as this, I’ve been doing lots more schoolwork lately. Careers fairs, enrichment activities, and enterprise days. This is such rewarding work and something I’d like the chance to develop.

My business in a chocolate box opportunity has seen a revival. This is where I train someone to run a version of The Melting Pot (under their own banner). This is a much bigger commitment of my time, involving training and then ongoing support for the first months of trading. 

It’s totally exciting that people are wanting to create their own chocolate workshop businesses where they live!

If I create space and I have a clear focus on what I want the future to hold, it is more likely to be successful than holding on to everything in fear of letting things go.

What I’m saying goodbye to

New Dawn Business Start-up Training

Building Confidence Programme

Creating Magic Challenge

Thank you to everyone who took part in these, it was a privilege to see you start to fly with your new business ventures, boost your confidence to tackle obstacles, and see what magic you wanted to explore.

Facebook pages/groups/membership sites have been closed. If you need any information from me or have a question or query, please get in touch.

Newsletter – see below on where to find out more

Where you can find me

At the chocolate tanksbook a workshop, come along and have some fun on your own or with a group.

On my blog – I have decided not to continue with a newsletter and focus on my blog instead ‘From Chocolate with Love’. We cover all things chocolate of course, as well as business and lifestyle – anything from camping to relationships and more!

Please keep an eye on the website for offers or special events.

Supporting local mental health charity Tilehouse Counselling (for just a few hours each week). The work they do is very close to my heart and so vital in our community. A shameless plug – you can support them each week by buying a community lottery ticket.  50% of each ticket sold is donated to Tilehouse.

The future

To think I actually considered selling the chocolate side of my business a couple of years ago to focus on the other areas I was developing! Now I’m doing the opposite.  

This has come about from listening to myself, really tuning into what I enjoy the most, and going with what flows with ease.

Change is always a little nerve-racking and I sincerely hope that creating space to pursue a simplified and more chocolatey future is the right decision. I’m excited to find out! 

Only time will tell. 

Do please pop back here to find out more!

If you have any stories or tips for simplifying life, please come and share on my Facebook page.

7 Secrets to a Happy Marriage

7 Secrets to a Happy Marriage

Or 7 secrets to a happy relationship, married or not.

Dawn and Jo Fry at the church with the vicar on their wedding day

I wasn’t at all bothered about getting married, but my hubby really wanted to, so we did. Surprisingly, it made a difference. Nothing earth-shattering, but a subtle difference, a proper full-on commitment. I loved having a ‘hubby’ – not just the label of course! We celebrated 27 years together this June.

Honestly, Bridget Jones, this is not me trying to be a ‘smug married’!

7 secrets to a happy marriage are meant to be a bit of fun, as well as a nod to some of the serious sauce!


How do you meet the perfect partner? In our case, we had a dear friend do a bit of matchmaking. We had both been around the block a little, past experience definitely shaped decisions and for us, the timing was right.
Fundamentally there has to be a willingness for a relationship from both partners and a desire to make it work if possible.

Then add in a dollop of luck.

Pick a practical one

My hubby can turn his hand to literally anything practical. I may have had to develop a patient approach to some jobs as they can (and do) take years to complete. Knowing that something can be made, fixed or mended is such a comfort.
If you can’t find a practical one (and it’s not going to be you) then make sure you have contacts and funds to get someone in or it will drive you mad.

Play to your strengths

Divvy up the jobs depending on who is best at them. Hope that it’s a roughly fair split, if not a bit of negotiation may be required, or if possible, buy in some outside help perhaps.

Don’t hate me too much, but my hubby loves housework, especially vacuuming, and keeping the house nice and clean. I hate it, so that’s a huge win/win! Cooking is my thing, so I will usually do all the shopping and meal planning. Some jobs we share.

As a born organiser I run all household management and the admin for our businesses. Even persuaded hubby to take up teaching blacksmithing courses after the success of running chocolate ones! I find this easy, and hubby hates it! Social secretary and especially travel agent are my favourite roles.

You can’t change anyone. Don’t expect your partner to get good at something they don’t like or find difficult to do. The only thing you can change is you.

It’s good to talk

espresso coffee in blue cup with biscuit and sugar cubes

It’s so easy, especially if you have been together for a long time, have very young children, are coping with teenagers, busy jobs, and other commitments, to stop talking properly to each other. There is so often a presumption about what your partner is thinking or feeling, without actually talking to each other properly to find out.

We try and keep a day in the week where we do something together – it’s often just a dog walk, but it may be something more exciting now and again!

Make time to talk – whether that be a date night or something simple like going out for coffee or a walk.


Without respect surely any relationship is doomed. Mutual respect is a must, and if that is missing or lost – do all you can to try and find it again.

If you are not respecting yourself then start there. Maybe you need a change and it’s time to focus on doing something different, sparking yourself back to life?

Shared Dreams

No two people can be on the same page all the time. Marriage is a compromise, but we can’t only live someone else’s dream. What are yours?

Then you can work on what you both want. What does the future hold (if we are lucky enough to have one)? It can be exciting, having a shared dream focuses your intentions as it’s something to work towards. Nothing is set in stone either, so you have a chance to change/enhance and improve any plans you make.

Book that date night, get talking and discuss your shared visions and dreams for the future.

The Duvet

Get your own. Seriously, we each have our own duvet and it’s perfect. Two single duvets on our double bed. No one loses the covers and gets cold. Choose a different tog that suits (I’m always too hot, hubby too cold).

Finished with my absolute top tip for marital bliss – a good night’s sleep with your own duvet!

Foodies on Tour

Foodies on Tour

The perfect recipe:

Douro by the Douro
  • One special friend
  • Joint obsession with all things food and drink-related
  • Milestone big birthday
  • Mission to have some fun

What better way to celebrate than head off as a couple of Foodies on Tour!

Trust the Process

My friend is a bit of an intrepid traveller and loves nothing more than trekking up mountains in far-flung places. As exciting as that sounds, I’m usually a bit less adventurous. This was her special trip, and I was rather anxious to hear what would make the shortlist.

I decided that whatever she really wanted to do I was going to say yes and embrace it.  

She said because it was us, it had to be about the food, and she decided on Spain and Portugal. My perfect option. Trust that process folks and look what happens.

The Itinerary

Fly to Bilbao – because the Guggenheim was on the bucket list (one-night stay in a hotel)

Head to San Sebastian (two-night stay in a hotel)

Back to Bilbao to catch a flight to Porto (three-night stay in a hostel)

Bus from Porto to Lisbon (three-night stay in an apartment)

Fly home


If you ever find yourself in Bilbao, if only for a quick stopover – factor in a trip to the Guggenheim

Oh, my word what a breath-taking place. 

As this is about the food of our trip – watch this space for more on the Guggenheim soon!

We only had time for one evening meal – so on the recommendation of our hotel owner, we headed to Café Iruna (follow the link to see the amazing décor). As we were a little later, there was not such a huge selection of pinchos (bite-sized tasty morsels served in all the bars) so we ordered off the menu. A fresh tuna salad and some amazing croquettes were very tasty. Not sure what we drank that night, it was white, cold, refreshingly crisp and so reasonably priced.

San Sebastian

What a beauty. Well worth a visit if you have not yet experienced the delights of this wonderful place. With sea, sand, bars, beaches, and such a wonderful selection of places to eat and drink you can’t fail to love it!

We started in a bar called Cote in the Old Town with a fab G & T. There was a decent gin menu on offer and the barman really took care zesting fruit and adding rose petals to give a wonderful fresh taste.

Again, on the recommendation of our hotel/guide books, we headed for pinchos/drinks at various different bars. Quite an experience, very buzzy and busy and a little tricky to eat at times. 

Delicious tasty morsels but sometimes a little too mad for us if we are very honest. We ended the evening at the must-have cheesecake place La Vina – Tarta de queso (Basque burnt cheesecake). It really was an experience not to be missed.

After some sightseeing the next day, we ended up at a wonderful seafood restaurant by the harbour and enjoyed a long lazy seafood lunch with a lovely bottle of vinho verde. That evening was spent at a couple of quieter establishments, with more pinchos and wine. Perfect


If I could recommend anything, start your trip in Porto with a food tour. We opted for the vintage food tour with Taste Porto, which as well as covering lots of wonderful food and drink, also covered lots of fascinating history too. Our guide Miguel was brilliant and extremely knowledgeable.

A food tour gives you the low down on all the fabulous foodie secrets of the city, usually shared by a local with all that insider knowledge.

We enjoyed meals by the Duoro (with wine to match of course), little hidden bars and small plates, a picnic with food from the market (I ate a fig that will never be forgotten it was that good!), and the best Pastel de Nata EVER. Made on the premises with artisan coffee you must go to Manteigaria – Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata just WOW.

Tinned sardines, fish pate, wonderful soap, and good chocolate also filled our bags to bring away!


Last but certainly not least was Lisbon.  

It was extremely busy while we were there, and you need to do your research on where to eat. There was a constant vying for your custom, and we found this a little tedious at times. We had a couple of slightly disappointing experiences, but this was more than made up for the two best experiences of the whole holiday food-wise!

Dinner at Ofício Lisboa was I think, the best meal of the holiday. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Curried spider crab
Chocolate tart (of course) with a goats cheese/caramel foam!

On our penultimate day, we took the train out to Cascais and had a wonderful walk and lunch by the ocean. 

We started with giant grilled prawns, followed by sardines, and finished with some local almond tart. Highly recommend a trip there, escaping the crowds and enjoying good food with a wonderful backdrop!

Now how to top that? 

I’m already planning what might be on my big birthday foodie trip!

Love Affair with a Lentil

Love Affair with a Lentil

One of our clan became veggie a while ago and we played along. We cheated quite a bit, using veggie substitutes like bean burgers and veggie sausages a bit too much I feel.

Then lockdown happened. 

A family of five (all grown up and with huge appetites) needed feeding on a drastically reduced budget. Both hubby and I were unable to operate our blacksmithing and chocolate workshops for the foreseeable, and changes to the food shopping were required. 

We decided to eat mostly vegetarian from that moment on.

So started my love affair with a lentil.

Large lentil cottage pie in ceramic oval dish
Lentil Cottage Pie

Proper Veggie

It was time to embrace veggie eating properly. No more substitutes but good proper cooking from scratch.

I learned to think differently about cooking vegetarian food. With meat or fish, you have a star of the show with veggies as the side act. 

Cooking veggie meant that dishes needed to work together, there might be two or three dishes making up the ‘main’ element, working in harmony to create a feast.

Veggie food usually takes longer or a bit more effort to prepare. In my experience, there is more work in creating a tasty dish and making the veggies sing.

One of my veggie foodie heroes is Ottolenghi. Stock the spice cupboard with different ingredients and leave some time for cooking up a feast. You will never be disappointed but be prepared for smoky kitchens and prepping for a couple of days in advance!

Ottolenghi is very generous in sharing his recipes, check out social media, or find him writing for The Guardian.

Batch Cooking

Life is set to get considerably more expensive in the coming months. Eating well doesn’t have to be super expensive, but it will take up a bit of your time. Cooking is my therapy, so I really enjoy a bit of batch cooking and the sense of achievement when all the meals are prepped for a later date.

Lentil and spinach bake in large and small greeen ceramic oval dishes

That’s why I like to cook up a huge batch of green lentils. I boil them in vegetable stock to add a bit more flavour.

In a separate pan, I sauté onions, garlic, carrots, and celery then split this into two. With half the lentils I recently made a cottage pie mix, adding bay leaves, fennel, cumin, tinned toms, and a spoon of magical yeast extract. 

Marmite is so good for adding colour and great flavour to your veggie dishes.

The other half got the spice treatment. Adding chipotle chillies, lots of smoked paprika, passata, and a tin of red kidney beans.

The results: a family-sized cottage pie, two individual cottage pies to pass on to an elderly relative, and a vat of chilli. This was made from about half a pack of green lentils with just a bit of time and effort thrown in.

Once you have your base, you can make spag bol, lasagne, curries – all those family favourites for a fraction of the cost of meat or veggie substitutes. It tastes great and they are good for you.

Posh Lentils

You can go all Puy and go a bit posh with your lentils. I love these in a salad. I usually just have something crunchy like an iceberg, Puy lentils, and some goat’s cheese with a lovely lemony dressing. Great to go a bit posh if you have having people for dinner.


Split lentils are great for dhals or thickening soups or purees. They will go soft on cooking. If you want more texture, then stick to whole lentils. There is no need to soak lentils you can rinse and cook straight away. They will happily sit in your store cupboard for ages, with a long shelf life until you are ready to release them into something tasty.

Dhal is another family favourite – you can take your base and add lots of other lovely spicey veggies to make it a meal in its own right. Or add in some coconut milk for a lovely creamy twist.

Here’s a dhal recipe from a member of the BBC Good Food community.

Lentil Inspiration

Olive magazine shares their best lentil recipes here, including vegetable slice and an aubergine dhansak as well as some using Puy lentils too.

Jamie Oliver has some lovely lentil inspiration, whether as an accompaniment or a delicious meal in their own right. He shares some great salad ideas too.

How about this one from Delicious magazine, a halloumi-topped lentil stew – yes please!

And if you think I’ve forgotten about chocolate, then fear not. Add some cacao nibs or dark chocolate into your lentil chilli, delicious!

Are you going to start a love affair with a lentil?