24 hours in London

I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to w rite this blog at all – I’d taken some photos on my phone, and then lost the phone while in London. But miraculously, some of them survived on my iPad!

I was paying a flying visit to London – my son was working on his first ever West End show, and I was taking my best friend and daughter to see it on the Saturday night. Plans were to meet son and his girlfriend for lunch on the Sunday. I reckoned I could manage all this with one large handbag. I was staying with said best friend so I didn’t need to cart any cosmetics or toiletries with me.
With the hlep of Mumsnet’s Style and Beauty section, I put together a capsule wardrobe of 3 different outfits.


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The basis was a pair of dark skinny jeans (Not Your Daughters jeans)
my brown Dubarry boots, and a beige trench coat (M&S).

For travelling, I wore a floral wrap top (Boden) with a coin and ribbon necklace (Fat Face). I carried a lavendar pashmina with beaded trim (won in a fundraising raffle in Luxembourg, about 10 years ago)


A quick change in the loos during pre-show drinks into a purple and blace lace tunic (Florence & Fred), with a choker made from a purple silk ribbon and a cameo brooch (eBay)

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On Sunday, I wore a cream crochet top (Fat Face), with a chunky stone necklace bought form a native craft shop on Route 66.

The lot fitted into my owl-design satchel bag.

Chicken pesto burgers

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I don’t like fasting on my day off, as there’s far too much temptation in the fridge and kitchen cupboards! But my husband was away at a work meeting today, and I had lots of activities to keep me busy (and out of the house). These included a photo-shoot with Mini for a run-with-your-dog event coming up soon!

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When we got back from the shoot in lovely Lady Dixon Park, I set about making my main meal of the day. There was some leftover roast chicken (100g – 140 cals), and the dregs of a jar of pesto (1/8th jar – 80 cals). I chopped these finely together, but thought it looked a bit bland. So to add some colour, sweetness, and mositure, I chopped in a roast red pepper at 10 cals. (note to self – get another jar of those, absolute store cupboard essentials!)

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I formed the mixture into 2 burger shapes, and baked in a 170 degree overn for 15-20 minutes until hot through.

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I served them with a mound of caulifower (was going to mash it, but couldn’t be bothered) 15 cals, and a spicy tomato salsa made from chopped cherry toamtoes, a splash of balsamic and a teeny bit of chillis from a jar (25 cals).

The whole lot looked huge on the plate, and came in at under 300 calories in total.

The burgers were very good – a great way to use up leftover chicken. On a non fast day I’d add some cheese, and maybe dredge them in panko breadcrumbs.

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Creamy salmon pasta

The original recipe for this dish comes in at about 400 calories, so I tweaked it by swapping half the pasta for courgette ribbons. Still, 40g spaghetti is a pitifully small amount for 130 calories, and wasn’t really worth it. Next time I’ll use all courgette, or the slim pasta.

I made a sauce by stirring 2 generous tablespoons of Tesco’s healthy living creme fraiche (80 cals) into a scraping of leftover light Philadelphia with cucumber (20 cals). I added the zest and juice of half a lemon, and plenty of black pepper.

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I made courgette ribbons by running a cheese slicer down the length, and then slicing the resulting strips down the middle. One courgette at 150g is 30 cals. I put them to boil with 40g spaghetti.

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Once the pasta was soft enough, I drained it, and stirred in 60g smoked salmon trimmings (130 cals), and then my cream sauce.  I topped the lot with a blob of caviar/ lumpfish roe (10 cals)

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The end result was rather decadent.  I’d definitely do the sauce again! 400 cals, 25g protein, 40g carbs.

Take one tray of prawns…

I don’t usually like fasting when I’m at home – far too many temptations around.  But circumstances this week made it unavoidable, and in retrospect it was much easier than I’d imagined.  Largely down to a reduced 300g pack of cooked prawns I found for 75p in the supermarket, which I proceeded to turn into lunch and dinner.


Prawns are a faster’s friend – at only 65 calories per 100g it is possible to have a very satisfying meal within the 500 daily allowance.

For lunch, I took a good handful of rocket leaves, some chopped cherry tomatoes, 100g of the prawns, and a tub of grapefruit segments in juice (there are 40 cals per pot, and another of my fast day saviours). I garnished the lot with some slivers of sushi ginger, and the whole plateful comes in about 150 calories.  The taste combinations are superb – prawn and tomato are a tried and tested marriage, but the addition of the peppery rocket and the juicy bittersweet grapefruit, with a zing from the ginger, was a very refreshing and flavourful meal.


I noticed that my tomatoes were past their best, so for dinner I simmered them with a chopped stick of celery in a splash of red wine, and added a squeeze each of sun dried tomato puree, basil paste and umami. And a blob of minced garlic.

Image I sieved the resulting pulp to make a good flavoured sauce, although it was on the runny side.  I added the rest of my prawns to this, and served with zero-noodles, for a total meal of about 200 cals.  Next time I’d add some veg – sliced mushrooms, or diced courgette maybe.



In the beginning was the play.

The play in question was “The Bible: The complete word of God (abridged)” done by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Both the troupe and the play have been around for over 20 years, so it wasn’t some new avant garde cutting edge piece of drama. It was a mildly amusing comedy.

The venue in question was the Theatre at The Mill, a beautifully realised piece of architecture combining an original mill building in Newtownabbey with new state of the art gallery and performance spaces. It is run by the local council.

My husband is jealous of the number of evenings I spend runninganddancing, and so we have an agreed date night at least once a month. This seemed like the perfect idea for January’s date night, and so we booked tickets.

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And then, a week before opening night, the show was cancelled. A DUP member of the council had felt that play was offensive and blasphemous. Why it had taken him till so close to the performance to raise these concerns isn’t clear – the play had been approved by the council’s artistic committee months ago, had been advertised on billboards, flyers, and in the theatre’s brochure.

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Why it couldn’t have just had a warning, like the parental advisory sticker on CDs with rude words in them, isn’t clear either. Nor why theatre goers couldn’t just have been made aware of the content and left to make up their own minds.

No. Councillors, without having seen the show themselves, decided that no-one should get the opportunity.

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What happened next was perhaps predictable, but most satisfying nonetheless.  The theatre going public were outraged.  The Nolan Show took up the case.  The twitterati picked it up and gave it the #ThouShaltNotLaugh hashtag.  The Arts Minister and local comedians expressed their concern about censorship.  A Christian who HAD seen the show penned a thoughtful and measured letter, which was widely shared on Facebook.  A petition was signed.

Momentum grew – the show, which had precious few advance sales, began to sell out in its later venues.  Followers of @reduced on Twitter zoomed over the 10,000 mark.

If ever there was a case of no such thing as bad publicity, here it was.

And in a miraculous volte-face, the council reversed their decision, 2 days before curtain up.  The theatre’s website crashed under the demand for tickets, the cameras were out in force to vox-pop people entering and leaving the show, a mahoosive round of applause greeted the first appearance on stage of a cast member, and a warm standing ovation followed the closing lines.


There are some lessons to be learned here.  The PUL (Protestant Unionist Loyalist) community in Norn Irn have a long history of not understanding the importance of PR.  The world’s cameras have seen them stoning primary school children on their way to school, fleg protestors disrupting Christmas shopping, and stern-faced men in bowler hats valuing intransigence.  Could no-one have advised the councillors that this was the almost inevitable outcome?

I was not surprised but a little disappointed that the opportunity wasn’t taken to have a “proper” discussion about what is and isn’t blasphemous or offensive.  There are a lot of grey areas, and a debate should have been instructive.  How about nudity for instance – is Page 3 offensive? Breast-feeding mothers? Topless beaches?  What constitutes blasphemy – is Douglas Adams’ “God disappearing in a puff of logic” blasphemous?  Taking the Lords name in vain on television? The internet meme of God reaching out to the spaghetti monster’s noodly appendage – is that offensive to Pastafarians?

Sadly we had The Nolan Show, a pointing and shouting match with a fair dose of “whataboutery”, but no real depth or substance.

The real winners, though, in the silveriest of linings to this murky cloud, is the Theatre at the Mill.  The staff there handled the cancelling-uncancelling efficiently and pleasantly (though the bar staff seemed overwhelmed with the packed opening night crowd of punters at the delightfully named “Yarns” bar).  Its fabulous facilites have been seen by the world’s media, and those who made the 5 mile trip to the outskirts of Belfast will undoubtedly visit again.

I think art is the ulitmate winner.

5and2: Celeriac Mash

With the weather being so cold outside, I really fancied some comfort food in a sausage-and-mash style. Quorn based bangers are lower in calorie and pack a good protein punch, so I picked up a pack of Cauldron Cumberland Sausages from Sainsburys (75 cals apiece).

To go with them, I wanted to use up the half a celeriac that’s been lurking in the fridge ever since I tried emulating the sweet potato and celeriac soup we enjoyed on New Years Eve.

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For one person, I peeld and chopped a quarter of the celeriac – about 160g and 70 cals. I simmered it for about 25 minutes till soft, having added a squirt of marmite to the water for extra flavour. I drained and then mashed with a tablespoonful of light creme fraiche (25 cals), and a few chopped spring onions.

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I made a gravy by cooking some shitake mushrooms in some water that I’d soaked a sprinkle of porcini in. 1-2 mins in the microwave, for 25 cals.

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It looked very appetising on the plate, was a very substantial meal for under 300 cals.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to try this – I’ve certainly heard it discussed on MyFitnessPal and 5:2 groups before now. I guess I’m not that big a fan of pizza – it’s OK, I’ll eat it, but I wouldn’t be distraught if I lived in a world without pizza.

But the rest of the household fancied making pizza from scratch at the weekend, and I reckoned it would be a good opportunity to try this base, since we’d be preparing the same toppings.

2014-01-18 15.45.06 I nearly fell at the first hurdle – no fresh cauliflower in the supermarket!  But undaunted I got some frozen stuff instead.  I cooked 200g in the microwave until soft. I then blitzed that with an egg, some half-fat mozarella, some grated parmesan, a handful of basil leaves, and seasoned with spicy Sicilian salt, black pepper, and garlic granules.

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Formed that into a round shape, and baked in the oven for 10 minutes until firm.2014-01-18 18.30.10

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Topped with pizza sauce, sliced mushrooms, green pepper, artichoke hearts, olives and anchovies and some more half-fat mozarella.

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The result was absolutely delicous, and I’ll definitely be trying this again.  There’s obviously endless variations of toppings which could be used – cheese and salami will push the calorie count up, but the base is around 200-250 calories.

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