Sole daughter of my house and heart

Baby Ada

We had a baby! She is lovely. We call her Ada Margaret Gray, because that’s her name.

She totally owns us.

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Easy-peasy pasta all’arrabiata


Chris really loves pasta all’arrabiata, and after many years of carbtastic R&D, he’s got the recipe just right! This is one of our new favourite dinners, because it’s cheap, healthy-ish, easy to make, and you can keep all the bits in your store cupboard or fridge to use whenever you fancy:

Arrabbiata ingredients

You could make this even thriftier if you use a generic passata, dried herbs and homemade breadcrumbs, but we’ve found that the fresh rosemary and garlic, plus panko breadcrumbs and Pizza Express passata make for a really special treat.

Pasta all’arrabiata
(serves 2 greedy people)

200g dried pasta of your choice
½ can Pizza Express passata (we’ve only found it in Waitrose so far)
3–5 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs (look in the oriental section of larger supermarkets)
3 cloves garlic, crushed or grated (Chris tells me he often sneaks in a bit more)
Dried chilli flakes
Salt & pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Step 1: Saucy!
Get a pan of water on to boil for the pasta. While you’re waiting, start the sauce – in a smaller pan, soften the crushed garlic cloves in plenty of olive oil over a medium-low heat. Just as the colour starts to turn, chuck in half a can of passata and a whole stalk of rosemary. Leave to simmer, stirring now and then.

You can freeze the leftover passata for next time, or stick it in the fridge and have pasta again tomorrow, you crazy cat. The Pizza Express passata that we use is (obviously) great for making pizzas too, so you could have an Italian weekend! I’m so full of excellent ideas, as long as all of the ideas you enjoy involve developing late-onset diabetes.

Step 2: Pasta!
Once the water’s at a rolling boil, throw in the pasta, stir and set a timer so you don’t overcook it. We don’t add salt or oil to the water, because frankly it seems to make no difference whatsoever – we are pasta mavericks. Just stir it occasionally.

Step 3: Pangrattato!
These toasted panko breadcrumbs are a little bit of a faff, but they are so scrumptious you won’t mind.

Chop up a stalksworth of rosemary leaves along with generous amounts of sea salt and pepper (the rough salt helps break up the leaves and release the piney flavour). Stir in the panko breadcrumbs and then throw the whole lot into a little pan to which you’ve added a generous glug of olive oil; toast until golden brown and crunchy. You’ll really need to watch them so they don’t burn – fork and fold through to keep them moving.

Step 4: Enjoy!
Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Remove the rosemary stalk from your sauce, then stir the sauce through the pasta. If someone in your house doesn’t like chilli (*cough*), you can serve up her plateful now, the uncultured cow, then shake some dried chilli flakes into the pan and stir through. Go as hot as you dare!

Serve up, then sprinkle over some pangrattato crumbs. Chris says he also drizzles MORE olive oil on at this point, which I didn’t know. Oh dear.

Here’s Eddie Izzard’s Darth Vader ordering penne all’arrabiata in the Death Star canteen. In Lego, naturally.

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One of the worst things about summer is adverts for barbecue food. This M&S ad is this year’s least offensive example, and it still fills me with dread. One of the other worst things about summer is actually going to barbecues.

We never owned a barbecue grill when I was a kid, so when I reached adulthood I spent way too long trying to enjoy what everyone else seems to agree is Really Good Fun before realising that everything about barbecues is utter pants. Here’s how almost every barbecue I’ve ever been to* goes down:

1900: Turn up and hand over specially-chilled-and-ice-packed fancy wine. Will never see nice chilled wine ever again. Accept it and move on.

1905: Note with sadness that barbecue grill not lit yet. Politely eat two Kettle Chips and sit in the sun, basking next to sweaty packages of raw meat.

2025: Other people turn up, but not as many as advertised. Now too awkward to go home and order pizza. Attempt to make small talk while somehow both drunk and hypoglycaemic; warm Pimms only source of sustenance now Kettle Chips all gone.

2030: Barbecue lit. Hooray! Move into carcinogenic smoke plume for warmth. Experience extreme flip-flop regret.

2105: Someone from country with climate and urban terrain more conducive to barbecues smugly mansplains how terrible barbecues are in this country. Not helpful, guy.

2130: Bats.

2200: Receive a single sausage, encased in carbonite like a porcine Han Solo, plus bap and ‘mixed leaves’. Look sadly at paper plate and think about how life might have turned out. Too dispirited to add ketchup.

2230: Receive second sausage; share with wan-looking spouse.

0000: Go home starving, cold and drunk. Scent of scorched carcass clings to hair. Vow never to attend another barbecue.

Next day: Tagged in 392 unflattering Facebook photos.

My suggested alternative to this hell-on-Earth is just to just take your dinner outside. Cook inside, sit outside. It’s fun! And less messy! You can have pasta! You know it makes sense.

*Except your barbecue. It was obviously excellent.

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Mr Kipling Cocktail Fancies taste test

Sure, we’re all familiar with the classic Mr Kipling French Fancy; a square of spongey yumyum with flamboyant buttercream hunch, enrobed in sweet fondant and fetching contrast drizzle. Even with the infuriating conspiracy of silence around the apparent portion shrinkage that has occurred in the 21st century (people keep telling me my ‘hands are just bigger now’), a box of eight is still one of the classiest treats that £1.90 can buy.*

So I’m sure you’ll be as thrilled as I was to discover that there’s a new Fancy in town – Mr Kipling Limited Edition Cocktail Fancies. I picked up a box of these in Sainsbury’s yesterday for the special promotional price of £1.50. And when I say ‘picked up’, I mean ‘fell upon like a wild dog’.

French Fancies

Obviously we’ve tried them all already. Obviously. So here’s my cake-verdict. I was going to include Chris’s helpful comments, but he is doing some kind of Important Work. Boo.

Raspberry Daiquiri
Easily the best of the three flavours; I’ve never actually had a real raspberry daiquiri, so I can’t speak to its accuracy, but feel like the winning combo of sweet and sharp raspberry icing over the standard cake innards just can’t be beaten. If anything, I’m guessing we should probably be making the cocktail more like the cake. Get on it, alco-boffins!

Pina Colada
I love a piña colada and plan to drink them exclusively once I reach my 85th birthday. ‘What, Great Aunt Jenny? Yeah, don’t bother with the water, she just drinks those now. I dunno, we’ll get her an insulin drip or something. To be honest, it’s the least of our worries, especially since she’s refusing to pay tax to the giant cockroach king. All Hail His Majestic Mouthparts.’

So, yes. This is a nice cake! If you like piña colada (and/or getting caught in the rain etc).

Peach Bellini
The only off-putting thing about this Fancy is that it is peach-coloured. Which is an odd colour for a cake. Also, it smells of peachy lipgloss, although that’s not a bad thing. This is probably the most accurate of the three flavours, and is a little less sweet too. Delicious!

*Sidebar: Scots also LOVE replying to the question ‘Would you like a French Fancy or a meringue?’ Try saying it to your local tame Scottish person, you’ll make their day. Er, you might want to buy some French Fancies first, or everyone will go home disappointed.

Like this? Here are more odd food posts:

Japanese Kit Kat taste test

Chris’s favourite frozen margarita

How to roll your eggs



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Quest to impress Shania Twain

Chris got a Spotify subscription a while back, and he keeps listening to this cheesy 90s-heavy playlist in the morning while I’m having a shower. It’s both amazing and dreadful, and raises all kinds of intriguing thoughts like: Wow, I had no idea I knew all the words to Oops I Did It Again, and All champagne is French, Ricky Martin. And if someone forces you to order it, they’re not really your friend.

But the track that winds me up most is Shania Twain’s That Don’t Impress Me Much. For so many reasons, but mainly the sheer unimpressability of Shania herself. Let’s recap:

Things that don’t impress Shania Twain:

  • Rocket scientists
  • Personal grooming
  • Car ownership
  • Elvis Presley
  • Brad Pitt

Things that might impress Shania Twain:

  • Keeping warm at night
  • Possessing ‘the touch’

Shania is looking for a car-free idiot with poor hygiene and at least one hand. Get over yourself, Shania, you’re not impressing anyone with that attitude.

This post brought to you from 1998. Goodnight.

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My Netflix this week: Strong as hell

Contains spoilers for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt


Happy happy weekdays
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Upbeat block-colour enthusiast Kimmy has been held captive in a bunker for the last 15 years but is now attempting make a grown-up life in New York with a fistful of cash, a brainful of late ’90s slang and absolutely no idea what an iPhone is.

Sidenote: I breezed through this whole series in a week, and really loved it. I like that it’s not full of cynical straight white guys. I like how thrilled Kimmy is with her crappy flat and thankless job. I like that some scenes are dark as hell without being sentimental.

Great after: A bad day. Trouble at work? Argument with your spouse? Have a martini and straighten your face, dude, at least you haven’t been trapped underground since 1999.

Short on time? Skip to: Oh, you should just watch all of it. Although I guess we liked episode 4 with Martin Short as a creepy plastic surgeon best of all.

YouTube taster for non-Netflixers: The addictive autotuned theme song. Chris and I have been shouting ‘They alive, dammit!’ at each other for a few days now.

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Catchin’ up wi’ The Broons

As a little kid I loved The Broons and Oor Wullie, so I was thrilled when Chris’ mum unearthed a stash of old annuals and gave us a Broons annual to take home.

It’s really weird to look at them as an adult. For example, I always assumed the Broons lived perpetually in the 1950s or 60s, but there are a few contemporary references dropped into these strips. Here’s Daphne at karaoke!


I’m guessing that either they didn’t want Daphne to say ‘sexy’, or the lyrics have been changed to avoid incurring the wrath of Rod Stewart’s copyright lawyers.

In other musical news, Marti Pellow out of Wet Wet Wet not only makes a cameo appearance but breaks the fourth wall! Also they call him ‘Marty’ Pellow! Despite being huge fans, Maggie and Daphne don’t react to Marti showing up, although they are suffering an unfortunate bagpipe-related accident at the time.


Confusingly, Granpaw’s girlfriend Annie Lennox does not appear to be related to the singer-songwriter.


I have been able to get some more clues on my own family’s long-running quest to find out how the Broons, a family of 10 living in a small tenement flat, could afford their But ‘n’ Ben holiday cottage. My dad theorises that they inherited it, which seems probable, but this strip reveals that it’s built on farmland. I thought maybe the farmer rented it to them, but Wikipedia insists that they own it. It’s a mystery.


Aren’t the drawings just gorgeous, though? Look at thon coos!


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