Thursday, 30 December 2010

How to cook your Christmas turkey in the dishwasher and live to tell the tale

So, a week before Xmas my oven decides to stop working. All the local shops can't deliver a new one for 6 weeks, and I have 7 for Christmas dinner... aarrrgghhh!

So what did I do? I turned to trusty Twitter and Facebook for an answer. After posting out my plea, I received back many ideas:

  • microwave it
  • BBQ it
  • deep fry it
  • cook it in the dishwasher
Yep, that's right, cook it in the dishwasher.

Now, I admit that one of the other three options must be easier than the dishwasher suggestion, but come on - when have I backed down in the face of a challenge? The dishwasher it must be!

I told the family and they looked at me aghast. "Cook the turkey... in the dishwasher....?" All except Leigh, who said "What a great idea for a blog post!" (glad to see she inherited my nose for drama ;) )

And so, on Xmas morning we duly got out the turkey:

Well, to be honest it was a Chapon not a turkey as such, but it once had feathers and laid eggs so I'm not quibbling :)

The recipes I found online said to wrap it in stemaing bags - we didn't have any so we extra quadruple wrapped it in thick turkey foil while we were running the dishwasher through on empty to make sure it was clean.

Then into the dishwasher it went:

Here's the turkey in it's home for the next few hours:

It was a 3.5KG bird, so we put it through 4 cycles at the highest temperature (75 deg) - checking it after each cycle to see if it really was cooking. Leigh was on standby with chicken nuggets if it didn't, and Shaun mentioned many times how glad he was having fish that could be cooked in the microwave (wuss!)

After 4 cycles, we unwrapped it and took a look:

It was cooked! OK, it was a bit pale and anaemic looking, but nothing a quick blast in the microwave grill and copious amounts of gravy couldn't sort out.

Most importantly, it tasted yummy - moist, flavourful, and very definitely edible - with not a trace of detergent to be found ;)

The rest of the Christmas dinner was cooked in the halogen oven we borrowed, in pans and in the microwave, so it was a bit of a 'take it as you find it' affair, but all in all it worked well and everyone had a lovely Christmas dinner, as well as having created a bit of a talking point!

 They tell me I'm brave to have tried it on such an important meal; there's a thin line between bravery and stupidity; I'm not sure which side I'm on LOL!

So for those of you who thought it couldn't be done - it can! For those of you who thought I wouldn't do it - I did! And for those of you who want to try it - do it! It really didn't take much longer than cooking the traditional way, and the end result was most pleasant.

What would you have done with your Christmas turkey if your oven broke a few days before Christmas?

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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A morning in the life of a multi tasking Mummy

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseI know us women are supposed to be able to multi task, but what a day so far today!

07.30: Wake up to find that baby O has vomited all over her bed in the night and then slept in it!

07.45: Put Baby O in bath and change bed

08:00: Feed Baby O her breakfast as she is all smiles

08.15: Clean up the sofa, carpet, high chair, floor and ME as Baby O has vomited everywhere again

08:30: Find out that the internet in the house isn't working, and the Doctor's isn't open until 2pm

08:35: Frantically try to rearrange Skype mentoring calls as no Internet or phone lines, while entertaining a miserable 9 month old

09:00: Nanny arrives to look after 9 month old while I go to Macdonald's to get free Wifi

09:30: Arrive at Macdonald's to find I've forgotten my purse and there's no plug to plug my laptop in. Also the 'a,bient' music is so loud I can't make Skype calls...

10:00: Happily have rescheduled all calls, explained situation to clients, and found some money in my pocket for a coffee and a muffin.

10:30: Important emails done, can now go home and continue working on my iPhone

10:45: Go to car to find that battery is flat and car won't start. Go back into Macdonald's to start up laptop to charge phone as battery is dead on that also!

11:00: Telephone friend to get her to come and pick me up

11:15: Think friend is lost - standing in freezing cold outside McD's

11:30: Friend turns up, takes me home. 9 month old still not well, so start other car to go get petrol to be able to get to pharmacy after doc's appointment

11:35: Get to petrol station and realise still don't have purse - drive home again, pick it up and fill up with fuel. Doc's not open until 2pm

11:45 Get internet tehering on iPhone working for internet access, Skype still crap

12:00: Finally get a cup of decent coffee!

Baby O is ok, just has an upset tummy - we'll be off to the doc's at 2pm! One car is still stranded at McD's, but luckily the other one is running (although my penchant for old cars may work against me here!).

I still have a days work to do - and I'm knackered :)

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Monday, 29 November 2010

He's old, he's smelly, he's cantankerous... but I love him

No, I'm not talking about my partner, or even my dad - I'm talking about my car.

For as long as I can remember I've wanted to own an old London Cab - which is easier said than done when you have to import and register it in France, where not only do they insist on MOUNTAINS of paperwork, but also have no idea what one is and so require even MORE paperwork to get to the right paperwork - who says we can live in a paperless society?

Last year I finally found one that I could afford, and duly brought it over to France - it's taken me until now to sort out paperwork, and we're still not out of the woods.

Called Joe (le Taxi, of course), he proudly sits in my garage and ferries me around our villages and towns, to the delight of the local kids (and adults!) who wave frantically, smile in wonder, or wave threateningly whenever they see me.

He's not perfect by any means, in fact:
  • he never starts first time in the cold
  • the heater doesn't work properly in the front so it's always cold
  • the battery goes flat with alarming regularity
  • the stereo works when it feels like it
  • he's noisy and smelly like a lot of old diesel cars
  • he drinks oil like an old tramp drinks Special Brew
  • the back windows don't lock so I can't leave anything in him
  • he has the smallest boot in the world
But he's mine, and I love him. He has 7 seats, can carry loads of luggage (just not in the boot!)  and has a lot of character.

I'm going to have to buy a more reliable car to go alongside Joe, as he's not at his best in the winter, but alongside my kids and my partner (and Johnny Depp of course), he's the love of my life :)

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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Go retro this Christmas with Little Nut Tree Toys

Go retro with wooden toys for your kids this Christmas
Whether it’s fashion, interior design or music, retro is most definitely the biggest trend of the year, and the same applies to children toys. For many, retro wooden toys have connotations of ‘the good old days’, implying harmless and innocent fun. With parents starting to resist the over-marketed plastic toys, there is a clear return to the more traditional wooden toys this Christmas.
Haba do a fantastic range of traditional yet stimulating and interesting wooden toys for babies, toddlers and young children, making ideal presents for lots of little boys and girls this Christmas. Not just ideal presents for parents to give their own children, Haba toys are great for those wishing to buy something different and interesting for their niece/nephew/grandchild this Christmas.
A great wooden toy for children 1-2 years old is the retro Haba Baby’s First Train, or for a more contemporary alternative, the Haba Bear Voyage Pull Along is equally as fascinating for the little ones. A toy that babies can grow up with, these pull-along retro toys can be treasured by children year after year.
For newborns, often Christmas presents are limited to clothes as they grow so quick, but a retro wooden mobile is a great long-lasting present. Haba have a great range of wooden mobiles, but a favourite is the Haba Flutterlies Mobile which features multi-coloured and patterned butterflies to stimulate the baby’s senses.
Finally, for years the rattle has been the favourite toy for babies, and again Haba has some great retro wooden rattles which make ideal Christmas presents. A great one for baby girls is the Haba Flower Trio which features three wooden flowers that not only rattle but twist and bend. For baby boys, the retro Haba Clutching Toy Kastagnetta is a vibrant rattle which is designed to encourage music and sensory perception.
The wooden retro toys by Haba are all designed to not only be long-lasting and hard-wearing, but also a way to stimulate and educate little boys and girls, so why not make this Christmas a retro one with Haba and Little Nut Tree Toys?

Disclaimer: Little Nut Tree Toys are a client :)

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Thursday, 4 November 2010

My favourite picture is being put on canvas by Hello Canvas!

I do get excited about the most bizarre things, but this one really has had me smiling today.

This is my favourite picture from our recent holiday in the South of France:

(I have no idea why it's upside down in this blog!)

It's all 4 of our girls' feet (or foot!) in the sand, and baby O's first time on the beach, and I've had it as my screensaver and wallpaper on my laptop ever since.

So when Groupon offered a voucher worth £75 for only £29 to have it put on a 24inch by 32inch canvas, I jumped at the chance.

It's being offered through a fab company called Hello Canvas (NOT a client of mine!) and I have to say their customer service has been fab. I can't wait to see the finished result!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Looking for wooden kids' toys? Little Nut Tree Toys take some beating!

I love old fashioned type wooden toys, and am lucky enough to have a great client who supply fantastic wooden toys for kids - Little Nut Tree Toys.

I've known Jo at LNT for a few years now, as we did some SEO on her original website, and helped her out with some Adwords, and I love the funky toys she stocks.

Baby O is particularly fond of her Haba baby toys - in particular the Pingi rattle, which really is as cool as it looks!

Even if they weren't a client I'd recommend Little Nut Tree Toys, so if you're looking for traditional toys for the kids this Christmas, please do check them out.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Europcar St Martin au Laert / St Omer - avoid at all costs!

I hate that my latest post turns me into one of those expats I hate. You know the ones - they wax lyrical about how they love France, move here and then do nothing but moan about the weather / buearocracy / French / schools / taxes etc etc etc :)

I have to say though that my recent experience with Europcar St Martin au Laert near St Omer is the WORST I have ever had in terms of customer service in France - or indeed anywhere for that matter!

Turning up at 10 ready to pick up a 9 seater vehicle to take 5 kids on holiday (gotta love blended families, eh?) we were faced with the most po faced and unhelpful woman I have ever had the displeasure to meet.

There was a mix up with our booking, and she was determined that she was not going to help. She could have made a couple of phone calls and sorted it out, but refused.

We had paperwork clearly saying we had paid E350 deposit - her screen said E170, so even though I had paperwork and bank statements to prove otherwise, it 'wasn't her problem'.

Our paperwork said we had E650 left to pay. Her screen calculated that we had to pay E1200 - and again, this wasn't her problem, it was ours.

Our paperwork said unlimited mileage. Hers said we could only do 250KM a day - not even enough to get us to our destination and back.

We spent a fortune calling the UK on our mobiles, as we knew people in Europcar head office. We spent a fortune calling Dunkerque as that's their French head office. We spent a fortune calling Ireland, where the Cartrawler website that we had booked the vehicle on was based.

We spent SIX HOURS sat in her office while she gave us smug smiles and refused to help. I accept it wasn't her problem - but her complete refusal to even care that I had kids ranging from 4 months to 18 years at home waiting drove me mad.

AND THEN she had the cheek to charge me E15 because she had top keep the office open over lunchtime because she refused to help with my problem and we refused to budge!

EVENTUALLY after a lot of phone calls we paid a security deposit (something else my paperwork said I didn't need to pay as I'd paid extra for an all inclusive damage waiver) and finally left on our holiday - almost 7 hours later than planned.

We arrived at our mid way destination at 3am after an 8 hour drive, knackered and hungry and with another 4 hour drive ahead of us the next day.

I won't say that Europcar and Car Trawler ruined our holiday - but they certainly set it off to a really bad start, and it could all have been helped with a little customer service and courtesy.

The thing these people don't realise though, is that in the age of the Internet, their reputations can be ruined in one fell swoop - I for one will ensure that everyone I meet / speak to / come into contact with online will know about my crappy experience with Europcar St Omer - it only takes one or two more to do the same and that woman's smug little smile might not be so smug anymore...

Monday, 12 July 2010

Baby's first moneybox - pot of dreams!

One of the great companies I'm lucky enough to work with is The Card Company Ltd - they provide gifts and cards through the post, even handwriting the cards for you if necessary.

I'm a great believer that all kids should have a money box, so imagine how pleased I was to find the Pot of Dreams, complete with glittery writing saying 'Olivia'. We can't buy many things with her name on (although more than we could ever buy for poor Leigh 18 years ago!) so I do tend to buy things if we see them.

It's completely unopenable without breaking it, so it will have to be really full and ready to spend before we crack it open, and it means she can't steal her own money for sweets of course ;)

I'll be filling it with 2 euro coins so reckon it will hold at least 100 euros, which isn't a bad start to baby's first moneybox.

There are plenty of other Pots of Dreams - ones with names, ones with aims, ones with ages - and they're really inexpensive, so I bought another one too for a certain family member I can't name at the moment as she might read this and it won't be a surprise ;)

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Happy Father's Day everyone :)

Baby O and I just took Daddy out for a lovely meal - restaurant review coming up soon. O was gorgeously well behaved all the way through, which is always a relief as I'm well aware that people don't go out to a busy restaurant to listen to my baby screaming!

A compilation CD, some funny Daddy gifts and 2 tickets for Abba Mania in Roubaix made Daddy a very happy man, so a great day all round.

And there's still Chapagne in the fridge :)

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Starting The Dukan Diet in earnest - eek!

I tentatively started the Dukan Diet a few weeks ago, and promptly lost half a stone in about 5 days - but I wasn't following it as well as I should, and a few trips to various restaurants, and a UK shopping trip means I've let it drop by the wayside.

This weekend I've finally read the book properly, planned out menus for next week, joined the Facebook fan page, and joined up at the Dukan website.

Here's an Amazon affiliate link to the book I bought - it explains the diet very well and gives some recipes and menu plans, which are very helpful:

You can get personalised daily email coaching on the website, and it's very tempting to sign up, but they want to charge me £194 (cost is based on how much weight you have to lose, how long it will take, etc) and as there's no monthly payment options I've decided to give it a miss for now. I may sign up in future though if I struggle - but I kind of object to shelling out almost £200 for someone to tell me what I can read in the book that cost me less than a tenner!

The first 5 days of the diet will be protein based only, so no veggies, no sugar, no carbs and no alcohol - eek! 2-3 litres of water a day (shall I set up office in the toilet?), and 20 minutes of walking. I'm supposed to eat oatbran but ironically (as the Dukan Diet is named after the FRENCH doctor who invented it) I can't find oatbran here in France so have had to order it online and have it delivered.

I've also ordered the French version of the recipe book, but here's a link to the UK version as most of my readers are in the UK :)

I'm not going to turn this blog into a diet blog, but I will be posting about my efforts occasionally, as well as sharing menus and recipes both here and on Facebook. It keeps me accountable as well as giving me something to write about!

So, wish me luck - according to the website, I can reach my 'true weight' (I want to lose 4 stone) by November at a good and healthy pace, which is fine by me!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

French Nikki, meet English Nikki

Chatting to my friend Katie last night over a couple of glasses of wine, it occurred to me that I'm somewhat two faced.

I don't mean that in a bad way, I mean that there's an "English" Nikki and a "French" Nikki.

See, in English I think I'm quite witty and quick. Obviously I'm fantastic company, or the aforementioned Katie wouldn't be seen dead with me, much less let me share her wine ;). I'm quick, I'm VERY sarcastic, and can be a bit of a bitch at times (in a bad as well as a good way!). I join in with jokes, start conversations, have a lauigh with friends and can generally hold my own (and anyone else's for that matter).

In French I'm meek and mild, quiet, speak when spoken to, don't have the confidence to make jokes or say anything in case it's the wrong thing, etc. I'm like a diluted version of me.

I often wonder if my English friends met the "French Nikki" what they would think of her - I'm sure they'd find her a bit of a disappointment, and vice versa if my French friends met the English Nikki - I don't think they'd know what to do with her!

I wonder how long it will take for my two sides to combine and beome the 'Whole Nikki'? Or if indeed it will ever happen?

In the meantime I'm glad to have Katie around to vent my Englishness at and a welcome return to being the 'Real' Nikki :)

Monday, 14 June 2010

What i've been reading recently

I've become an avid blog reader, as I'm naturally a nosey person and love to find out what's going on. Some of the blogs below are from clients, some are just random blogs I've come across while mooching around:

Father's Day

It's on June 20th this year in case you didn't know, and it's nice to see so many bloggers embracing the day and using it to promote themselves and others.

The Card Company has a nice blog post featuring the things they think will make the best Father's Day gifts - all from their own ranges of course, but what Dad wouldn't be chuffed with a bottle of personalised whiskey?

The Football

I really can't convey how much I detest football, and how bored I am with all the World Cup 'promotions' dropping in my inbox, but I did smile at this football game from eMarket2, that I found out about on Twitter. It's quite addictive, and you can have it branded with your company details, so I guess it has a business use too.


It's always nice to read good things about clients, so I was really happy to receive the lastest lot of testimonials for Riverbanks Clinic, especially the Vaser Lipo ones. Some of them are being posted on the Riverbanks Blog, so do check them out if you're considering this rather effective non cosmetic procedure.

Coronation Street

I know, I know, but I love Corrie and really miss it since we moved to France. Unfortuunately the Itv website has stopped doing picture catchups, and the videos don't work over here, so I was happy to find an unofficial Coronation Street blog that has catchups, previews and articles on my favourite UK soap.


I was invited to join a new community for English people living in France, so have posted a couple of blogs over there and read loads more - it's always good to read what others have experienced, and to help out where I can!

I think that's enough for now, but what have YOU been reading over the past few days?

Friday, 11 June 2010

Stepmums aren't there to give 'real' mums a bad name!

Ooh I'm angry - not just muttering under my breath angry, but storming around the house like a mad woman angry!

I read this article yesterday about a mother who hates the fact that her ex husband's new partner 'parents' her child and couldn't believe it.

Seriously, this woman is miffed because her children's stepmother:

  • put suncream on her kid
  • bought her a sunhat
  • combed through her hair to make sure nits were gone
  • comforted her in the middle of the night when she was scared
Well I'm sorry Sonia Poulton but get over yourself love!

As a stepmum myself I can't believe her attitude! Surely she should be happy that someone is looking after her bloody kids? Because I'm sure she'd be the first to moan if they came home miserable (although maybe that would make her feel more secure as a mother, knowing no-one else could do as good a job as her?).

Being a stepmum is bloody difficult - you're constantly treading that fine line between mother and friend, you're close enough to the kids to care but actually have no say in most things, and let's be honest, having someone else's kids in your house every other weekend isn't as easy as it sounds.

Different rules, different expectations, diffrent manners - when the stepkids turn up it can sometimes seem as if everything has gone to pot and you're the one who has to sort it all out. Then you read something like this article and wonder why you bother.

I'm lucky in a way - the mother of my stepkids lets me and my partner get on with it and doesn't really question what goes on in our house, but I'll tell you something - if she ever phones up to 'put me in my place' because I comforted her kids in the middle of the night, she'll get short shrift from me!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Looking forward to our holiday(s)!

We decided to go with Eurocamp again - their holidays are well priced and great fun for the kids. We visited one of their Italian sites a couple of years ago and spent 10 days in a huge tent, but as we will have a 4 month old baby with us this year, we've gone for a chalet - deluxe, no less ;)

We're going to Le Vieux Port, which is down in the Gascony region and I can't wait!

One thing i'm not looking forward to though is the driving. Two adults, two teenagers, two kids and a baby in a 9 seater Mercedes (hired) driving from St Omer to Gascony - Google Maps reckons it's a 10 hour drive, so if you schedule in the stops we'l have to make we're looking at over 12 hours I reckon...

Twitter to the rescue! I've been Tweeting Darren Porter and his lovely wife Franca for some time, and was lucky enough to meet Darren last year when he delivered a printer to me (a long story!), so when Shaun mentioned that the guesthouse they own, Au Bellefleur was on the way to our holiday, it seemed like the perfect spot for an overnight stay on the way there, and again on the way back.

Within an hour of picking up the phone to Franca, the details were sorted and we're all feeling a lot better about the driving - a break about two thirds of the way there is ideal for us all - and i'm really looking forward to meeting Franca and seeing Darren again!

It's like having 2 holidays in one - let's hope the weather holds up!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Our 'nunu' is nunutty!

Baby O is 3 and a half months old, and despite being an extremely well behaved baby (I'm very lucky!) is still a major distraction when it comes to running a business! So on the recommendation of my friend Katie, we hired a Nanny, or 'nunu' as they call them here in France.

Betty truly is a sight to behold - a bosomy matronly looking woman with designer specs, she wafts in to the house in a cloud of perfume with 'bisous' (kisses) all round.

She talks incessantly to Baby O for the whole 3 hours she is here, 2 days a week. Unless of course, O decides she'll selpp for the 3 hours, in which case Betty wafts around my house putting things in places where I can't find them later.

She speaks in a very high pitched voice, and so fast that I frequently can't understand her, and when I make attempts at speaking to her in my faltering French she just smiles benevolently and pretends she knows what I'm saying.

She arrives on her bike with a variety of pressies for me - a jar of rhubarb jam, the odd smelly candle, some fresh mint from the garden - and offers me the occasional face massage - mad as a box of frogs, but O loves her, and we love her too!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Toby Tiger clothing from Little Sunflowers FTW!

This is my current fave outift for Baby O.

It's bright, the fabric is thick, it withstands washing and it's great for her to travel in (no nasty waistbands or zips sticking in).

I'm biased of course, because I found Little Sunflowers while I was pregnant, stalked them mercilessly until they became a client, and now I probably spend more on their clothes than they pay me to promote them :)

But seriously, this is such a gorgeous outfit that I'm about to order the next size up - Baby O looks gorgeous in it, and you can FEEL the quality. This one will be passed down a fair few times (fingers crossed that my niece Jet has a girl!) for sure.

Whatever the age of your child, (well, up to 7), Little Sunflowers has fab childrens' clothes for them, and you'll hear about them again here, that's for sure!

Who is NikkiP?

A quick introduction to me:
  • I'm a 37 year old mother of 2
  • I live in France
  • I run an Internet Marketing business based in the UK & France
  • My oldest daughter is 18
  • My youngest is 3 months :)
  • I have 2 step daughters aged 7 and 10
  • I moved to France to be nearer to my partner's children
  • My partner's name is Shaun
  • I currently own 5 cats and am renting one (the mum to 3 of the babies I've inherited)
  • I used to have a dog called LaWoof but had to give her up while I was pregnant
  • I started my first business from a council house when I was 21
  • I speak very bad French :P
  • I use way too many emoticons in posts :D
  • I don't watch TV but watch a different DVD almost every day
  • I read as often as I can, mainly in the bath
  • I love the sun, but hate to have a tan
  • I love growing my own vegetables but hate to dig the weeds
  • Luckily my eldest daughter has a boyfriend who will work for food ;)
  • I enjoy eating out as often as possible
  • I'm very spontaneous, which drives people around me mad
  • I'm also very messy, which drives them madder
  • I have TWO cleaners :D
  • I haven't ironed since 1992 and don't intend to start now
  • I'm always looking for places to guest blog, so if you like the sound of me, ask :)
I think that will do for now - my blogs will be about various things - being a working mum, living and working in France, restaurants, reviews and more - a real hotch potch of posts as much for my own enjoyment as anything else.

Feel free to pitch in and say hello on anythgin you like, of course :)

A toast to a new start :)

It's been a while since I started this blog, and I've neglected it massively in favour of my Internet Marketing blog over at

So, I've decided to start again - wipe it clean and use it more as a personal blog than a business blog. There may still be the odd business post from time to time, but this will be my place to put blogs that I can't post on my business blog, or over at Birds on the Blog.

My thoughts, news, reviews and ideas, and the odd gardening post too no doubt :)

Here's to a new start :)