The Gallery : 8am

The Gallery
The Gallery is one of those blogging comfort zones.  It's a place that led me to enjoying taking (and sharing) photographs and helped me to make great blogging friends.  I was there at the start - you can see my very first post for The Gallery here - and now we're on week/prompt number 200. I haven't joined in with every single prompt but I've loved joining in when I can and seeing entries from other people on all the other weeks. I've discovered new blogs, rediscovered forgotten blogs and revisited regular reads.  Of course I had to join in with this milestone week which has a prompt of...


8am, home office,

At 8am, during the week, I have usually managed to push a teenager out of the door on time for school.  Until recently, I would have been heading out of the door myself but now I work from home, so I make a quick cup of tea in my "Super Nan" mug and head off up the stairs to my office.  I open my laptop, check my emails and diary and start the first stretch of the day I have planned.  One great aspect of my new working life is that no two days are the same. One day I could be managing social media updates for a client and the next I could be covering an arts and culture event.  It's also not a traditional 9-5 job any more so the flexibility allows me to feel I am accomplishing so much more. 

There is another 8am in my life and that is one on a Saturday morning. This is a new 8am for me and one that I'm surprisingly enjoying. I recently completed a "Couch to 5K" programme and Saturday mornings are now all about getting out and going for a run before everyone else wakes up.  It's a lovely experience (yes, really), jogging along the canal, nodding to early morning dog walkers and other runners, especially when you see a bloke doing a "Phoebe run"* - that really perks you up! Later this month I will be volunteering to help the next group of C25K-ers through their programme as a way of starting to pay back what is now a new part of my life.

running shoes, couch to 5k, blackburn

*A "Phoebe run" is a Friends reference.  If you have no idea what I'm on about then take a look at this video.

What's In My Handbag (part 6) - The School Bag Edition

When I was in my last year at high school there was a definite trend with school bags. The girls used a green canvas messenger bag which could be purchased from the local camping shop.  The strap was kept as long as possible so the bag hung near your knee somewhere and the bag material was ideal for writing friend's relationship statuses on (yes, even before Facebook was invented we flaunted our love life in public) in black marker pen. The boys preferred to use the largest bag available - an Adidas sports bag - with the shortest straps so it could only be carried with the handles clenched in the fist and slung over the shoulder. You quickly learnt not to stand behind one of the boys whilst waiting to get off the school bus as they flung that bag over their shoulder with great force.

school bags, messenger bag, adidas retro sports bag

JD Sports, rucksack
To celebrate what is the last ever "First Day Back At School" in the O'Hara household, JD Sports sent Jake the pick of their school bag range. It seems that the rucksack is the bag of choice for this year as he selected this bag which is almost as big as he is - and that's saying something (he also chose this gym sack for his PE kit which proves that Adidas is still going strong after all these years).

As a bit of an experiment, I thought I'd compare the contents of a school bag from over 25 years ago (of course my memory is that good!) with a school bag of today.  Here are the results:


Homework Diary (complete with forged parent signatures each week)
Pencil case (4 pens in different colours, scented eraser, felt tip pens, liquid paper, liquid paper thinners, a couple pencils, a pencil sharpener, a maths set (protractor, set square which I can't ever remember using, compass)
Two or three A4 Project files
At least three or four text books at any given time
At least three or four exercise books depending on what lessons we had
(PE Kit twice a week)


Homework diary
Pencil case (6 pens, 2 pencils, rubber, ruler, sharpener, Tippex roller)
School booklet
Exam test days
School text books (Science, english, maths, drama)
Exercise books (Science, English, Maths, Drama)
School holidays timetable
(PE Kit once a week)

We both made our lists in secret so what amazes me is how similar they are, even with a 25+ year gap, especially the fact that we both carried trainers with us all the time.  Jake's are probably for dossing around but mine were for extra sprint training at lunch time (in between Prefect duty and sneaking off for a crafty fag round the back of the school Chapel). Also, even with the advent of digital technology, schools still hand out Homework Diaries for pupils to write out their timetable, take notes and keep reminders.

So, can you remember what was in your school bag and how does it compare to the bags your children take to school now?

NB: As this post contains a bit where I talk about an item we were sent, here's a link to my disclosure policy.

My 'Come Dine With Me' Dream Team

come dine with me,

This would be the best Come Dine With Me ever. Fact.
But you would have to watch with your eyes closed.


Alan Dedicoat (the voice of The Balls)
Peter Dickson (the voice of X-Factor)
Dave Lamb (the voice of Come Dine With Me)
Marcus Bentley (the voice of Big Brother)

I will fill in for Dave Lamb as the voice-over.
I'd even write my own script.


Who would be at your dream CDWM table?

[RECIPE] How To Make Peanut Blondies

recipe, peanut blondies, hungry student cookbook,

You can watch what happened in this video as I demonstrate how to make Peanut Blondies from the Hungry Student Easy Baking Book.  It's worth it, I promise... 


  • Vegetable oil or butter, for greasing
  • 100g white chocolate, broken into squares
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 150g light brown soft sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g peanut butter (crunchy works best but smooth is fine too)
  • 80g plain flour
  • 1/4tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 20cm square cake tin
  • non-stick baking paper


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 6. Grease a 20cm square cake tin and line with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate (traditional or microwave method).  When the chocolate is melted, set it aside to cool for around 10 minutes.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and both types of sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Combine the beaten eggs and vanilla extract and add to the mixture along with the peanut butter.  Beat in vigorously until well mixed.
  5. Pour in the cooled melted chocolate and stir to combine well.
  6. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in.
  7. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 25-35 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook or the blondies will be dry.
  8. Allow to cool fully in the tin before cutting into slices.
  9. Store in an air-tight container and eat within 7 days.

This recipe has been reproduced with full permission from Charlotte Pike and the Hungry Student Cookbook publishers, Quercus.

Charlotte Pike : Twitter | Website
Hungry Student Cookbooks : Twitter | Amazon