Life Hack: Hotel Toastie

This is a trick I learned when I worked at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. This particular hospital is in the middle of a massive campus and there’s just no way to nip out to the shops without having a car or a spare hour.

It’s also perfect for days like today where I find myself alone in an isolated hotel with a pretty uninspiring sandwich. This is how to turn it into something a bit fancier.

You will need

  • An iron and ironing board
  • a sandwich that would taste better hot. Some sort of cheese is always good
  • butter
  • knife
  • about 2 feet of foil. Ask at the restaurant/bar


  1. Gather your supplies. 20160518_191800Put the iron on medium and let it heat up.
  2. unpack the sandwich and thinly spread the outsides with butter.20160518_192015
  3. Wrap the sandwich in foil. I find the best way is to roll it up and gently scrunch the open ends together.20160518_192034 Don’t fold them in.
  4. Put the foil parcel on the ironing board and apply the iron.20160518_192057 Leave it for a few minutes then carefully turn it over. Don’t leave it unattended.
  5. Continue for 5-10 minutes or until you can hear sizzling noises.
  6. Carefully unwrap and enjoy.
    Crispy and melty

    It will be hot so you may need a towel to protect your hands.


Life Hack: Hotel Toastie

2 Ingredient Nutella Brownies

I ummmed and aaaahead about making these for ages. It sounded too good to be true. On one hand I thought it should work because nutella would act as the fat, flour and sugar. But then I thought it doesn’t have the correct ratios for the perfect cake described in this book. So I read a few reviews and they were all raving about how good these are and I saw a similar recipe in Nigella’s last book. Despite the red flags I thought I’d give it a go, I couldn’t bear the thought of this recipe being fantastic without me knowing about it.


  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup (about 270g) nutella
  • I cheated a tiny bit and added a few extras, I don’t know if they made much difference if I’m honest but they were
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 40g chopped, toasted hazelnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 170°C, line an 8″ square tin.
  2. Whisk the eggs with the salt until they have tripled in volume, about 8 mins or so.
  3. Meanwhile, warm up the nutella either in a hot water bath or the microwave until it is runny and smooth.
  4. Whisk the vanilla into the eggs then on low-medium speed pour in the nutella in a slow steady stream. The mix will deflate but that is normal apparently. Fold in the nuts.
  5. Pour into prepared in and bake for 20-25 mins until it is set and there’s no wobble.

Nigella’s version of the recipe advised to wrap these and let them sit overnight….she was right. I couldn’t wait so I had a bit while still warm and when completely cold and it tasted overwhelmingly like a sweet omelette…absolutely disgusting!  But I did as I was told and unusually it wasn’t difficult to leave them alone for a day(or two). When I unwrapped them I was suprised to see that they had indeed become fudgier and altogether much more agreeable in both taste and texture.

Wrapped and rested brownie

But still a long, long way off what I would expect from a brownie. Yes it’s a quick and easy recipe (if you have an electric mixer) but I’d rather take the time and trouble to make something really delicious. Like this!

2 Ingredient Nutella Brownies

My new favourite thing #7, muslin face cloths

Waaaay back in the day, when my small sister was a baby (late 80s), muslin face cloths were everywhere. I got my one with a tube of hot cloth cleanser stuff and I rediscovered how fantastic they are! Especially for getting gunk off your face without getting your hair and clothes soaked. So I had a mosey around the local supermarkets and I couldn’t find them anywhere, neither in the adult beauty section nor the baby section.

So I went to a specialist baby shop…they had cloths of all colours of the rainbow! Pinks, blues, gender neutral greens and yellows! All in massive packets of 12. I started to leave, disappointed but on the way out I had a rummage in the bargain section (habit really, I don’t even have a kiddy). Guess what I found…? A lone, solitary cloth, 60cm x 60 cm

I got it home and cut it into quarters.

Quartered up and ready to sew

I hemmed the raw edges by folding them over twice as sewing them down. That was taking too long so I got out the hemmer foot which gave me a messier but quicker hem.

Top: hemmed with hemmer foot. Bottom: hemmed the proper way but forgot to mitre corners

So all done! I’ll have complexion perfection in no time!


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My new favourite thing #7, muslin face cloths

Utility/Japanese-Inspired Gardening Apron

I’ve been thinking about making one of those Japanese utility aprons for the longest time. Now the weather is heating up too its likely I’ll be spending longer and longer out there.

So I got my pinterest on. It seems there are two ways of doing this: prepare a big rectangle and two little rectangles for the straps. Or there’s the second way which I chose. I reckon this way looks a bit more professional and less thrown together. Also, I was supposed to start sewing my pair of self drafted jeans last week….o, and I got a new sewing machine for my birthday so I needed some serious practice.

I used this fabric,  the closest thing to denim I could find at a bargain basement price…..big mistake! This stuff thinks it’s on the bias….all the time. It was a little tricky to work with.

I was going go go all Chinelo Bally and draw the pattern straight on thd fabric but i chickened out! I started off with a great big bit of that burda tracing paper and folded it in half. I marked on CF and the length to the underarm and CF. I used  random bodice patten piece and traced around the relevant bits till I got a pattern resembling the ones I’d seen on pinterest. I decided to close the dart-y looking bit between the front and back bodices which opened up to give the skirt section a more A-line shape. 20160505_101436

I cut out the paper pattern and tissue fitted it to dollyP…

Paper fitting on dollyP

.A bit had to tell really but it looked ok and I got stuck in to cutting out the fabric.

I cut out the pocket pieces and even remembered to interface the tops and the neckline of the apron too. I was feeling a little nostalgic about my college days when carpenter jeans were all the rage so I made a few hooks by putting  long strip of fabric through the bias binding maker and topstitching it down. I couldn’t find little S hooks so I used carabiners and these clip things instead.

I decided to use snaps to open/close the apron so I marked the position and interfaced the wrong side. I used 10mm Prym snaps because thats what i had,  I think next time I would used a 15mm staple or add an extra snap.

Sew first then topstitch. Put the little metal bits on order and check they work before getting the pliers out

In my topstitching excitement I totally forgot to finish the ends of the straps properly so I turned the strap RST and sewed as close to the edges as possible. I turned them back out, pressed and pretended it never happened.

Snack pocket….not in the original plan

My new machine also sews those little tacks at the edge of pockets so I got busy with those too except, again, in my excitement I tacked down the second (accordion) pocket. Well, silver linings and all, as it happens, it makes a perfect spot to keep your mobile.

So here is dollyP modelling

And here I am flouncing around the garden.

I think if turned out pretty well despite a few careless mistakes. It was really useful practicing my topstitching and it was fun playing with my fab new machine.

Cost: 1.3m at £1.50 per metre, Gütermann thread £1.70

Time: 4 hours including drafting and all that

After I finished I discovered there are even easier options, Simplicity 1133 is very similar but it is finished with bias bindings so I might try that next time!


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Utility/Japanese-Inspired Gardening Apron

Mystery Plants

Sounds mysterious,  doesn’t it? That’s because it! These are two plants I’ve grown quite possibly from kitchen scraps 2-3 years ago. The reason I’m posting them here is that I’m hoping a reader or friend/relative of may be able to identify them for me…..I’ve got till the end of Summer then they’re headed for the compost bin 😦 For z little scale both plants are in 5″ish pots

plant 1


This short, stocky fella has a label that says apricot. In spent a summer in the greenhouse and hated it which makes me think it’s not an apricot at all. It seems to be some sort of evergreen with its lovely shiny leaves. He’s a shorty-pants, only maybe 5-6″ tall.

plant 2

For a long time this just looked like a stick in a pot of mud. It grows quite quickly, even outdoors. It drops its leaves early in the year but grows them back earlier too. This plant is a lot taller, over a foot, I’d say.

I am desperate to save them from compost bin misery. I will be extremely grateful to anyone who can identify one or both. There might even be a prize in it for you !20160504_192129

Please, PLEASE leave a comment if you have any idea!

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Mystery Plants

My New Favourite Thing #6, pattern bags

Well, they’re not really pattern bags but that’s what I use them for. I got mine in my local craft shop and they come in a range of sizes. The ones I’m using at the moment are A5 and 8″x 8″. I believe, in North America you can get a better version in the comic book store. The ones I have are used to put your pretty home made cards in to keep them nice to sell. I haven’t been able to find a 7″ x 7″ bag locally yet.1462343005852-248880145

Me, I’ve been using them to put patterns in. Generally the A5 size is perfect for Simplicity but the larger sizes are good for indies, vogue and other big envelopes.

Perfect for keeping grubby fingers off

genius! I realise I am probably the last person ever to work this out but still! And another fantastic way to procrastinate! 


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My New Favourite Thing #6, pattern bags

Sticky Ginger Cake

This recipe started life as a Nigella Lawson recipe and though the texture was soft, melting and delicious it lacked flavour. I found it needed the double hit of ground ginger and fresh ginger, along with some other spices. Which brings me on to one of my pet peeves….peeling ginger….nothing drives me mad like watching these so-called top chef take a knife and CUT the peel away along with the soft, tender ginger, leaving behind the less pleasant stringy bit it the middle. The best way to peel fresh ginger is rather like the way you might deal with new potatoes, use the edge of the blade of the knife (or a tespoon if you’re prone to accidents) and scrape the peel away.

Just pretend it’s a new potato!

The original recipe calls for an icing made from a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar mixed to a spreadable consistency with lime juice. I prefer to serve my cake with cream and/or custard so I leave off the icing but you can do as you please.


Do you call this ginger bread or ginger cake? I always called both the cake and the biscuit ginger cake


  • 150g butter
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 220g black treacle
  • 120g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbs finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 250ml full fat milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a tin about 20cm x 25cm and at least 5cm deep.
  2. Get a medium sized saucepan  (preferably one that doesn’t smell like dinne). Put in on a low heat and melt the butter. Oil a tablespoon and use that to measure the syrups into the pan. Add the sugar and spices. 20160424_181739Stir it until it is smooth and combined then turn off through heat and let it cool a little.
  3. Measure the milk onto a jug, beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. Sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
  5. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with a tablespoon of warm water then sir it into the eggy mix.
  6. Now stir the eggs mix into the gooey saucepan mix until it’s combined.

    Here’s an action shot for you
  7. Slowly, slowly, mixing all the time add the sauce pan contents to the flour. Go easy here, if you add the liquid too fast you will get lumps, if you add too slow you will get a sore arm!

    You don’t want to used am electric whisk because you don’t want to activate the gluten in the flour.

  8. Pour that mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45-60 minutes depending in the size of your tin. It should be risen and firm and a toothpick should come out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

    I didn’t have any fancy custard on hand so the yellow stuff will have to do….I’m no food snob!

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Sticky Ginger Cake