Category Archives: Press

Nellie Knows – The Wokingham Paper – 1 May 2015


This was previously published in The Wokingham Paper on 1 May 2015


I had a proud moment when I saw The Wokingham Paper on sale in so many shops last Friday, thank you to everyone who has bought it and enjoyed my column and all the local news and features. I had an even more proud moment when my youngest’s team, Wokingham and Emmbrook Girls U10, won the cup on Saturday.  I am the least sporty person and have no idea about the rules of football but I can be heard cheering her and her team on, then getting emotional when they win! I do love May with its Bank Holidays and there is so much going on locally that there’s bound to be something for everyone to see it’s going to be a busy weekend but at least we have one extra day and a shorter week afterwards! I am picking up a box of ingredients from Wellington Farm Shop to prepare a feast for my husband’s birthday and will be trying to memorise a recipe to recreate a tasty feast for him as well as a lemon drizzle cake which is by far my favourite cake ever! I’m also going to be proud and quite possibly emotional on Sunday evening when Home Fires is aired on ITV at 9pm, based on the book Jambusters by my cousin Julie Summers it will be fantastic to see it brought to life and as a schoolfriend’s husband is the Executive Producer I imagine she will be equally proud.

Talking of telly on Sunday, I will also be setting my planner to record The C Word which is on BBC 1 and stars the acting genus and national treasure Sheridan Smith. It is the story of Lisa Lynch who recounted her experience of cancer with engaging candour and published a book based on her popular blog. My youngest has chosen to read The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett for a school project so I imagine we will also be watching that over the Bank Holiday. I don’t watch an awful lot of telly but I do enjoy cwtching up with her and watching films I enjoyed as a child.

In the garden
The weather has certainly got me out there and busy in the garden and I have been enjoying the summer opening hours at the tip (8am to 8pm), I’m yet to find the best time to go but queuing for longer than a few minutes isn’t that bad when I get home and see a cleared space ready to plant something inspired by my great friend Georgie Newbery’s book The Flower Farmer’s Year. I was in Wales again at the weekend for the Glanusk Estate Fayre and NGS Open Gardens event and I have made a note to visit gardens when I see the yellow NGS signs to gain inspiration, hints and tips as well as supporting the work of the NGS. The news in Wales has been dominated by the arson attacks which has angered and infuriated me so much that that I wrote a blog about it and I have made sure that our smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors are working properly.

Home safety
We have had a disaster in the kitchen, well it’s a disaster for me! I switched the large oven on and it stopped working. Thankfully a friend had hers serviced not so long ago and on her recommendation I called Kevin Harwood of Domestic Appliance Care and Repair who came out to take a look. As the oven is big and cumbersome he sprayed a bit of washing up liquid in front of the legs so that it would move easily without ruining my floor (another helpful hint you will thank me for) and whilst I grimaced at the muck and detritus behind the oven he didn’t flinch. He quickly identified the problem ‘direct short in the terminal block’ and asked if I had smelt smoke. Well, yes but I just assumed it was a neighbouring bonfire. How lucky were we? Kevin said ‘at the first smell of smoke the isolator switch should be switched off, everyone should know where their Isolator switch is for the oven and tell their children’. It got me wondering. My children have now been told.

Food and drink
I popped into Brown Bear Bakery at Holme Grange Craft Village last week and sampled some of their sauces that Michelle had found at the Farm Shop and Deli show. I was bravely saying how much I love spicy food and tried what I can only describe as THE hottest chilli sauce ever, however I did go back a few days later and ordered a bottle of it so I will be trying that our on unsuspecting guests! I’ve also been enjoying Prosecco with a dash of Wiltshire Liqueur’s Blood Orange and can thoroughly recommend that combination! Nice with a bit of cheese, I’m partial to Brie or Goat’s Cheese with Chilli Jam on an Oatcake.

Home improvements
Speaking of guests, they will also enjoy my newly decorated downstairs loo thanks to another local business. I sent a text to 3 plumbers and Dave from Gander Carpentry, Plumbing & Maintenance replied saying yes he could come and quote, would be with me around 130pm. He turned up on time, talked about soft close and dual flush mechanisms, I told him I wanted bog standard (excuse the pun), then he sent a quote and said he could take out the existing loo for me to take to the tip (I’ll be there with garden waste and a loo, look out for me!) and will then be back to fit the new one giving me the chance to decorate with a little bit more space! That’s what I call service!



Nellie Knows : 24 April : The Wokingham Paper


This was previously published in The Wokingham Paper on 24 April 2015


Here we are again! A new weekly paper for Wokingham and it’s all very exciting. As a child I used to read through the local papers and spot people I knew so it’s nice for my children to have the same opportunity although they may gloss over my column!

We’ve just had an enjoyable break from school where we had an amazing week’s skiing in La Rosière, we watched Bradley Wiggins in the Paris Roubaix and had a few sunny days in South Wales, coupled with the school shoe shopping and homework but it’s not long until the next 3 day weekend and then it’s a clear run to half term. However it’s good to be back into the routine of school run and this term I am going to be more on top of the emails that come from school and the letters that often get hidden at the bottom of the book bag.

The summer term is always a fun and busy one, but there is a lot of hard work for the children as well as teachers. This time last year we were stressing over the revision and exam time tables so to have a break from it for a few years is a relief. But after the exams comes the long summer break and if we’re lucky and this glorious weather continues we will have a long hot summer.

Food and drink

As always my thoughts turn to food and what to feed the gannets. With warmer weather and summer months approaching the last thing I want to do is spend hours cooking here and there so I have been cooking for the freezer. There’s nothing worse than opening the freezer and seeing misshapen bags of unidentifiable food and I find the easiest way to fill the freezer is by using the IKEA food bags (other bags are available), filling them and then laying them flat, so instead of a mass of bags you have a neat pile of frozen food. You’ll thank me for this I assure you!

I’ve also been making a variety of barbecue marinades and dips. The regular ones are Tomato (chopped fresh or tinned tomatoes, onion, garlic, honey, Tabasco/dried chilli/fresh chills and Worcestershire Sauce) or Peanut Satay (peanut butter, onion, garlic, honey, Tabasco/dried chilli/fresh chills). Simply soften the onions and garlic, then put the remainder of the ingredients in, boil it up (with peanut butter you’ll need to add water to avoid it drying out), allow to cool and then pop in a freezer bag.

Summer entertaining

We spend lots of time in the garden but the wasps and bees are really annoying. We have lots of honey pots in the garden which are smeared with sticky jam or honey, they are then placed away from where we are eating so we aren’t bothered by them. I picked some more up from Holme Grange Gallery. Another issue is covering food, I’m not a fan of cling film as I always lose the end and tin foil makes my teeth stand on end so I use Bowlovers which are washable, reusable and available from a great website called Hunter Gatherer.


I have recently reviewed A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale which is an outstanding book, based on the story of the author’s grandfather. I have a massive to be reviewed pile and am looking forward to sinking my teeth into them. I can’t read a book more than once but I can’t part with them either which is great for friends when they are looking for a recommendation as they browse the shelves and gain inspiration. I regularly trot into Bookends in Wokingham or Chapter One in Woodley and tell them what I have been reading so that they can order it in. Funnily enough recently a friend suggested a cook book from which I have made a few dishes and I tweeted Chapter One asking them to order it for me. Within minutes a reply came back saying that they would do. I love social media!


Speaking of books there’s a new series coming to ITV called Home Fires and I will be glued to the telly when it is on as it is based on the book Jambusters by an author called Julie Summers who just so happens to be my cousin. She has a cameo role and I am understandably incredibly proud of her.


On the shopping front Rococo in Bush Walk has had a refit. The shop looks very smart on the outside and is stunning on the inside. I nipped in today just to browse and came out being able to know the time by looking at my wrist and without gazing at my phone! We often pop in to browse and chat, not always buying something but having a good look to gain inspiration for gifts so when the need arises we pop in or my children can make suggestions to the family as to what I have made a fuss of!

I’ve also been to lots of fairs and picked up a pair of mermaid fins at one fair from an exhibitor Crash Bang Kids who sells a great range of swimwear, garden and pool toys.


Nellie Knows : The Wokingham Paper : 27 March 2015


I was thrilled to be asked by the Editor if I would like to be a columnist for The Wokingham Paper, the new weekly paper for Wokingham.  Of course I jumped at the chance!  Here is my first column which was printed on Friday 27 March 2015.  The paper is now weekly and you can pick it up for 50p from shops and newsagents across the Wokingham Borough.


“It’s a time of new beginnings with a new paper for Wokingham, the clocks going forward, the Easter holidays are fast approaching and gardens all over Wokingham are showing signs of fresh new shoots and lush green grass. What’s not to be happy about?

We really are very lucky living where we do and Wokingham is often quoted as being one of the best places to live. Having lived in the borough all my life I will have to agree. I grew up in Hurst when Dinton Pastures was just fields which subsequently became gravel pits when the aggregate was used for the A329M, now it is a hugely popular country park that attracts heaps of visitors yearly. I moved to Wokingham 25 years ago tempted by the bright lights and by the time I realised the bright lights were infact the level crossing lights it was too late and I’d already put down my roots in the town and it’s where I am raising my family.

The town centre is going through many changes and I would urge you to get involved and have your say. I’m a big fan of independent shops that give a little bit more and I assure you the town IS still open, yesterday I spent 2 hours after school running errands in town and picking up bits, not only did the shopkeepers welcome thecustom they also gave the customers some good old fashioned customer service with a smile. And that to me means a great deal.”


Popped into John Wood Sports to pick up a stud spanner for one of the girls’ football boots, whilst there they asked about the football teams the girls played for and supported. One of my girls plays for Ashridge Park U14s and one of them plays for Wokingham & Emmbrook U10s and are undeniably proud of their clubs and their achievements. Back in the day girls didn’t play football so it is refreshing to see so many girls getting involved and my husband is often badgered to go into the garden (or next door to retrieve a ball) or the park for the girls to practice their skills.

Books and reading

One of the great pleaures of my childhood was reading. I grew up on a diet of Famous Five and Mallory Towers, then I started reading pony books and the Flowers in the attic series. I still read loads and review books for authors and publishers which has introduced me to many great authors. A number of our local book shops and libraries have author events which are hugely enjoyable and very popular. I regularly keep an eye on Wokingham Libraries, Bookends and Chapter One website and Twitter feeds to see who is coming along and over the coming months I will be arranging a number of events which you will be able to learn more about in this column.

One of my hobbies is shopping, not just for buying new things but also finding new things and am often asked where I find things. Quite simply there’s loads of places to look and in supporting local shops I am playing a small part in keeping our town centre alive. Sometimes it might be considered easier to buy something online because it could be cheaper but when you add in the P&P and the time spent finding out how to reclaim your parcel if you are not in then that all takes time. My children often (regularly) complain that I spend too long in shops but I like the personal touch.

Food and drink

According to my friend Fiona I cook like her Welsh Nana cooked, which is opening the fridge to see what’s there and then creating a tasty and wholesome meal for all the family. If she times it right I will send her home with a dish of food for which she is grateful for (funny how she always manages to time it right!). I’m a big fan of slow cooking and have known Netherton Foundry for some years, they have a great range of cast iron cookware which can be found in Robert Dyas as part of the Theo Paphitis SBS selected items. Just this morning I threw in some tomatoes, chopped onion, garlic and carrots together with some mince and seasoning so that by the time the children are home from school or clubs, the homework is done and the kit required for the following day is located I can just lift the lid of the slow cooker and supper is ready.