Happy Birthday To Me! Chez Mrs. D Is A Year Old

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I cannot believe that Chez Mrs. D is a year old today! Where has the time gone? thank you WordPress for the reminder!

I’d wanted to do a blog like this one for a long time before I actually got around to doing it. The first few initial attempts didn’t quite work but then I brought it home to WordPress and Bingo! Chez Mrs. D. was born!

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All of my blogs are very special to me in one way or another – after all, they’re all my babies! And I definitely have a lot of love for Chez Mrs. D. It celebrates my love of being Mrs. D which is without a doubt the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s also a reflection of the real lives of women up and down the country around the world! After all we love having a cuppa with our mates around the kitchen or sharing cocktails in the lounge, where we put the world to rights; have a giggle; have a grumble; have a cry; give tips and handy hints to make each other’s lives easier, and share our experiences and the benefits of our wisdom. What I love about Chez Mrs. D is that it’s not about one particular subject. Here, you’ll find posts based on a multitude of subjects, so there’s something for everyone.

Fr. Ray Kelly: I owe it all to him!

Fr. Ray Kelly: I owe it all to him!

 

In the beginning it was very much like shouting into an empty room: I was speaking, but was anyone listening? I was writing, but was anyone reading? For a while, it seemed as though nobody was and I was beginning to lose heart. But then came the post about Father Ray Kelly, the Irish Catholic priest who performed that beautifully moving rendition of Hallelujah at the wedding ceremony of Chris and Leah O’Kane – and the views for Chez Mrs. D skyrocketed! Just as Fr. Kelly couldn’t believe his new-found popularity, I couldn’t believe mine – although admittedly, he definitely had the edge over me!

And since then I’ve seen this blog go from strength to strength. Chez Mrs. D still has a long way to go, and there are still tons of plans that I need to put into action for this blog, but as it’s only a year old, I think it’s done very well.

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I would like to thank everyone who has supported this blog during it’s first year. Thanks for the likes, the comments, the follows etc. The response I’ve had has always been positive and very much appreciated.

Here’s to another fantastic year!

 

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Passion Fruit Mousse

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Passion fruit mousse is supposed to be the closest thing that Brazil has to a national dessert. It’s not hard to see why. Mousse? Great! Passion fruit? Amazing! I absolutely love tropical fruits, so this dessert is right up my street.

Prep: 15 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time

Serves: 4

Image from Sainsbury's

Image from Sainsbury’s

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 4 passion fruit, pulp and seeds scooped out
  2. 150g sweetened condensed milk
  3. 175ml fresh whipping cream
  4. 4 lemon shortbread thins, to serve

METHOD:

  1. Put ¾ of the passion fruit pulp and seeds (reserve the rest for decorating) in a food processor or blender and whiz to a purée.
  2. Push through a sieve into a bowl, to remove the seeds.
  3. Add the condensed milk and stir until smooth.
  4. Pour the cream into another bowl and use a hand-held electric whisk to whip until stiff peaks form.
  5. Fold through the passion fruit mixture, 1/3rd  at a time, until combined.
  6. Spoon into small serving glasses and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
  7. Spoon the reserved passion fruit over the mousses and serve with the lemon thins.

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Citrus Sorbet Cups

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Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest

 

A cool way to serve ice-cream and sorbet.

 

METHOD:

  1. Cut citrus fruit (lemons, limes, oranges, etc.) in half.
  2. Squeeze out juice.
  3. Scoop out any left over pulp.
  4. Cut a thin slice off the bottom so that the cups sit flat.
  5. Freeze until firm.
  6. Use as serving cups for scoops of sorbet.

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Sweet Griddled Pineapple

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Pineapple is one of my favourite fruits, and it’s so versatile – it can be used in sweet and savoury dishes; makes an excellent mixer in cocktails and can be eaten both raw and cooked. This is a great dessert to serve as finale to a barbeque.

Prep: 5 minutes

Cooking: 10-15 minutes

Serves: 4

Image from Sainsbury's

Image from Sainsbury’s

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 1 pineapple, quartered lengthways, leaving the skin on
  2. 4 tsp Fairtrade caster sugar
  3. 1 tsp Fairtrade ground cinnamon
  4. 1 lime, cut into wedges

METHOD:

  1. Preheat a griddle pan or barbecue to medium.
  2. Cook the pineapple quarters for 2-3 minutes on all sides until just softened and a little charred.
  3. Just before removing from the heat, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon.
  4. To serve, cut away the fruit from the skin and cut up into slices.
  5. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over.

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Pepper Dipping Bowls

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I think these pepper dipping bowls are an awesome idea for serving up dips, sauces, salsas etc. at parties. It’s especially for individual portions because then afterwards you can eat the bowl!

Image from Sainsbury's

Image from Sainsbury’s

METHOD:

  1. Cut the stem ends off washed peppers.
  2. Dry with a paper towel.
  3. Remove seeds.
  4. Test the base of each  pepper, and if necessary cut a little off , to make sure that the peppers will stand up when filled.
  5. Fill with a variety of dips.
  6. Serve with tortilla chips and crudités.

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Pineapple Coconut Fizz

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Pineapple and coconut make a great partnership, and this mocktail is perfect as a refreshing summer drink.

Prep: 5-10 minutes

Total: 5-10 minutes

Serves: 4

Image from Sainsbury's

Image from Sainsbury’s

INGREDIENTS:

  1. ½ x medium pineapple, peeled, cored and chopped, reserving 1 skin-on slice, cut into wedges, to decorate
  2. 200ml pineapple and coconut juice drink
  3. ½ x 28g pack fresh mint, washed and chopped, reserving a few sprigs to decorate
  4. Crushed ice
  5. Soda water to top up

METHOD:

  1. Put the pineapple in a bowl and crush using the end of a rolling pin.
  2. Tip into a jug and add the pineapple and coconut juice and the chopped mint.
  3. Fill 4 glasses with crushed ice, then pour over the pineapple mixture.
  4. Stir with a cocktail stick, then top with soda water
  5. Decorate with the reserved pineapple wedges and mint to serve.

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The Coolest Ice Cubes Ever!

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I can’t believe how hot it is. I swear I’m melting away. I know England cries out for hot weather but seriously this is just too much. I feel like I’ve been locked in a sauna. People may pray for the sun but in my opinion, hot weather is so overrated – and that’s coming from a summer baby! Beach babes are able to look effortlessly hot as the temperature soars, and I’m no different. I’m able to look like a hot, sweaty mess with no effort at all!

 

So in this heat, it’s no wonder my thoughts have turned to keeping super cool. For me it’s cold drinks – and I’m knocking them back like there’s no tomorrow. And cold drinks mean ice, which right now is a necessity. The summer season means parties, weddings, barbeques etc where ice and drinks will go hand in hand. But the problem with ice cubes is that they can be pretty boring to look out and as great as they are at keeping your drinks cool, they’re also great at watering them down (which is only OK if you’re drinking water!) I did a post a while back about creating an ice-bucket - made from ice. It proved to be very popular and inspired this post about livening up the humble ice-cube in terms of appearance (presentation is important, you know!) and taste!

1. GOT TO BE HOT TO BE COOL!

Image from lifetricks.co.uk

Image from lifetricks.co.uk

Everyone knows that if you freeze cold water, you get cloudy ice. But freeze boiling water and you get crystal-clear ice. And that’s really important if you’re going to add other ingredients to your ice cubes.

2. THE HERB GARDEN

Image from boston.com

Image from boston.com

 

Add washed sprigs or leaves to the water before freezing. Mint ice-cubes are great in iced-tea (Mr. D’s fave) or fruit punch; rosemary or thyme are perfect with home-made lemonade; basil works well with gin, vodka or rum based cocktails,  and lemongrass ice-cubes in pineapple or apple juice – WOW!

3. CITRUS FRESH

Image from goodfoodideas.com

Image from goodfoodideas.com

Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges are a very obvious choice as slices are often served with cold beverages. But you could also try experimenting with pieces of grapefruit, pomelo, blood or ruby orange. These will work with still or sparkling water; as well as a variety of sodas, cocktails and juices.

4. BERRY NICE 

Image from tastespotting.com

Image from tastespotting.com

If you want pretty as a picture ice-cubes, berries are the way to go. They give a fantastic burst of colour and a fruity flavour to drinks. Raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants, blackberries etc. could go in whole, although strawberries would probably have to be sliced. They would be perfect with iced tea, lemonade, sodas, berry, cherry, pomegranate or cranberry cocktails or juices, and raspberry would also work well with orange or peach juices.

5. TROPICAL PARADISE

 

Try pieces of pineapple, kiwi fruit, lychee or dragon fruit for a touch of the exotic. These would be a welcome addition to coconut water, a multitude of cocktails and tropical fruit juices.

6. SALAD DAYS

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

Cucumber, celery, red, yellow and green peppers might be more at home in a salad bowl but these can be really refreshing served with still or sparkling water or in a Pimm’s (my absolute fave – summer just isn’t summer without it!)

7. EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES

Image from shaadicurry.com

Image from shaadicurry.com

Add some washed, fresh rose petals to water before freezing. I adore the delicate flavouring and aroma of rose as an addition to food and drinks, and it is amazing with pomegranate, raspberry and other berry based drinks.

8. IF THE SUMMER HEAT ISN’T ENOUGH…

Image from blond-logic.hubpages.com

Image from blond-logic.hubpages.com

 

… then try adding cut pieces of chilli to your ice cubes. This will give a light heat to drinks and complements citrus, pineapple, papaya and mango based drinks. Just remove some of the seeds in order to reduce the level of spiciness.

9. GLITTERING COLOURS

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

Add some edible glitter for sparkle or food colouring for a marbled effect. These obviously won’t do anything in terms of flavour but they will make the ice-cubes in your drink look so pretty, so it might be good for those who want to keep the taste of their drinks pure.

10. DITCH THE H20

Who says that ice-cubes can only made with water. It can be annoying when ice-cubes water down our drinks. So freeze cola for cola-flavoured ice-cubes; pineapple juice for pineapple-flavoured cubes; iced tea for iced tea cubes… you see where I’m going with this.

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

And of course you can combine any of the above and freeze them in water if you really want to be creative with your cubes. Try rose with raspberry; pineapple with lemongrass and ginger; cucumber with mint… the possibilities are endless!

Let’s hope the only thing that melts in the heat wave is the ice in your drinks! Stay cool.

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The ‘No Straighteners’ Challenge: An Update

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Back in April, I told you that I was planning to ditch my hair straighteners, having used them constantly for almost a decade. As I have unruly, ultra-wavy hair, my straighteners were most definitely my best friend, and I always felt my most glamorous with super-sleek, straight hair.

Unfortunately the battle with my hair really began early last year. Years of straightening had left my hair frazzled, parched and a little on the static side. There were days I looked like Mr. Majeika and no amount of hair product would help. I was beginning to lose hope of ever having hair I could be proud of again.

I cannot live without my Tresemme hair straighteners.

I cannot live without my Tresemme hair straighteners.

I  made a great egg and olive oil conditioner - but was too lazy to prepare it every time I washed my hair. Naughty! I also tried a variety of shampoos and conditioners which I thought might help improve the condition of my hair. Everything helped to some degree but nothing eradicated the problem completely.

That’s when I decided that the only thing left was to ditch the hair straighteners. I knew it would be hard because without straightening my hair, I look like a small shrub! Would I be happy for Mr.D. to see me looking like this every day? Could I walk down the street and not mind the horrified stares? Would  I be able to ignore the smirks from my students?

But I knew that if I continued to straighten my hair, it would just become an even bigger mess. My hair was so straw-like I felt as though I had a haystack on my head. No, the straighteners had to go.

So they did. Well – almost…

I set myself a challenge that I would go a month – possibly longer – without straightening my hair and see if it made any difference. For the most part, I was actually very good and kept to my word BUT…  I couldn’t stand the kinked sections of hair that framed my face, so I cheated a little and straightened those sections. But that’s all I did. The rest of my hair was completely untouched by my straightening irons. Thankfully my Tresemme Keratin Smooth shampoo and conditioner left my hair adequately sleek so that I could get away with not straightening my hair.

Image from en.wikipedia.org

Image from en.wikipedia.org

In fact it’s only been in the last couple of weeks that I’ve taken to straightening my hair again but not in the same capacity as before. The straighteners only come out when necessary and even then it’s only to smooth down the sections that really need it.

And what’s the condition of my hair like now? A million times better! All the effort was so worth it. Yes, I still have a little frizz going on but my hair is definitely more soft, shinier and a lot smoother. It’s less dry and looks and feels much, much healthier. It’s definitely been given a new lease of life, and I intend to keep it this way.

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I’ve also been paying more attention to my diet and been eating more fruit, vegetables and oily fish as well as taking vitamin supplements, as I know that what you put into your body is just as important as what you put onto your hair. I’ve also felt that having super hot showers might also have been drying out my hair, so I’ve been washing my hair in much cooler water.

So I didn’t adhere to the challenge one hundred per cent – but I still think I did quite well. And now I no longer depend on hair straighteners to have great looking hair.

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So for you ladies out there who are reaching the end of your tether with dry, straw-like hair, there is hope. The best advice I could give you is a healthier diet and using your heated hair appliances a lot less.  It could well be the making of your hair!

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Good luck!

Keep Calm And Stay Hydrated

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Summer has officially descended upon us and the weather is just making me want to drink… and drink… and drink! Forget food, I just want something to quench my thirst so no prizes for guessing what’s going to make up most of this week’s shopping list!

 

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I came across some delicious sounding recipes for drinks which I thought I’d share with you, including one for a hot coffee drink which may not sound ideal for the warmer weather, but a girl always has to get her early morning coffee fix!

HAZELNUT LATTE

One of my fave coffee flavours – hazelnut!

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INGREDIENTS:

Hazelnut syrup

A cup of whisked, warmed milk

1 tsp. coffee powder

A swirl of cream

METHOD:

  1. Put coffee powder into a latte cup.
  2. Add a tbsp. of boiling water to coffee and stir.
  3. Add hazelnut syrup.
  4. Top up with whisked, warmed milk.
  5. Add a swirl of cream.

 

MANGO LASSI

(serves 6)

I love mangoes and anything made from this delicious fruit so it’s no surprise that it’s something I always order when I go to an Indian restaurant – although I have yet to make it myself! This version also includes mint – something I’ve never tried in a lassi.

Image from mealmotivation.com

Image from mealmotivation.com

INGREDIENTS:

A small bunch of mint leaves

100ml milk

1 ripe mango, peeled, stoned and chopped

2tbsp. low-fat yogurt

1tsp. runny honey

METHOD:

  1. Whizz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.
  2. Fill a tall glass with some ice.
  3. Pour lassi over ice – and serve!

 

CLEMENTINE FIZZ

Pretty much Bucks Fizz – something I usually have with breakfast Christmas morning but I bet an ice-cold glass of Clementine Fizz would go down very well on a hot day.

Image from channel4.com

Image from channel4.com

INGREDIENTS:

Juice of 1 Clementine

1tsp. triple sec

Prosecco or Cava

METHOD:

  1. Put the juice in a champagne flute.
  2. Add the triple sec.
  3. Top with Prosecco or cava.

 

CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL

Who wouldn’t like a glass of champers?

Image from bbc.co.uk

Image from bbc.co.uk

INGREDIENTS:

1 sugar cube

A dash of Angostura bitters

10ml brandy or cognac

Champagne or your favourite sparkling wine

METHOD:

  1. Place sugar cube in a fluted glass.
  2. Add Angostura bitters and brandy or cognac.
  3. Top with Champagne or sparkling wine.

 

WASABI BLOODY MARY

(makes 6)

Image from fresh.co.nz-

Image from fresh.co.nz-

usually made with tobacco sauce, this version uses wasabi for an even more powerful kick!

INGREDIENTS:

1ltr tomato juice

3tbsp. wasabi powder

6 shots vodka

1tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3 lemons, halved

6 celery sticks

Handful of ice

METHOD:

  1. Place ice in glasses.
  2. Put all other ingredients – except celery –  into a large jug.
  3. Stir well.
  4. Pour into glasses over the ice.
  5. Serve with celery sticks.

Enjoy these gorgeous drinks. Enjoy the Summer!

All recipes from Woman’s Own, March 2014

All recipes serve one unless otherwise stated.

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The Adultery Club by Tess Stimson

 

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The title gave away that this novel was going to be one of those sizzling page turners that you wouldn’t be able to put down – and this proved to be true. I had to desperately resist the temptation to sneakily continue reading while teaching my class! Yes, it was that good.

A cheating husband who just happens to be a top divorce lawyer; a devoted yet wronged wife and mother; a seductive mistress who doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as it isn’t her… and as if that’s not enough, the ex-fiancé of the cheated wife resurfaces after many years to settle some unfinished business. This Tess Stimson novel has all the ingredients of a fabulous read.

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Dependable, happily married family man, Nicholas Lyon is the last person anyone would suspect of infidelity. His strong morals are further reinforced by the destruction caused by divorce which Nicholas witnesses every day as part of his job. Married to a successful chef and cookery writer, the exotically named Malinche – Mal – for several years, it was instant attraction when they first met, and according to Mal, it was fate that brought them together. A decade later, they’re the couple who have it all: two rewarding careers; a chaotic though happy home and family life; three beautiful daughters, and most importantly a fulfilling marriage and strong bond. Mal and the girls mean everything to Nicholas and he’d never do anything to risk losing them – especially not for a quick and meaningless fling.

However Nicholas’s  morals go out the window the day he meets the captivating Sara Kaplan, the young and beautiful new lawyer hired by his firm. The attraction is mutual though Nicholas tries hard to resist Sara’s charms. Sara, on the other hand, see Nicholas as something of a challenge and pursues the much older, married lawyer with a vengeance. A game of wits soon begins with both players refusing to give up or give in.

 

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But then a bomb explosion changes everything. In the midst of fear and confusion and realising how short life is, Nicholas gives in to temptation… and what should have been a one-off soon develops into an affair – with Nicholas becoming a fully fledged member of the adultery club he loathes. And problems escalate further when Sara realises that she wants more than just a bit of fun and clandestine meetings; she wants a life with Nicholas and sets her sights on prising him away from his homely, mousy ditz of a wife.

Mal however is not as homely or as ditzy as Sara would like to believe. She’s bohemian, arty, and a little bit quirky – I don’t know many women who wear their eight year old daughter’s underwear (?) – and she is very successful in her professional life, working hard to juggle her career with the demands of being a wife and mother. The other great love of her life  is her best friend Kit who is something of an honorary brother to Mal and brings a lot of colour into the Lyon household. Mal’s life is anything but humdrum!

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As blissful as her life is, Mal is actually hiding a secret heartache involving her ex-fiancé, the gorgeous yet oddly named Trace Pitt. A misunderstanding many years ago led to a terrible tragedy which tore the couple apart forever. Now Trace returns and offers Mal a job at his restaurant – but are Mal’s culinary skills all he’s interested in?

Much of the humour in the novel is provided by Kit and Evie, one of Nicholas and Mal’s daughters, whose comments and insights are worth reading this book for alone. It’s touching to see Kit’s role within the Lyon household. Despite his strained relationship with Nicholas, it’s obvious that Kit is more than just a friend to the Lyon’s – he’s like another family member who loves Mal and her daughters. What’s heart-wrenching is the turmoil of the Lyon’s eldest child, Sophie, who is – out of the three girls – the most aware of what is happening to her family and of her mother’s anguish. A stark reminder of the suffering of children caught up in the middle of a bitter divorce.

Trace also comes across as something of a tragic character. For all his devastating good looks; charm; wealth and success, what Trace really wants is a life with his lost love Mal – a life that was unfairly taken away from him. Despite never being short of female attention, Trace never found anyone who came close to Mal. Once Sara and Nicholas’ s affair becomes common knowledge, Trace seizes his chance to win back Mal – but will he be successful?

Tess Stimson

Tess Stimson

This was the very first time  I’d read a novel by Tess Stimson – and I wasn’t disappointed. I enjoyed seeing how the story unfolded, and as the novel is told from the points of view of Mal, Sara and Nicholas, it was interesting to get an insight into each of the major characters’ thoughts. The novel’s tagline reads: whose side will you be on: the husband, wife or the mistress? Well as someone who thinks that cheaters are lower than pond scum, it was a no-brainer – and by the end of the novel, my opinion hadn’t changed. I thought that Nicholas was weak; Sara still a bitch – although she did soften a little towards the end – and I was still Team Mal! I was also impressed by Mal’s strength and dignity when she discovers her husband’s affair – I think most wives would have been reaching for the shotgun!

I wasn’t quite sure how the novel would end as there were quite a few twists and turns along the way – including the trump card Sara plays when she thinks she’s losing Nicholas. I have to say as enthralling as the novel was, I was a little let down by the ending. It was a happy ending, full of love and second chances for more than two of the characters, but it wasn’t the happy ending I would have chosen (sorry Tess!) and I couldn’t help but feel more than a little broken-hearted for one of the characters who I felt was worthy of a little happiness. Alas it was not to be. Still a really good read and a great introduction into the works of Tess Stimson. Can’t wait to get stuck into more of her novels.

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