Thanksgiving Chez Mr. And Mrs. D.



Thanksgiving is about to descend upon us – and I can’t wait!

Ever since Mr.D. and I became a couple, I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving with him. It’s a very special time for us and it’s become one of my favourite holidays. I know it’s not such a big deal to our family and friends in Britain but last year Mr.D. and I got to celebrate with our friends in Edinburgh – and they loved it. And I enjoyed cooking for eight people – the most I’ve ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner for (all across America, people are going ” Eight people? Is that all???)

Going back to our first Thanksgiving together, I hadn’t a clue what to do; how to celebrate it; what to prepare; I didn’t know anything about the customs or traditions. I understood that a traditional roast turkey dinner was served, and that most people settled down to watch football and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving but not much else. So after interrogating Mr.D. about the dos and don’ts of Thanksgiving, he insisted that it really didn’t matter what the traditions were – we should work on creating our own ones. I thought it was a lovely idea. I also knew that it was Mr. D.’s way of saying that he hadn’t the foggiest what Thanksgiving traditions were despite having celebrated Thanksgiving his whole life!

So create our own traditions we did! Well not right away of course because the thing with traditions is that they need time to take root before they can be established as traditions. Though I’m very glad to say that the first ever Thanksgiving meal has not become one of our traditions or else we’d be eating roast turkey, raw carrots, stuffing and nothing else every year!

So as I prepare to celebrate my sixth Thanksgiving with the man who introduced me to it all, I take a look at all things that are typically Mr. and Mrs. D and that we have to include every year so that it feels ‘Thanksgivingy.’



For me, it’s very important to start Thanksgiving by going to a church service exactly as I would do Christmas morning. Mr. D. isn’t big on church but he does accompany me. It’s my chance  to give thanks for all the good things that have happened in the last year and gives me time to reflect. I know that Thanksgiving has no real significance in Britain where we are now but I will still attend a church service tomorrow.



Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a traditional breakfast of pancakes drenched in butter and maple syrup with bacon/sausage and eggs. You might wonder why we’d be tucking into a very filling breakfast when we’re going to be tucking into  a gut-busting meal later on but when you come to  number 5, you’ll understand why!



What else could it be other than turkey? When it comes to Thanksgiving the most traditional thing about it is the roast dinner, which in my opinion – unless you’re a vegetarian – just has to be turkey as tradition dictates. I remember for Mr.D’s first Thanksgiving in Britain, my mum insisted on cooking a leg of lamb because she absolutely hates turkey. Well, I’m sorry – I wasn’t having any of it! I told mum she could have some lamb for herself if that’s what she wanted but we were damn well having turkey! Of course I was polite about it.

We always served the turkey with all the trimmings including potatoes, stuffing, candied yams etc. Cranberry sauce usually gets left off the list (unless my father-in-law is with us) as it’s not really our thing. And if we happen to be in the States you can bet your life biscuits and pumpkin pie will be on the menu.


I thought everyone wrapped the top of the turkey with bacon in order to keep it very moist – after all, no one likes dry turkey do they? It’s certainly something I consider a necessity. But it would seem that when I prepared Thanksgiving dinner in the States one year, many of Mr.D’s family had never seen a turkey wrapped in bacon before. Some even thought it was my own invention (I wish!) They thought it was the most awesome thing they’d ever seen, and before the turkey even made it on to the table, the bacon had already been devoured!



This is a cross between a tradition and coincidence as try as I might, I can NEVER get dinner on the table at a time when most normal people would expect to eat. But then we’re not known for being a ‘normal’ household! From what I understand, most Americans have their traditional Thanksgiving meal between the hours of 1-3pm. Not in this house though!

I don’t know if it’s because of all the back-to-back movies we’re watching; the non-stop grazing that happens while we’re waiting for the main event, I don’t know why or how but dinner is never served before 9pm. In fact last year, when we were in Edinburgh with our friends we were having such an awesome time that we didn’t serve dinner until 11pm! That’s right – 11pm!!! Although by the time I eventually sat down to eat, it was after midnight and Thanksgiving was officially over.

So the moral of the story is that if you want to eat on time, Chez Mr.and Mrs. D’s is not the place to be!



Mr.D. is a movie nut so if it’s just the family who are coming over, it’s not unusual to find us watching movies until the early hours of the following day. We only stop to call friends and relatives, Mr.D. takes a break to game (also his chance to chat to his bestie who lives in South Carolina) and of course to scoff dinner!


If we are having friends over, we know that they will not want to sit around watching movies. So Mr.D. will watch his beloved movies until our guests arrive and then it’s raucous party game time. They might be a bit old hat but charades and bingo always go down well and have proved to be an excellent ice-breaker with people we don’t know very well. By the time they’ve put on their coat to go home, we’ll have made a whole new bunch of friends.


This may seem like an odd choice but it’s started at as purely coincidental. I realised that for the first few years that I’d celebrated Thanksgiving, I’d watched Death At A Funeral. I’ve seen both the 2007 and 2010 versions which both star Peter Dinklage. Don’t ask me why but that’s always something that’s on the movie marathon list. So now I feel that it isn’t really Thanksgiving unless we watch this hilarious comedy film that never fails to have me in stitches even though I’ve seen it five times now.



There’s nothing like candle light, and every Thanksgiving I make sure there are candles dotted around the place – especially beautifully-fragranced scented candles. One of the things our friends remembered about Thanksgiving last year was how gorgeous the place looked bathed in candlelight and the welcoming aroma that greeted them as they entered the house.

And we always have a candlelit dinner for Thanksgiving because there’s just something about that gentle, cosy glow and the warmth of the flickering candles as we’re all sat around the table. In fact, come to think of it, that might be another reason why we serve dinner so late in the evening as a candlelit dinner at 1pm just isn’t the same.



OK I think it may be a little too soon to call this a a Chez D. tradition  as last year was the only year we did a cheese platter but it was such a hit that I’m determined to do a cheese board every year. And of course, if you’re going to eat dinner so late, you’ve got to produce something to keep your guests going and this cheese platter seems to be just the thing.

I’ve done posts in the past about cheese courses and what to serve on a cheese board but if you’re going to make one as a precursor to a main meal then it’s best to keep things simple. And last year, everyone enjoyed nibbling on a selection of cheeses with crackers, mini sausages, apple slices, grapes and chutney in between playing charades.


I was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple and we were living in the Pacific North-West when during the church service the priest read a beautiful poem that has stayed with me ever since. It’s a reminder to be thankful for the little things and to count your blessings – even if it may not seem like a blessing at the time. The poem is called I Am Thankful by a talented but unknown poet and there appear to be several versions of this poem. I like to read it every Thanksgiving:


I am thankful for…

The mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

The taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.

The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.

My shadow that watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.

A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.

The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.

All the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.

My huge heating bill because it means I am warm.

The lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear.

The piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.

The alarm clock that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I’m alive.

Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I have been productive.

Let’s be thankful – not only at Thanksgiving, but every day.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!




Bully On The Bus Simone Joseph Walks Free

Ranting and raving

Appalled and disgusted.

These are just two of the adjectives that can be used to sum up how I feel about Simone Joseph being allowed to walk free and avoid prison after her vile verbal assault on Muslim passengers – one of whom was a pregnant lady – on a bus back in October. Joseph’s lengthy, hate-filled rant – which took place in front of her own child – in which she threatened to physically attack not one but two passengers was filmed and posted online which then went viral. So now the whole world knows what a despicable low-life Joseph is.

I was not on that bus; I did not witness this attack; it was not aimed at me, and I am not a Muslim. So I shouldn’t care, right? Wrong! This whole episode has left me fuming to the point where I can’t even speak – much less type!


Star of the show, Miss Joseph

First of all, racism; religious intolerance; bigotry; prejudice – call it what you like, I cannot stand any of it. As one half of a mixed-race couple; a product of a culturally diverse family, and someone who is proud to have friends from every corner of globe (well, near enough!) and taught students from all over the world, this kind of behaviour does not sit well with me – and that’s putting it mildly. I just cannot believe that in the year 2015, people can still be so ridiculously stupid.

But what really irks me is the fact that Joseph is a Willesden Green girl – a place that’s walking distance to where I grew up. In fact our neighbourhoods are so near each other, the area is often considered one and the same. It is an area where even though there are plenty of good people and a sense of community, it has a reputation for crime, violence and aggression. People I knew from other areas often refused to set foot there due to the fact that they’d heard “it’s quite dangerous.” Back in the early 2000s, the BBC even made a documentary series based on the high crime rate that was ever-increasing in the neighbourhood.


Well almost fifteen years later, Joseph has just proved that not much has changed. She’s just illustrated that our little piece of north-west London is an area that should still be avoided if you have any sense.

The 206 bus where the rant took place is a bus route I’ve used many times over the years. It’s a route that’s still used by many of my friends. It horrifies me to think that Joseph could have hurled abuse at any one of my family or friends. And as soon as I discovered that Joseph was an inhabitant of my former neighbourhood, I knew that it was very, very likely that we had people in common, as very few of the inhabitants are total strangers to each other. That six degrees of separation theory is more than just a theory for us – it’s pretty much a reality! And as everyone I associate with – both past and present – are decent, hard-working, law-abiding, honest people, it makes me wonder how we came to have such a low-life in our midst. I genuinely feel sorry for anyone who has the misfortune to be related to that.

What hit me hard was Hanane Yakoubi, one of Joseph’s victims, describing the distress she felt and still feels after the incident, and explained that she doesn’t know how to ask for help because she doesn’t speak English. I know there is a lack of sympathy towards anyone who goes to a country without knowing a word of the native language. But as it’s my job to teach English, I see the struggles my students face and the efforts they make to try to improve. They often make good progress but then they encounter a situation where they do not possess enough language skills to help them communicate effectively which upsets them deeply and knocks their confidence. What people like Hanane Yakoubi need is patience, understanding and tolerance not abuse and aggression.

The defence for Joseph – who gave herself up to the police after the video went viral – claimed that she was ‘ashamed’ and wished ‘to apologise to the complainant and the other people on the bus’ while the magistrate accepted that Joseph was ‘remorseful and of previous good character.’ What’s even more shocking is when the defence revealed that Joseph herself had Muslim relatives. This seriously smacks of ‘I’m-not-racist-I-have-Chinese friends-and-love-Mexican-food’. Yeah, whatever – tell it to the judge! Oh of course – that’s what she was doing.

I’m often told I’m too understanding and forgiving but this time I’m just not buying any of it. Would Joseph have been so ready to hand herself in if she had not been so clearly identifiable in the video? Would she have felt any shame and remorse had she not been in the dock? Has she any idea of the anxiety she’s caused a heavily pregnant woman? Do people of ‘previous good character’ behave in this manner? Do people with Muslim relatives viciously attack (albeit verbally) other Muslim people? Do mothers carry on like this in front of their children?

The answer to all the above is a big fat NO!

I’ve come across the Simone Josephs of this world. So have my family and many of my friends. I know first hand how distressing such an encounter can be. People like her start off as the stroppy kid at nursery who snatches toys out of other children’s hands, to the playground bully at secondary school to a thoroughly nasty and unpleasant adult who believes it’s their right to stomp all over whoever they wish – and most of the time the whoever they wish is someone who they believe they can pick on which shows how cowardly they are. Joseph was spoiling for a fight that day and she picked people who she knew were easy targets. You’ll notice she was in no hurry to take on the bus driver who tried to get her to shut it!

So Joseph left  court with a suspended sentence and a slapped wrist. Am I surprised? Of course not. This is exactly the brand of justice we can rely on in this country and will hardly act as a deterrent for the next bully on the bus. If there’s anything good to come from this whole episode, it’s that Joseph will think twice before she starts a fight with anyone again. Not because of her good character but because she is now more aware that there are cameras everywhere and once you get caught, there’s really nowhere to hide. But I do hope that in time she will see just how wrong her actions were and make a real effort to turn over a new leaf, and more importantly teach her child that this is not the way to behave or treat others. I really do hope she can do this because it’s a small step towards making this world a more peaceful place.


Great British Bake Off Finale 2015


In less than twenty four hours time, we’ll know who will be the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2015.

The downside of this is that this year’s series of Bake Off will come to an end, so we’ll have to say goodbye to Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue, cakes, pies, biscuits, meringues, pastries and breads until we see them again next summer – though sadly we’ll have to bid farewell to the 2015 contestants forever!


I get lost in my own little world when The Great British Bake Off is on. I actually feel as though I’m in the midst of the tranquil English countryside where the Bake Off tent is pitched. All those pastel, candy shades of iced goodies appeal to the kid in me. And even though the bakers often feel flustered and panic-stricken, there’s something so calming about the gentle pursuit of baking. It also invokes memories of home life and family time because let’s face it, who didn’t have a mother, aunt or grandmother who didn’t whip up baked delicacies, and I remember that growing up, teatime was a pretty big deal. And of course, the show celebrates that great British tradition, afternoon tea – which I’m sure you all know I’m a huge fan of. And best of all, for one deliciously decadent hour every week, we can forget that healthy eating ever mattered!


I think it’s fair to say that The Great British Bake Off is my very own televised Disneyland!

Mr.D and I have loved this year’s series – not to mention it’s sister program An Extra Slice with the hilarious Jo Brand. I often find that when I’m hooked on one year’s series of any show, the following year’s will fall a little flat so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this series so much as I thought 2014 was brilliant. But this year has been equally fantastic and we thought the contestants were a delightful and mega-talented bunch. It was so hard to pick a favourite because I had a soft spot for so many of them including Alvin, Sandy, Nadia, Tamal, and Paul. We’ve been watching Bake Off since the third series and one of the things that I love about the show – apart from it developing my love of baking and further increasing my love of all things sweet – is the sense of camaraderie among the contestants and the way they’re always willing to pitch in and help each other out even though this is a competition, and this year’s series has been no different.


Everyone has their own idea about who will win the title of Great British Bake Off Winner 2015 but I personally cannot make my mind up between the finalists Ian Cumming, Nadia Hussain and Tamal Ray. A lot of the work they’ve done has been highly original and really had the wow factor. Some people may have thought that Ian’s chocolate well last week was too simplistic but I thought it was amazing and showed that he really thought outside the box. All three have worked hard to secure their place in the final, and they’re all so likeable that it’s impossible to decide who to root for, so I’m cheering them all on!

The three finalists

The three finalists

Tomorrow’s final is going to be a real show stopper in itself. It’ll be interesting to see what culinary creations Ian, Nadia, and Tamal conjure up. I cannot wait!



Never Give Up On a Good Thing


When I have to teach my students the word ‘habit’ and how to use it, I often go around the room asking each one of them what their worst habit is, and sometimes the bold ones will turn the tables on me and ask me what’s mine. I often respond along the lines of drinking too much coffee or eating too much chocolate. But I’ve just realised that my worst habit is actually far worse than that.


My worst habit is that I am forever starting things and then not finishing them – a habit that stems from childhood. I feel like I should stand up in a room and declare, “Hello. My name’s Mrs. D and I’m a quit-aholic. It’s been two hours since I abandoned my most recent project.”

Think I’m joking? Think again!

At sixteen, I gave up A-level French because after being top of my French class for years, it came as a shock to find that I was struggling with the language at non-phrase book level.

“You give up too easily,” said one of my classmates.

Well I couldn’t argue with that!


Fast forward several years and I’ve lost count of the number of home study courses that are still incomplete; the lessons for singing, dancing, and various instruments that I stopped attending early on; those books that are falling off my bookcase on subjects I’d always said I’d wanted to know more about but never managed to get past the introduction; the language CDs and DVDs which taught me hello and goodbye in many languages but not much else. Then there are the craft kits that are collecting dust, the work-out equipment that looks just as it did when I brought them home from the shops, the blog posts I started last year but haven’t got round to finishing; the drafts of plays, short stories, and novels that I always mean to work on; my ideas for new business ventures that remain just that…


And these are just the ones I can remember. It all starts off so well with so much interest and enthusiasm. But as soon as I realise that it’s not going to be as easy as I thought it would be or I feel I don’t possess enough natural talent, I start to lose interest and lack the patience and perseverance necessary to keep going, which explains the reason why I only ever touch upon the basics (if that!)


I’ve figured out what my problem, no, make that problems are. The first is having a finger, thumb and toe in every pie as I have waaay too many related and unrelated interests. This leads to sloppy time management as there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, which in turn leads to an inability to focus because I’m trying to do too much and end up feeling overwhelmed. I’m also an impatient perfectionist who wants everything to go swimmingly the first time I attempt it. I have a deep-rooted fear of making a fool of myself, and then to top it all off, I have a tendency to procrastinate, especially when I feel that whatever I try to accomplish is never going to culminate in the desired result anyway.  Here you have a recipe for never getting anything done. And many of my likeminded, ‘creative type’ friends agree with me. We’re just so inquisitive and curious about everything and want to give it a go. We have a million things whirling around our heads like a cyclone. And then just as quickly as our interest appeared, it starts to wane, and we then move onto the next big thing.

Well I’m glad to know I’m not the only one!


But without meaning to sound overly dramatic (even though Mr. D says no one does overly dramatic quite like I do) I had a flash back to when I was five and we were practising for sports day at school. I had been put in the skipping race even though I couldn’t skip to save my life. Feeling deflated at being laughed at and ridiculed by the other kids, I persuaded my mum to buy me a skipping rope. That weekend she did. From morning until evening honing my skipping skills was pretty much all I did. And do you know what? None of the other kids ever laughed at me again. Do you know why? Because I was lethal with a skipping rope (and not because I tried to whack them with it. Although I probably should have done!)


Recalling this event has restored a lot of my inner confidence. It reminded me that with a lot of determination, hard work, and persistence you really can achieve anything – that’s not just talk show host speak! I remember that five year old who had enough fire in her belly to go out there and show everyone that she had what it took. She didn’t think that it was too complicated or unachievable. She didn’t listen to those who said that she couldn’t do it. Perhaps it’s time I followed my younger self’s example.

But then I realised that the determination of my younger self did crop up over the years. It was that determination that helped me achieve two degrees; fulfil my dream of studying drama; train as a florist; pass my driving test (something my dad thought was never going to happen) and carve out a career as a teacher for the past seven years. I certainly didn’t give up at the first hurdle there. Maybe I do have it in me to get things done after all.

I feel angry at myself for allowing this habit to continue for as long as it has. I’ve missed out on developing new skills and interests not to mention wasting sh**loads of money. But now that I’ve realised where I’ve gone wrong, I don’t have to allow this habit to continue. First of all I need to accept that I’ll never be able to give my attention to everything at once so I’ll need to prioritise and concentrate on what’s most important to me. And once I’ve done that, I’m going to dedicate some time each day or each week (even if it’s just a little time) to a particular activity and really make a promise to myself to go for it. After all I owe it to myself to try – plus I want to get my money’s worth out of all the stuff I’ve bought! I can always give the other interests a go when I’ve fulfilled these goals.


And I’ve also got to stop getting so hung up on being able to do everything perfectly. We can’t all be brilliant at the first attempt, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m always telling my students that with practice and patience, you’ll make vast improvements so maybe it’s time I took some of my own advice. Until then, I’ll just have to accept that I’m going to suck! Who cares if I can’t ice a cake properly? I’m not Mary Berry! So what if I can’t rock a guitar like Slash? At least I’ll have fun trying. I heard someone say recently that it was better to do something badly than not at all, and that is all the inspiration I need (unless of course the doing something badly is flying a plane, performing life saving surgery or firing a gun in which case it really is better not to do them at all!)


I’m going to leave you with this fantastic piece of advice from the legend that is Dave Grohl which is a reminder that even the greats don’t always start out as great. Sure, you might be pants today, but tomorrow people might be throwing their pants at you while you’re rocking out on stage!

Right, now I’m off to a car boot sale to buy some sh**ty instruments and start putting all those ‘teach yourself’ guitar and drum books and DVDs to good use!



Better Living #3: Get Your Five-A-Day… Without Even Trying!


The road to healthy living is paved with good intentions: getting more sleep; exercising regularly; drinking more water, and consuming the all-important five portions of fruit and veg every day. There are some lucky people who have no problems getting their five-a-day. And despite the fact that I love fruits and veggies and have no aversion to them, I also love chocolate, cakes, pastries and anything sugary and stodgy, and more often than not, that’s what I opt for – especially when I need to dash. It seems such a mission to remember to eat healthily with my fast-track lifestyle where I’m always on the move.


I’ve convinced myself many a time that the jam tart I’m scoffing is actually quite healthy because it contains jam which is made from, er, fruit; that coffee and chocolate are good for you because they are made from beans; chips are made from potatoes which is a vegetable so all good in the hood there, and sugar comes from a plant – need I say more! But seriously,  who am I trying to kid?



There seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what constitutes a single serving of fruit or vegetables but it’s widely believed to be around 80g. The following are examples of single servings:

  • 1 150ml glass of pure fruit juice
  • 1 thick slice of pineapple or melon
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of pulses or beans
  • 1 apple, pear, orange, banana or other similar sized fruit
  • 2 plums or kiwi fruit
  • 1⁄2 a grapefruit
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins or sultanas
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of stewed fruit
  • 3 dried apricots
  • 1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries
  • 1 small bowl of salad


With the exception of potatoes, which are very starchy and aren’t included in the recommended five a day, all other fruit and vegetables count, whether they’re fresh, frozen, dried, tinned, or pure juices.


But it’s worth remembering that no matter how much pure, freshly-squeezed juice you drink, it still only counts as one portion owing to certain nutrients being depleted in the juicing process. And because they don’t contain the same vitamins and minerals as other fruit and veg, kidney beans, chick peas, lentils and other pulses also only count as one portion, no matter how much you eat. Therefore in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, it’s advisable to munch on five different types of fruit and veg each day. It’s also worth noting that when people talk about getting their five-a-day, that’s just the minimum amount that we should be consuming every day. Ideally we should be aiming for about seven servings but goodness – it’s sometimes hard enough just getting the five so we’ll concentrate on that for now!


To be honest, it’s not actually hard to eat the recommended daily amount of fruit and veg. It’s just that we all live such busy lives these days and we’ve fallen into a pattern of bad eating habits. An ideal healthy eating day for me would see me start with chopped mango and pineapple with yogurt for breakfast; an oaty, apricot flapjack for mid-morning; prawn salad for lunch; a snack of fruit salad; and salmon with spinach, asparagus, broccoli and potatoes for dinner. What could be simpler?


I was thinking of ways in which you could effortlessly get the recommended five-a-day where it seems as though you’re not even thinking about it so it doesn’t seem such a drag. Many of the ideas below are things that I’ve tried or that appeal to me, and appear to be effective and not at all unrealistic ways of getting more fruit and veg into your diet. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change your eating habits overnight, and lifestyle changes always seem a bit daunting but you’ll gradually be able to work your way up to incorporating more fruit and veg into your diet – and once you know how easy it is, you’ll be unstoppable!



I always feel really disappointed when I call into a coffee shop, order a fruity iced drink, smoothie or milkshake – and find them pouring sickly-sweet, synthetic-tasting syrup into the glass instead of blending real fruit.

Well you can’t control what your local coffee shop uses, but you can make delicious cold drinks at home using real fruit. It may take a little more effort than opening a bottle but it’s so worth it!



Spiralizing has caught on in a big way where vegetables such as carrots and courgettes are cut into thin, spaghetti-like strands using a spiralizer before being cooked and eaten a lot like pasta with pesto or tomato-based sauces.



When I first heard about cauliflower ‘rice’, it was something that Atkins dieters were making as a substitute to rice, where they would pulse cauliflower florets to resemble rice grains.

I don’t really  think it tastes like rice but I do think it’s really delicious. It tastes a lot like the fried cauliflower my mum used to make. It might sound quite bland but with seasoning, herbs, spices, a little chopped onion or crushed garlic, and a lot of imagination it can be very tasty. You can even add egg to it to make egg cauliflower fried ‘rice’!



I do love my sweet, sugary treats but thankfully I also love dried and frozen fruit and it’s a healthier way to get my fix of something sweet.



Blend yogurt, and honey with your favourite fruit, pop into ice-lolly moulds and you’ll have a delicious, frozen sweet treat that takes next to no time to prepare.



Bananas are so versatile and contain a lot of potassium which is great when you need an energy boost -something many of my colleagues know only too well as they’re always bringing bananas to work to snack on. There’s so much you can do with them. You can have them on toast, or blended into a milkshake or smoothies for breakfast; coat them in chocolate and freeze them as an alternative to ice-lollies; mash them into pancake, muffin or cake batter; bake or barbecue them and serve them with ice-cream… the list goes on!



Purée some berries with honey and pour over ice-cream as a healthy alternative to sugar-laden ice-cream toppings.



I don’t know many people who don’t own a juicer – but I know many juicer owners who don’t use them. This is a real shame because fresh, pure juice is so good for you. And of course with a vast array of fruit and veggies available, you can have fun trying to come up with unique flavour combinations.



Slice an apple (or pear) very thinly; place on a baking sheet; place in the oven at a low temperature, and bake until crispy, turning over occasionally.



There are times when we don’t have time to make things from scratch – no matter how much we want to. But you can always add veggies to shop-bought stews or  blend vegetables into shop-bought soups. My grandfather always liked adding mushrooms to frozen pizzas while I tend to add sautéed onion, garlic and mushrooms to shop-bought pasta sauces – something Mr.D. is not happy about!



It started with carrot cake but now there seems to be a trend for adding vegetables such as beetroot, sweetcorn, pumpkin and courgette to baked goodies and desserts – and it seems to be going down a storm. It’s great because you can enjoy the sweet treats you love so much AND get the necessary nutrients. So you get the both of best worlds!



Ever since I discovered that I can make dips and salsas that taste better than the shop-bought stuff and that they’re so quick and simple to make, I’ve been making delicious guacamoles and spicy salsas to serve with tortilla chips when I want to snack on something in front of the telly. Not only do they taste great but I feel so much healthier.


These are a great cupboard stand-by and a good source of fibre. A serving (three tablespoons) of canned beans or lentils can be added to soups, stews, salads etc. And let’s face it – how much effort goes into opening a can?



Gone are the days of boring lettuce, cucumber and tomato salads. Today we have a fantastic array of fruits and vegetables available – not to mention awesome dressings – which will change the way you look at salads forever and let’s face it – how hard is it to prepare a salad? My favourite is prawn with mango and avocado with a chilli, lime and coriander dressing. I’d eat it every day if I could!



When I was a kid, there was only one way in which people used to eat avocados and that was halved with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice. Nowadays the humble avocado has come a long way since then, and like the banana, it’s quite versatile, and is even making an appearance in sweet dishes. Salads don’t seem the same without them, and you can add avocados to dips, salsas, smoothies, milkshakes, desserts and is also used as a substitute for butter or cream in cakes and mousses. I even saw a contestant on Come Dine With Me baking them – something I didn’t know you could do with avocados.


The Cosy Coming-In-Out-Of-The-Rain Supper

new-years-clip-art-12 As everyone knows, I really like the cooler months of the year rather than the blazing hot ones ( I don’t need to be told I’m strange – I already know that!) So I didn’t mind when it was pelting down with rain last Friday. I didn’t mind at all. I just wished I could have been at home watching the rain come down from the comfort of my own home rather than be outside in the rain, freezing in my lightweight summer clothes while carrying three times my weight in groceries!



Thankfully Mr. D. was on hand to give me a, um, hand with the shopping but even that couldn’t take away from the discomfort I felt as the rainwater slowly began to seep into my totally inappropriate ballet-style pumps. Just then an image of a steaming hot mug of  chocolaty goodness with enough cream and marshmallows to concern Jamie Oliver flashed into my head.


“You know what?” I began as I turned to Mr.D. who makes carrying a multitude of grocery bags look so effortless, “this is perfect hot chocolate weather.” All I wanted to do was get home, change out of my damp clothes and into comfy pjs, and sit by the fireplace, sipping gloriously thick hot chocolate and munching on toasted goodies. OK, so I don’t have a fireplace but the radiator with a few candles around it would do! Then I realised – we didn’t have any hot chocolate. And we hadn’t thought to pick any up. But then again why would we? Summertime’s all about the Pimm’s and cider. Or perhaps I should say, it should be all about the Pimm’s and cider. But at that exact moment all I wanted was hot chocolate and I could very easily have kicked myself for not buying any, if it wasn’t for the fact that I felt as though I had a swimming pool at the end of each foot!

It seems strange to be writing a post that’s better suited to the Autumn months than in what should be a blazing hot July, but it did get me thinking about cosy and warming suppers; the kind that’d be a real treat after a trip out in the cold, wind, rain, and possibly even snow. Or when you’re indoors, all snug and cosy while it’s chucking down buckets outside. Or perhaps you’re just in need of some good old-fashioned comfort food. There’s no special occasion for this supper; you can prepare this when you need something warm and comforting. None of the following should be served cold; everything should be either piping hot, warm or lightly toasted. You could serve all the following courses as a kind of high tea if you really wanted to go to town, especially if you are having friends over. But the main idea here is to keep it simple (who wants to do a whole lot of cooking when you’re looking for some much needed comfort food?) so I would pick one or two of the food items and serve it with a hot drink. Furthermore, unless you’re going for your own brand of comfort food, a lot of the foods listed here are deliciously stodgy and high in carbs, so I would choose carefully! Oh, and a lot of it will most probably be dripping in butter…

The good thing about this kind of supper is that even if you’ve invited your friends to come over and join you, there’s really no need to go to town on dressing up or creating an elaborately decorated table. The key here is simplicity, comfort and warmth. So comfy trackies, sweaters, pjs, robes and slippers are ideal. Oh and don’t forget the blankets!


The Recipe Box

The Recipe Box

Sandwiches should ideally be made with thick-sliced, soft bread and toasted:

Bacon and tomato

Sausage and mushroom

Chocolate and hazelnut spread


Cheese and tomato

Cheese and ham


329426-svetik Serve with warm crusty bread:



Chicken and sweetcorn



352153-sepik Don’t forget the butter, jam, marmalade etc:


English muffins

Drop scones


Fruit loaf


416192-blackangel Shortbread

Oat and raisin cookies

Ginger biscuits



423760-svetik Welsh Rarebit

Jacket potato with cheese and bacon bits

Kipper with poached egg

Egg on toast

Mushroom on toast

Scotch eggs

Spinach and cheese muffins


424365-Kycb Rice pudding

Chocolate brownies


Banana bread

Apricot tea bread


431295-Kysb Tea – of any kind


Hot chocolate – with a splash of your favourite liqueur for the adults

Hot apple toddy

Irish coffee

Hot milk with honey


And I’m well aware that we’re not all fortunate enough to live in a house with a fabulous fireplace (I know I don’t!) so we’ll just have to crank up the heating a notch and dream of romantic, roaring log fires! And you can always create that cosy glow with dimmed lighting, candlelight, and if you really want to push the boat out, fairy lights. imagesCAHZOS9O

The Kimono: Mrs. D’s Summer Must-Have


Everyone who knows me that I’m a shrug girl. I live in them as much as I live in my jeans. My brother often asks me why I keep wearing cardigans that have shrunk in the wash but I don’t care: along with scarves, it’s something of a trademark for me and a godsend for us girls who prefer to keep our less-than-toned-arms covered. In fact I even had a shruggy, bolero-type thing to go with my wedding dress – but that was more at my mum’s insistence as she didn’t want Father John tut-tutting!

Anyway the recent, warmer weather has made it virtually impossible to wear a shrug, especially at work where the building is overly warm in the winter months alone – so it’s like a furnace in the summer!

So what’s a girl to wear?

I saw kimono-style tops in the shops last summer and toyed with the idea of getting some but didn’t think that I could pull it off. I figured most of the styles would swamp my petite frame. So instead I just wore my shrugs and roasted!

This summer, I decided that I couldn’t go another three months in a sweltering classroom and decided I’d give the kimonos a go in a bid to stay cool. And it’s a good job I did.

I actually think kimonos suit me, and I’ve had quite a few compliments from colleagues – who are probably relieved I’ve discovered a new look! They don’t swamp my frame at all; they go with everything in my wardrobe and I actually feel quite elegant, boho and trendy in them (yes – all at the same time!) The kimonos I have are all made of very light-weight fabrics, some of them have fringing, one is made of lace, and I have an array of patterns and colours.

Kimonos are really versatile, and can easily take you from day to night. They are cool, edgy, funky and are the epitome of festival chic. And the longer length ones work great as something to throw on over your cossie when you’re at the beach.

So here’s my pick of some of the most stylish kimonos around:

Open back kimono £15.00

Open back kimono


Floral print, fringed kimono £12.00


Chelsea fringed kimono £16.00


Pink Paisley Tassel Kimono Dorothy Perkins £13.20 (on sale)




Opposites Attract? We Think So!


On Saturday, Mr.D and I celebrated six years since we became a couple. So to mark the occasion we thought we’d go to the theatre (for me) followed by a meal at Mr.D’s favourite steak house (for him!) I quite enjoyed the theatre performance but Mr.D. wasn’t so impressed:

Me: I’m so glad that you came to the theatre with me today.

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: Usually I have to go on my own or with friends. But never with you.

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: Did you like it?

Mr. D: It was Ok, I guess.

Me: I thought it was very interesting.

Mr. D: I’m not really much of a theatre person. I much prefer going to the cinema.

Me: Well it’s not too dissimilar from the cinema. And the action is unfolding right in front of you.

Mr.D: The play wasn’t really my thing. It was all about feelings and stuff – not my cup of tea.

Me: Of course not. You prefer to watch movies where people are battering the crap out of each other!

Mr.D (laughing): Sure I do. It’s more interesting!


This interesting little exchange highlights just how different we are in many ways. It was very obvious that we were chalk and cheese when we got together but after a few years of marriage when you pretty much merge into one person you sometimes forget about how different you are. But it’s episodes like this that remind me of our unique personalities and interests.

A while ago I did a blog post on how similar my mother and I are although it would appear that on the surface we couldn’t be more different. Now I’m thinking about how Mr.D. and I seem to be total opposites. But is that such a bad thing…?




I think the biggest difference between me and Mr.D is the great geographical divide. I was born and raised in the city. It’s what I know and love: the hustle and bustle, the sounds, the lights, the sights, the excitement, the fact that there’s so much to see and do… whichever city you’re in, I don’t think it’s possible to feel bored. Admittedly city life has become a lot more congested than it used to be but having tried country living – something I’d wanted to do for a long time – I realise that life in the fast lane is the right place for me as I thrive on the energy and vibrancy of city life.

Mr. D. however is a country boy through and through. He cherishes fresh air, open spaces, green fields, and a quieter, slower pace of life – more so after a very long period of living in the city which in his opinion is akin to living in purgatory! Mr. D. has made no secret of his desire to up sticks and head back to the country but as we both work in the capital, that just isn’t possible right now. I know at some point we’ll have to move some where that has a bit of what we’re both looking for but right now, the city it is!

We do, however, both love the beach!





Give a man a fishing rod, and he’ll feed himself. Give a man a tent and he’ll live outdoors for the rest of his life and never come home!

One of the disadvantages of living in England for Mr.D. is that the often miserable weather means that he spends more time indoors than he would prefer. If the weather was glorious all the time, he’d never be indoors as he’d be out pursuing all kinds of sporty and leisurely pursuits: camping, archery, rowing, tennis, canoeing, football… being stuck indoors (or worse trailing around the shops after me) is most definitely not his idea of fun – but at least he has his video games to keep him quiet!

Now the only thing outdoorsy about me is shopping and al fresco dining! Admittedly I can be a bit lazy and on weekends, I can often be found snuggled under the duvet watching movies… or blogging! And I’m certainly not one for all the active stuff that Mr. D. is in to.

Although he did on one occasion insist that I join him on one of his outdoorsy activities. I impressed him so much with my ability to just get on with it and not complain that by the end of the day he presented me with a little box with a ring inside…


image from

image from

Even though we don’t frequent nightclubs and bars as often as we used to, if it’s a special occasion then we’ll definitely go. The difference here is that while Mr.D. couldn’t care less if he never saw the inside of a bar or a club ever again, I really don’t mind it. True, I often feel like someone’s nanna when I set foot into one of these establishments but I love getting all glammed up and I do like the social aspect of it: having a drink and a laugh with your mates, and if it’s a club that’s playing my kind of music – wild horses couldn’t drag me off the dance floor (wheareas they wouldn’t be able to drag Mr. D. onto the dance floor in the first place!)



Years ago we were on the tube when we saw this fifty-something year old couple. The lady was extremely glamorous, clearly took pride in her appearance and had a keen interest in fashion. Her fella was in t-shirt and shorts and looked as thought he was going to do a couple of laps around the park. Then it dawned on me and Mr.D. that the couple were a more mature version of us!

“Do you think that’s what we’re going to look like when we get to their age?” asked Mr.D

“Well considering we look like them already…” I replied.

Years later nothing much has changed. I’m not image-conscious or vain but I do like to make an effort with my appearance, and although Mr.D. is always smart and presentable for work, outside of work you’ll just have to take him as you find him in his mega casual and sometimes sporty gear.



If there’s a place I’ve been to that I really like, whether it’s a town, country, restaurant etc. It’s always my intention to revisit it again at some point. And why not? If it’s a particular region, I’d like to go back to do more exploring, and if it’s a restaurant, I’d like to go back to sample more dishes. And I love visiting Spain because it gives me a chance to use my language skills.

Mr.D. can’t see the point in revisiting places we’ve already been to. The way he sees it is that the worlds a big place with so much to discover that if you keep visiting the same old places, how will you be able to experience what the rest of the world has to offer?

He has a point but I see nothing wrong with making the odd trip back to a place that I really enjoyed.

The jury’s still out on this one!



My mum was always keen to stretch our taste buds so we grew up eating all kinds of food and are still eager to try new things. As a result I’m not one of those people who can eat the same thing day in, day out and definitely need variety. Mr. D. on the other-hand is Italian-American to the core and is happiest when a plate of something Italian-American is put in front of him. Plus he’s a massive meat eater, while I struggle to finish a whole steak. In a nutshell, our tastes in food are very different!

Since meeting me and moving to London, he has since tried a variety of different cuisines and dishes – something that seriously impressed my father-in-law! However even though he can eat spicy food, he’s still getting used to a lot of the hotter stuff and he’s still a bit of a fussy eater and has his list of can’t eat/won’t eats!



I’m an English teacher, language learner, blogger, writer and avid reader and once upon a time, I used to write songs. It goes without saying that words are very important to me. I love putting words together in an expressive way that gives meaning. I love bringing words to life. That doesn’t mean that I don’t suffer from an attack of writer’s block because sometimes I do, but words are very much my forté.

My husband however doesn’t feel that writing or public speaking are two of his strongest points (and often gets me to help out with these. But he  is very much a numbers man and is more geared towards maths and science. It’s what he works with every day and he has absolutely no problems with working out what is simple arithmetic for most normal people, but for what I would require a calculator, pen and paper, and use of my fingers and toes before seeking someone out for a second opinion!

8. HOW MUCH???


I wouldn’t say that either of us are big spenders (oh look – a similarity at last!) Despite the fact that I spent a fortune on a bespoke wedding gown (come on, it was for my wedding!) I couldn’t justify spending a grand on a coat or handbag knowing that I’d have to be buried with it just so that I could use it in the after life to get my money’s worth (that’s what my wedding gown will be for!)

However every now and again, I like to spend a little more than I normally would on little luxuries – especially if I feel it’s well-deserved. But I don’t go mad and it is just an occasional thing.

However it’s not something that Mr.D. would ever do (actually come to think of it, he did once pay something scandalous for a beef Wellington that wasn’t even that good!) but he knows I like to have my little splurges – although I prefer not to mention it because, even though he doesn’t mind, he would tease me merciliessly!



Just check number two for Mr. D’s favourite hobbies and activities. But along with shopping, blogging, having coffee/cocktails and a natter with the girls, I also love cooking and anything crafty that allows me to release the artist in me.

With us pursuing different interests, you might wonder how we ever get to spend quality time together but we do!



Everyone who knows Mr.D. knows how quiet he is. He’s also extremely good-natured, very calm and rarely gets worked up about anything. I, on the other hand, am the complete opposite and have been known to get very emotional, scream my head off over the most trivial of things, stomp up the stairs, slam doors and generally release my inner fifteen year old!



It’s not that we don’t have anything in common at all of course. The things that Mr.D. and I do actually have in common are things that matter. We both have old-fashioned morals and values; we believe in treating others the way we would like to be treated; we understand the importance of hard work and the value of money; our family and friends mean everything to us, and despite us coming from different cultural backgrounds, we’ve had similar upbringings and both come from big families.


Some people prefer to be in a relationship with the male/female version of themselves but I actually like being married to someone who’s very different to me.  That’s not to say that the differences haven’t frustrated us both at one time or another but I feel that on the whole we complement and balance each other out. The things that one of is lousy at, the other one is great at. True, Mr.D. and I have two distinct personalities and abilities, different interests and hobbies, and our own beliefs and opinions but I actually appreciate the differences between us  because it’s kept things interesting and enabled us to learn and experience new things from the other. One of our friends even remarked how wonderful it must be to be in a relationship where we are continually learning from each other. And for the most part it is – except for when the ‘learning from each other’ leads to a heated debate!


So I’m just going to leave you with a clip from How I Met Your Mother about the infamous ‘Olive Theory’. Incidentally How I Met Your Mother is Mr.D’s favourite show. I’m more of a ‘Lobster Theory’ Friends chick!







The Sleep Challenge: How Did I Do?


Tired of, er, being tired, I set myself a challenge last month to get eight hours of sleep or more for four weeks and see if I felt like a new and improved woman. Well those four weeks have flown by, and I promised to let you know how I got on. So did I sleep like a log, party like an animal, or count sheep all night? Well…
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.
I didn’t always manage to get the full eight hours that I was after. I remember for the first few days, I’d go to bed at a decent hour with the best of intentions – and then toss and turn as I tried to get to sleep. Either that or I’d stay up talking to the lovely Mr.D.


And the really bad news is that there were a couple of weekends (especially the long weekend) where I was very naughty! And there were a couple of week nights were I probably got my usual five to six hours of sleep.
Oh dear. Slapped wrist for me!
Now here comes the good part.
Although there were some nights where I did get the full eight hours, I’d say that on average I managed about seven and a half hours most nights which isn’t bad for someone who barely used to get any sleep at all and would walk into work a total zombie who could only be revived by the sweet taste of caffeine (and lots of it!)
And has it made a difference? Hell yes it has!
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I sprang out of bed every morning, but it definitely wasn’t a struggle either. I looked and felt a lot less tired and there was no need to plaster on the make-up so another plus point is that I no longer looked like a toby jug! I’ve also noticed that my skin appears to be so much better and healthier, and even without the make-up, I definitely look a lot less haggard and, dare I say it, a little more youthful!
I felt more alert and my performance at work had improved. There were actually some days where I didn’t really need my morning cappuccino which I had previously  depended on to help me open my eyes and could have forgone it if I wanted to – but hey, it’s one of my few simple pleasures in life so I went ahead and indulged. And outside of work, I feel as though I got a lot more done – especially in terms of blogging which is great.


However I think it’ll take a few months of early nights before I see an improvement in my memory – if at all!
So I didn’t quite meet the challenge of eight hours, I’m disappointed to say, but I got closer than I thought I would. Best of all, I’ve experienced for myself the great benefits of a good night’s kip  – I look tons better and feel more energetic – and that’s something I don’t want to give up ( the days where I only got my once usual five hours sleep, I felt even more rotten than I had done before  so I’m definitely getting used to more sleep.) So I will be aiming to get, at the very least, a minimum of seven and a half hours sleep from now on, especially as from next month I will be starting work earlier than normal which means I’m going to have to get up extra early.
I’m totally thrilled that I did this challenge. I’ve (almost) gotten rid of a bad habit, and experienced lots of positives – with the only drawback being that I’m now going to be the one slumped in a corner at parties come eleven o’clock – I suppose I’m just going to have to blame it on the shandies!


Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea



Here in Britain, we celebrated Mothering Sunday back in March, but tomorrow people in the rest of the world will be celebrating motherhood and honouring the very special women in their lives: mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, godmothers and even aunties. So what could be a more special way to spoil the extraordinary women in our lives then by treating them to a decadent afternoon tea – which if you ask me, is an occasion made for mums!


In case you didn’t know by now, I really love the idea of a themed afternoon tea (come to think of it, I love the idea of a themed anything!) and when it comes to a Mother’s Day afternoon tea party, vintage is the only way to go, with mismatched, floral, china teacups, an elaborate cake stand, bird cages, and decorations in the form of pearls and lace. Mothers are obviously all different, so you’ll cater your tea party to your mum’s tastes but inspiration for my ideas have come my own mother who’s pretty big on tradition.  Chocolate and flowers also feature quite heavily as they tend to be gifts we traditionally give our mothers on their special day. Colours for this event could be in the traditional pink and lilac, or any pastel hue, or maybe even cream and gold for a classic vintage feel. With the weather getting warmer, there’s a good chance that you could hold your tea party outdoors.


When thinking about the menu, I went for old-school English classics, real ‘like mother used to make’ stuff, with an added touch of elegance and luxury. After all you can’t get more English than afternoon tea, so English classics it is!  The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your afternoon tea party menu:


  • Egg and cress
  • Cucumber and cream cheese
  • Crab
  • Ham and English mustard
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Rare roast beef and horseradish
  • Rose petals with honey
  • Prawn mayonnaise



  • Smoked salmon soufflés
  • Mini sausage rolls
  • Blinis with smoked salmon
  • Mini Cornish pasties
  • Parmesan thins
  • Roast beef-filled Yorkshire puddings
  • Goats’ cheese rarebit
  • Spinach and parmesan muffins
  • Cheese straws
  • Potted shrimp on melba toast
  • Trout pate on melba toast
  • Mini chicken and asparagus pie



  • Crumpets
  • Tea loaf
  • Tea cakes
  • Brioche
  • English muffins
  • Scones with clotted cream and rose petal jam



  • Victoria sponge cake
  • Apple pie with cinnamon cream
  • Chocolate fudge cake
  • Lemon drizzle cake
  • Cherry Cake
  • Jam tartlets
  • Battenburg cake
  • Rose and raspberry  or chocolate macaroons
  • Fruit cake
  • Mini Bakewell tarts
  • Chocolate mousse with sugared violets in shot glasses
  • Mini English trifles
  • Pink and lilac iced buns
  • Lavender shortbread
  • Chocolate éclairs
  • Strawberry shortcake
  • Custard slices
  • Florentines



  • Tea!
  • Frozen strawberry daiquiris
  • Mixed berry tea
  • White chocolate mocha
  • Jasmine tea
  • Pink lemonade
  • Chilled Chrysanthemum tea
  • Raspberry bellini
  • Cava with nasturtiums
  • Pomegranate Martini
  • Chamomile tea
  • Champagne with hibiscus
  • Chocolate flavoured cocktails

Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles.

Here’s a recipe for the unusual but delightful sounding rose petal sandwiches which is taken from The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree



Makes 24


60 dried organic rose petals

Few drops of rose essence

25g (1oz) butter, at room temperature

12 slices of soft white bread

6 tsp lavender honey


1. Soak the dried rose petals in a bowl of cold water with the rose essence for 20mins.

2. Drain and set aside.

3. Butter the bread.

4. Spread honey over 6 of the slices.

5. Divide the petals between 6 slices of honeyed bread.

6. Top with remaining slices.

7. Cut off crusts.

8. Cut each sandwich diagonally into four.

9. Serve immediately.