Happy New Kids On The Block Day

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The best boy band in the world!

Originally posted on Nostalgia Pie:

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It’s that time of year again. The one where I get to dress up and go back to being a thirteen year old again.

No Halloween has not come early. I’m talking about New Kids On The Block Day, and as I’m a die hard fan, I absolutely love this day which remembers all that is fabulous about the most awesome boy band ever to walk this earth: Jordan, Jon, Joe, Danny and Donnie.

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So come on Blockheads: don those ripped jeans, flash those smiley faces and peace sign medallions, wear your New Kids T-shirts with pride, and crank up the volume so that the whole neighbourhood hears those NKOTB tunes. Watch those videos to your hearts content, and prepare to fall in love with the Boston boy band all over again. It’s what today is all about.

Back in 1989, then Massachusetts governor, Michael…

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Begin With That Summer Skin In Seven Simple Steps

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Summer is just a matter of weeks away and it’ll be here before we know it. And despite the fact that it’s very cool today, no one could have failed to notice that the temperature has been rising these last few days. And as the temperature starts to soar, there’ll be lots of legs, arms, shoulders and tums on display, so it’s important to start getting your skin looking it’s very best. The winter months means that we’ve cranked up the central heating and indulged in long, hot baths which aren’t the best things for your skin. In addition to that, our bodies have been kept under wraps during the winters months and our skin hasn’t been getting the TLC it needs.

Well now’s our last chance to get our skin looking and feeling in tip-top condition before the big reveal in the sweltering heat of the Summer.

1. EXFOLIATE

It’s super important to exfoliate before you tackle anything else as it makes hair removal easier, and the moisturising and tanning products more effective. Exfoliating is also important for removing and preventing ingrowing hairs, getting rid of scaly skin, and preventing blocked pores. For those of you who shave as part of your hair removal regime, exfoliating means that your razor won’t get clogged with flaky skin.

If your skin is a bit on the parched side, it will be more effective for you to use a scrub on dry skin rather than wet. Pay particular attention to heels, knees, and elbows.

I swear by using my loofah but I don’t have a particular favourite scrub although I generally prefer to use one which has lots of lovely natural ingredients and is cream based rather than oil based. Find the scrub that works best for your skin but remember NEVER use a scrub designed for your body on your face – it’s much too harsh.

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2. HAIR REMOVAL

I still can’t get over the shock of seeing a lady on the bus wearing a short skirt with seriously hairy legs. It was definitely a case of ‘what were you thinking?’ in conjunction with ‘are my eyes deceiving me?’ Unfortunately they weren’t but it goes without saying that summer clothes generally mean fuzz-free skin, paying close attention to legs, underarms and bikini line – especially if you’re hitting the beach.

There are a whole ton of hair removal methods – shaving, waxing, epilating, depilatory creams,  or laser hair removal – so choose what works best for you.

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3. MINIMISE CELLULITE

Urgh the dreaded dimply, orange-peel skin that strikes fear into the hearts of women everywhere! Cellulite has been the bane of my life for more years than I care to remember but I know that my unhealthy diet and lack of exercise is to blame so I can’t really talk. The key here is to stick to a diet that is rich in wholegrains, raw fruit and vegetables and oily fish and low in salt, caffeine, and processed fatty food (yes, all the things I love!) Oh yes, and to get exercising!

There are also a lot of cellulite creams that reduce the appearance of cellulite by eliminating the toxins under your skin. And of course body brushing is fantastic for eliminating cellulite and getting rid of dry skin. Sadly it does feel like you’re being attacked with brambles but once you get passed this stage the results will be worth it!

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4. MOISTURISE

I know, I know – we’re all a little lazy when it comes to moisturising and I must confess I’m no different. But if you want to keep skin looking young, supple, hydrated and flake-free then it’s a must so regular moisturising is a stage that should never be skipped.

There’s some fantastic products out there in the form of lotions, oils, body butters, whipped body butters etc. but if you’re a bit neglectful with the old moisturising, then try adding some oil in your bath water for some much needed hydration.

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5. ELIMINATE DARK PATCHES

It would be delightful if we all had an even skin tone but in reality a lot of people don’t. Toes, knees, elbows and knuckles are just some of the areas that typically tend to be a little bit darker than the rest of our bodies. There are creams available which even out skin tone, and you can naturally lighten these areas by rubbing  half a lemon over them for fifteen minutes a day. Yes, you’ll feel a bit of a lemon while you’re doing it but it does work! If you find lemon to be a bit harsh, try potato slices.

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6. BANISHING ACNE

I really sympathise with women who have acne on certain parts of their bodies. I was lucky as a teen in that I didn’t have facial acne unlike a lot of my schoolmates. But life had a bigger surprise for me in store, and as I approached my twenties I got hit by the acne stick all over my chest, upper arms, and worst of all my back. It was not a pretty sight and quite embarrassing, and I was stuck with it for years.

Thankfully I was spared a visit to my doctor. Changing to organic bath products that were free of SLS, using a body wash that contained tea tree oil, and cleansing, toning and moisturising these areas the same way I did my face (yes, even my back which might explain my super long arms!) helped tremendously and now, apart from the odd spot every now and again, my skin is very clear. And I have to admit, I do love wearing, sleeveless, strapless, off-the-shoulder, or backless clothes because there was a time I could never get away with such outfits.

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 7. TAN

I have to admit that I’ve never used a fake tanning product in my life as I’ve never needed to so I can’t pretend to be the world’s greatest expert in this area. But I know that for some ladies, the appeal of a fake tan is that they feel healthier and look slimmer. Tanning products work best with smooth skin, so if you’ve followed all the previous steps, your product should go on easily and effectively with minimal risk of streaking.

Build up your tan gradually every day or use one that develops overnight and lasts several days. And don’t forget areas such as feet, ankles and fingers.

And I have to say, I’ve seen some awful fake tan jobs in my time (who hasn’t!) so go easy on the product and aim to get a gorgeous, naturally-looking, sunkissed glow.

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Bring on Summer!

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The 8- Hours- Or- More Sleep Challenge

 

 

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Last year I set myself a challenge where I wanted to see if I could cope without using my hair straighteners for a month. I’d discovered the benefits of straightening my untameable waves since my mid-twenties and couldn’t live without them. But years of using the heated hair appliance had left my locks parched and frizzy so I decided to abandon my straightening regime for a while. Over the course of a month – with the exception of straightening the front sections of my hair (I just had to!) – I found that I didn’t need to use my straighteners all the time and my hair got it’s va-va-voom back. A challenge well worth doing.

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Well now I’ve set myself a new challenge. And it’s one that’s much more vital than forgoing the old hair straighteners…

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been one for getting a good night’s kip. We’re supposed to be getting, on average, eight hours of good quality sleep a night but I can’t remember when was the last time I’d slept for that long. I currently get on average around five to six hours sleep a night. So naturally I’m shattered every day. Furthermore, I’ll be starting work an hour earlier in two months time which will mean getting up even earlier in order to begin the long commute into work. Not good!

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When I was younger, I was often told how tired I looked (and quite often I felt it too) and things got worse when Mr.D. came along because we were long-distance for quite some time, and the nine hour time difference meant that I’d either go to bed really late after talking to him or I’d have to get up mega early to Skype him. My sleep patterns became quite erratic and I’ve never been able to regulate my sleep schedule. And I definitely, definitely need my sleep. Without it I can’t concentrate, can’t string a sentence together, cab be rude, snappy, and irritable. In short, I can be a right bitch! And I can also see the toll that lack of sleep is taking on my face.

Lack of sleep makes me feel like tearing out my hair!

Lack of sleep makes me feel like tearing out my hair!

 

It doesn’t help that I’m something of a night owl and can stay up for hours. But then it’s an ordeal having to get up in the morning. Is it any wonder that coffee is my best friend? But even then coffee can only do so much and it definitely can’t work miracles. It can’t banish my under-eye circles, or illuminate my tired-looking face. I don’t think make-up can hide my tiredness. I just look tired with a whole ton of make-up on! And it can’t make me focus better or improve my memory – but I believe sleep can do all these things and more which is why I’m challenging myself to get eight hours of sleep (or more) every night for a month.

Sleep makes you feel healthier and fitter

Sleep makes you feel healthier and fitter

 

I’ve been sacrificing sleep in favour of other things I feel I need to do but sleep should never be ignored as it’s so vital for our overall health and mental performance. The health benefits include:

  • Improved memory
  • Less fatigue
  • Increased stamina
  • Sharp attention
  • Less stress
  • Increased immune response
  • Feeling happier
  • Less depression
  • Decreased dependency on caffeine
  • Better judgement
  • Reduced chances of developing certain illnesses and health problems
  • Improved efficiency and productivity
  • Reduces risks of accidents and making errors
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Better sex!

And let’s not forget the beauty benefits – after all, it’s not called beauty sleep for nothing:

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  • A radiant complexion
  • Bright eyes
  • Smooth skin
  • Look more youthful
  • Gives your body a chance to renew, restore and rebalance
  • Reduced dark circles and bags
  • Gives overnight beauty products a chance to get to work
  • Look better in photos and not like a Toby jug!
  • Less make-up  needed!

Now with all these fantastic benefits isn’t it worth getting a little extra shut eye. Hopefully the new and improved me will be reporting back exactly a month from now feeling like a whole new woman.

Wish me luck!

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Easter/Spring Afternoon Tea

new-years-clip-art-12   Easter is just around the corner and we are looking forward to yet another gloriously long weekend. For me, long weekends mean gatherings, socialising, fun, food as well as a healthy dose of r n’r – and I reckon afternoon tea combines all of these elements perfectly. I’m a huge fan of afternoon teas, and when it’s a holiday-themed afternoon tea, then that’s even better! One of the great things about hosting an Easter/Spring themed afternoon tea party is that if it’s a gloriously sunny day, you might just be able to hold your party outdoors. Inspiration for this party comes from colours and ideas associated with this time of year as well as food that is in season. Colours in soft, muted pastel shades are typical of Spring, and chicks, bunnies, Spring flowers, eggs and chocolate are what springs to mind (excuse the pun!) when we think of Easter, so these will probably play a role in your choice of food, drinks and décor. The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your Spring-themed afternoon tea party menu:

SANDWICHES

  • b9d882970272f55c1f2f15c626dfbf93 Egg and cress
  • Cucumber and cream cheese
  • Chicken salad
  • Chicken and pesto
  • Ricotta and apricot jam
  • Egg and asparagus
  • Prawn cocktail

SAVOURIES

  • pea Scotch eggs
  • Mini asparagus and quail’s egg tartlets
  • Mini Yorkshire puddings with lamb and mint gravy
  • Pea and mint soup in shot glasses
  • Bite-size lamb samosas
  • Chicken tikka on bite-size naan bread with mint raita
  • Spinach and ricotta/feta in filo pastry
  • Cheese and spring onion scones
  • Broccoli and spinach mini quiche

SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS

  • images10ARJEL0 Hot cross buns
  • Fruit loaf
  • Apricot muffins
  • English muffins
  • White chocolate and raspberry scones
  • Rosewater and vanilla scones

CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:

  • sim Lemon cupcakes
  • Chocolate fudge cake
  • Carrot cake
  • Simnel Cake
  • Mini rhubarb and custard tartlets
  • Crème egg chocolate brownies
  • Pastel coloured macaroons
  • Chocolate whoopie pies
  • Lavender shortbread
  • Raspberry panna cotta in shot glasses
  • Mini chocolate and cherry trifles

DRINKS:

  • imagesE0VT0C19 Tea!
  • Lemon tea
  • Raspberry tea
  • Vanilla latte
  • Mint tea
  • Elderflower cordial
  • Shot glasses of thick chocolate milk
  • 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. And now I’m going to leave you with an awesome recipe for raspberry and white chocolate macarons. Yum!

RASPBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE MACARONS imagesJ11H9KO3 INGREDIENTS:

Meringues:

  • 130g pure icing sugar
  • 110g almond meal
  • 2  egg whites
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 4-5 drops of pink food colouring

White chocolate and raspberry ganache:

  • 50ml double cream
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 45g raspberries, coarsely chopped

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 140C.
  2. Combine icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor until finely ground.
  3.  Triple-sift into a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Whisk two-thirds of the egg whites in an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks form.
  5. Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until fully combined and mixture is thick and glossy.
  6. Add food colouring.
  7. Stir in almond mixture in batches until fully combined and mixture slowly slides down sides of bowl when bowl is tilted.
  8. Add remaining egg white to loosen mixture.
  9.  Spoon into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle.
  10.  Pipe 3cm-diameter rounds of mixture onto heavy baking-paper-lined oven trays.
  11.  Stand until a crust begins to form  which should take around 5 hours.
  12. Bake macarons until firm.
  13.  Cool completely on trays.
  14. Meanwhile, for white chocolate and raspberry ganache, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan.
  15. Remove from heat.
  16.  Add chocolate, stand until melted, stir until smooth and glossy.
  17. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable then stir until smooth.
  18. Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect, then spoon a teaspoon of ganache onto half the macarons. Sandwich with remaining macarons and refrigerate until set.
  19. Macarons will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

Enjoy! imagesCAHZOS9O

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Fool That I Am!

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On our usual daily commute to work this morning, I peered at Mr. D.’s copy of the Metro when a short article caught my eye.

It was about the new trampoline aisles that Tesco were introducing to their stores which would enable those made of shorter stuff (like me!) to grab things from the hard-to-reach top shelves. It was demonstrated by TOWIE star Lucy Mecklenburgh.

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An interesting concept but I was slowly beginning to wonder if Tesco had lost their mind…

Me: Do you see those new trampoline aisles?

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: If I was from Tesco, I’d be worried about shoppers having an accident.

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: Plus you’ll get dummies just mucking about on them and making a nuisance of themselves.

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: Plus I think elderly people would find it a struggle.

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: And also if you leapt up and tried to grab a tin of something, you’d just end up knocking over a whole ton of stuff.

Mr. D: Of course you would.

Then the penny dropped.

Me: OMG! It’s an April Fool’s gag!

Mr. D: Well of course it is. Did you think it was real?

Me: I forgot what day it is. I’ve never seen one of these pranks in the press before. And anyway I didn’t think anyone bothered with April Fool’s Day anymore.

So I spotted my first ever April Fool’s Day prank in the press.

And it got me!

And here’s a clip of an famous April Fool’s prank played by the BBC back in 1957 which I’d heard about when I was a kid and I wondered “Who on earth would be taken in by that..?”

 

 

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When You’re The Only Married Couple In The Village…

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It’s not just that I love being married but I love being married to Mr. D. It took him a long time to appear but he was definitely worth the wait. And I also love my fabulous close female friends. These are the girls who have been there for me long before Mr. D had me at ‘Hello’ and who always have my back. And luckily for me, my friends and Mr.D. get on well, so we’re all one big happy ‘framily’! The only slight issue is being one of the few married couples among our friends of mostly singles as at times we can find ourselves on different wavelengths.

My friends who are single are forever telling me about the problems they encounter due to their single status and as someone who’s been both single and married, I definitely know where they’re coming from: being the only singleton amongst a bunch of marrieds and feeling like a spare part; having your mother do a spot of matchmaking with anyone and everyone; sympathetic looks and ‘well-meaning’ advice; the endless questions about why you’re still single and warnings about ending up like Ms. Haversham; everyone assuming that you’re lonely and unlucky… and sometimes you really do feel as though you’re lonely and unlucky. The list goes on and many of my friends forget that I once walked in those shoes so I totally understand.

And the other thing they don’t realise is that you don’t stop having issues the moment you have a ring on your finger. Instead there’s a whole new set of awkward encounters that we have to look forward to. Married life is great, especially if you’re married to the right person, but when the vast, overwhelming majority of your friends are single you could very well end up feeling like a couple of jammy dodgers in a packet of shortbread fingers. And there’s tons of articles and posts out there on the subject of being the only single person when all your friends are married but virtually nothing when the situation is reversed.

So for all you singles out there who think we have it easy, read on:

1. YOU MISS OUT ON ALL THE COOL ALL-GIRL BREAKS

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I never got to do the crazy, raucous girls holiday abroad when I was single and I do regret not making the most of my days as a single young woman. Now that I’m married, it’s definitely not something that’s likely to happen. I don’t really have a problem with that because I have tons of fun holidaying with my fab husband but when the girls are off on one of their foreign jaunts, I’m glad that they’re having such an awesome time but I do know that I’m missing out on all the madness. And despite being invited, I would only spoil it for the girls with my constant moping because Mr.D. isn’t there.

But I do look forward to the stories and pics when they get back. Honest!

2. YOUR OTHER HALF IS INVISIBLE TO YOUR SINGLE FRIENDS

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Many of our friends extend invitations to the both of us when there is an event or a bash of some kind so we’re quite lucky in that respect. And likewise, if I was having a party, dinner, luncheon etc. I would make sure that my friends knew that their partners were invited regardless of whether I knew them well or not. When someone’s part of a couple it’s the right thing to do.

But some of our single friends don’t understand this and will only invite the person that they were friends with first when they’re having an event. I know it’s not done maliciously but the fact that we’re now a package deal seems to have gone over some people’s heads.  Now when it’s a stag or hen do, that’s perfectly understandable. But for all other occasions, I don’t feel that it’s acceptable. There was one occasion where one of my friends hired a cottage in Devon for a week of birthday celebrations. Rightly or wrongly, I’d assumed that the invitation was for the both of us and said that we’d be there and was looking forward to a week of festivies.

But as the date drew closer, I got an email from her which made it clear that it was to be a girls only thing which was the first I’d heard of it. All I can say is that I’m glad she said something before Mr.D. and I booked our train tickets – then I really would have been furious! I accepted that it was her right to host her event as she wished – but she also had to accept that I wasn’t prepared to be away from my most favourite person in the whole world for a week so I very politely declined.

So note to all: if someone’s part of a couple, be sure to extend invitations to both of them.

3. YOU’RE THE ODD ONE OUT AT THE HEN WEEKEND

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When all the ladies at a hen party are single and ready to mingle, and you’re the only married woman there, you can’t take part in all the shenanigans. In fact once you’ve finished throwing some shapes on the dance floor, you’ll find yourself sat at the table by yourself minding drinks, handbags and outrageous hen party paraphernalia while all the single girls find a fine looking fella to cosy up to. I don’t mind that I’m not joining in with the crazy escapades. I just don’t like sitting by myself like Billy-no-mates – or worse having to fend off unwelcome attention.

Times like that I could do with a married friend so we can both discuss how glad we are that we’ve passed this stage (although it was great fun at the time!)

4. YOU’LL EXPERIENCE SOME SPITEFUL BEHAVIOUR

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When we had to announce our engagement, I was very careful to be sensitive about it despite wanting to shout it from the rooftops as I knew that there were some friends who were going through all kinds of difficulties in terms of relationships. And even though most people appeared genuinely happy for us, I was stunned by the behaviour of a couple of people.

The daughter of my mother’s best friend stopped talking to me and as hurtful as it was, I had to be understanding as her own engagement had hit the rocks. I tried to keep the lines of communication open but wasn’t getting any response. I thought that in time, she’d come round but I haven’t heard from her to this day.

Then there was one of my best friends who’ve I’ve known since we were both toddlers. Within a month of Mr.D. and I getting engaged, she amazingly got engaged to a guy she hadn’t been seeing for very long. This surprised me as I didn’t think she was that into him but as weeks went by it was very obvious that she was being competitive. I saw a not-so-nice side to her character with lots of snidey comments aimed at me; losing her temper because I couldn’t go on a shopping trip with her; I wasn’t invited to her engagement party, and despite me asking her to be bridesmaid at my wedding, instead of following me down the aisle, she was seen sitting among the other guests – in her bridesmaid’s dress! When I asked her why she had done that, she said that she had forgotten what she was supposed to do! Seriously, you couldn’t make it up!

I know deep down that she never wanted to get engaged to her fiancé (now husband) and she was mad at me because she felt I’d somehow forced her hand (?) We’re still friends but I think it’s safe to say that we don’t really regard each other as best friends any more and don’t meet up as often as we used to.

A real pity.

5. YOU GET ASKED THE INEVITABLE BABY QUESTIONS ALL THE TIME

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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage!

Or so the playground song goes anyway. And it would appear that most of our friends – single or not – agree. Admittedly it is something that everyone’s going to ask but I can’t help getting annoyed – both by the question and from having to answer that same question all the time. And it seriously peed me off when at a recent dinner party, a close, single female friend asked across the table in front of everyone if we wanted to have kids, if we were trying and when it was going to happen. Oh wait, let me just grab my crystal ball…

Yes, kids are part of the plan but I’m not sure when the time will be right. But I absolutely resent being asked something so personal in public – even if she is a close friend.

After all, I don’t think she’d have been too pleased if I’d publicly asked her why she’s still single or when was the last time she had sex… but it might help to get my point across!

6. YOU LOSE FRIENDS

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I had very few friends get married when I was in my early twenties but I soon learnt something – that the last time I’d ever see my friend again would be on their wedding day. It’s a good job I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have been blubbing so hard, the guests would have called for Noah and his ark! But it was true – once my friends got caught up in their newly-married status, new home and the kiddies that eventually came along, they found that they had less and less in common with their single counterparts and we inevitably drifted apart despite my efforts to prevent that from happening. And of course they formed new friendships with other married couples who they felt that they had more in common with. I decided that when I got married, I wasn’t going to let my marriage have such an impact on my friendships even though I knew that things would have to change a little.

Unfortunately it seems as though some of my single friends didn’t get the memo and instead opted to spend their time with other single friends. True, I couldn’t go out on the lash with them but that didn’t mean that we’d turned into Mr.and Mrs. Pipe-and-Slippers now that we’re married. We still liked to have a laugh, great fun, and a fab night out. I know other married friends have experienced this problem too. I’m glad that I haven’t technically lost any friends – no one has actually ended the friendship – but we hardly ever keep in touch.

7. EVERYONE THINKS MARRIED LIFE IS LIKE LIVING IN DISNEYLAND

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Married life is what you make it but you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice if you expect it to be perfect all the time. It’s definitely not like ‘in the movies’ and there are times you’ll both get on each others nerves. However this seems to be lost on many of my single female friends who seem so eager to settle down, I’m pretty sure they’ve already got the long, white dress hanging up in their wardrobe!

They perpetually drone on and on about how awful it is to be single, how they wish they were in a relationship and how they hope to be married by the end of the year (even if it’s November!) Then they ask you about married life and look so hopeful and expectant that it would be cruel to shatter their dreams. So I don’t tell them about how Mr.D. drives me mad with his excessive video game playing, or how fed up I am that he doesn’t seem to know where the bin is for his empty crisp packets and coke cans. Neither do I tell them that my nagging (his word not mine) annoys the hell out of him and that he wishes I’d stop stressing over things that don’t matter.

So instead I tell them the truth (or part of it anyway.) I tell them that married life is wonderful when it’s with the right person but that it requires a lot of work, effort and respect on both parts, but that they really should enjoy their single life while they have it because one day their prince will come and then they’ll never have this time again.

Somehow I doubt they’ll be taking my advice.

8. YOUR SINGLE FRIENDS DON’T ACCEPT THAT YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE

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A friend who’s in a relationship with two kids, recently put up a post on Facebook ranting at friends who expect her to drop everything to go out and party with them. She also made it very clear that it was unacceptable for friends to keep texting and calling at all hours of the day and night as she has a family to care for and they are her priority now.

I understood where she was coming from but I do know that a lot of other people wouldn’t. And it’s the attitudes of these people that really grate on me. If we all did as we pleased after we got hitched, what would be the point in getting married? I’ve had people try to convince me that taking a teaching post abroad would be a brilliant idea, very conveniently forgetting that’s it’s a decision that also involves my husband. I’ve also had single friends who’ve kicked up a massive fuss because they think I run around after Mr.D. too much – when he’s ill!

Whenever one of my friends got married, my mum would always remind me that their priorities in life have changed and that I have to respect that, give them their space and accept that they’ll have new ways of doing things now. And now that I’m married, I hope my single friends will be as understanding.

9. SINGLE PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE SMUG

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Do I think I’m happily married? Absolutely. Would I call myself smug? No – but then I don’t have to as I have other people do that for me! I’ve had (single) friends tell me that Mr.D. and I are absolutely ‘nauseating’ and I even had one friend delete both me and Mr.D. from Facebook because he said (yep, this one’s a fella!) we were just too lovey dovey and he’s not big on romance. He clearly didn’t know that he could have just unfollowed us! And yes – we’re still friends. Just not on Facebook!

From the way people carry on, you’d think that we were re-enacting the Karma Sutra in public. Admittedly we are affectionate in public (not sickenly so in my opinion at least!) And I’m not going to pretend that I don’t think that marrying Mr.D. is the best thing I ever did because it makes other people feel better. But smug marrieds will make out that their marriage and their lives together are perfect and that they never have any problems. That’s not something Mr. D. and I would ever want to do. We both know that we’re not perfect as people but we do think that we’re perfect for each other. And we’re the first to admit that it’s not always wine and roses behind closed doors – and anyone who’s ever heard either of us moan about the other will know what I’m talking about.

And besides, I always think that being too smug about your relationship is like tempting fate. And if I wanted to tempt fate, I’d get a tattoo of Mr.D’s name!

10. MR.D. IS THE ONLY GUY AMONG A BUNCH OF SHRIEKING, OVERLY EXCITED GIRLIES!

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Mr. D. often comes along when I’m meeting the girls of dinner. And as none of them are in a relationship, he often tends to be the only man there and has to put up with our non-stop chatter, shrieks of laughter and and general over-excitement.

Hang on, what am I talking about? The only guy among girls – Mr.D. LOVES that!

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Video

Judge The Hero Dog: A Very Emotional Farewell

an Admittedly I’m a bit of a water cart. I cry at anything that tugs at the heart strings and sometimes it doesn’t take much to set me off. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve got strange stares on public transport because a sad story in a magazine I’m reading has caused me to get teary. And it just so happens that there was an article today that absolutely broke my heart and I feel quite teary as I write this. It was about a retired police dog called Judge who was recently put to sleep after his health had rapidly deteriorated due becoming terminally ill. imagesPUST9MNU We never had pets in our house when we were growing up for various reasons despite constant pleading from my two youngest siblings. But we got our animal fix when we went to visit aunts and uncles nearby who had cats, dogs, fish, and at one point a ferret and a tortoise (just not at the same time!) However I can’t hand on heart say that there was a void in my life because I didn’t have a pet. In fact because of my inexperience with animals, I always felt a little unsure of myself around them although this has gotten better as I’ve become older. But I still don’t know if I could ever see myself living with a furry friend. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like animals especially when they’re so frickin’ cute. I’m often amazed by their intelligence and the loyalty they show their owners. They really could put us humans to shame. So it’s no surprise that reading about Judge and the emotional farewell he received from his colleagues had me in floods of tears. j1 Judge, a nine year old German shepherd who had retired from his work with the police department at West Deptford, New Jersey in 2013, was given a farewell worthy of heroes – which he is. Distraught police officers  formed a guard of honour and saluted the hero dog as he walked past them with his training arm in his mouth as he was about to be driven to the animal hospital. I’ve seen many heartbreaking scenes in my time – and I have to say, this one got me.  More than thirty officers and a dozen K-9 units lined the streets  as Judge went on his last ever walk. Despite the stiff upper lips, the feeling of loss and devastation came through in the photos and even the most hardest of hearts couldn’t have failed to shed a tear. Judge had sadly grown so weak, that his handlers weren’t sure if he would be able to make it to the car. But proving he was made of stronger stuff, Judge amazed them all by his tight squeeze on the training arm which showed that he still had some strength left in him. j2   And that wasn’t all. Vets and specialists were lined up inside Swedesboro Animal Hospital in a touching tribute to the brave dog as Judge walked in, with one of the vets visibly overcome by emotion – and who could blame her? It really made me feel for the law enforcement officers who did very well to hide their inner turmoil. And it also made me feel for Judge because there was absolutely no way he didn’t know what was happening, and I just hope his last few moments weren’t filled with fear. Sgt. Dan Eliasen, who supervises the police department’s K-9 division, said:

“It’s about showing respect, but also the people who are here wanted to thank Judge for his service to the community. No one has forgotten what he’s done — and that includes protecting his partner and his community.”

j3 Although he retired two years ago due to problems with his teeth, over a period of time, his health became increasingly worse until police were forced to make the painful decision to end Judge’s suffering. $13,000 raised in one day for medical treatment for Judge plus the offer of free medical care from St. Francis Vetinary Hospital all came too late for the heroic dog who was recruited back in 2007 and had assisted in the arrest of more than one hundred and fifty criminals as well as the seizure of drugs, vehicles and firearms, and the confiscation of $47,000 in cash. He had undergone surgery and was on medication but when his liver grew so large that it crowded his stomach and left him unable to eat, there was nothing more that could be done. imagesUWPN9O3C Last year my aunt was forced to put her beloved cat to sleep as the poor kitty had become so ill and so weak that it was the only humane thing that could be done. My aunt had had her for years so I can only imagine her sense of loss. And it’s not just my aunt – I’ve had many friends who have suffered the loss of a beloved pet. They’ve often said that they felt they couldn’t publicly grieve because they felt that people wouldn’t understand and would think that they were daft crying over an animal. But it’s not just ‘an animal,’ is it? When you bring them into your home; feed them; play with them, look after them, love them, and give them a place within your family, how you could you possibly feel anything but devastation when they die? As one lady I know said after the death of her dog, “it doesn’t feel like I’ve an animal. To me, he was just like a person. A friend.” And that’s exactly what these little furry and not-so-furry creatures become – friends, and according to Mr. D. better friends than most humans (I hope he’s not including me in that comparison!)

And that’s one of the reasons why I feel I couldn’t bring a pet into my home because I just know I’d never be able to handle it when the inevitable happens. Though a friend of mine has a different take on it. She agrees that the sense of loss you feel when they pass away is unbearable, but she said nothing compares to the happiness they bring, and she went on to say that it’s not about the love you give them but the abundance of love they give you – which obviously set me off again! As for Judge, I hope that he is at peace now that he has been put to rest and that his suffering is over. I hope that his colleagues come to term with their loss and feel proud of themselves for giving Judge a truly magnificent send off and find comfort in their memories. And most of all, I hope that Doggy Heaven has given Judge the welcome he deserves. j2 Rest in peace Judge. Thank you for helping to make the world a better place. xx imagesCAHZOS9O

My Top Ten Last Meals!

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Mr. D. told me today that if he could live on three meals for the rest of his life, he’d choose steak, pizza and pasta. That’s it – he’d never need any other type of food for the rest of his days on earth. However when he asked me for my top three meals, it was impossible to choose (and no, I wasn’t allowed to choose desserts!) And this is coupled with a colleague asking me what I’d have for my last meal if I was on death row (we do have some strange conversations in the staff room!) and once again I couldn’t decide. I clearly have a more varied palate than Mr. D. and I couldn’t possibly live on just three dishes and neither could I have just one ‘last meal’. For me, you’d have to make it ten!

So if I could only eat ten dishes for the rest of my life, these are the ten I’d choose:

1. ROAST DINNER

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A roast dinner is a family favourite. It doesn’t matter what kind of roasted meat it is – though when I was growing up it was usually chicken or lamb – but it has to be served with stuffing, gravy, and Yorkshire pudding, or if I’m in the States, biscuits. I always add either red or white wine to the pan while the meat is roasting, and I usually tend to vary the types of vegetables that accompany the dish.

Seriously, who couldn’t love a good roast dinner?

2. CURRIES

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I’ve never understood people who say that they don’t like curries, usually because they insist it’s too spicy. I don’t like overly spicy food either. I don’t see the point in not being able to taste what you’re eating because you’re mouth is engulfed in flames! But that’s the beauty of curries – you can make them as mild or as spicy as you like. I’m lucky that because of my cultural background, curry was almost always on the menu when we were growing up, and not just curries from the Indian subcontinent either, but also from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Africa and the Caribbean.  There are so many ways of making this very versatile dish, and I can honestly say that I enjoy them all – providing they’re not too spicy of course!

3. NASI LEMAK

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Nasi Lemak is Malaysia’s national dish, and even though I believe it is traditionally served for breakfast, I could quite happy eat this dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whenever I go to a Malaysian restaurant, I don’t really need to look at the menu, as I know I’m going to choose my favourite Nasi Lemak. This classic dish contains a serving of coconut rice and various other components which can vary but typically include a curry of some kind, fried chicken, an egg, sliced cucumbers, and crispy fried anchovies and peanuts, all served up on a banana leaf.

Delicious!

4. SALMON

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Mr. D. is a real sweetheart. He knows how much I love salmon so whenever we go out to dinner, he’ll be checking out the menu for my favourite salmon dishes before he’s even decided what he wants!

At home, I’ll usually pan-fry or oven bake the salmon with some lemon, coriander, and maybe a little crushed chilli (if Mr. D.’s OK with that!) But I really don’t mind how it’s cooked, as I know it’ll be delicious. I’ve eaten salmon curried; in a salad; poached; with teriyaki sauce; in a red Thai curry; grilled with a mango salsa, and this weekend I’ll be trying Jamaican jerk salmon for the first time. Bring it on!

But strange as this may sound, I can’t actually stand smoked salmon at all! How bizarre!

5. FISH AND CHIPS

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This one can hardly be a surprise – I’m from England after all! I didn’t like it very much when I was a child though. I suppose it was because I was a very picky eater and I found fish and chips to be way too greasy. But as I got older I grew to love it. I still don’t like fish and chips if it’s overly greasy, and furthermore the chips have to be thick and chunky; I don’t care much for mushy peas, and the fish should preferably be cod and should always be battered NEVER breaded! Oh and you can hold the ketchup: I prefer to have a squeeze of lemon with chilli and garlic sauces. Not very British, I know, but it hits the spot!

I’ve tried fish and chips in other countries, and even though they’re not bad attempts, they’re obviously no match for the fish and chips at home. However I have to say the fish and chips in Zurich were pretty good!

6. SHEPHERD’S PIE

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Another British classic that I absolutely love and it takes me right back to my childhood. As fussy as I was during childhood when it came to food, I loved shepherd’s pie and I’d surprise everyone by asking for thirds! Some people – Mr. D. included – might just write off shepherd’s pie as bland slop on a plate but as far as I’m concerned, it means they’re not ‘doing it right.’ Minced lamb in a thick, brown gravy topped with mashed potatoes looks, sounds and tastes boring. Whenever anyone in our family makes it, we always try to jazz it up a bit. You can do that by adding herbs, garlic, cheese, spring greens or mashed root vegetables to the potato topping, and a tin of chopped tomatoes, a dash of Worcestshire sauce  and a load of veggies taste great in the minced lamb and helps to improve the appearance.

Though try as I might, I can never get Mr.D. to have more than a couple of forkfuls.

7. SEAFOOD

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Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of seafood: crab, lobster, prawns, squid, scallops, clams… I seriously can’t get enough of them. Mr. D. and I went to an American restaurant in London last year where I ordered a kind a stew that had virtually every kind of seafood in a delicious white wine sauce. Bliss!

I’ve tried seafood cooked in many different ways but I believe that the best way of cooking seafood includes a fair bit of spice and zing to bring out the flavour.

8. MINTED LAMB CHOPS

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bbc.co.uk

 

Oh my goodness – heaven on a plate! This is something else that takes me back to my childhood as this was something I’d happily guzzle without complaining. It also happens to be my little brother’s favourite dish too. However, as the minted lamb is the star of the show, I like the accompaniments to be quite simple, so it’s just boiled potatoes, savoy cabbage and lashings of gravy for me – just like Mum used to make!

9. TRICOLORE SALAD

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I love this salad of mozzarella, tomatoes and avocado with a bit of basil. What’s so strange is that I was never a huge fan of cheese or avocado when I was younger but I absolutely love it now, and try to make a tricolore salad whenever I can – and it tastes divine in a wrap!

10. TROPICAL FRUIT SALAD

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taste.com.au

 

OK, so Mr. D. said no desserts but I had to sneak one in here! I’ve never really been an apples, oranges, grapes kind of girl. So if you’re going to serve me any kind of fruit or prepare a fruit salad, tropical’s the only way to go. I could eat mangoes, pineapples, passion fruit, papayas, jack fruit, soursop and kiwi fruit all day long. And it’s better than gorging on cakes and pies (though I adore those too!)

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Ideas For A Fabulous Valentine’s Day Breakfast In Bed

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Yay! St. Valentine’s Day is about to descend upon us – and I’m thrilled. Say whatever you like about this day but I do love everything it stands for. And what’s so great about this St. Valentine’s Day is that it falls on a Saturday so it’s more like St. Valentine’s Weekend. Even better! And I’ve definitely got into the spirit of it. Although we’d originally planned to go away this weekend, I’ve been a little under the weather so we’ll be staying at home but it most definitely won’t be boring. We’ve got the cards, the gifts, the choccies, the booze, the candles, the rom-coms, the Valentine’s Day treats and all the ingredients for a fabulous dinner. Because we were long-distance for a long time, we never got to spend St. Valentine’s Day together until after we were married, so it’s very special to us.

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So seeing as you have the whole weekend to lounge around and be totally loved up, there’s no excuse not to have a long, leisurely Valentine’s Day breakfast. A piece of toast on the go just won’t do especially as (I hope) you won’t have to dash to the office. And there aren’t many things that scream romance quite like breakfast in bed which is the perfect way to start a lazy weekend. And let’s banish all thoughts of your usual fare – Valentine’s Day is a great time to try something different and indulge in heart-shaped delicacies and dainty little pastries.

pinterest.com

pinterest.com

 

So here’s some ideas to inspire you – and have you wishing every day was a breakfast in bed day!

First things first. When serving breakfast in bed you’ll need:

  • A tray
  • Cutlery
  • Glasses
  • Cups/mugs
  • Napkins or kitchen roll
  • Flowers
  • Newspapers or magazines
  • A bottle of Champers (it’s a special occasion!)

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What To Serve:

  • Porridge served with berries/chopped bananas, honey and cream
  • Pancakes with a selection of fillings: jam, honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, Nutella etc.
  • Homemade croissants with butter and jam
  • French toast with berry compote
  • Scrambled egg and smoked salmon bagel
  • Sausage, egg and cheese bagel (Mr. D’s favourite!)
  • A fry up! How often do you get to have a full English? Be sure to serve on extra large plates.
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Danish pastries
  • Muffins – these can be made in advance to save you from getting up early to prepare them.
  • Waffles with butter, syrup and strawberries
  • Steak and eggs
  • Fresh fruit smoothies (my fave!)
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Yogurt in a tall glass layered with fruit, cereal/oats and compote/honey
  • Stuffed French toast with Nutella and raspberries or mascarpone and blueberries
  • Crumpets with butter and jam
  • Hot chocolate made from scratch with whipped cream

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And remember…

  • If you’re going to serve toast, make sure you prepare that last so that it stays warm.
  • Likewise if you’re going to serve yogurt, get that out of the fridge just before you go up so that it stays cold.
  • Make sure you have all the things you need before you go up. It’ll be annoying to run back down because you’ve forgotten the cutlery.
  • Napkins and kitchen roll are a must!
  • If you’re going to serve Champagne/sparkling wine along with the breakfast, make sure you pop it in the fridge the night before.
  • Don’t worry about crumbs or mess. This is quality time with your other half. Enjoy!

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My Secretly Enjoyable Guilty Pleasures

imagesCAAMXIQQ Jennifer Aniston has admitted that watching The Bachelor is her guilty pleasure.  I watched one series back in 2012 where Courtney Robertson waltzed off into the sunset with her bachelor Ben Flajnik. I found the show to be over the top, contrived, and appeared to be scripted. It was something that people watched when they didn’t want to engage in anything too intellectually taxing… but oh my goodness it was so addictive! I hated myself for not doing something more productive with my time but once I started watching I had to continue in order to find out who Ben would choose. But I made sure that it was to be the last series I watched!

We all have our guilty pleasures in life. We all enjoy something which we feel a little bad for liking. And we shouldn’t feel bad – after all no one is ever harmed while we pursue our guilty pleasures – but we can’t help feeling a little bit naughty all the same.

It got me thinking about my own guilty pleasures – and I had a lot more than I thought. Naughty Mrs. D!

1. Romance novels

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I wish I could say that I love rolling with the classics and I have a copy of War And Peace on my bedside table but that just wouldn’t be true! I’m a sucker for romance novels and it’s one of my ambitions to increase my collection of Danielle Steel and Mills and Boon novels. I’m lucky to be married to such a romantic man so there’s no shortage of romance in this household but these novels do help to reaffirm my belief in love and romance (as if I need reaffirmation!)

I’m sure I’ll get around to War And Peace one day!

2. Puddings

c22bf7b45c460be365672c6fdcc6810d I have a ridiculously sweet tooth. My parents are big sugar fans so I reckon I inherited my sweet tooth from them – and my dad in particular loves puddings. And if there’s lashings of custard, so much the better! I always stop off at M&S every Friday to ensure that I have enough yummy desserts and puddings to last until Sunday. During the cold winter months, there’s nothing I enjoy more than to curl up with something sweet. Unfortunately it means that I go back on the promise that I made to myself to be healthier.

Oh well – at least I’m sensible from Monday to Thursday!

3. Magazines

images96769AX1 I’ve loved magazines pretty much from the time I’ve been able to read. When I was a kid, my aunts and uncles used to spoil me with comics and kids magazines. As I was growing up, I’d sneak a peak at women’s magazines that my mum and aunts used to buy before I graduated to pop music and teen mags. At one point, I used to buy pretty much every magazine that was out there (or so it seemed!) which looking back was a ridiculous waste of money.

These days I limit myself to just two magazines a week which isn’t too bad and provides me with something to read on my way to and from work. The only problem is that our home is permanently strewn with magazines and pages that I’ve ripped out from them. So far Mr. D hasn’t complained…

4. Bargains

LBD I get such a buzz from buying things I really want that have been reduced to a fantastically great price. Books, clothes, shoes – you name it; if the price is low enough, I’m snapping it up! I don’t mind admitting that I’m a great bargain hunter and I try very hard not to pay full price if I can avoid it which often means waiting until it’s on sale. Whether this is a good thing or not is debateable but at least I can honestly say that say that I’ve never annoyed a retailer – or embarrassed myself – by haggling in my quest for a good bargain.

5. Reading in the bath

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Reading in the bath is all very good if you live by yourself. But when you live with others, you run the risk of irritating them when you hog the bathroom while you indulge in a bubble-filled bath with a little light reading material. Whether it’s a magazine or one of those romance novels, it’s perfect ‘me’ time – especially when I throw a little chocolate into the mix!

6. Salon pampering

beauty-extraction-products_304_304_c OK so there’s a lot of beauty treatments I pay for at professional salons which I could actually do myself at home thus saving money. But I’m often short of time (OK, a little lazy!) and I like being pampered. Grooming often feels like a chore when I have to do it myself.

And  it doesn’t help that there is a salon right down the road from me…

 

7. Celebrity gossip

mclh   I don’t like gossip. I don’t like people who gossip. I’m careful not to gossip or repeat things that I’ve heard especially if it sounds dubious. So why is it that I’m addicted to the celebrity gossip pages of a particular national newspaper? It’s not only me but one of my closest friends as well who can’t get enough of the same gossip column, and we can often be found at work discussing in great depth what we’ve just read about Angelina, Jordan and co.

Mr. D is not impressed by any form of gossip and I have to admit I’m not too proud of myself either – but I try to convince myself that we’re not gossiping about real people!

8. Take aways/Eating Out

valentines-day-dinner When I cook at home I save money, I know what’s going in my food, and it’s healthier. But there are some days when we just can’t be bothered to enter the kitchen – especially when we’re having a lazy weekend, in which case we’ll phone to get something delivered. And if we happen to be in town, we’ll stop off at one of our favourite restaurants. The food’s always delicious but I can’t pretend I don’t feel guilty afterwards.

9. The Internet

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Ever since I discovered the benefits of being connected to the world wide web, it’s totally taken over my life. I do use it constructively – most of the time – but then there are times I’m just aimlessly surfing and I can spend hours wasting time looking at sites with animals wearing silly hats  and people doing funny dances! I’m not sure what’s so addictive about the internet that it causes me to waste time when I actually do have things to do like sleep for example – but it’s one of those things that can’t be explained.

10. Bed

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I may enjoy lounging around in the bath tub but I absolutely love my bed and no matter how much time I spend in my lovely comfy bed it’s never enough time. It’s where I sleep; read my magazines and romance novels; indulge in puddings; surf the net;  eat my take always; shop for bargains on the internet, and of course snuggle up to my gorgeous hubby.

But I think I need to get out more! imagesCAHZOS9O