Author Archives: signorad

52 Weeks of Gratitude #4: A Family Member

For this week’s week of gratitude, I couldn’t think which member of my family I’m most grateful to – and for! But as much as I love every member of my family and I’m thankful to them all for one thing or another, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay tribute to my amazing late grandfather.

Goodness, where do I start with my grandfatheIt’ssell I think I can begin by saying that he was a real character. He was one of those people who would make you laugh with the things he said and did – problem was he was not trying to be humorous! There was many a time that a sneaky snigger was turned into a cough when he caught sight of us.

Image from pixabay.com

As strange as this may sound, I always knew that my grandfather was my grandfather before I knew he was my mum’s dad! I just thought it was some really bizarre coincidence that he happened to be her father as well as my grandfather. I was probably pushing three, and at that age I really didn’t know how these things worked!

Image from pixabay.com

I always describe him as a fearless, no-nonsense old army man. He didn’t suffer fools gladly and wouldn’t put up with any rubbish from anyone. This was a man who wasn’t afraid to put a stroppy teen in their place or tell a snooty, up -themselves person exactly where to go! And should you have the misfortune to ask for advice, he would tell it to you like how it was – and he didn’t mince his words either! Well you asked!

Quirks aside, Grandad really was the nicest, kindest, most generous human being ever. When he gave, he gave from the heart, whether it was time, money or his efforts to help others. And it was helping others that Grandad was known for. Most people would get fed-up with the phone ringing endlessly or constant knocks on the door with people needing help, advice, favours etc. But Grandad was always ready and happy to help – especially as it meant that he could dole out his own brand of tough love. And still the people kept coming!

Helping people wasn’t just because of his good heart. I believe it also helped fill the void after my nanna passed away when the focus of his life became his family and close friends, the church, and helping others. Well that and his social life! At an age where most people would be slowing down, grandad was always out and about – sometimes even coming home at two in the morning! My friends would laugh at my octogenarian grandfather who was a bigger raver than I am!

It’s been eight years since we lost him and there really isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t feel that loss and miss his presence. It’s impossible to sum up everything about grandad in one post.  My grandfather may not have been perfect and faultless. I can’t pretend that he never got things wrong. But I’m so thankful that God made him my grandfather. I’m also thankful to my grandfather for making me the person I am today. The things I do, the way I behave, the way I treat others… Its all because of him. From the time I was a mini-human, he played his part in making sure that I grew up to be a decent person. Whether I am or not probably isn’t for me to say, but I know I’m a better person because of him. Admittedly my ditziness has nothing to do with him, and even though I’m just a fraction of a fraction of the person that he was, I hope as I get older I will become more like him.

 

 

The-Heat-Is-On Tropical Fruit Compote

 

 

 

OMG OMG OMG! I’ve fallen in love… with a compote!

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No you are not imaging these words and I really am saying them. But I’ve just made the most amazing tropical fruit compote that’ll having you thinking that you’re sitting on a beach from the very first spoonful – and by beach I don’t mean Southend (although, of course, there’s nothing wrong with good old Southend!)

It was my second attempt at making this compote. The first attempt wasn’t too bad but I felt it was missing something. So I added more spices, some honey, and some booze – because let’s face it, everything tastes so much better with booze!

Initially I wasn’t a hundred per cent sure if all the flavours would work well together, even though I knew that many of the ingredients used to give flavour worked well individually with the pineapple, mango and passion fruit used in this recipe. Thankfully they did and I was thrilled with the result.

I loved the heat you got from the spices and the rum; the fresh zingyness of the lime; the sweet aroma of the vanilla, and the somewhat simultaneous sweetness and tanginess of the fruit. Delicious!

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But don’t just take my word for it – have a go at making it yourself!

Another thing I’ve discovered about fruit compotes – whether you use fresh or dried fruit – is that they are so versatile. You can serve them hot, warm or cold and they can be used  as a topping for porridge or toasted brioche as part of a yummy breakfast; they can be served as dessert with cream, mascarpone, ice-cream or custard. Compotes can also be used as a topping for cheesecake or a sponge pudding, or can be used as a filling for pancakes, crumbles, pies, cobblers or tarts.

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And if you’re feeding little people – and by little people I mean children not vertically challenged people like myself – you might want to leave out the rum.

Awesome!

THE HEAT IS ON TROPICAL FRUIT COMPOTE

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THE FOOD STUFF:

1 medium pineapple

2 large mangoes

5 passion fruit

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 vanilla pod

1 star anise

1/4 teaspoon mixed spice

2 tablespoons runny honey

a couple of good glugs of Malibu

THE EQUIPMENT STUFF:

1 Sharp knife

1 chopping board

1 baking tray

A variety of spoons

GET BUSY:

  1. Turn oven on to
  2. Peel and core pineapple and cut into chunks.
  3. Peel mangoes and cut into large chunks.
  4. Cut each passion fruit in half and scoop out pulp.
  5. Place fruit in an oven proof dish.
  6. Cut vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out seeds.
  7. Add vanilla to the fruit.
  8. Add remaining ingredients.
  9. Combine well.
  10. Pop in the oven and cook for 25mins or until pineapple chunks have softened.
  11. Take out of oven – and enjoy any way you wish!

 

52 Weeks Of Gratitude #3: Family

I write this post with a slight bit of embarrassment as we are now in March but I’m only on week three! I think I misunderstood and thought this challenge was called Twelve Months of Gratitude! Never mind – I’ve promised myself that come the end of the year, I’ll have completed all fifty two weeks. In fact I’m grateful to be on week three at all!

OK, this week’s topic is family which is interesting considering that I didn’t get off to a good start with mine this morning. My sister woke me up by WhatsApping me with the latest family drama – and before I’ve had a coffee that’s dangerous!

I consider myself to be a very family minded person. That’s the way I was raised. I never understood people who claimed that they were not close to their aunts and uncles or used phrases like “Oh, he’s only my cousin.” In my family we were raised to believe that there was no such distinction between immediate and extended family and distant relatives. If we shared DNA, we were family – end of!

Courtesy of Geralt @pixabay.com

Sadly now that I’ve reached adulthood, my circle of family has gotten smaller. This is due to people wanting to go their own way for whatever reason. I also understand that I have relatives who don’t know the meaning of ‘family loyalty’ and the ties of family are such that I cannot cut them off no matter how much I want to, so for the sake of my emotional well-being, I have been left with no choice but to keep certain relatives at two arms length – and I don’t feel guilty about it.

So the bottom line is that I have family, and I have people I just happen to be related to.

So far you’re probably thinking that where my family are concerned, I don’t have a lot to be grateful for. Not at all! As far as I’m concerned my family consists of Mr. D. our immediate families, and a handful of extended relatives.

Courtesy of tunaolger at com.

I’d like to make out like we’re the perfect family – like my mum has convinced herself that we are – but we’re not. I don’t mind admitting that my family are totally bonkers! There are a multitude of characters and personalities, and we all have our eccentricities and oddities, and are more than just a little on the dysfunctional side! There’s always some drama or stressful situation that we’re trying to resolve – but at least no one could ever accuse us of being dull and the in-flight entertainment is always worth watching (although we’d rather you didn’t!)

Courtesy of Geralt @pixabay.com

When I was growing up I always wished that we could be like the families you saw on TV. I also thought that my friends and classmates had better, more ‘together,’ families than I did. Now that I’m an adult, I realise that there’s no such thing as the perfect family. We all have our own struggles and own problems that we’re trying to overcome. And past experience has taught me that its often the families who claim to be the most perfect who often have the most issues.

Coming from a seemingly ordinary, perfect family is no guarantee, as I’ve learned, that you’ll turn out ‘right’. Growing up was hard and I used to blame many of my problems on the fact that I didn’t come from a ‘normal’ family. But I now feel that coming from such a family has given me a resilience that I may not have had. I feel like I can handle anything and I’ve learned to embrace my weird family and my own weirdness. As my dad once said ” Who wants to be normal?”

In recent years my immediate family and I have had  a lot of issues which meant that we weren’t as close as we should have been. It was a very sad period of our lives but I’m glad that even though certain issues are not fully resolved, we are all back in each others lives and our bond has grown stronger and there’s definitely more than enough unconditional love here. We don’t take anything for granted any more and we all know that when push comes to shove, we are always there for each other.

And there’s other things I’m thankful for when it comes to family. I’m thrilled there there are many different nationalities  here and different languages spoken. We’re like a mini UN! Some people think it’s a  little ‘confusing’ but it’s not. We have learned so much from each other and we really wouldn’t have it any other way. Not to mention there’s always something for everyone when it’s potluck at family gatherings!

Courtesy of creades at pixabay.com

I also love the big pool of talent that exists in our family as we all have different interests, skills and areas of expertise. There are creatives, techies, sports enthusiasts, business brains, problem solvers, culinary geniuses, fashionistas… We all bring something different to the table.

CourtesyCourtesy of Mksaunders at pixabay.com

My family have made me who I am, so for all their craziness and zaniness, I have to be grateful that God put me in with this nutty bunch. There’s tons more fabulous stuff I could say about why I’m so grateful for my family but I’ll just end by saying that the greatest blessing to be bestowed on our family is definitely the next generation – our gorgeous nieces and nephews. Not only are they a constant joy to be around – even when they’ve tired you out – but they’ve played a major part in healing our family and bringing people together. We may never be a TV family – unless you’re thinking of The Adams Family – but it’s thanks to those amazing kids that we can try to do ‘normal’…Sometimes!

Kathie Fitzgerald’s Indispensable Guide To Crafting a Business

For an incredibly long time, I have wanted nothing more than to start my own business selling handcrafted products. Over the years I’ve dabbled in a number of crafts which I’ve enjoyed, holding on to the belief that one day, I’d be able to make a living from my passion.

Courtesy of ArtsyBee at pixabay.com

Sadly that day never arrived!

I’ve made products which were sold in the family business, and I’ve made things to give as gifts – which were always very gladly received, I’m pleased to say – but I’ve never taken that leap of faith into the great unknown and set up on my own.

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

I’ve now decided, however, that now is the time. There’s absolutely nothing to stop me from giving it a go… Although it would help if I could make up my mind as to what I want to create and which craft I’d like to get more involved with.

Courtesy of Skyangel at pixabay.com

But while I may be fairly confident in my abilities as a crafter, it’s the business side of things that scares me a little. My dad and sister are the ones known for their business acumen in the family – me, not so much… Although I have despaired at some of the ridiculous antics of the candidates on The Apprentice!

However I’ve stumbled across a really useful book that I think is indispensable for anyone who wishes to start a craft-based business. It’s called Crafting a Business: Make Money Doing What You Love by Kathie Fitzgerald.

It’s not a new book but out of all the books that I’ve read that explains how to start a craft-based business, Crafting a Business, I find, is the most helpful and inspiring. The book is divided into two parts. The first part contains profiles for various female business owners as they outline how they got into their particular craft, started their business, built their brand etc. The fact that many of these talented women are self-taught, never attended a course, or had to overcome life’s trials and obstacles in order to get to where they are now, is nothing short of inspirational.

The second part of the book is what is called the Business Crafting Workshop which gives instructions as to how to structure a business plan, finance your business, develop and market your product etc. For those of us who don’t have  much practical business knowledge or experience, it’s a great starting point to help you get your business off the ground.

OK, I’m done with part one, now time to tackle part two!

Wish me luck!

52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge WK 2: Your Spouse

 

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I’m running behind on this challenge but I have to say, this is the week I’ve been looking forward to most – where I get to talk about my amazing Mr. D. And as it’s exactly seven years today since Mr. D popped the question after planning the most beautiful proposal,  I’d say that this post has come at the right time.

Courtesy of Tumisu @ pixabay.com

Courtesy of Tumisu @ pixabay.com

When I met Mr.  D almost ten years ago,  I really did think that that was going to be the first and last time I ever saw him,  despite my intention to stay in contact.  We lived on different continents and our lives moved in completely different directions so it seemed unlikely that we would ever meet up again.  I have never been so thankful to have been proved wrong!

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Being a die-hard romantic I wanted the old-fashioned eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room deal. I wanted popping champagne corks, symphonies, and fireworks. What I actually got was better than that: a sh**load of vodka, a hard rock band from Oklahoma, and nachos! People who hear about how met and got  together  think it’s like something out of a rom-com movie and I’m so glad that we have such a unique story to tell.

Courtesy of fradellafra @ pixabay.com

Courtesy of fradellafra @ pixabay.com

Admittedly since we got married, Mr. D now feels that he doesn’t have to try so hard, so things like opening car doors, pulling out my chair in restaurants and flowers are now a thing of the past! Hmmm… And don’t think I haven’t complained about it!

Courtesy of Erbs55 @ pixabay.com

Courtesy of Erbs55 @ pixabay.com

But one thing that hasn’t changed about Mr. D is his good heart. He has got the kindest heart out of everyone I know. He’s extremely compassionate,  forgiving,  non-judgemental  and he treats everyone with the respect they deserve.  He’s  the last person you’ll  ever find bitching  about anyone (though I have heard him complaining about me more than a few times!) Whereas my exes were so caught up in appearances  and being the life and soul Mr.  Popularity, down-to-earth Mr.  D.  really couldn’t  care less about any of that and is just intent on being his humble self. It’s an attitude  I find refreshing and is one of the reasons why it’s  not just me,  but why my family and friends love him him as well.

Courtesy of OpenClipart Vectors @ pixabay.com

Courtesy of OpenClipart Vectors @ pixabay.com

I always feel that you know when you’re with the right person because they bring out the best in you and Mr. D certainly does that for me despite us being total opposites. He’s been a very calming influence on me and the fact that we are so different means that it never gets boring and we learn tons from each other.

Courtesy of cspxbay @ pixabay.com

Courtesy of cspxbay @ pixabay.com

A few of our closest friends know that last year was a very tough year for us. It was one of the most stressful and traumatic periods we’ve ever encountered in our married life and I hope we never have to go through anything like that again. But marriage isn’t always wine and roses and as someone once said, sometimes you only know the strength of a relationship when it’s been pushed to the limit and you’re being tested. I’d like to think we’ve passed the test.

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Mr. D.  is absolutely my best friend, the love of my life and my most favourite person. I could spend all day, every day with him and never get bored. I’m so thankful I get to call him my husband.

Courtesy ofJohnNapat @ pixabay.com

Courtesy ofJohnNapat @ pixabay.com

And I will forever be grateful to that rock band from Oklahoma!

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Throwing An Awesome Superbowl Party

It’s been the most talked about news for the last few days – and I’m not talking about Beyonce’s  pregnancy announcement. Superbowl fever is here again and come Sunday, the whole of America – well OK, those who are not seriously cheesed off by their teams not getting through -will be on the edge of their bar stools as they wait to see whether it will be the New England Patriots or the Atlanta Falcons who’ll emerge victorious. Those who know me know that I haven’t got a sporting bone in my body but as I’m now a New Englander, I obviously want the Patriots to do well (sorry everyone!)

 courtesy of filtersofly at pixabay.com

courtesy of filtersofly at pixabay.com

Last year I was pretty chuffed to have got to America just in time to see the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos in Superbowl 50. And just before that we also watched the Patriots suffer a crushing defeat which obviously did not go down too well with the locals!

Courtesy of keijj44 at pixabay.com

Courtesy of keijj44 at pixabay.com

I’ll admit I won’t have a clue what’s going on! I don’t know the rules or how the game is played – despite Mr. D. trying to explain it to me a million times – but then why would I?

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

Sporty I may not be but one thing I can understand is the excitement of the country right now. I may not be a football/soccer fanatic but I’m jumping up and down as much as the next person during World Cup and Euro Cup seasons and never miss an England match (yeah let’s not talk about that!) and always make sure I have the best seat in the pub when I’m watching a game – complete with cider and a plate of pub grub of course. It’ll be no different in America on Sunday with packed bars across the country as everyone desperately waits to see who’ll be the new NFL champions.

But I know that not everyone will be watching the Superbowl in a crowded bar or pub. Superbowl parties are very much the rage here and some people will be celebrating with family and friends in the comfort of their own homes rather than “pay the over hiked prices in bars” – and why not? I think a Super Bowl party sounds like a great idea. As everyone knows entertaining is very much my thing, and I have to say it definitely sounds like my kind of party: there’s no pomp and ceremony, you don’t have to get your glad rags on, and there’s this mixture of a laid back, chilled out vibe combined with a feeling of excited anticipation as the guests get psyched up as much as the players!

As a relative newcomer to America and American football, I had to ask around in order to find out how to put together an awesome Superbowl party. I now wish I hadn’t left it so late in the day to throw a party myself but… There’s always next year!

FIRST THINGS FIRST:

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

  • Decide who’s coming: invite your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, your hairdresser, local barista… Invite who you want but be sure that you have enough space to accommodate your guests and that you can cater for large numbers.
  • Work out your budget for food, drinks and the necessary extras.
  • Get some bedding handy for anyone who might be staying over because they’re too drunk to drive – or heartbroken!
  • Alternatively keep the number of a reputable cab firm handy!
  • Ensure there is adequate seating for everyone as you don’t want any of your guests to stand the whole time. Drag in your garden chairs if necessary; borrow folding chairs and bean bags. If worst comes to the worst people won’t mind the floor or stairs.
  • Get the tables ready. You’ll need one large table to hold the food, and then a few smaller tables within people’s reach to rest plates and glasses on.
  • You may not know for sure until the day but consider whether you need to move the TV from its current location and position for maximum viewing benefit. After all, people are there to see the game so you don’t want any disgruntled guests!

DON’T FORGET:

Courtesy of StockSnap and pixabay.com

Courtesy of StockSnap and pixabay.com

  • Drinks coolers and ice buckets –  it might be cold outside but who wants to drink warm beer?
  • Ice
  • Bottle openers – a must unless you want people opening bottles of beer with their teeth, or worse, your furniture!
  • Napkins – cloth not necessary!
  • Disposable cups, glasses, plates, and cutlery – it takes a brave woman – or man – to get out their best crockery and silverware knowing that they’ll have a never ending mountain of washing up to do afterwards! Just make sure you choose good quality cutlery because if there’s when thing I can’t stand it’s plastic  cutlery shattering when I attempt to use it.
  • Serving platters, trays and bowls
  • Condiments

DECORATION

For one day you can go absolutely football crazy in your home!

  • Use flags, posters, pictures, footy gear or anything else that screams football!
  • Get inspiration for your colour scheme by using the colours of the teams that are playing.
  • Decorate the main food table to resemble the football pitch.
  • Decorations don’t have to cost the earth. Streamers and banners are relatively inexpensive, and use ordinary latex balloons rather than helium ones if you want to keep the costs down.
  • Get crafty by creating decorations from crêpe or tissue paper.

DRINKS:

 Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

  • Beer, beer and more beer!
  • Punch
  • Hard lemonade
  • Sodas
  • Juices
  • Sweet tea

FOOD:

I figured that much of the food would be classic American fare – and I wasn’t wrong. The food doesn’t have to be ‘fancy’ – not something my mother would ever want to hear – it should be quick and simple to prepare and serve and if it’s something that can be prepared in advance, so much the better.

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

The food tends to be fried or baked finger food, a little on the stodgy side with little need for cutlery, although you should provide some anyway. There’s no need to try to ‘elevate’ any if these dishes ( this isn’t Masterchef!) and food is generally served buffet-style so guests can help themselves as and when they want and load up during the game.

If you’re pushed for time and/or cash you could:

  • Kindly ask everyone to bring a platter. This will also ensure that most dietary requirements are covered.
  • Make big batches of dishes like chilli or lasagna which can be made in advance and frozen.
  • This isn’t Come Dine With Me so if you can’t make everything from scratch, don’t be afraid to order in food or visit the freezer section at the supermarket.
  • Its always good to offer a selection but don’t feel as though you have to give the kind of selection found on a restaurant menu!
  • My own personal choice would be a minimum of six different appetizers; two mains, and a minimum of desserts.
  • Don’t forget the sides for your main dishes and the accompaniments for the desserts.
  • If you choose to go for one main only, you could always set up a build your own tacos, burritos or even sandwiches station with all the components laid out and your guests choose what they want. This way thry feel as though they’re getting a choice but how practical this idea is depends on space and the number of guests – there is also likely to be a bit of a wait.
  • You could always choose one type of dessert e.g. brownies, cupcakes, cheesecake, cookies etc. Whip up a huge batch of the batter or dough, then divide them into portions and give each a different flavour. Once baked, you could give them different toppings.
  • Its OK if you wish to forgo mains and dessert. But if you choose to serve snack food only, ensure there is a reasonable selection to choose from and make sure quantities are plentiful. It’s going to be a long game and people will get hungry. Furthermore, its also a good idea to have some ice cream in the freezer for anyone with a sweet tooth!

Obviously you can serve any kind of food you wish during the game. Use the suggestions below as a guide.

APPETIZERS/SNACKS

Courtesy of RitaE at pixabay.com

Courtesy of RitaE at pixabay.com

  • Chicken wings
  • Chips and dips
  • Potato wedges
  • Pizza rolls
  • Fries with cheese and bacon
  • Soft pretzels with cheese dip
  • Mini blooming onions
  • Pull apart garlic bread
  • Mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce
  • Anything battered or breaded including shrimp, calamari, chicken bites, mushrooms or zucchini.
  • Loaded potato skins

MAINS

Courtesy of mccartyv at pixabay.com

Courtesy of mccartyv at pixabay.com

  • Chilli
  • Pizza
  • Ribs
  • Lasagne
  • Fajitas
  • Steak sandwiches
  • Tacos
  • Sandwiches
  • Fried chicken
  • Pulled pork
  • Hamburgers/Cheeseburgers
  • Sliders
  • Chilli nachos
  • Quesadillas

SIDES AND ACCOMPANIMENTS:

Courtesy of hansbenn at pixabay.com

Courtesy of hansbenn at pixabay.com

  • Fries
  • Potato wedges
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Green salad
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Cornbread
  • Bread rolls
  • Sweet potato mash/fries
  • Onion rings

DESSERT

Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

  • Brownies
  • Cookies
  • Cupcakes
  • Fruit pie bars
  • Blondies
  • Doughnuts
  • Ice-cream cookie sandwiches
  • Churros

TO SERVE WITH DESSERT:

Courtesy of greenthemoongreenthemoon at pixabay.com

Courtesy of greenthemoongreenthemoon at pixabay.com

  • Ice-cream
  • Whipped Cream
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Caramel sauce
  • Fruit flavoured sauces

Whatever you’re doing on Sunday, I hope you all have a great time – and may the best team win!

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52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge #1: Why Start This Challenge

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So this is the first week (for me!) to start this challenge and I’m very thankful to be doing it at all after very nearly missing out!

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As I said in the previous post, I’ve never really participated in such challenges before. But this was one that I felt I should do…

I was brought up to believe that gratitude was everything. I knew from a young age the importance of saying thank you. I was taught to be thankful for everything that you have. As I grew older I learned to count my blessings, and realise I actually had plenty of them.

Courtesy of johnhain at pixabay.com

Courtesy of johnhain at pixabay.com

And as most of us know, gratitude is a quality which is very much in short supply these days. How many people express genuine gratitude when something nice has happened to them? How many people even bother to say those two little monosyllabic words ‘thank you’? Judging by the number of people I see sailing through a door being held open of them by someone kind enough to do so, I’d say not many!

Courtesy of ArtsyBee at pixabay.com

Courtesy of ArtsyBee at pixabay.com

It might be strange to say that we need to practice gratitude when it should be second nature but I guess we all don’t reflect enough on the good things that we have in our lives. And that’s what’s so good about this challenge.

2016 was not one of my better years and that’s something of an understatement. I’m so glad to have left it behind and all the awful things that came along with it. But as I sit here writing this post, I think how easy it could have been for things to have been far worse than it was. So would you believe it – I’m even thankful for the problems that I have!

Courtesy of johnhain at pixabay.com

Courtesy of johnhain at pixabay.com

So as grateful as I am for everything, I hope that by the end of the year when this challenge is over, I’ll have experienced an even deeper level of gratitude.

Best of luck to everyone who’s taking part in this challenge. May it make us ever more thankful, kinder and wiser with it.

10 Things You’ll Understand If You’re A Craft Addict

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I’m so glad to include a craft section to this blog. I absolutely love crafts. I thrive on creativity and love unleashing my inner artist, allowing my imagination to run riot. Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at so many different types of crafts: jewellery making, soap making, paper crafts, confectionery, creating gift baskets, floristry… the list goes on. And I’ve enjoyed every single one. I am now going to try my hand at découpage, and yesterday I drove Mr. D. mad as I insisted on him taking me to the nearest craft store to pick up supplies.

courtesy of LeoNeoBoy at pixabay.com

courtesy of LeoNeoBoy at pixabay.com

There are a few places I consider to be my happy place – and the craft room is one of them. Nothing makes me happier than to be knee-deep in flowers, with gluey fingers, glitter in my hair, and pieces of fabric scattered about the place. And although it’s my virtual home that has acquired a craft room, I’m hoping it won’t be long before my real home acquires one too. Mr. D. take note!

Courtesy of ArtsyBee at pixabay.com

Courtesy of ArtsyBee at pixabay.com

And it seems that I’m not the only one. There’s a keen army of crafter’s out there that’s growing bigger by the day. Many TV shows that feature arts and crafts have made it ‘cool’ to get creative. But cool or not, it’s most definitely a fantastic way to unwind which is just what’s needed for today’s hectic way of life.

Courtesy of meim at pixabay.com

Courtesy of meim at pixabay.com

For those of you whose idea of a wild time is to find as many uses as possible for odd pieces of ribbon, the following will be easy for you to relate to:

1. JUNK? NO WAY!

I collect the ribbons from chocolate boxes, tissue paper from gifts,buttons and beads that have fallen off  clothes… many may regard these as waste that needs to be binned, but to me these are inspiration for a new craft project and these bits and bobs are bound to come in handy.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

To illustrate my point, I remember taking an order from a bride who wanted flower girl baskets but had left it a little too late. I had just one weekend to come up with two baskets in a rather unusual choice of colour.

So I dipped into my box of trusty oddments, and came up with tulle remnants, pieces of ribbon and a small bunch of silk flowers all in the desired colour. I had one happy customer and my sister never laughed at my box of junk again!

2. SISTERS ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES

You’re too well-mannered to tell your friends what to buy you as a gift (unless they badger you of course!) but they know you so well that even though designer brands are in, they know that you would actually prefer to make the chocolates… Or candles… Or scarf… Or jewellery yourself. So what’s the gift of choice for the girl (or guy) who likes putting their hands to creative good use? Sessions at a craft workshop of course!

 Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

There are workshops and classes available for a variety of different crafts which last from one day for something quick and simple to several sessions which run for a period of several weeks or even months if you really want to get stuck in. It’s a really unique and thoughtful gift – just perfect for your craft mad friend.

3. HERE’S ONE I MADE EARLIER

Likewise when you need to get a gift for your friend, you’re more likely to reach for your craft box rather than your device to scour the online shopping sites. You know that there’s nothing more unique than a handpainted teapot, screen printed T-shirt, beaded scarf, or studded leather wristband you’ve created yourself.

of Couleur at pixabay.com

Courtesy of Couleur at pixabay.com

One of our most stunning wedding gifts is a glass vase that was etched with a gorgeous jasmine design, complete with our names and the date of our wedding. It’s beyond beautiful, extremely personal and deeply treasured. It reminds us of our friends every time we see it.

4. FIX UP, LOOK SHARP!

Your favourite T-shirt has a rip in it? No problem -you simply stitch it up, add some embellishments and it’s as good as new. Wooden coffee table literally on it’s last legs? Once it’s been repaired, gets revamped with a brand new coat of paint in a bold colour, it looks better than ever before.

Curtesy of karennagato at pixabay.com

Curtesy of karennagato at pixabay.com

Nothing ever gets thrown out because you enjoy transforming it into a work of art.

5. YOU KNOW WHERE IT’S AT!

There isn’t a craft store you haven’t heard of, a craft book or magazine you haven’t read, or a craft site you don’t know about.

When I first got into crafting, I used to sit at the computer for hours, finding craft sites and purchasing all kinds of wonderful items from them. A ‘quick browse’ around local craft stores would see me leaving with a big bag of goodies.

Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

On our last visit to Edinburgh for a week long break, Mr. D and I came across a very quaint, little craft shop and of course, I couldn’t resist going in. We left empty-handed.

NOT!

6. YOU HAVE THE BASIC KNOW-HOW

Courtesy of Skyangel at pixabay.com

Courtesy of Skyangel at pixabay.com

You’re able to identify a variety of crafting tools and explain what they’re used for. You know how to convert measurements with ease. You know your antique rose from your blush pink, and you can talk floristry techniques for hours.

7. WHEN OTHERS SEE AN EMPTY JAM JAR READY FOR RECYCLING…

of HealthKindness at pixabay.com

of HealthKindness at pixabay.com

…you see a container for a new batch of marmalade, jams, or chutneys you plan to give as gifts; a drinking glass for your homemade brew; a new candle holder in need to decoration; a storage jar for your craft bits and bobs; vessel for your new snow globe…

… That is how you think like a crafter!

8. MAGAZINES ARE THE NEW CARPET!

Courtesy of kconcha at pixabay.com

Courtesy of kconcha at pixabay.com

You can barely see  the flooring in your house because it’s completely covered with this months craft magazines which you love flicking through for inspiration for new craft projects  and to find out what’s new in the world of crafts.

9. WHY STOP AT ONE CRAFT???

Courtesy of webqueen at pixabay.com

Courtesy of webqueen at pixabay.com

My friends and family know about my passion for floristry but I like to mix it up every now and again by indulging in other crafts. I have another friend who’s known for her fabulous candles and cross stitching; my former floristry tutor can also add balloon art and jam making to her creative bow; my father-in-law, while known for his amazing wood sculptures has also created art from glass and leather, and many of my former floristry classmates are fantastic when it comes to baking, sugar craft, fruit carving, sewing, table decorations and favour making.

Talk about a talented bunch!

10. YOU’RE A HAPPY LITTLE CRAFTER!

Someone once told me that being a florist suited me to the ground because I was such a happy person. Well I don’t know about that – I have my moments just like everyone else – but it’s true that crafts really do bring out the best in me and I’m happiest when I’m getting stuck into one of my projects.

I know a lot of other crafters feel the same. There’s nothing quite like designing and creating something beautiful yourself. And if it’s admired by others, so much the better. And if you can actually make a living out of selling your crafts, then you’ve really hit the jackpot.

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This probably explains why the three years I spent at flower school were among some of the best years of my life. Not only did I learn so much but I was among like-minded people who loved getting creative and using their imagination – and boy did we have a laugh! There was the odd row but mostly – we laughed!

 

The 52 Weeks Of Gratitude Challenge: I’m Late But I’m Thankful!

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So those who have opted to do this challenge are well under way with the 52 Weeks Of Gratitude Challenge but I’ve come into it a little bit late…

 

2016 was a very overwhelming year for me from start to finish. True, there was never a dull moment but that said, life was sometimes a little more overdramatic than I wanted it to be. As a result, many of the plans I had, including my blogging endeavours, got put on hold towards the end of last year.

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So I log on this week, ready to kick some serious blog ass in 2017… and then I stumble across this very interesting and exciting challenge. With the exception of a couple of challenges I’ve set myself in the past, I don’t really get involved in any of the challenges that I see my fellow bloggers partaking in. But this one struck a chord with me…

So late as I am, I think I will give this one a go. Better late than never and all that. And I can’t wait to get stuck in!

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All Sweet At Boston’s Beer And Sweet Fest 2016

EVENT: Boston Beer & Sweet Fest

HOSTED BY: Drink Craft Beer

PLACE: Space 57, 200 Stuart Street, Boston, MA 02116

DATE: 4th-5th November 2016

TIME:  Session 1 – Friday, November 4th: 6-9:30pm
Session 2 – Saturday, November 5th: 1-4:30pm
Session 3 – Saturday, November 5th: 6-9:30pm (the one we                     went to)

When I started  writing this post I was slightly hungover – and its all the fault of my sister and brother-in-law!

When I left London in October to join Mr. D. in Massachusetts after finally being approved for my Green Card (go me!) My sister and her husband decided to treat me and the fella to tickets to this year’s Beer & Sweets Fest that was being held in Boston. I love alcohol; I love sugar; I love alcohol and sugar; I love sugar and alcohol – proof that my sister and brother-in-law really do know me too well!

SO WHAT’S THIS FESTIVAL ALL ABOUT?

The Beer & Sweets Fest is an event thrown by Drink Craft Beer, who in the past have hosted events celebrating all that is good about, well, craft beer! As everyone knows that it’s not much fun drinking without having something to munch on, so these beer events are usually teamed up with a food item of some kind. So there’s been the Beer & Cheese Fest, the Beer & BBQ Fest (Mr. D. would have loved that!) Beer & Chocolate, Beer & Ice-Cream (whatever will they think of next???)… Well now it’s the turn of sweets.

WHAT’S THIS FESTIVAL LIKE?

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An indoor festival, there were a series of stalls where vendors from different companies were offering unlimited, free samples of either beer or sweets. Each company generally offered three different items for people to try.

And naturally most sweet treats were paired with a beer or cider from a neighbouring vendor – as suggested in the festival guide – which complemented it.

ON ARRIVAL

After having our IDs checked and receiving the obligatory wrist band, we then had to pick up a biodegradable tasting cup for all our drink samples (great way to cut down on waste) a festival guide and a pencil so that we could mark off all the goodies we’d sampled.

And then the fun began!

ONCE INSIDE

As each stall had about three items for everyone to try. Mr. D. and I worked out a strategy that we were going to go round the venue trying one thing from each stall before working our way around another two times so that by the end of the night we’d have tried everything.

Well at least that was the plan. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way because as much as I think I can consume sweet stuff and alcohol all day long, my tiny little body had other ideas and decided that it just couldn’t handle the buzzing, sugar rush it was getting.

Oh well we tried! And we didn’t do too badly either.

WHO WAS THERE?

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Celebrating all that was great about New England beer, were a total of twenty breweries and cideries from the region as well as eight companies providing delicious sweet treats such as ice -cream, cookies, doughnuts, and various types of confectionery.

Here’s a list of the breweries, cider makers and confectioners who were in attendance, as well as the samples on offer.

BEER AND CIDER

Allagash Brewing Co. (ME)

Black – Belgian-style stout

Fluxus – Belgian-style saison w/ ginger

James Bean – Belgian-style strong ale w/ coffee

White – Belgian-style wit beer

Bantam Cider (MA)

Hibiscus Mint

Rojo-Chocolato – Bantam Rojo cherry & black pepper cider aged with chocolate roasted cacao nibs

Wunderkind – Cider with flower-blossom honey

Castle Island Brewing Co. (MA)

Hoodsie TBD – American stout with cocoa nibs & vanilla bean

Oaverzealous – Double IPA with oats & New Zealand hops

Palmside – Coconut porter

Citizen Cider (VT)

Americran – Cider with cranberries

Dirty Mayor – Cider with ginger

Stan Up – Vintaged cider made from heirloom apples

Clown Shoes Beer (MA)

The Barista – Brown ale with coffee & milk sugars

Chocolate Sombrero – Stout with cinnamon, vanilla, & ancho chili peppers

Space Cake – Double IPA

Downeast Cider House (MA)

Cranberry Blend – Cider with fresh cranberry juice

Original Blend

Pumpkin Blend – Cider with fresh pumpkin & chai spices

Exhibit A Brewing Co. (MA)

The Cat’s Meow – American IPA

Demo Tape Five – American brown Porter

Demo Tape Six – Dry-hopped kettle sour

Goody Two Shoes – Kolsch-style ale

Far From the Tree Cider (MA)

karr-UH-mel – Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel Cider

 Cord – Oaked maple cider

Ember – Toasted chai cider with smoked vanilla & burnt sugar

Foolproof Brewing Co. (RI)

Emperor of the Yahd – Bourbon barrel aged Double IPA

La Ferme Urbaine – Belgian-style saison

Peanut Butter Raincloud – Peanut butter porter  with chocolate

Henniker Brewing Co. (NH)

Hometown Double Brown –brown ale

King Misanthrope – Russian Imperial Stout

Ora – Belgian-style golden ale

Jack’s Abby Brewing Co. (MA)

Brewery Maker – Lager wine aged in bourbon barrels

Framinghammer – Baltic Porter

Red Tape – Amber lager

Lefty’s Brewing Co. (MA)

Big Brekkie Stout – Breakfast stout with organic chocolate, coffee, oatmeal, maple syrup, & bacon

Graham Cracker Porter

Vanilla/Chocolate Wedding Daze – Imperial Stout aged on organic vanilla beans & organic cocoa nibs

Long Trail Brewing Co. (VT)

Citrus Limbo – IPA infused with grapefruit & tangerine

Cranberry Gose – German-style gose brewed with cranberries

Barrel Aged Unearthed – Bourbon barrel aged stout

Lost Nation Brewing Co. (VT)

Gose – Slightly sour German wheat beer w/ coriander & sea salt

Cask Pitch Black –  black ale dry-hopped withGalaxy hops

Cask Vermont Pilsner – pilsner dry-hopped with Mandarina Bavaria hops

Newburyport Brewing Co. (MA)

Das Kolsch – Kolsch-style ale

Joppa Grande – Foreign Export Stout

Plum Island – Belgian-style Wit

Night Shift Brewing Co. (MA)

Awake – Coffee porter

Furth –Hefeweizen

Trifecta – Belgian-style pale ale aged w/ vanilla beans

Peak Organic Brewing Co. (ME)

Nut Brown – Brown ale

Fresh Cut – Dry hopped hoppy pilsner

Happy Hour – Pilsner

Samuel Adams (MA)

Slice of Citrus IPA – Citrus IPA

Black Harbor Stout – Imperial stout with vanilla, black pepper, coffee, & cocoa nibs

Neighborino Flanders Red – Belgian-style sour red ale

Slumbrew (MA)

UNION by Somerville Brewing – Barleywine

Yankee Swap 2016 – Rotating big beer

TBD Sour Brown Ale

Wormtown Brewing Co. (MA)

Blizzard of ’78 – English-style brown ale with cold brew coffee

Blonde Cougar – American blonde ale with honey

Norm – Oatmeal stout with cocoa nibs & toasted coconut

Spices Like Us – Imperial Russian Stout

SWEETS

Blackbird Donuts (Boston, MA)

Grapefruit and Cracked Pepper Glaze Donut

Cinnamon Spice Donut

Vanilla Sugar Donut

Chocolate Therapy (Framingham, MA)

The Cure – Dark chocolate truffle with cinnamon, bay leaf, cayenne, and Aleppo pepper

Fix – Smooth dark chocolate truffle topped with crunchy cocoa nibs

Honey Hops – Dark and milk chocolate truffle with Citra hops and honey

Honeycomb Creamery (Somerville, MA)

Apple Cider Donut with Caramel Swirl ice cream

Brown Butter Apple ice cream

Spiced Pumpkin ice cream

Kitchen Millie (Somerville, MA)

The Peanut Patriot – Peanut butter cookie

The Sugar Blizzard – Sugar cookies with sea salt and cinnamon

The Unrivaled Classic – Chocolate chip cookies

Miam Miam Macaronerie (South Boston, MA)

Chocolate Stout macaron

Salted Caramel macaron

Vanilla Bean macaron

Spindler Confections (Somerville, MA)

Salted Vanilla Caramels

Apricot Pate de Fruits

Peanut Brittle

Sweet Lydia’s (Lowell, MA)

Coconut Marshmallows

Turtle Bark – Caramel, pecans, and dark chocolate

Mexican Chocolate Stout S’More – S’more with vanilla marshmallow, ganache made with Clown Shoes Chocolate Sombrero stout, and graham cracker crumbs

Taza Chocolate (Somerville, MA)

Toffee Almond Sea Salt

Maple Pecan

Cranberry Pumpkin Spice

WHAT WE THOUGHT

To say that Mr. D. and I had a fab time is an understatement. There was such  a good vibe from the time we entered the venue and the purple-shirted staff members were so polite, helpful and accommodating. The vendors were an absolute delight (I’ve been to similar events back in London and this has not always been the case) and we managed to sample some fabulous, top quality food and drink. I don’t know who comes up with these innovative, highly original flavour combos but we had great fun tasting them.

Admittedly I’m not much of a beer drinker – that’s more Mr. D.’s thing – so I was thrilled to see that there were quite a few cider makers there that night because I am most definitely a cider girl!

Although we did enjoy almost everything, if I’m honest, I was disappointed that a very delicious and unusual sounding cider  – which shall remain nameless- had to be tipped into a waste bucket because neither Mr.D nor I could finish even that little two ounce sample which had an extremely strong taste which we did not find appealing. That’s not to say that it was rank – just not to our taste but that was the only thing we ditched that night.

WOULD WE GO AGAIN?

Oh you bet! We had such an amazing time there that if there was ever to be another one next year, we would definitely go. It wasn’t just the food and drink that was on offer that made it worth it, but the vibrant atmosphere, helpful event staff, friendly vendors and fab festival goers that made this event such a pleasant experience.

And let’s not forget that it’s events like these which give local breweries, cideries and confectioners the chance to put themselves and their products in the spotlight,  and make themselves known to a wider audience.

SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO…

Although we thought everyone was amazing, there are some people who really stood out.

CITIZEN CIDER

Mr. D. and I sampled some great tasting cider but it was the vendor who really stood out as much as those cups of appley goodness! He had no in engaging the festival goers in conversation and seemed oo have time for everyone. The fact that he complimented me ookn my accent means that he gets a zillion house points!

SPINDLER CONFECTIONS

The vendor was very welcoming and took time to explain what the samples were and invited is to try them. And they were gooooood!

SWEET LYDIA’S

I found that this company were very generous with their samples. I’ve seen restaurants who serve up mingier dessert portions! They were all incredibly tasty and even though I’m not normally a huge coconut fan, I really loved the taste and texture of their coconut marshmallows.

FAR FROM THE CIDER TREE

Mr. D and I were very impressed with what we tried, and I loved the flavour of the vanilla sea salt caramel cider. The vendor was also a very cheery, laid back dude!

BLACKBIRD DOUGHNUTS

Okay, I was disappointed that there were no vanilla sugar doughnuts, and I really wish that their grapefruit and pepper doughnuts – which were created especially for the festival – had a greater hit of grapefruit. But I can overlook all of the above because Mr. D. fell head over heels for their cinnamon spice doughnuts, and I can’t say I blame him because they were pretty yum!

HONEYCOMB CREAMERY

Mr. D. couldn’t get enough of their apple cider ice – cream – especially when he teamed it up with the cinnamon spice doughnut from Blackbird Doughnuts. And I loved the bits of roasted apple in the butter brown apple ice-cream.

THE CHUBBY CHICKPEA

They weren’t giving away  any beer or sweet samples but instead were selling reasonably-priced actual food – for which Mr. D. and I were extremely grateful because as fabulous as sweets are you need food to mop up all that alcohol!

I ordered the falafel which was cooked to perfection – light on the inside and beautifully crisp on the outside. And Mr. D. loved his chicken schnitzel sandwich. Both were served with hummus – Mr. D’s fave – and a type of salsa.

My only complaint? Guys, ditch the bread roll/bap thing and go for a flat bread instead!

These guys have a food truck located in parts of Boston so catch them if you can.

EVENT STAFF MEMBER

Mr. D. and I need to give a massive shout out to a bespectacled, shaven-headed male event staff member on the Saturday night we attended – for having a heart of gold. Thank you.

MY SISTER AND BROTHER-IN-LAW

Thanks guys for this amazing gift. If it hadn’t been for you two, we wouldn’t have had such a great night out. Next time, leave the kids at home and come with us!

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Well done to Drink Craft Beer – you excelled yourself.  Here’s to next year!

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