Author Archives: signorad
As usual I was stuck when it came to deciding which three people I wanted to express gratitude to – as once again there are so many, I really didn’t know who to choose! But I finally decided on three and you’ll notice that there’s a theme with this post – other than gratitude – as all three people who I would like to express gratitude to have all played a major role in my career as a teacher for which I can never thank them enough.
1. MY AUNT
I’m really grateful to my aunt because after spotting an ad in the paper for a teaching position in London that she knew I would love, she informed me immediately. Mr. D and I were living in Devon at the time, working in student accommodation, and we HATED every second of it (not necessarily picturesque Devon but the job and the people we had to deal with.) We wanted to either come back to London or return to Bournemouth where we had previously been living but work was very thin on the ground so for the time being at least, we weren’t going anywhere.
Then I received a call from my aunt who, knowing that I wanted to go into teaching English, said that she’d seen an ad in the paper for teachers at a language school in Central London and that I should apply. So I did – and found out that I had two days to get down to London for an interview to see if I’d be accepted for the training program. Ever the optimist, I didn’t think I would pass the training, so I booked a coach ticket and headed over to London with just a week’s worth of clothes not knowing that I’d never be going back to Devon again…
2. P.B. – THE TRAINER
I had three trainers in total plus a lovely principal and I am grateful to all of them, for the opportunities, support and help that they had given me. But why I feel that I have to thank P.B. first and foremost is because he was the trainer who interviewed me and gave me the chance to train there. He seemed very no-nonsense and the kind of person who wouldn’t put up with any of my shenanigans, and he even warned me that the training program was very tough and intense and that even if I was accepted for the training, there was a chance that I might voluntarily drop out due to the pressure. Filling me with confidence, he wasn’t!
For reasons I’m not sure either of us understand, I was put through to the training program – something I’m sure he’s regretted ever since! Ever the optimist, I was sure I wouldn’t pass training, but not only did I do so but I continued to work there right up until the school very sadly shut down (that’s a whole other story) Had it not been for P.B. I would never have had the chance to do something I loved, and realise for the first time that I’m actually good at something. I met tons of really cool people, both staff and students, who I’m still in touch with to this day – including P.B. of course!
3. STAFF AND STUDENTS AT SCHOOL NO.2
OK, I’m cheating here a little because instead of expressing gratitude to one other person, I’ve chosen to be thankful to a bunch of people – but it’s impossible to to select just one person. Who should I choose? The receptionist who handed over my CV that had turned to paper maché when I walked in from the rain looking like a drowned rat? The former colleague from my previous school who unbeknownst to me was at that school, and put in a good word for me when he discovered that I had applied? Or the principal who hired me based on the strength of my CV and what my colleague had told her and felt that a formal interview wasn’t necessary? The staff that took care of me when I got sick? The staff that propped me back up when I suffered a devastating blow while at work? And I could never forget the amazing students there who were an absolute joy to teach.
When my visa came through to move to the States, I handed in my notice and did so with a very heavy heart for while I was happy to be reunited with Mr. D. and start the next stage of our lives together, I was also very sad to be leaving a place where I was ecstatic to go to every day – and how many people can claim to be ecstatic about going to work? When my last school shut down, I never thought that I’d ever find another place to work where I could fit in so effortlessly and be so damn happy – but I did. And I have all these fantastic people to thank for that – people who are no longer staff, colleagues or students but friends.
I love cocktails… I love ginger… I love lemongrass… I love mojitos… what’s not to love about this ginger mojito cocktail?
GINGER AND LEMONGRASS MOJITO
1 1″ piece ginger, peeled and sliced
2 stalks lemongrass
8 mint leaves
1 tbsp. Sugar syrup
1 tbsp. lime juice
50ml white rum
Ginger beer or ale
Ice and extra mint leaves
- Muddle together mint leaves, one lemongrass stalk and ginger.
- Add sugar syrup, lime juice and rum. Shake well.
- Half fill highball glass with ice and extra mint leaves.
- Strain mixture into glass.
- Top with ginger beer or ale.
- Serve with lime slices and remaining lemongrass.
I’m really embarrassed to still be continuing with the 52 weeks of Gratitude Challenge because this was supposed to have been completed by the end of last year! But last year was a roller-coaster of a year and I didn’t blog as much as I’d hoped to, and as I hate leaving things unfinished, I have decided to pick up where I left off and this time I’m determined to get to the finish line. So week seven it is!
This week’s topic is ‘a’ friend that I am thankful for. Talk about a super hard topic! I am incredibly blessed to have so many amazing people in my life who I am very happy to call friends – some of them are more like family – so naturally I’m finding it hard to talk about just one person. So I’m going to cheat a little bit – or a lot – and talk about a group of people.
So I would like to give a massive shout-out to the strong, supportive, thoroughly big-hearted people who came to my rescue when I was going through what was definitely one of the worst periods of my life; when I didn’t feel as though I was emotionally or physically strong enough to overcome my problems. These incredible people listened to me, gave me advice and support and were always there for me whatever time of day or night it was. Even though many of these fantastic people were busy with their own lives or had their own problems to deal with, they always made time for me and never got fed up or made me feel as though I was being a nuisance (which I probably was!) They even shared some of their own painful stories with me in order for me to draw strength and inspiration and to see that things always do get better. Some of these people weren’t even especially close friends at the time, and that makes me feel even more incredibly humbled that people who didn’t have to be there for me, chose to do so which speaks volumes about the kind of people they are.
I don’t think I can ever totally put into words how grateful I am to this exceptional bunch of people who got me through a tough time and got me back on my feet again. Everyone says that you never really know who your true friends are until you go through a crisis and they’re not wrong. We sadly live in a world where its every person for themselves – or at least that’s how it seems most of the time. But now I know that there are some truly amazing people out there and I’m so thankful that I get to be their friend. Everyone should have wonderful people like that in their lives.
I made this yummy fruit salad for breakfast one Valentine’s Day a few years back, served with a delicious vanilla cream. Anything with booze in it gets my vote – even if it is for brekkie! As predicted, it was a little too delicate for Mr. D. who preferred the more robust eggs Benedict I served up afterwards!
This fruit salad is based on a dessert I used to order whenever I used to visit my favourite restaurant in Baker Street: mixed berries in champagne topped with a lemon sorbet. The fruits I ended up using would not have necessarily been my first choice (all they had that appealed to me when I popped into the supermarket the night before!) it all actually worked rather well: the crispness of the apple against the tart softness of the raspberries, the sweetness of the mango, with the zinginess of the grapefruit. I’m not a breakfast person but if this was breakfast every day, I would happily tuck in.
It’s autumn now, when breakfast is supposed to be comforting and warming, but I remembered this recipe and just had to share it. And of course its not just for breakfast. Despite the sugar and wine, you could almost fool yourself into thinking it was healthy! Who said salads can’t be decadent???
1 Granny Smith’s apple
1 pink grapefruit
500ml Sparkling rosé wine
2 tbspns Caster sugar
1. Make a sugar syrup by heating the sugar with 2 tablespoons of the wine until sugar has completely dissolved and syrup thickened slightly. Leave to cool.
2. Peel and dice the mango.
3. Remove peel and pith from grapefruit and cut into segments.
4. Core and chop apple, leaving peel on if you wish.
5. Squeeze lemon juice over the apple.
6. Combine prepared fruit in a bowl with the raspberries.
7. Add remainder of the rosé wine to the syrup.
8. Pour sweetened wine over the fruits.
9. Serve with cream,yogurt, ice-cream or sorbet.
If the recipe above isn’t quite your cup of tea (or glass of rosé!) don’t worry – maybe one of these boozy fruit salads will float your fruit bowl!
Pineapple, mango, passion fruit, kiwi fruit with rum.
Raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants and blueberries in champagne
Lychees, rambutans, melon, papaya and dragon fruit in gin
Peaches, raspberries, nectarines and apricots in Prosecco
Apples, pear, plums, apricots and blackberries in mulled cider
Kumquats, Clementine’s, blood orange, quince, figs, in mulled wine
I love fruity cocktails, and if they’re sparkling, then so much the better! Needless to say this one’s right up my street! I love the taste of sparkling apple juice with this cocktail, but any sparkling juice will do.
Prep: 5 mins
4tbsp. sugar syrup
2tbsp. Lemon juice
Seeds of 2 pomegranates
Sparkling apple juice
Mint leaves or citrus zest to decorate
- Crush blackberries and seeds of one pomegranate.
- Strain and pour into cocktail shaker.
- Add sugar syrup.
- Add lemon juice.
- Add vodka
- Shake well.
- Strain and pour over ice and remaining pomegranate seeds in 4 glasses
- Top up with Sparkling juice.
- Garnish and serve.
- Marvel at how delicious it is!
Trying to think about what I would choose as my something I’ve been given for this week’s challenge was hard as I’ve been given so many meaningful things by some very special people.
So I decided to go with the keys that Mr. D. presented me with that opened the door to our first home – and that’s the first home that we own and not one where we’re paying off someone else’s mortgage.
As a big rock fan, I love that its not your standard run of the mill looking key and represents our love of concerts and the way we met.
But it means so much more than that.
When we lived in London, owning our own home seemed like the impossible dream – and anyone who lives in London and isn’t a millionaire will know what I mean. Getting on the property ladder was hard. We couldnt even get on the property footstool and I was really kicking myself for not having got a move on much earlier.
I just wanted a home we could call our own, where we could be us and do our own thing, and be surrounded by things that were ‘us’. Where I could entertain and have people over to stay. Mr. D. was more concerned with having woodland, animals and a lake to fulfil his desire for nature. I also wanted enough land to build smaller homes for our parents in their retirement.
Talk about a pipe dream!
Admittedly when we first went to view the house, I wasn’t really taken with it. A chance encounter with a neighbour really had me hoping we’d buy somewhere else! But the house came with land for me, woodland for Mr. D and a lake behind the nearby conservation land. Plus the house was in our price range so it looked like it might just happen…
Fast forward eighteen months and we are very settled in our home. We still haven’t done much with it and we’re still getting used to being homeowners. This house was definitely worth the wait and almost worth leaving London for… If only I could have taken my family and friends with me 😢
We’ve been saddled with a thirty year debt but believe it or not we are so thankful for that. If it means we’ll never have to deal with another greedy landlord, see another dodgy tenancy agreement or share with another hideous housemate then great! Although I hastened to add that I actually miss most of our housemates but there are some I’m hoping never to bump into again.
But yes, these keys are among some of the most cherished things I’ve been given and I am so very thankful for them.
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.
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!
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.
OMG OMG OMG! I’ve fallen in love… with a compote!
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!
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.
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.
THE HEAT IS ON TROPICAL FRUIT COMPOTE
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
- Turn oven on to
- Peel and core pineapple and cut into chunks.
- Peel mangoes and cut into large chunks.
- Cut each passion fruit in half and scoop out pulp.
- Place fruit in an oven proof dish.
- Cut vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out seeds.
- Add vanilla to the fruit.
- Add remaining ingredients.
- Combine well.
- Pop in the oven and cook for 25mins or until pineapple chunks have softened.
- Take out of oven – and enjoy any way you wish!
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!
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.
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!)
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!
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.
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!