Blog Archives

The Better Living Series#4: Make Me A Happy Home

Our houses are so much more than just shelter from the elements. It’s the place where we expect to find peace; feel safe; be ourselves; relax; represent who we are; have friends over, and most of all, be happy!

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

As an excited first-time homeowner, it’s so important that the place that Mr.D and I call home is somewhere that brings us a lot of peace and happiness – a place that we can’t wait to come home to every day. And happiness doesn’t always come from designer kitchens, finished basements, and Olympic sized pools – although I wouldn’t say no to any of those! But quite often it’s the simple things that that make a house a home and bring a sense of peace, happiness, and well-being. These are the things that make mine a happy home.

1. LET’S GET PERSONAL

Many of us would like to live in the kind of home that wouldn’t look out of place among the pages of Home and Garden – or in my case, MTV Cribs! But in trying to do so, we get so bogged down with the details concerning our chosen theme or colour scheme that we discard anything that doesn’t ‘go’ with the decor – even though quite often these are the very things that reflect our personality and gives the home we live in a sense of identity and signs of life.

A few of your favourite things

A few of your favourite things

I’m often quite underwhelmed by homes that don’t seem to contain anything personal or tell me anything about the people who live there. To me it feels a little soulless. So I love to see photographs, artwork, holiday souvenirs, collections on display, a library of well-loved books, home made furnishings, home-grown flowers in a vase… anything that tells a story and says something about the habits, interests and personality about the owner of the house.

True there should be some flow between personal objects and the style of the house but with a little imagination, you can bring together the most eclectic of objects bound together in your own inimitable style. So our house is most definitely going to refect our love of travel, rock music, food, family and friends, 1980s nostalgia, angels and… Lego! Now that’s some story to tell!

2. DISPLAY PHOTOS

There’s hardly anyone out there who doesn’t carry some kind of device for taking photos which means that they can literally snap away any time, any place, anywhere. Taking photos has never been easier. But unfortunately most people have a tendency to just leave the photos on their phones or tablets or upload them on to social media and then just forget about them. When I worked in a gift shop, most of my customers would only really buy photo frames or albums as a last resort. “Well that’s what Facebook’s for,” they’d say.

Well I personally think that’s a waste of a good photo.

photos-889168_640

When I lived at home with my family, I was photo mad. My room was a shrine to me and Mr.D. which some people found nauseating but who cares! Then I framed photos and put them all over the house which annoyed my family as they kept knocking them over. Which in turn annoyed me if the photos were just left lying there, or worse the frame was broken. And when we moved to the States, I couldn’t bring my mammoth collection with me but I made sure I had enough to put all over the apartment.

I love displaying photos and I don’t think a home feels complete without them. There’s nothing like seeing the faces of the people you love most every day, especially when they can’t be with you in person as often as you’d like. Each photo tells a story and gives you the chance to relive memories. I’ve also found that photos can be a real talking point when you have guests over – especially with people you don’t know very well.

And there’s an array of gorgeous frames available to suit everyone’s taste, to simple and elegant to colourful and funky. Yep, I’ve got the lot!

3. A SOFT SPOT FOR SOFT FURNISHINGS

As the child of parents who own a soft furnishings business, I definitely have a liking for soft furnishings – much more than Mr. D does. I think they add a touch of luxury and a lot of comfort and really make a house feel like a home. True, I’m not into doilies, you’ll never find chairbacks or armcaps on my sofa, and I’m not sure how fussed I am about tablecloths. 

 

But I know that I’m most definitely a fan of curtains. I appreciate the beauty of a well dressed window as well as the practicalities of providing privacy and retaining warmth. Beautiful bedding is a must; beanbags and floor cushions provide extra, informal seating for guests, and I don’t believe that a couch is really a couch unless is got throws – perfect for snuggling under when you’re watching TV or surfing the net – and a truckload of cushions. Not that Mr. D would agree with me!

And what I love most about soft furnishings is that it really is the quickest, most convenient, and possibly the cheapest way of instantly changing the appearance of a room.

4. SIMPLY SCENTSATIONAL

Like songs, certain aromas are highly evocative and have an effect on our moods, feelings and well-being. But quite often how fab  – or unfab – your home smells is often overlooked.

When I used to live in a house-share, some of the highly pungent foods that my housemates used to cook would make me want to gag. I would have to hold my breath as I walked into the kitchen and I would be afraid that the not-so-sweet fragrances would be lingering on my clothes. And I couldn’t even escape it in my bedroom where the dreaded smell would be wafting up into my room. So even though I do have happy memories of my time in the house-share, this was not one of them!

But pleasant aromas can have a positive effect on us and can make us feel refreshed, calm, energised and can induce sleep. Everyone knows why people eager to sell their homes are keen to have the aroma of freshly baked goodies wafting around their home, and its that same smell that can be delightfully welcoming to a guest visiting your home. That and freshly ground coffee, and beautifully-scented cut flowers.

scent-1431053_640

I’m not really a fan of air freshener or highly fragranced cleaning products with that ghastly synthetic smell, so I wouldn’t use those. But I do love good quality scented candles and incense sticks; good old-fashioned drawer liners and lavender sachets; essential oils being used in oil burners, floral-scented water spritzed over bedding, and an aromatic bath doesn’t just do wonders for you but also makes your bathroom smell divine.

And although I wouldn’t normally have it in the house the rest of the year, I really don’t think Christmas is Christmas without some festive-looking and festival smelling pot pourri!

5. MAKE TEA-TIME A REAL TREAT

It wasn’t anything as grand as afternoon tea in a posh hotel or quaint tea-room but growing up, tea-time was a pretty big deal in my family – especially when I went to Granddad’s house. Everything stopped for tea! I guess that’s where I get my love of afternoon tea from.

tea-1462346_640

Unfortunately with the hours most of us work, tea at four o’clock every day is impossible. It would however make a fabulous,  relaxing weekend treat – just what’s needed to help you unwind. And why not go to town by using real china, cake stands and serving lots of scrumptious, sweet, creamy delicacies?

There’s no reason why tea-time at home shouldn’t be every bit as enjoyable as at your local tea shop.

6.  HAVE A BAKE-IN!

Closely linked to number five, baking used to be regarded as something that your mum or gran would do especially if you needed cheering up or deserved a treat. But for a long time it wasn’t really considered cool or especially trendy. When we wanted a birthday cake or fresh bread, we headed over to our local bakery rather than whip something up ourselves. We all live such hectic lives that when we get home after a hard day’s work, the last thing we feel like doing is creaming butter and sugar!

I knead to bake!

I knead to bake!

But baking can be relaxing, enjoyable and therapeutic.  And shows such as Great British Bake Off, Masterchef and Next Great Baker have reignited our enthusiasm  for baking and enabled us to get happy with the mixing bowl again.

Baking is an activity which involves all five of the senses. Who doesn’t love the sight of prettily iced cupcakes; the texture of bread as it’s being kneaded; the taste of choc chip cookies; the aroma of delicious home baking, and best of all, the sound of everyone happily tucking in!

7. CANDLELIGHT

candle-1583474_640

If there’s something else I think that makes a home complete other than framed photos out on display, it’s candles – and lots of them. And if they’re scented candles then that’s even better. There’s nothing like the cosy, warm glow of candlelight to bring that touch of magic into your home. It’s great for when you want to unwind, meditate, or get romantic. Candlelight is also great to fall asleep to but for this I would strongly recommend the common sense option of battery operated candles.

8. CREATE YOUR OWN SPACE

When Mr.D and I lived in London, we had to make do with a flat that was a little on the cosy side! But despite this, Mr.D and I both marked out places that were our ‘spots.’ These were places where we could put our feet up; watch a bit of telly; read; have a cuppa; blog or do crafts (me!) play computer games (definitely Mr. D!) and have it looking the way we wanted it to look.

When you live with others, I think it’s important for you to pick a place in the house that you can call your own: a place where you can talk on the phone; read a novel; write etc. and generally just slow down, enjoy your own company and be lost in your own thoughts. Absolutely nothing wrong with that!

tv-1529259_640

Your own space could be a comfy armchair by the window; a window seat with a nearby bookcase containing your fave novels; a corner of the room with bean bags, floor cushions and a side table with all your fave knick-knacks on it. In fact who even says it has to be indoors? Maybe you could relax on a blanket beside gorgeous, sweetly scented rose bushes in your garden, or a bench under a tree.

In one episode of Wife Swap, I came across a lady who had built a thirty thousand dollar meditation feature in her garden, which she never used for meditating but she did like sitting out there and admiring it (admittedly, we don’t all have the budget for that!)

9. TO READ OR NOT TO READ

Knowing that printed literature is fast becoming obsolete makes me feel sad as just looking at a book puts me in a better mood. To say that I am a bookworm is something of an understatement. I grew up with books, newspapers, and magazines and I cannot imagine a world without them.

Yes, I know that E-readers are all the rage and that everyone reads newspapers and magazines online these days. But when I was growing up, the focal point of the sitting room were the bookshelves that contained Dad’s vast collection of books which he used to sit and read most evenings in ‘his space’. And I like the fact that some kind of reading material perched on a coffee table gives a home a nice ‘lived-in’ feel.

 

book-892136_640
And taking a look at people’s bookshelves also tells you a lot about them. Mine reveal my love of crafts, writing, studying languages and chick lit. My mum’s extensive collection of recipe books gives away her love of cooking, being a bit of a feeder, and ambition to be the next Masterchef! My brother’s books show that he’s sports mad, while Mr. D’s reading material point towards being a Trekkie and avid watcher of Game Of Thrones and that he loved Brian Jacques books as a kid.

10. WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS

Sleep: the one thing that most of us can’t get enough of and would never say no to more of – if only we had the time!

When I’m sleep deprived I am not a happy bunny but then, who is? That’s why it’s so important that your bedroom is a tranquil haven where you can nod off easily and get adequate hours of peaceful slumber. And when I’m not sleeping, my bedroom is the place where I lounge around, read, and meditate, so it really is the place where I get some much needed rest and relaxation.

pillows-890568_640

That’s one of the reasons why I firmly believe that, if it can be helped, you should never use your bedroom for working or studying in. It should ideally be kept clutter-free and as device- free as possible which, yes I know is hard, but we all know how technological gadgets interfere with our sleep. And if you suffer from allergies like Mr. D and me, then its important to keep your sleeping area clean, tidy and dust-free.

Even though my bedroom when I lived at home was pretty loud (which wasn’t a problem for me) most people would generally decorate their rooms in calming, serene colours or darker colours which help them to nod off more easily. Use adequate blinds, curtains and poles for windows as early morning sunlight seeping into your room might cause you to wake up sooner than you would like.

11. PEOPLE!

You can decorate your home any way you like but it’s the people we love who bring the happiness and laughter into our homes. And being a born hostess who loves nothing better than to entertain, I love having friends over to watch movies, major sports games or to stay for the weekend. I enjoy throwing parties and gatherings; hosting formal dinner parties or informal supper nights, and my famous cocktail and canapés events.

bbq-36427_640
After all what’s the point of having a beautiful home of you can’t share it with your amazing family and friends?

Advertisements

Never Give Up On a Good Thing

coffee-cup-1743338_640

 

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

390656

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

Think I’m joking? Think again!

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

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

Well I couldn’t argue with that!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1959874_10201388450386244_1880618201_n

 

 

coffee-2293700_640

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

SANDWICHES

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

Bacon and tomato

Sausage and mushroom

Chocolate and hazelnut spread

Jam/marmalade

Cheese and tomato

Cheese and ham

SOUP

Serve with warm crusty bread:

Tomato

Mushroom

Chicken and sweetcorn

Vegetable

BREADS AND PASTRIES

Don’t forget the butter, jam, marmalade etc:

Crumpets

English muffins

Drop scones

Teacakes

Fruit loaf

BISCUITS

Shortbread

Oat and raisin cookies

Ginger biscuits

Flapjacks

SAVOURIES

Welsh Rarebit

Jacket potato with cheese and bacon bits

Kipper with poached egg

Egg on toast

Mushroom on toast

Scotch eggs

Spinach and cheese muffins

SWEETS

Rice pudding

Chocolate brownies

Gingerbread

Banana bread

Apricot tea bread

HOT DRINKS

Tea – of any kind

Coffee

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

Hot apple toddy

Irish coffee

Hot milk with honey

 

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

The Sleep Challenge: How Did I Do?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The 8- Hours- Or- More Sleep Challenge

 

 

Genie_Lamp_Hearts_Wallpaper_p7aal

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.

child-sleeping

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!

jam

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:

pix2207

  • 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!

imagesCAHZOS9O

 

 

Bloggers Unite: Meeting My First Fellow Blogger

imagesCAAMXIQQ Last weekend was a very special weekend and a first for me. It was the first time I had met one of my fellow bloggers!

The lovely Chitra who blogs at the fantastic Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen follows many of my blogs and she has always been extremely supportive; showing a genuine interest in many of the posts she reads and leaving kind and helpful comments. She’s basically every blogger’s dream follower!

By chance, Chitra and I discovered that we lived practically around the corner from each other. That was a pleasant surprise and it goes without saying that a meet-up was in the works! However real life kept getting in the way as it has a habit of doing, and the tasks of our day-to-day lives meant that despite living so close by, we had to wait until a less hectic period in our lives for that natter over cake and coffee – although with Chitra being a huge fan of healthy eating – as the title of her blog suggests – I figured that I’d be gorging on the cake and coffee while Chitra would be the one doing most of the nattering!

But meet we finally did on Saturday, and not only did I get to meet the great lady herself, but also her family. And what a lovely bunch of people they were. Obviously our discussion turned to blogging, and I asked Chitra about how she got started with Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen. I was amazed to discover that she’d only been working on her blog since the beginning of this year, as it seems to have been around forever and has become quite huge for something that’s still only a baby. Chitra then went on to talk about all the planning, hard work and effort that goes into  Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen – not to mention the huge weekly shop and the last minute changes that sometimes need to be made. She cooks a dish every single day before writing about it; listing the recipe; taking photographs, and editing the post. In the past, Chitra did two posts a day but because of the amount of work that went into each post, she limited it to a reasonable one a day, which to be honest is more than most of us do, even though we have good intentions to blog every day.

One of Chitra's fabulous dishes. Image from Chitra's Healthy Kitchen

One of Chitra’s fabulous dishes. Image from Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen

One of the best things about Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen – aside from the fact that it’s focused on achieving a healthier diet and lifestyle – is that it really is a family affair, with Chitra getting a great deal of help and support from her family, who assist with the shopping, photography, editing, and of course, the tasting! I was astounded by the amount of work that went into Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen, and how dedicated Chitra is to maintaining the blog. Every recipe that features on Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen is her own creation – there’s nothing that’s come straight out of a recipe book. Could she be the hardest working blogger in the blogosphere????

All too soon, it was time to leave. But I left knowing that not only had I just met my first fellow blogger but that I’d also made a new real-world friend. As talented a blogger as she is, Chitra is also a lovely, down to earth lady and it was lovely getting to know her and her family. And yes, another meet up is being planned. It also got me thinking about the other bloggers I interact with. They come across as genuinely lovely people and I hope that one day in the not so distant future, I’ll be able to meet them in person too!

And if you haven’t checked out Chitra’s awesome blog, what are you waiting for? You can check it out here. imagesCAHZOS9O

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

new-years-clip-art-12

 

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

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

1543722_happy-birthday_jpeg3514f334379dd26e431eb5b4a7cb50f0

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

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

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

 

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

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

birthday-cake-clip-art-16

 

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

Here’s to another fantastic year!

 

imagesCAHZOS9O

Keep Calm And Stay Hydrated

imagesCA4CCVW8

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

 

keep-calm-and-stay-hydrated-1

 

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

HAZELNUT LATTE

One of my fave coffee flavours – hazelnut!

Mr_-Coffee-BVMC-EL1-Cafe-Latte

INGREDIENTS:

Hazelnut syrup

A cup of whisked, warmed milk

1 tsp. coffee powder

A swirl of cream

METHOD:

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

 

MANGO LASSI

(serves 6)

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

Image from mealmotivation.com

Image from mealmotivation.com

INGREDIENTS:

A small bunch of mint leaves

100ml milk

1 ripe mango, peeled, stoned and chopped

2tbsp. low-fat yogurt

1tsp. runny honey

METHOD:

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

 

CLEMENTINE FIZZ

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

Image from channel4.com

Image from channel4.com

INGREDIENTS:

Juice of 1 Clementine

1tsp. triple sec

Prosecco or Cava

METHOD:

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

 

CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL

Who wouldn’t like a glass of champers?

Image from bbc.co.uk

Image from bbc.co.uk

INGREDIENTS:

1 sugar cube

A dash of Angostura bitters

10ml brandy or cognac

Champagne or your favourite sparkling wine

METHOD:

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

 

WASABI BLOODY MARY

(makes 6)

Image from fresh.co.nz-

Image from fresh.co.nz-

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

INGREDIENTS:

1ltr tomato juice

3tbsp. wasabi powder

6 shots vodka

1tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3 lemons, halved

6 celery sticks

Handful of ice

METHOD:

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

Enjoy these gorgeous drinks. Enjoy the Summer!

All recipes from Woman’s Own, March 2014

All recipes serve one unless otherwise stated.

imagesCAHZOS9O

Cinnamon Island: A Taste Of The Exotic

 

Mr. D and I were very lucky to spend the weekend with Mr. D’s uncle who had flown over on business. Eager to show him some of this fantastic country, we took a trip to Dover – a place I hadn’t been to since childhood. As expected, it was a huge hit with Uncle P. but the problems began when we were looking for somewhere to have dinner before hitting the road. Maybe we were just unlucky but it seemed as though Dover is full of recently shut-down restaurants! Plenty of take-away places but nowhere for a proper sit-down meal.

And then we stumbled across Cinnamon Island, a restaurant which specialises in cuisine from the Indian subcontinent. The honest truth was that I was desperate for a tiramisu and a hot chocolate so Italian was my preferred choice that night but we weren’t having a great deal of luck with restaurants. In any case, Cinnamon island didn’t look too bad from the outside so we went in.

So glad we did…

LOCATION: Cinnamon Island is situated in the heart of Dover in a Grade II listed building, not far from the cliffs, pier, Dover Castle and Dover Museum.

INTERIOR: Spread over two floors, the first thing that hits you is the striking décor. Tastefully decorated in a hot, spicy combination of colours including red, mustard and gold, it sounds horribly clashing and could have been very overwhelming and in your face but it actually works. Far from feeling like you’re in an Indian restaurant, you feel as though you’re sat in someone’s home – a sentiment shared by both Mr. D and Uncle P which proves that the overall atmosphere is cosy, intimate and inviting. The two dining areas are not massive but unlike some places where they try to cram in as many tables as possible, they tables are adequately spaced out so diners don’t feel hemmed in.

 

SERVICE: From the moment we set foot in the house, I mean restaurant, we were greeted by friendly staff and made to feel very welcome. We were the first people there that evening so we were able to sit wherever we wished. We ordered poppadums and condiments, and staff were very helpful in explaining what each of the little dishes contained: sweet and spicy tamarind sauce; yogurt with mint; chopped salad; lime pickle; mango chutney and Cinnamon Island’s very own sweet red sauce whose ingredients are a closely guarded secret!

As the menu was quite extensive and the dishes all sounded quite delicious, we couldn’t make up our minds and really took our time deciding. If the waiting staff were annoyed by this, they didn’t show. We didn’t have to wait too long for our food which was a good job as we were famished! Any requests we had were catered for and we were looked after very well. After our meal, we were served with cut orange slices, little glasses of cream liqueurs and After Eight mints. A delightful and unique touch.

FOOD:

Starters

3 plain poppadums

3 spicy poppadoms

condiments

Mains:

Lamb balti with plain white rice (Mr. D.)

Tandoori salmon served on a bed of spiced potatoes with a side order of  mushroom and garlic rice (me)

Flambed salmon bhaja with lemon and ginger rice (Uncle P. )

Garlic and cheese naan bread

Cheese and coriander naan bread

Drinks:

Salty lassi (Uncle P.)

Sweet lassi (Mr. D.)

Mango lassi (me)

After mains:

Calypso coffee (me)

Regular coffee (Uncle P.)

I was torn between the salmon dish and the lamb biryani but eventually chose the tandoori salmon because it sounded unsual and I felt I was unlikely to sample that dish in most other Indian restaurants. Uncle P. chose the highly inventive salmon flambé and we couldn’t wait to check that out.

Our lassis were delicious but I was surprised at how pale my mango one was as when I have ordered it in other restaurants, it had always been a deep orangey-gold colour. It was however, still very tasty but I think I preferred Mr. D’s sweet lassi – something I have never tried before.

On the whole, the food was delicious. Mr. D. loved the lamb balti although it may have needed to be slightly milder for him (he’s still getting used to spicy food!) However,  Uncle P. and I were a little disappointed that our salmon was extremely dry due to it being overcooked. However the flavours were all there so we were still able to eat it – we just wished that it had been a little more moist. I also think that my tandoori salmon needed to come with a separate quantity of sauce as the salmon along with the potatoes needed it to break down the dry texture.

The naan breads were cooked to perfection and we loved our rice dishes which were full of flavour and tasted as delightful as they looked. Our only complaint there was that the quantities of rice were far too small – although the portions of the rest of the food were just right. The food was very neatly presented but I commented to Mr. D. that I didn’t think that Gordon Ramsay would have been too impressed with the abundance of cut vegetables used in the presentation of the dishes which could have come straight out of the 1980s ( we know from being avid Masterchef fans that Gordon is not a fan of such methods) but it added to the kitsch vibe that Cinnamon Island has going on and there was something strangely comforting in seeing that presented on a plate.

 

We had just enough room for dessert which is mine and Uncle P’s favourite course so we took a look at the dessert menu. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a great deal of variety as far as desserts were concerned as the majority of the sweets on offer tended to be ice-cream or sorbets which we didn’t fancy. I understand that most people will be too full but dessert lovers like me would still want something to satisfy the cravings of their sweet-tooth. Exotic fruit salad (not your bog-standard apples, oranges and bananas) or bananas cooked in spiced coconut milk would have been light enough and delish enough to have gone down a treat. Cinnamon Island prides themselves on the fusion elements of their cuisine. Perhaps an eastern twist on a classic panna cotta containing cardamom and served with mango would have won me over… We may not have ordered dessert but  I absolutely loved my calypso coffee which contained just the right amount of rum.

Despite minor problems, we were not at all disappointed with the food. Many Indian restaurants we have frequented have served up food that was too salty; way too spicy to be palatable, and saturated in oil. I am thrilled to say this was not the case at Cinnamon Island. The food was delicately flavoured with just the right amount of spices, seasoning and herbs. Definitely one of the more healthier menus I’ve encountered in a restaurant.

PRICE:

Actually very reasonable and a lot lower than we expected. As we were happy with the food (for the most part!) and extremely happy with the service, we thought it was well worth the money.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE:

I don’t know how soon or how often we’ll go to Dover but if we do, we’ll most definitely be paying a visit to Cinnamon Island. We don’t have to think twice about that. Friendly staff; great food; and fantastic ambience… what’s not to like? From the moment we set foot in Cinnamon island we knew that we were in for a dining experience like no other – and we were right! Other diners who arrived after us seemed equally happy and judging by part of a conversation that I overheard, it appears that one set of diners were regulars. If Cinnamon Island was closer to London, we would be happy regulars too! However, I would advise the waiting staff to issue a word of warner to diners at the table to keep back a little – the flames just whooshed up in front of us and Mr. D and I very nearly went home without our eyebrows!

HIGH POINTS:

  • Helpful and friendly service with a smile!
  • Clean interior with elegant décor.
  • Enough space to move around without bumping into other diners.
  • Delicious well-spiced, well seasoned food with no ‘nasties’ (i.e.- huge amounts of fat, oil, salt etc.)
  • Good size portions.
  • Wonderful ambience.
  • Didn’t have to wait long for the food.
  • Reasonably priced.
  • Good choice of drinks.
  • Liqueur coffee was to die for!
  • Unique special touches (i.e.- serving cut fruit and liqueurs at the end of the meal)

LOW POINTS:

  • Salmon was overcooked and dry.
  • Need more variety for the dessert menu.
  • We needed to be warned to lean back a little when salmon was being flambéed.
  • Would have liked the portions of rice to be a little bigger as it was extremely tasty.

Cinnamon Island Dover

1 Cambridge Terrace

Dover, Kent

CT16 1JT

Tel. 01304 241688 / 240185

Mobile: 07894 523142

Open everyday including bank holidays

Lunch 12 noon – 2.30pm

Evening 5PM – 11.30PM

 

Yummy Cinnamon Toast

 

Cinnamon is one of my favourite spices and as proof of that, it tends to be one of the first spices I usually run out of. It’s so versatile and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes so there really isn’t much that I don’t use it for… except maybe a full English!

 

 

And talking of full Englishes, I absolutely love cinnamon flavoured goodies for breakfast, whether it’s coffees, doughnuts, cereals, cinnamon rolls… I love them all. And one of the simplest of all is cinnamon toast which is a lot like the sugar bread my mum used to make me when I was little but with a subtly-spiced kick. And it is so easy to make so it’s perfect for people who are always running late in the morning – like me!

 

CINNAMON TOAST

Ingredients
4 Slices white bread
2 tblspns castor sugar
1 tspn ground cinnamon
Butter for spreading

Method

Combine sugar with ground cinnamon and mix well.

Cut crusts off bread and lightly toast.

Butter toast and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Put under grill until sugar has melted.

So simple!

 

 

Happy Head and Heart

Mindfulness, Conscious living, Energy Healing, Happiness

General Health Magazine

Official General Health Magazine page for women and men! Free advice to become more healthier, smarter, fashionable, confident and successful.

Run for God Blog

Live it, Love it, Teach it

Good Morning Diva's

Ready for the world

Transhomemaker

Being proud to be a vintage housewife

Anchors & Swallows

My Vintage Journey

An American Vegan in London

Amy Joy Lanou: Vegan Foodie Discoveries while in London on Sabbatical

the good, the fab and the lovely

sit back, relax and enjoy!

Lolsys Library

Fun blogs about the wonderful world of books and learning!

The Godly Chic Diaries

Smiling • Writing • Dreaming

Tea Leaves and Tweed

Tea, beauty, life, and whatnot

cookinandshootin

"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it." - Julia Child

Clean, Cheat, Repeat

Eating clean or having a cheat?

Coconut craze

I'm obsessed with coconuts!

taste of colours

everything has got taste

Foood Post

My journal of foood musings and eating memoirs

Life of Bonnie

All the little things that make up my life!

Linda Creation

Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It's about sharing, honesty & identity.

Recipes, Recipes, Recipes

My blog about recipes and cooking, topped off with a cup of coffee or tea!

%d bloggers like this: