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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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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!

 

Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

SANDWICHES

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

SAVOURIES

 

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

SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS

 

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

CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:

 

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

DRINKS:

 

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

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

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

ROSE PETAL SANDWICHES

 

Makes 24

INGREDIENTS:

60 dried organic rose petals

Few drops of rose essence

25g (1oz) butter, at room temperature

12 slices of soft white bread

6 tsp lavender honey

METHOD:

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

2. Drain and set aside.

3. Butter the bread.

4. Spread honey over 6 of the slices.

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

6. Top with remaining slices.

7. Cut off crusts.

8. Cut each sandwich diagonally into four.

9. Serve immediately.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!

 

 

 

The Coolest Ice Cubes Ever!

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I can’t believe how hot it is. I swear I’m melting away. I know England cries out for hot weather but seriously this is just too much. I feel like I’ve been locked in a sauna. People may pray for the sun but in my opinion, hot weather is so overrated – and that’s coming from a summer baby! Beach babes are able to look effortlessly hot as the temperature soars, and I’m no different. I’m able to look like a hot, sweaty mess with no effort at all!

 

So in this heat, it’s no wonder my thoughts have turned to keeping super cool. For me it’s cold drinks – and I’m knocking them back like there’s no tomorrow. And cold drinks mean ice, which right now is a necessity. The summer season means parties, weddings, barbeques etc where ice and drinks will go hand in hand. But the problem with ice cubes is that they can be pretty boring to look out and as great as they are at keeping your drinks cool, they’re also great at watering them down (which is only OK if you’re drinking water!) I did a post a while back about creating an ice-bucket – made from ice. It proved to be very popular and inspired this post about livening up the humble ice-cube in terms of appearance (presentation is important, you know!) and taste!

1. GOT TO BE HOT TO BE COOL!

Image from lifetricks.co.uk

Image from lifetricks.co.uk

Everyone knows that if you freeze cold water, you get cloudy ice. But freeze boiling water and you get crystal-clear ice. And that’s really important if you’re going to add other ingredients to your ice cubes.

2. THE HERB GARDEN

Image from boston.com

Image from boston.com

 

Add washed sprigs or leaves to the water before freezing. Mint ice-cubes are great in iced-tea (Mr. D’s fave) or fruit punch; rosemary or thyme are perfect with home-made lemonade; basil works well with gin, vodka or rum based cocktails,  and lemongrass ice-cubes in pineapple or apple juice – WOW!

3. CITRUS FRESH

Image from goodfoodideas.com

Image from goodfoodideas.com

Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges are a very obvious choice as slices are often served with cold beverages. But you could also try experimenting with pieces of grapefruit, pomelo, blood or ruby orange. These will work with still or sparkling water; as well as a variety of sodas, cocktails and juices.

4. BERRY NICE 

Image from tastespotting.com

Image from tastespotting.com

If you want pretty as a picture ice-cubes, berries are the way to go. They give a fantastic burst of colour and a fruity flavour to drinks. Raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants, blackberries etc. could go in whole, although strawberries would probably have to be sliced. They would be perfect with iced tea, lemonade, sodas, berry, cherry, pomegranate or cranberry cocktails or juices, and raspberry would also work well with orange or peach juices.

5. TROPICAL PARADISE

 

Try pieces of pineapple, kiwi fruit, lychee or dragon fruit for a touch of the exotic. These would be a welcome addition to coconut water, a multitude of cocktails and tropical fruit juices.

6. SALAD DAYS

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

Cucumber, celery, red, yellow and green peppers might be more at home in a salad bowl but these can be really refreshing served with still or sparkling water or in a Pimm’s (my absolute fave – summer just isn’t summer without it!)

7. EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES

Image from shaadicurry.com

Image from shaadicurry.com

Add some washed, fresh rose petals to water before freezing. I adore the delicate flavouring and aroma of rose as an addition to food and drinks, and it is amazing with pomegranate, raspberry and other berry based drinks.

8. IF THE SUMMER HEAT ISN’T ENOUGH…

Image from blond-logic.hubpages.com

Image from blond-logic.hubpages.com

 

… then try adding cut pieces of chilli to your ice cubes. This will give a light heat to drinks and complements citrus, pineapple, papaya and mango based drinks. Just remove some of the seeds in order to reduce the level of spiciness.

9. GLITTERING COLOURS

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

Add some edible glitter for sparkle or food colouring for a marbled effect. These obviously won’t do anything in terms of flavour but they will make the ice-cubes in your drink look so pretty, so it might be good for those who want to keep the taste of their drinks pure.

10. DITCH THE H20

Who says that ice-cubes can only made with water. It can be annoying when ice-cubes water down our drinks. So freeze cola for cola-flavoured ice-cubes; pineapple juice for pineapple-flavoured cubes; iced tea for iced tea cubes… you see where I’m going with this.

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

And of course you can combine any of the above and freeze them in water if you really want to be creative with your cubes. Try rose with raspberry; pineapple with lemongrass and ginger; cucumber with mint… the possibilities are endless!

Let’s hope the only thing that melts in the heat wave is the ice in your drinks! Stay cool.

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Where Is The Love?

Every thing red, heart-shaped and fluffy has been removed from shop shelves. St. Valentine’s Day is officially over. And so it would seem is the romance…

 

St. Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favourite occasions. I’m a born-romantic and not afraid to admit it. I live, eat, drink, breathe, sleep and dream love and romance so naturally I love everything that St. Valentine’s Day stands for. Even when I was single, I thought St. Valentine’s Day was pretty awesome and couldn’t wait for the day when I’d be able to share it with someone super special.

 

For me, this has most definitely been the best St. Valentine’s Day ever and I’m so sorry it’s over. In fact it hasn’t been St. Valentine’s Day so much as St. Valentine’s Weekend! But then we’ve had a reason to go totally overboard – after five years, we finally got to celebrate our very first Valentine’s Day together and Mr. D. really went all out for this very special occasion. We’ve celebrated every other holiday together but never Valentine’s Day due to us being long-distance for so long or having to work in different parts of the country. And I have to say Mr. D. spoilt me rotten!

 

But at a risk of sounding as though I’m bragging (I suppose I am!) I’ve been very blessed with my gorgeous hubby. He’s never been lacking in the romance department. Right from the beginning he won me over with his romantic gestures. The romance usually fades the longer you are together but I’m thrilled to say that that hasn’t happened to us (yet!)

But the other day a very apologetic Mr. D.  said that he was sorry for not being romantic enough.

“How are you not romantic enough?” I asked.

“Well, I used to buy you flowers quite a lot when we were dating,” he said, ” I hardly ever do that now. I should be buying you flowers every day.”

“Oh please! I don’t need you to bring me flowers every day… and it’s probably just as well. I’d probably wonder what you’d done wrong!”

However, there’s a down-side to Valentine’s Day which takes the sheen off the rose-tinted view of my favourite holiday and some people are really squeezing the romance out of the most romantic day of the year.

 

I hate the fact that like Christmas, it’s become so commercial and is all about consumerism. Forget greeting cards, it’s more about credit and debit cards. Everyone knows that come 14th February, flowers, chocolates and dining out costs almost twice as much as it normally would – if not more. But for men who have forgotten the significance of 14th February until it it’s almost too late these little love tokens are exactly what’s needed to help them avoid a fate worse than a spell in the doghouse. I’ve seen their fearful and panicked expression while in Hallmark:

“Quick!Quick!” they would pant, ” I forgot what day it was. Show me what you have. Show me what you have before she kills me!”

 

Sad but true. But even sadder is that come 15th February everything will return to normal again – until next Valentine’s Day when romantic gestures are called for – or else…

And that’s exactly what my problem with Valentine’s Day is – the belief that you only need to be romantic for one day out of three hundred and sixty five and then for the rest of the year you don’t have to bother. Maybe it’s because notions of romance are equated with heavy spending. After all, weekends away, roses, champagne and the finest quality Belgian chocolates don’t come cheap. But who says gift-giving is what romance is all about? Does a generic teddy bear holding a red heart with a cheesy message emblazoned across it or a pair of um, fluffy, red handcuffs prove that you’re loved and desired? Well each to their own but give me little doses of sweet and adorable every day over shop bought madness once a year.

 

But the truth is, despite my love of St. Valentine’s Day I really don’t need the biggest chocolate box in the shop because Mr. D. does the loveliest little things for me every day and really is the most romantic man I know. He’s more than happy to cook dinner or do the laundry when I’m ill, tired or just plain lazy. He’ll take the same route as me to get to work even though it’s a longer journey for him just so that he can spend more time with me. He phones me as soon as he gets out off work for no other reason than he wants to hear my voice. Basically if there’s anything he can do to make my life better, easier, or happier, Mr. D. will have done it already! I really am a lucky lady and the things he does for me means more to me than flowers that are going to wilt and die or giant teddy bears which will take up space and collect dust.

 

So the moral of the story is that love is for life and not just for Valentine’s! As much as I love St. Valentine’s Day, it’s important to remember that it’s the icing on the cake – not the chocolate sponge itself! Romance doesn’t come wrapped in cellophane with a big red bow unlike many of the products at the gift shops; it comes from the heart (hence the little heart shaped symbols you see during Valentine’s Day!) So to make sure you’re prepared for next year, remember that it’s the little every day things you do that make St. Valentine’s Day so amazing.

 

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