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Sparkling Rosé Fruit Bowl

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???

INGREDIENTS:

1 Granny Smith’s apple

200g raspberries

1 mango

1 pink grapefruit

500ml Sparkling rosé wine

2 tbspns Caster sugar

1/4 lemon

METHOD:

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.

VARIATIONS

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!

TROPICAL

Pineapple, mango, passion fruit, kiwi fruit with rum.

SUMMER BERRIES

Raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants and blueberries in champagne

FAR EASTERN

Lychees, rambutans, melon, papaya and dragon fruit in gin

PEACH MELBA

Peaches, raspberries, nectarines and apricots in Prosecco

ORCHARD FRUIT

Apples, pear, plums, apricots and blackberries in mulled cider

CHRISTMAS MAGIC

Kumquats, Clementine’s, blood orange, quince, figs, in mulled wine

 

 

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The-Heat-Is-On Tropical Fruit Compote

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awesome!

THE HEAT IS ON TROPICAL FRUIT COMPOTE

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THE FOOD STUFF:

1 medium pineapple

2 large mangoes

5 passion fruit

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 vanilla pod

1 star anise

1/4 teaspoon mixed spice

2 tablespoons runny honey

a couple of good glugs of Malibu

THE EQUIPMENT STUFF:

1 Sharp knife

1 chopping board

1 baking tray

A variety of spoons

GET BUSY:

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

 

Throwing An Awesome Superbowl Party

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

 courtesy of filtersofly at pixabay.com

courtesy of filtersofly at pixabay.com

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

Courtesy of keijj44 at pixabay.com

Courtesy of keijj44 at pixabay.com

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

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

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

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

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

FIRST THINGS FIRST:

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

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

DON’T FORGET:

Courtesy of StockSnap and pixabay.com

Courtesy of StockSnap and pixabay.com

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

DECORATION

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

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

DRINKS:

 Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

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

FOOD:

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

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

APPETIZERS/SNACKS

Courtesy of RitaE at pixabay.com

Courtesy of RitaE at pixabay.com

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

MAINS

Courtesy of mccartyv at pixabay.com

Courtesy of mccartyv at pixabay.com

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

SIDES AND ACCOMPANIMENTS:

Courtesy of hansbenn at pixabay.com

Courtesy of hansbenn at pixabay.com

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

DESSERT

Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

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

TO SERVE WITH DESSERT:

Courtesy of greenthemoongreenthemoon at pixabay.com

Courtesy of greenthemoongreenthemoon at pixabay.com

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

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

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All Sweet At Boston’s Beer And Sweet Fest 2016

EVENT: Boston Beer & Sweet Fest

HOSTED BY: Drink Craft Beer

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

DATE: 4th-5th November 2016

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

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

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

SO WHAT’S THIS FESTIVAL ALL ABOUT?

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

WHAT’S THIS FESTIVAL LIKE?

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

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

ON ARRIVAL

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

And then the fun began!

ONCE INSIDE

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

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

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

WHO WAS THERE?

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

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

BEER AND CIDER

Allagash Brewing Co. (ME)

Black – Belgian-style stout

Fluxus – Belgian-style saison w/ ginger

James Bean – Belgian-style strong ale w/ coffee

White – Belgian-style wit beer

Bantam Cider (MA)

Hibiscus Mint

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

Wunderkind – Cider with flower-blossom honey

Castle Island Brewing Co. (MA)

Hoodsie TBD – American stout with cocoa nibs & vanilla bean

Oaverzealous – Double IPA with oats & New Zealand hops

Palmside – Coconut porter

Citizen Cider (VT)

Americran – Cider with cranberries

Dirty Mayor – Cider with ginger

Stan Up – Vintaged cider made from heirloom apples

Clown Shoes Beer (MA)

The Barista – Brown ale with coffee & milk sugars

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

Space Cake – Double IPA

Downeast Cider House (MA)

Cranberry Blend – Cider with fresh cranberry juice

Original Blend

Pumpkin Blend – Cider with fresh pumpkin & chai spices

Exhibit A Brewing Co. (MA)

The Cat’s Meow – American IPA

Demo Tape Five – American brown Porter

Demo Tape Six – Dry-hopped kettle sour

Goody Two Shoes – Kolsch-style ale

Far From the Tree Cider (MA)

karr-UH-mel – Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel Cider

 Cord – Oaked maple cider

Ember – Toasted chai cider with smoked vanilla & burnt sugar

Foolproof Brewing Co. (RI)

Emperor of the Yahd – Bourbon barrel aged Double IPA

La Ferme Urbaine – Belgian-style saison

Peanut Butter Raincloud – Peanut butter porter  with chocolate

Henniker Brewing Co. (NH)

Hometown Double Brown –brown ale

King Misanthrope – Russian Imperial Stout

Ora – Belgian-style golden ale

Jack’s Abby Brewing Co. (MA)

Brewery Maker – Lager wine aged in bourbon barrels

Framinghammer – Baltic Porter

Red Tape – Amber lager

Lefty’s Brewing Co. (MA)

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

Graham Cracker Porter

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

Long Trail Brewing Co. (VT)

Citrus Limbo – IPA infused with grapefruit & tangerine

Cranberry Gose – German-style gose brewed with cranberries

Barrel Aged Unearthed – Bourbon barrel aged stout

Lost Nation Brewing Co. (VT)

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

Cask Pitch Black –  black ale dry-hopped withGalaxy hops

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

Newburyport Brewing Co. (MA)

Das Kolsch – Kolsch-style ale

Joppa Grande – Foreign Export Stout

Plum Island – Belgian-style Wit

Night Shift Brewing Co. (MA)

Awake – Coffee porter

Furth –Hefeweizen

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

Peak Organic Brewing Co. (ME)

Nut Brown – Brown ale

Fresh Cut – Dry hopped hoppy pilsner

Happy Hour – Pilsner

Samuel Adams (MA)

Slice of Citrus IPA – Citrus IPA

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

Neighborino Flanders Red – Belgian-style sour red ale

Slumbrew (MA)

UNION by Somerville Brewing – Barleywine

Yankee Swap 2016 – Rotating big beer

TBD Sour Brown Ale

Wormtown Brewing Co. (MA)

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

Blonde Cougar – American blonde ale with honey

Norm – Oatmeal stout with cocoa nibs & toasted coconut

Spices Like Us – Imperial Russian Stout

SWEETS

Blackbird Donuts (Boston, MA)

Grapefruit and Cracked Pepper Glaze Donut

Cinnamon Spice Donut

Vanilla Sugar Donut

Chocolate Therapy (Framingham, MA)

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

Fix – Smooth dark chocolate truffle topped with crunchy cocoa nibs

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

Honeycomb Creamery (Somerville, MA)

Apple Cider Donut with Caramel Swirl ice cream

Brown Butter Apple ice cream

Spiced Pumpkin ice cream

Kitchen Millie (Somerville, MA)

The Peanut Patriot – Peanut butter cookie

The Sugar Blizzard – Sugar cookies with sea salt and cinnamon

The Unrivaled Classic – Chocolate chip cookies

Miam Miam Macaronerie (South Boston, MA)

Chocolate Stout macaron

Salted Caramel macaron

Vanilla Bean macaron

Spindler Confections (Somerville, MA)

Salted Vanilla Caramels

Apricot Pate de Fruits

Peanut Brittle

Sweet Lydia’s (Lowell, MA)

Coconut Marshmallows

Turtle Bark – Caramel, pecans, and dark chocolate

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

Taza Chocolate (Somerville, MA)

Toffee Almond Sea Salt

Maple Pecan

Cranberry Pumpkin Spice

WHAT WE THOUGHT

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

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

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

WOULD WE GO AGAIN?

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

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

SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO…

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

CITIZEN CIDER

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

SPINDLER CONFECTIONS

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

SWEET LYDIA’S

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

FAR FROM THE CIDER TREE

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

BLACKBIRD DOUGHNUTS

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

HONEYCOMB CREAMERY

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

THE CHUBBY CHICKPEA

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

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

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

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

EVENT STAFF MEMBER

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

MY SISTER AND BROTHER-IN-LAW

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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

Thanksgiving Chez Mr. And Mrs. D.

 

 

Thanksgiving is about to descend upon us – and I can’t wait!

Ever since Mr.D. and I became a couple, I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving with him. It’s a very special time for us and it’s become one of my favourite holidays. I know it’s not such a big deal to our family and friends in Britain but last year Mr.D. and I got to celebrate with our friends in Edinburgh – and they loved it. And I enjoyed cooking for eight people – the most I’ve ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner for (all across America, people are going ” Eight people? Is that all???)

Going back to our first Thanksgiving together, I hadn’t a clue what to do; how to celebrate it; what to prepare; I didn’t know anything about the customs or traditions. I understood that a traditional roast turkey dinner was served, and that most people settled down to watch football and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving but not much else. So after interrogating Mr.D. about the dos and don’ts of Thanksgiving, he insisted that it really didn’t matter what the traditions were – we should work on creating our own ones. I thought it was a lovely idea. I also knew that it was Mr. D.’s way of saying that he hadn’t the foggiest what Thanksgiving traditions were despite having celebrated Thanksgiving his whole life!

So create our own traditions we did! Well not right away of course because the thing with traditions is that they need time to take root before they can be established as traditions. Though I’m very glad to say that the first ever Thanksgiving meal has not become one of our traditions or else we’d be eating roast turkey, raw carrots, stuffing and nothing else every year!

So as I prepare to celebrate my sixth Thanksgiving with the man who introduced me to it all, I take a look at all things that are typically Mr. and Mrs. D and that we have to include every year so that it feels ‘Thanksgivingy.’

1. TO CHURCH IN THE MORNING

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For me, it’s very important to start Thanksgiving by going to a church service exactly as I would do Christmas morning. Mr. D. isn’t big on church but he does accompany me. It’s my chance  to give thanks for all the good things that have happened in the last year and gives me time to reflect. I know that Thanksgiving has no real significance in Britain where we are now so there won’t be a special Thanksgiving mass in any of the churches but I will still attend a church service tomorrow.

2. PANCAKE BREAKFAST

 

Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a traditional breakfast of pancakes drenched in butter and maple syrup with bacon/sausage and eggs. You might wonder why we’d be tucking into a very filling breakfast when we’re going to be tucking into a gut-busting meal later on but when you come to  number 5, you’ll understand why!

3. ROAST TURKEY DINNER

 

What else could it be other than turkey? When it comes to Thanksgiving the most traditional thing about it is the roast dinner, which in my opinion – unless you’re a vegetarian – just has to be turkey as tradition dictates. I remember for Mr.D’s first Thanksgiving in Britain, my mum insisted on cooking a leg of lamb because she absolutely hates turkey. Well, I’m sorry – I wasn’t having any of it! I told mum she could have some lamb for herself if that’s what she wanted but we were damn well having turkey! Of course I put it very politely.

We always have turkey with all the trimmings including potatoes, stuffing, candied yams etc. Cranberry sauce usually gets left off the list (unless my father-in-law is with us) as it’s not really our thing. And if we happen to be in the States you can bet your life biscuits and pumpkin pie will be on the menu.

And of course there’ll be a round of sandwiches the next day!

4. TURKEY MUST BE TOPPED WITH BACON

I thought everyone wrapped the top of the turkey with bacon in order to keep it very moist – after all, no one likes dry turkey, do they? It’s certainly something I consider a necessity. But it would seem that when I prepared Thanksgiving dinner in the States one year, many of Mr.D’s family had never seen a turkey wrapped in bacon before. Some even thought it was my own invention (I wish!) They thought it was the most awesome thing they’d ever seen, and before the turkey even made it on to the table, the bacon had already been devoured!

5. A VERY, VERY, LATE DINNER

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This is a cross between a tradition and coincidence as try as I might, I can NEVER get dinner on the table at a time when most normal people would expect to eat. But then we’re not known for being a ‘normal’ household! From what I understand, most Americans have their traditional Thanksgiving meal between the hours of 1-3pm. Not in this house though!

I don’t know if it’s because of all the back-to-back movies we’re watching; the non-stop grazing that happens while we’re waiting for the main event, I don’t know why or how but dinner is never served before 9pm. In fact last year, when we were in Edinburgh with our friends we were having such an awesome time that we didn’t serve dinner until 11pm! That’s right – 11pm!!! Although by the time I eventually sat down to eat, it was after midnight and Thanksgiving was officially over.

So the moral of the story is that if you want to eat on time, Chez Mr.and Mrs. D’s is not the place to be!

6. FAMILY MOVIE MARATHON

 

Mr.D. is a movie nut so if it’s just the family who are coming over, it’s not unusual to find us watching movies until the early hours of the following day. We only stop to call friends and relatives, Mr.D. takes a break to game (also his chance to chat to his bestie who lives in South Carolina) and of course to scoff dinner!

7. GAMES WITH FRIENDS

 

If we are having friends over, we know that they will not want to sit around watching movies. So Mr.D. will watch his beloved movies until our guests arrive and then it’s raucous party game time. They might be a bit old hat but charades and bingo always go down well and have proved to be an excellent ice-breaker with people we don’t know very well. By the time they’ve put on their coat to go home, we’ll have made a whole new bunch of friends.

8. DEATH AT A FUNERAL

 

This may seem like an odd choice but it started out as purely coincidental. I realised that for the first few years that I’d celebrated Thanksgiving, we’d watched Death At A Funeral. I’ve seen both the 2007 and 2010 versions which both star Peter Dinklage. Don’t ask me why but that’s always something that’s on the movie marathon list. So now I feel that it isn’t really Thanksgiving unless we watch this hilarious comedy film that never fails to have me in stitches even though I’ve seen it five times now.

9. CANDLES

 

There’s nothing like candle light, and every Thanksgiving I make sure there are candles dotted around the place – especially beautifully scented candles. One of the things our friends remembered about Thanksgiving last year was how gorgeous the place looked bathed in candlelight and the welcoming aroma that greeted them as they entered the house.

And we always have a candlelit dinner for Thanksgiving because there’s just something about that gentle, cosy glow and the warmth of the flickering candles as we’re all sat around the table. In fact, come to think of it, that might be another reason why we serve dinner so late in the evening as a candlelit dinner at 1pm just isn’t the same.

10. CHEESE BOARD

 

OK I think it may be a little too soon to call this a a Chez D. tradition  as last year was the only year we did a cheese platter but it was such a hit that I’m determined to do a cheese board every year. And of course, if you’re going to eat dinner so late, you’ve got to produce something to keep your guests going and this cheese platter seems to be just the thing.

I’ve done posts in the past about cheese courses and what to serve on a cheese board but if you’re going to make one as a precursor to a main meal then it’s best to keep things simple. And last year, everyone enjoyed nibbling on a selection of cheeses with crackers, mini sausages, apple slices, grapes and chutney in between playing charades.

11. I AM THANKFUL POEM

I was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple and we were living in the Pacific North-West when during the church service the priest read a beautiful poem that has stayed with me ever since. It’s a reminder to be thankful for the little things and to count your blessings – even if it may not seem like a blessing at the time. The poem is called I Am Thankful by a talented but unknown poet and there appear to be several versions of this poem. I like to read it every Thanksgiving:

I AM THANKFUL

I am thankful for…

The mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

The taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.

The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.

My shadow that watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.

A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.

The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.

All the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.

My huge heating bill because it means I am warm.

The lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear.

The piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.

The alarm clock that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I’m alive.

Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I have been productive.

Let’s be thankful – not only at Thanksgiving, but every day.

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

 

Great British Bake Off Finale 2015

 

In less than twenty four hours time, we’ll know who will be the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2015.

The downside of this is that this year’s series of Bake Off will come to an end, so we’ll have to say goodbye to Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue, cakes, pies, biscuits, meringues, pastries and breads until we see them again next summer – though sadly we’ll have to bid farewell to the 2015 contestants forever!

 

I get lost in my own little world when The Great British Bake Off is on. I actually feel as though I’m in the midst of the tranquil English countryside where the Bake Off tent is pitched. All those pastel, candy shades of iced goodies appeal to the kid in me. And even though the bakers often feel flustered and panic-stricken, there’s something so calming about the gentle pursuit of baking. It also invokes memories of home life and family time because let’s face it, who didn’t have a mother, aunt or grandmother who didn’t whip up baked delicacies, and I remember that growing up, teatime was a pretty big deal. And of course, the show celebrates that great British tradition, afternoon tea – which I’m sure you all know I’m a huge fan of. And best of all, for one deliciously decadent hour every week, we can forget that healthy eating ever mattered!

 

I think it’s fair to say that The Great British Bake Off is my very own televised Disneyland!

Mr.D and I have loved this year’s series – not to mention it’s sister program An Extra Slice with the hilarious Jo Brand. I often find that when I’m hooked on one year’s series of any show, the following year’s will fall a little flat so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this series so much as I thought 2014 was brilliant. But this year has been equally fantastic and we thought the contestants were a delightful and mega-talented bunch. It was so hard to pick a favourite because I had a soft spot for so many of them including Alvin, Sandy, Nadia, Tamal, and Paul. We’ve been watching Bake Off since the third series and one of the things that I love about the show – apart from it developing my love of baking and further increasing my love of all things sweet – is the sense of camaraderie among the contestants and the way they’re always willing to pitch in and help each other out even though this is a competition, and this year’s series has been no different.

 

Everyone has their own idea about who will win the title of Great British Bake Off Winner 2015 but I personally cannot make my mind up between the finalists Ian Cumming, Nadia Hussain and Tamal Ray. A lot of the work they’ve done has been highly original and really had the wow factor. Some people may have thought that Ian’s chocolate well last week was too simplistic but I thought it was amazing and showed that he really thought outside the box. All three have worked hard to secure their place in the final, and they’re all so likeable that it’s impossible to decide who to root for, so I’m cheering them all on!

Tomorrow’s final is going to be a real show stopper in itself. It’ll be interesting to see what culinary creations Ian, Nadia, and Tamal conjure up. I cannot wait!

 

 

Better Living #3: Get Your Five-A-Day… Without Even Trying!

 

The road to healthy living is paved with good intentions: getting more sleep; exercising regularly; drinking more water, and consuming the all-important five portions of fruit and veg every day. There are some lucky people who have no problems getting their five-a-day. And despite the fact that I love fruits and veggies and have no aversion to them, I also love chocolate, cakes, pastries and anything sugary and stodgy, and more often than not, that’s what I opt for – especially when I need to dash. It seems such a mission to remember to eat healthily with my fast-track lifestyle where I’m always on the move.

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I’ve convinced myself many a time that the jam tart I’m scoffing is actually quite healthy because it contains jam which is made from, er, fruit; that coffee and chocolate are good for you because they are made from beans; chips are made from potatoes which is a vegetable so all good in the hood there, and sugar comes from a plant – need I say more! But seriously,  who am I trying to kid?

SO WHAT COUNTS AS A PORTION?

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There seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what constitutes a single serving of fruit or vegetables but it’s widely believed to be around 80g. The following are examples of single servings:

  • 1 150ml glass of pure fruit juice
  • 1 thick slice of pineapple or melon
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of pulses or beans
  • 1 apple, pear, orange, banana or other similar sized fruit
  • 2 plums or kiwi fruit
  • 1⁄2 a grapefruit
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins or sultanas
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of stewed fruit
  • 3 dried apricots
  • 1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries
  • 1 small bowl of salad

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With the exception of potatoes, which are very starchy and aren’t included in the recommended five a day, all other fruit and vegetables count, whether they’re fresh, frozen, dried, tinned, or pure juices.

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But it’s worth remembering that no matter how much pure, freshly-squeezed juice you drink, it still only counts as one portion owing to certain nutrients being depleted in the juicing process. And because they don’t contain the same vitamins and minerals as other fruit and veg, kidney beans, chick peas, lentils and other pulses also only count as one portion, no matter how much you eat. Therefore in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, it’s advisable to munch on five different types of fruit and veg each day. It’s also worth noting that when people talk about getting their five-a-day, that’s just the minimum amount that we should be consuming every day. Ideally we should be aiming for about seven servings but goodness – it’s sometimes hard enough just getting the five so we’ll concentrate on that for now!

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To be honest, it’s not actually hard to eat the recommended daily amount of fruit and veg. It’s just that we all live such busy lives these days and we’ve fallen into a pattern of bad eating habits. An ideal healthy eating day for me would see me start with chopped mango and pineapple with yogurt for breakfast; an oaty, apricot flapjack for mid-morning; prawn salad for lunch; a snack of fruit salad; and salmon with spinach, asparagus, broccoli and potatoes for dinner. What could be simpler?

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I was thinking of ways in which you could effortlessly get the recommended five-a-day where it seems as though you’re not even thinking about it so it doesn’t seem such a drag. Many of the ideas below are things that I’ve tried or that appeal to me, and appear to be effective and not at all unrealistic ways of getting more fruit and veg into your diet. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change your eating habits overnight, and lifestyle changes always seem a bit daunting but you’ll gradually be able to work your way up to incorporating more fruit and veg into your diet – and once you know how easy it is, you’ll be unstoppable!

  1. USE REAL FRUIT INSTEAD OF ARTIFICIAL SYRUPS IN DRINKS

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I always feel really disappointed when I call into a coffee shop, order a fruity iced drink, smoothie or milkshake – and find them pouring sickly-sweet, synthetic-tasting syrup into the glass instead of blending real fruit.

Well you can’t control what your local coffee shop uses, but you can make delicious cold drinks at home using real fruit. It may take a little more effort than opening a bottle but it’s so worth it!

2. GET SPIRALIZING!

 

Spiralizing has caught on in a big way where vegetables such as carrots and courgettes are cut into thin, spaghetti-like strands using a spiralizer before being cooked and eaten a lot like pasta with pesto or tomato-based sauces.

3. CAULIFLOWER ‘RICE’ ISN’T JUST FOR THOSE DOING ATKINS!

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When I first heard about cauliflower ‘rice’, it was something that Atkins dieters were making as a substitute to rice, where they would pulse cauliflower florets to resemble rice grains.

I don’t really  think it tastes like rice but I do think it’s really delicious. It tastes a lot like the fried cauliflower my mum used to make. It might sound quite bland but with seasoning, herbs, spices, a little chopped onion or crushed garlic, and a lot of imagination it can be very tasty. You can even add egg to it to make egg cauliflower fried ‘rice’!

4. SNACK ON DRIED FRUIT AND FROZEN BERRIES INSTEAD OF SWEETS

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I do love my sweet, sugary treats but thankfully I also love dried and frozen fruit and it’s a healthier way to get my fix of something sweet.

5. ICE ICE BABY

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Blend yogurt, and honey with your favourite fruit, pop into ice-lolly moulds and you’ll have a delicious, frozen sweet treat that takes next to no time to prepare.

6. GO BANANAS!

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Bananas are so versatile and contain a lot of potassium which is great when you need an energy boost -something many of my colleagues know only too well as they’re always bringing bananas to work to snack on. There’s so much you can do with them. You can have them on toast, or blended into a milkshake or smoothies for breakfast; coat them in chocolate and freeze them as an alternative to ice-lollies; mash them into pancake, muffin or cake batter; bake or barbecue them and serve them with ice-cream… the list goes on!

7. DREAM TOPPING

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Purée some berries with honey and pour over ice-cream as a healthy alternative to sugar-laden ice-cream toppings.

8. JUICY!

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I don’t know many people who don’t own a juicer – but I know many juicer owners who don’t use them. This is a real shame because fresh, pure juice is so good for you. And of course with a vast array of fruit and veggies available, you can have fun trying to come up with unique flavour combinations.

9. SWAP POTATO CHIPS FOR APPLE CRISPS

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Slice an apple (or pear) very thinly; place on a baking sheet; place in the oven at a low temperature, and bake until crispy, turning over occasionally.

10. BLEND VEG INTO SHOP BOUGHT FOOD

 

There are times when we don’t have time to make things from scratch – no matter how much we want to. But you can always add veggies to shop-bought stews or  blend vegetables into shop-bought soups. My grandfather always liked adding mushrooms to frozen pizzas while I tend to add sautéed onion, garlic and mushrooms to shop-bought pasta sauces – something Mr.D. is not happy about!

11. MAKE VEGGIE DESSERTS!

 

It started with carrot cake but now there seems to be a trend for adding vegetables such as beetroot, sweetcorn, pumpkin and courgette to baked goodies and desserts – and it seems to be going down a storm. It’s great because you can enjoy the sweet treats you love so much AND get the necessary nutrients. So you get the both of best worlds!

12. CHIPS AND DIPS

 

Ever since I discovered that I can make dips and salsas that taste better than the shop-bought stuff and that they’re so quick and simple to make, I’ve been making delicious guacamoles and spicy salsas to serve with tortilla chips when I want to snack on something in front of the telly. Not only do they taste great but I feel so much healthier.

13. FEEL THE PULSE IN A CAN!

These are a great cupboard stand-by and a good source of fibre. A serving (three tablespoons) of canned beans or lentils can be added to soups, stews, salads etc. And let’s face it – how much effort goes into opening a can?

14. LIVEN UP THAT SALAD

 

Gone are the days of boring lettuce, cucumber and tomato salads. Today we have a fantastic array of fruits and vegetables available – not to mention awesome dressings – which will change the way you look at salads forever and let’s face it – how hard is it to prepare a salad? My favourite is prawn with mango and avocado with a chilli, lime and coriander dressing. I’d eat it every day if I could!

15. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DO WITH AN AVOCADO???

 

When I was a kid, there was only one way in which people used to eat avocados and that was halved with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice. Nowadays the humble avocado has come a long way since then, and like the banana, it’s quite versatile, and is even making an appearance in sweet dishes. Salads don’t seem the same without them, and you can add avocados to dips, salsas, smoothies, milkshakes, desserts and is also used as a substitute for butter or cream in cakes and mousses. I even saw a contestant on Come Dine With Me baking them – something I didn’t know you could do with avocados.

 

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.

Opposites Attract? We Think So!

 

On Saturday, Mr.D and I celebrated six years since we became a couple. So to mark the occasion we thought we’d go to the theatre (for me) followed by a meal at Mr.D’s favourite steak house (for him!) I quite enjoyed the theatre performance but Mr.D. wasn’t so impressed:

Me: I’m so glad that you came to the theatre with me today.

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: Usually I have to go on my own or with friends. But never with you.

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: Did you like it?

Mr. D: It was Ok, I guess.

Me: I thought it was very interesting.

Mr. D: I’m not really much of a theatre person. I much prefer going to the cinema.

Me: Well it’s not too dissimilar from the cinema. And the action is unfolding right in front of you.

Mr.D: The play wasn’t really my thing. It was all about feelings and stuff – not my cup of tea.

Me: Of course not. You prefer to watch movies where people are battering the crap out of each other!

Mr.D (laughing): Sure I do. It’s more interesting!

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This interesting little exchange highlights just how different we are in many ways. It was very obvious that we were chalk and cheese when we got together but after a few years of marriage when you pretty much merge into one person you sometimes forget about how different you are. But it’s episodes like this that remind me of our unique personalities and interests.

A while ago I did a blog post on how similar my mother and I are although it would appear that on the surface we couldn’t be more different. Now I’m thinking about how Mr.D. and I seem to be total opposites. But is that such a bad thing…?

1. TOWN MOUSE AND COUNTRY MOUSE

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I think the biggest difference between me and Mr.D is the great geographical divide. I was born and raised in the city. It’s what I know and love: the hustle and bustle, the sounds, the lights, the sights, the excitement, the fact that there’s so much to see and do… whichever city you’re in, I don’t think it’s possible to feel bored. Admittedly city life has become a lot more congested than it used to be but having tried country living – something I’d wanted to do for a long time – I realise that life in the fast lane is the right place for me as I thrive on the energy and vibrancy of city life.

Mr. D. however is a country boy through and through. He cherishes fresh air, open spaces, green fields, and a quieter, slower pace of life – more so after a very long period of living in the city which in his opinion is akin to living in purgatory! Mr. D. has made no secret of his desire to up sticks and head back to the country but as we both work in the capital, that just isn’t possible right now. I know at some point we’ll have to move some where that has a bit of what we’re both looking for but right now, the city it is!

We do, however, both love the beach!

2. THE GREAT OUTDOORS VS. THE SNUG INDOORS

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Give a man a fishing rod, and he’ll feed himself. Give a man a tent and he’ll live outdoors for the rest of his life and never come home!

One of the disadvantages of living in England for Mr.D. is that the often miserable weather means that he spends more time indoors than he would prefer. If the weather was glorious all the time, he’d never be indoors as he’d be out pursuing all kinds of sporty and leisurely pursuits: camping, archery, rowing, tennis, canoeing, football… being stuck indoors (or worse trailing around the shops after me) is most definitely not his idea of fun – but at least he has his video games to keep him quiet!

Now the only thing outdoorsy about me is shopping and al fresco dining! Admittedly I can be a bit lazy and on weekends, I can often be found snuggled under the duvet watching movies… or blogging! And I’m certainly not one for all the active stuff that Mr. D. is in to.

Although he did on one occasion insist that I join him on one of his outdoorsy activities. I impressed him so much with my ability to just get on with it and not complain that by the end of the day he presented me with a little box with a ring inside…

3. THE CLUBS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Even though we don’t frequent nightclubs and bars as often as we used to, if it’s a special occasion then we’ll definitely go. The difference here is that while Mr.D. couldn’t care less if he never saw the inside of a bar or a club ever again, I really don’t mind it. True, I often feel like someone’s nanna when I set foot into one of these establishments but I love getting all glammed up and I do like the social aspect of it: having a drink and a laugh with your mates, and if it’s a club that’s playing my kind of music – wild horses couldn’t drag me off the dance floor (wheareas they wouldn’t be able to drag Mr. D. onto the dance floor in the first place!)

4. DRESS TO IMPRESS OR DRESS TO BENCH PRESS

 

Years ago we were on the tube when we saw this fifty-something year old couple. The lady was extremely glamorous, clearly took pride in her appearance and had a keen interest in fashion. Her fella was in t-shirt and shorts and looked as thought he was going to do a couple of laps around the park. Then it dawned on me and Mr.D. that the couple were a more mature version of us!

“Do you think that’s what we’re going to look like when we get to their age?” asked Mr.D

“Well considering we look like them already…” I replied.

Years later nothing much has changed. I’m not image-conscious or vain but I do like to make an effort with my appearance, and although Mr.D. is always smart and presentable for work, outside of work you’ll just have to take him as you find him in his mega casual and sometimes sporty gear.

5. WE’VE BEEN THERE ONCE SO WE’RE NEVER GOING THERE AGAIN!

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If there’s a place I’ve been to that I really like, whether it’s a town, country, restaurant etc. It’s always my intention to revisit it again at some point. And why not? If it’s a particular region, I’d like to go back to do more exploring, and if it’s a restaurant, I’d like to go back to sample more dishes. And I love visiting Spain because it gives me a chance to use my language skills.

Mr.D. can’t see the point in revisiting places we’ve already been to. The way he sees it is that the worlds a big place with so much to discover that if you keep visiting the same old places, how will you be able to experience what the rest of the world has to offer?

He has a point but I see nothing wrong with making the odd trip back to a place that I really enjoyed.

The jury’s still out on this one!

6. HOW CAN YOU EAT THAT?

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My mum was always keen to stretch our taste buds so we grew up eating all kinds of food and are still eager to try new things. As a result I’m not one of those people who can eat the same thing day in, day out and definitely need variety. Mr. D. on the other-hand is Italian-American to the core and is happiest when a plate of something Italian-American is put in front of him. Plus he’s a massive meat eater, while I struggle to finish a whole steak. In a nutshell, our tastes in food are very different!

Since meeting me and moving to London, he has since tried a variety of different cuisines and dishes – something that seriously impressed my father-in-law! However even though he can eat spicy food, he’s still getting used to a lot of the hotter stuff and he’s still a bit of a fussy eater and has his list of can’t eat/won’t eats!

7. WORDS AND NUMBERS

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I’m an English teacher, language learner, blogger, writer and avid reader and once upon a time, I used to write songs. It goes without saying that words are very important to me. I love putting words together in an expressive way that gives meaning. I love bringing words to life. That doesn’t mean that I don’t suffer from an attack of writer’s block because sometimes I do, but words are very much my forté.

My husband however doesn’t feel that writing or public speaking are two of his strongest points (and often gets me to help out with these. But he  is very much a numbers man and is more geared towards maths and science. It’s what he works with every day and he has absolutely no problems with working out what is simple arithmetic for most normal people, but for what I would require a calculator, pen and paper, and use of my fingers and toes before seeking someone out for a second opinion!

8. HOW MUCH???

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I wouldn’t say that either of us are big spenders (oh look – a similarity at last!) Despite the fact that I spent a fortune on a bespoke wedding gown (come on, it was for my wedding!) I couldn’t justify spending a grand on a coat or handbag knowing that I’d have to be buried with it just so that I could use it in the after life to get my money’s worth (that’s what my wedding gown will be for!)

However every now and again, I like to spend a little more than I normally would on little luxuries – especially if I feel it’s well-deserved. But I don’t go mad and it is just an occasional thing.

However it’s not something that Mr.D. would ever do (actually come to think of it, he did once pay something scandalous for a beef Wellington that wasn’t even that good!) but he knows I like to have my little splurges – although I prefer not to mention it because, even though he doesn’t mind, he would tease me merciliessly!

9. LEISURE PURSUITS TO SUIT… OURSELVES!

 

Just check number two for Mr. D’s favourite hobbies and activities. But along with shopping, blogging, having coffee/cocktails and a natter with the girls, I also love cooking and anything crafty that allows me to release the artist in me.

With us pursuing different interests, you might wonder how we ever get to spend quality time together but we do!

10. THE CALM BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER THE STORM

 

   🚻🚻.        Everyone who knows Mr.D. knows how quiet he is. He’s also extremely good-natured, very calm and rarely gets worked up about anything. I, on the other hand, am the complete opposite and have been known to get very emotional, scream my head off over the most trivial of things, stomp up the stairs, slam doors and generally release my inner fifteen year old!

BUT IT’S NOT ALL BAD…

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It’s not that we don’t have anything in common at all of course. The things that Mr.D. and I do actually have in common are things that matter. We both have old-fashioned morals and values; we believe in treating others the way we would like to be treated; we understand the importance of hard work and the value of money; our family and friends mean everything to us, and despite us coming from different cultural backgrounds, we’ve had similar upbringings and both come from big families.

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Some people prefer to be in a relationship with the male/female version of themselves but I actually like being married to someone who’s very different to me.  That’s not to say that the differences haven’t frustrated us both at one time or another but I feel that on the whole we complement and balance each other out. The things that one of is lousy at, the other one is great at. True, Mr.D. and I have two distinct personalities and abilities, different interests and hobbies, and our own beliefs and opinions but I actually appreciate the differences between us  because it’s kept things interesting and enabled us to learn and experience new things from the other. One of our friends even remarked how wonderful it must be to be in a relationship where we are continually learning from each other. And for the most part it is – except for when the ‘learning from each other’ leads to a heated debate!

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So I’m just going to leave you with a clip from How I Met Your Mother about the infamous ‘Olive Theory’. Incidentally How I Met Your Mother is Mr.D’s favourite show. I’m more of a ‘Lobster Theory’ Friends chick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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