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52 Weeks Of Gratitude #3: Family

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

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

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

Courtesy of Geralt @pixabay.com

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

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

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

Courtesy of tunaolger at com.

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

Courtesy of Geralt @pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of creades at pixabay.com

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

CourtesyCourtesy of Mksaunders at pixabay.com

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

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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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You’re The Only Married Couple In The Village…

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It’s not just that I love being married but I love being married to Mr. D. It took him a long time to appear but he was definitely worth the wait. And I also love my fabulous close female friends. These are the girls who have been there for me long before Mr. D had me at ‘Hello’ and who always have my back. And luckily for me, my friends and Mr.D. get on well, so we’re all one big happy ‘framily’! The only slight issue is being one of the few married couples among our friends of mostly singles as at times we can find ourselves on different wavelengths.

My friends who are single are forever telling me about the problems they encounter due to their single status and as someone who’s been both single and married, I definitely know where they’re coming from: being the only singleton amongst a bunch of marrieds and feeling like a spare part; having your mother do a spot of matchmaking with anyone and everyone; sympathetic looks and ‘well-meaning’ advice; the endless questions about why you’re still single and warnings about ending up like Ms. Haversham; everyone assuming that you’re lonely and unlucky… and sometimes you really do feel as though you’re lonely and unlucky. The list goes on and many of my friends forget that I once walked in those shoes so I totally understand.

And the other thing they don’t realise is that you don’t stop having issues the moment you have a ring on your finger. Instead there’s a whole new set of awkward encounters that we have to look forward to. Married life is great, especially if you’re married to the right person, but when the vast, overwhelming majority of your friends are single you could very well end up feeling like a couple of jammy dodgers in a packet of shortbread fingers. And there’s tons of articles and posts out there on the subject of being the only single person when all your friends are married but virtually nothing when the situation is reversed.

So for all you singles out there who think we have it easy, read on:

1. YOU MISS OUT ON ALL THE COOL ALL-GIRL BREAKS

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I never got to do the crazy, raucous girls holiday abroad when I was single and I do regret not making the most of my days as a single young woman. Now that I’m married, it’s definitely not something that’s likely to happen. I don’t really have a problem with that because I have tons of fun holidaying with my fab husband but when the girls are off on one of their foreign jaunts, I’m glad that they’re having such an awesome time but I do know that I’m missing out on all the madness. And despite being invited, I would only spoil it for the girls with my constant moping because Mr.D. isn’t there.

But I do look forward to the stories and pics when they get back. Honest!

2. YOUR OTHER HALF IS INVISIBLE TO YOUR SINGLE FRIENDS

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Many of our friends extend invitations to the both of us when there is an event or a bash of some kind so we’re quite lucky in that respect. And likewise, if I was having a party, dinner, luncheon etc. I would make sure that my friends knew that their partners were invited regardless of whether I knew them well or not. When someone’s part of a couple it’s the right thing to do.

But some of our single friends don’t understand this and will only invite the person that they were friends with first when they’re having an event. I know it’s not done maliciously but the fact that we’re now a package deal seems to have gone over some people’s heads.  Now when it’s a stag or hen do, that’s perfectly understandable. But for all other occasions, I don’t feel that it’s acceptable. There was one occasion where one of my friends hired a cottage in Devon for a week of birthday celebrations. Rightly or wrongly, I’d assumed that the invitation was for the both of us and said that we’d be there and was looking forward to a week of festivies.

But as the date drew closer, I got an email from her which made it clear that it was to be a girls only thing which was the first I’d heard of it. All I can say is that I’m glad she said something before Mr.D. and I booked our train tickets – then I really would have been furious! I accepted that it was her right to host her event as she wished – but she also had to accept that I wasn’t prepared to be away from my most favourite person in the whole world for a week so I very politely declined.

So note to all: if someone’s part of a couple, be sure to extend invitations to both of them.

3. YOU’RE THE ODD ONE OUT AT THE HEN WEEKEND

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When all the ladies at a hen party are single and ready to mingle, and you’re the only married woman there, you can’t take part in all the shenanigans. In fact once you’ve finished throwing some shapes on the dance floor, you’ll find yourself sat at the table by yourself minding drinks, handbags and outrageous hen party paraphernalia while all the single girls find a fine looking fella to cosy up to. I don’t mind that I’m not joining in with the crazy escapades. I just don’t like sitting by myself like Billy-no-mates – or worse having to fend off unwelcome attention.

Times like that I could do with a married friend so we can both discuss how glad we are that we’ve passed this stage (although it was great fun at the time!)

4. YOU’LL EXPERIENCE SOME SPITEFUL BEHAVIOUR

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When we had to announce our engagement, I was very careful to be sensitive about it despite wanting to shout it from the rooftops as I knew that there were some friends who were going through all kinds of difficulties in terms of relationships. And even though most people appeared genuinely happy for us, I was stunned by the behaviour of a couple of people.

The daughter of my mother’s best friend stopped talking to me and as hurtful as it was, I had to be understanding as her own engagement had hit the rocks. I tried to keep the lines of communication open but wasn’t getting any response. I thought that in time, she’d come round but I haven’t heard from her to this day.

Then there was one of my best friends who’ve I’ve known since we were both toddlers. Within a month of Mr.D. and I getting engaged, she amazingly got engaged to a guy she hadn’t been seeing for very long. This surprised me as I didn’t think she was that into him but as weeks went by it was very obvious that she was being competitive. I saw a not-so-nice side to her character with lots of snidey comments aimed at me; losing her temper because I couldn’t go on a shopping trip with her; I wasn’t invited to her engagement party, and despite me asking her to be bridesmaid at my wedding, instead of following me down the aisle, she was seen sitting among the other guests – in her bridesmaid’s dress! When I asked her why she had done that, she said that she had forgotten what she was supposed to do! Seriously, you couldn’t make it up!

I know deep down that she never wanted to get engaged to her fiancé (now husband) and she was mad at me because she felt I’d somehow forced her hand (?) We’re still friends but I think it’s safe to say that we don’t really regard each other as best friends any more and don’t meet up as often as we used to.

A real pity.

5. YOU GET ASKED THE INEVITABLE BABY QUESTIONS ALL THE TIME

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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage!

Or so the playground song goes anyway. And it would appear that most of our friends – single or not – agree. Admittedly it is something that everyone’s going to ask but I can’t help getting annoyed – both by the question and from having to answer that same question all the time. And it seriously peed me off when at a recent dinner party, a close, single female friend asked across the table in front of everyone if we wanted to have kids, if we were trying and when it was going to happen. Oh wait, let me just grab my crystal ball…

Yes, kids are part of the plan but I’m not sure when the time will be right. But I absolutely resent being asked something so personal in public – even if she is a close friend.

After all, I don’t think she’d have been too pleased if I’d publicly asked her why she’s still single or when was the last time she had sex… but it might help to get my point across!

6. YOU LOSE FRIENDS

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I had very few friends get married when I was in my early twenties but I soon learnt something – that the last time I’d ever see my friend again would be on their wedding day. It’s a good job I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have been blubbing so hard, the guests would have called for Noah and his ark! But it was true – once my friends got caught up in their newly-married status, new home and the kiddies that eventually came along, they found that they had less and less in common with their single counterparts and we inevitably drifted apart despite my efforts to prevent that from happening. And of course they formed new friendships with other married couples who they felt that they had more in common with. I decided that when I got married, I wasn’t going to let my marriage have such an impact on my friendships even though I knew that things would have to change a little.

Unfortunately it seems as though some of my single friends didn’t get the memo and instead opted to spend their time with other single friends. True, I couldn’t go out on the lash with them but that didn’t mean that we’d turned into Mr.and Mrs. Pipe-and-Slippers now that we’re married. We still liked to have a laugh, great fun, and a fab night out. I know other married friends have experienced this problem too. I’m glad that I haven’t technically lost any friends – no one has actually ended the friendship – but we hardly ever keep in touch.

7. EVERYONE THINKS MARRIED LIFE IS LIKE LIVING IN DISNEYLAND

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Married life is what you make it but you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice if you expect it to be perfect all the time. It’s definitely not like ‘in the movies’ and there are times you’ll both get on each others nerves. However this seems to be lost on many of my single female friends who seem so eager to settle down, I’m pretty sure they’ve already got the long, white dress hanging up in their wardrobe!

They perpetually drone on and on about how awful it is to be single, how they wish they were in a relationship and how they hope to be married by the end of the year (even if it’s November!) Then they ask you about married life and look so hopeful and expectant that it would be cruel to shatter their dreams. So I don’t tell them about how Mr.D. drives me mad with his excessive video game playing, or how fed up I am that he doesn’t seem to know where the bin is for his empty crisp packets and coke cans. Neither do I tell them that my nagging (his word not mine) annoys the hell out of him and that he wishes I’d stop stressing over things that don’t matter.

So instead I tell them the truth (or part of it anyway.) I tell them that married life is wonderful when it’s with the right person but that it requires a lot of work, effort and respect on both parts, but that they really should enjoy their single life while they have it because one day their prince will come and then they’ll never have this time again.

Somehow I doubt they’ll be taking my advice.

8. YOUR SINGLE FRIENDS DON’T ACCEPT THAT YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE

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A friend who’s in a relationship with two kids, recently put up a post on Facebook ranting at friends who expect her to drop everything to go out and party with them. She also made it very clear that it was unacceptable for friends to keep texting and calling at all hours of the day and night as she has a family to care for and they are her priority now.

I understood where she was coming from but I do know that a lot of other people wouldn’t. And it’s the attitudes of these people that really grate on me. If we all did as we pleased after we got hitched, what would be the point in getting married? I’ve had people try to convince me that taking a teaching post abroad would be a brilliant idea, very conveniently forgetting that’s it’s a decision that also involves my husband. I’ve also had single friends who’ve kicked up a massive fuss because they think I run around after Mr.D. too much – when he’s ill!

Whenever one of my friends got married, my mum would always remind me that their priorities in life have changed and that I have to respect that, give them their space and accept that they’ll have new ways of doing things now. And now that I’m married, I hope my single friends will be as understanding.

9. SINGLE PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE SMUG

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Do I think I’m happily married? Absolutely. Would I call myself smug? No – but then I don’t have to as I have other people do that for me! I’ve had (single) friends tell me that Mr.D. and I are absolutely ‘nauseating’ and I even had one friend delete both me and Mr.D. from Facebook because he said (yep, this one’s a fella!) we were just too lovey dovey and he’s not big on romance. He clearly didn’t know that he could have just unfollowed us! And yes – we’re still friends. Just not on Facebook!

From the way people carry on, you’d think that we were re-enacting the Karma Sutra in public. Admittedly we are affectionate in public (not sickenly so in my opinion at least!) And I’m not going to pretend that I don’t think that marrying Mr.D. is the best thing I ever did because it makes other people feel better. But smug marrieds will make out that their marriage and their lives together are perfect and that they never have any problems. That’s not something Mr. D. and I would ever want to do. We both know that we’re not perfect as people but we do think that we’re perfect for each other. And we’re the first to admit that it’s not always wine and roses behind closed doors – and anyone who’s ever heard either of us moan about the other will know what I’m talking about.

And besides, I always think that being too smug about your relationship is like tempting fate. And if I wanted to tempt fate, I’d get a tattoo of Mr.D’s name!

10. MR.D. IS THE ONLY GUY AMONG A BUNCH OF SHRIEKING, OVERLY EXCITED GIRLIES!

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Mr. D. often comes along when I’m meeting the girls of dinner. And as none of them are in a relationship, he often tends to be the only man there and has to put up with our non-stop chatter, shrieks of laughter and and general over-excitement.

Hang on, what am I talking about? The only guy among girls – Mr.D. LOVES that!

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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.

 

Sweet Valentine

 

St. Valentine’s Day is about to descend upon us very soon and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s definitely one of my favourite holidays and it means all the more to me because I couldn’t wish for a better Valentine than Mr. D. And this St. Valentine’s Day will be very special indeed…

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I’m a sucker for a romantic meal and having the kind of sweet tooth that keeps my dentist in employment, I can safely say that the dessert course is my favourite. But for such a special occasion it has to be a very special dessert – tinned fruit salad with vanilla ice-cream just won’t do! For St. Valentine’s Day, it has to be a dessert that screams love and romance from the rooftops.

So I’ve picked my top five romantic Valentine desserts which I think are the perfect finale to a St. Valentine’s Day meal. So why not make one of these for your beloved on Friday? And if you can’t make up your mind, why not make all five!

1. WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY CREME BRULEE

Who couldn’t love crème brulee? Lashings of creamy custard with a crisp caramelised topping. I often say that dessert isn’t dessert unless it’s chocolate. And as chocolate is known for having aphrodisiac properties, that’s just the perfect excuse for creating this classic pud with a twist. White chocolate, raspberries and crème brulee – could there be a better culinary combination?

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Serves: 6 (3 each! perfect!)

Ingredients:

  • 7oz /200g white chocolate
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3 oz/75g caster sugar
  • 1 ½ cups/350ml double cream
  • ½ cup/125ml milk
  • 9 oz/250g fresh raspberries

Preparation:

  • Put the eggs, chocolate and sugar into a large heatproof bowl.
  • Heat the cream and milk in a saucepan until just boiling, then slowly pour over egg mix and whisk over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water, until thick.
  • Place in the fridge to cool completely. Divide 3/4 of the fresh raspberries between 6 individual ramekins (3″x 2″ deep, or 5″ x 1″ individual dishes) and spoon the brulée mix over smooth over with a palette knife.
    When ready to serve evenly sprinkle the surface of the brulée with a thin layer of caster sugar and blow torch, or place under a hot grill until golden brown. Repeat until you have a thick, golden and hard surface.
    Decorate with the remaining raspberries and a sprig of mint.

2. CHERRIES IN RED WINE

An unusual dessert but it’s still got that Valentine vibe going on. Red wine and red in colour for passion – what more could you want! Can be serves with sweet, vanilla flavoured whipped cream.

Ingredients

  • 425ml red wine
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 500g cherries

Method

  1. Tip the wine into a medium pan, then add the vanilla pod to the pan with the sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Stone the cherries if you want, or leave them as they are. Add to the pan and cook gently for 6 mins. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Increase the heat, then boil the liquid for 8-10 mins until slightly syrupy. Pour over the cherries and serve warm or cold in glass bowls.

 

3. MARBLED ROSE CREAM

Roses are to Valentine’s Day what tinsel is to Christmas – you just can’t have one without the other! This fruity pud is flavoured with rosewater – one of my favourite flavourings. I found this recipe in  the National Trust’s Traditional Puddings by Sara Paston-Williams.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250 gr raspberries
  • 75 gr castor sugar
  • 7 ml cold water (a good dash)
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 7 ml rose-water or Kirsch (a generous dash)
  • sprig of mint
  • glitter sugar, chocolate flakes or other topping

METHOD:

  1. First, put half the raspberries into a saucepan with 2/3rds of the sugar (50 grs), bring gently to the boil and continue to simmer until a pulp. Push through a sieve and allow to cool.
  2. Whip cream until thick and add the remaining castor sugar gradually. Reserve a few of the remaining raspberries to decorate. Mash the rest and mix with the whipped cream very thoroughly, then add the rose-water or Kirsch.
  3. Then add the cooked raspberry pulp, stirring just enough to give a marbled effect.
  4. Pour into a glass bowl (or bowls) and chill for at least three hours in the fridge.
  5. Add the mint sprig and decorate with the raspberries and glimmer sugar or chocolate flakes.

4. OUEFS A LA NEIGE/SNOW EGGS/FLOATING ISLANDS

Whichever name you decide to use, I absolutely adore this dessert. It combines soft, marshmallowy meringue with creamy crème anglaise and caramel. It looks so pretty and tastes divine. Crystalised rose petals can also be added for even more prettiness.

 

Ingredients

For the crème anglaise
For the poaching liquor
For the meringue
For the caramel

Preparation method

  1. For the crème anglaise, heat the milk and vanilla seeds in a saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  3. Pour the hot milk mixture onto the eggs and sugar, a little at a time, so the eggs do not start to cook, whisking continuously until smooth and creamy.
  4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place the pan over a medium heat and stir continuously for 4-5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, leave to cool and then refrigerate.
  6. For the poaching liquor, combine the milk and 500ml/18fl oz water with the sugar in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  7. For the meringue, using an electric hand whisk, whisk the whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed, but the mixture should not look too dry. Add one tablespoon of the sugar to the egg whites, and continue to whisk until the mixture comes back to stiff peaks. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until it has all been used, and the meringue is thick and glossy.
  8. Using a serving spoon dipped in cold water, shape big quenelles of the meringue and gently poach in the milk and water solution, turning after 4-5 minutes to ensure they are cooked on both sides. Make sure the liquid doesn’t boil or the meringues will puff then collapse. When fully cooked, gently place on a wire rack to drain.
  9. For the caramel, pour the sugar into a clean pan. Melt the sugar slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon over a low heat until the sugar turns a dark copper colour. Remove immediately from the heat to ensure the caramel does not burn.
  10. Pour the caramel over the meringues. When set, take the caramel-covered meringues off the tray and serve in a generous pool of the crème anglaise.

5. CHOCOLATE FONDUE

I absolutely love love LOVE chocolate fondue and in my opinion it was just made for St. Valentine’s Day. It’s delicious, chocolatey and designed to be shared – could anything be more romantic? It’s also so easy to make and you can choose the dippers you like most.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup  whipping cream
  • 3  (4-ounce) semisweet chocolate bars, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons  coffee liqueur or other flavoured liqueur
  •  Assorted cookies, pretzel sticks, fruit, marshmallows

Preparation

  1. Microwave whipping cream and chocolate in a microwave-safe glass bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in liqueur.
  2. Transfer to a fondue pot; keep warm, stirring occasionally. Serve with cookies, pretzels, fruit, and marshmallows.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

 

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