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
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
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.
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!
Here in Britain, we celebrated Mothering Sunday back in March, but tomorrow people in the rest of the world will be celebrating motherhood and honouring the very special women in their lives: mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, godmothers and even aunties. So what could be a more special way to spoil the extraordinary women in our lives then by treating them to a decadent afternoon tea – which if you ask me, is an occasion made for mums!
In case you didn’t know by now, I really love the idea of a themed afternoon tea (come to think of it, I love the idea of a themed anything!) and when it comes to a Mother’s Day afternoon tea party, vintage is the only way to go, with mismatched, floral, china teacups, an elaborate cake stand, bird cages, and decorations in the form of pearls and lace. Mothers are obviously all different, so you’ll cater your tea party to your mum’s tastes but inspiration for my ideas have come my own mother who’s pretty big on tradition. Chocolate and flowers also feature quite heavily as they tend to be gifts we traditionally give our mothers on their special day. Colours for this event could be in the traditional pink and lilac, or any pastel hue, or maybe even cream and gold for a classic vintage feel. With the weather getting warmer, there’s a good chance that you could hold your tea party outdoors.
When thinking about the menu, I went for old-school English classics, real ‘like mother used to make’ stuff, with an added touch of elegance and luxury. After all you can’t get more English than afternoon tea, so English classics it is! The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your afternoon tea party menu:
- Egg and cress
- Cucumber and cream cheese
- Ham and English mustard
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese
- Rare roast beef and horseradish
- Rose petals with honey
- Prawn mayonnaise
- Smoked salmon soufflés
- Mini sausage rolls
- Blinis with smoked salmon
- Mini Cornish pasties
- Parmesan thins
- Roast beef-filled Yorkshire puddings
- Goats’ cheese rarebit
- Spinach and parmesan muffins
- Cheese straws
- Potted shrimp on melba toast
- Trout pate on melba toast
- Mini chicken and asparagus pie
SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS
- Tea loaf
- Tea cakes
- English muffins
- Scones with clotted cream and rose petal jam
CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:
- Victoria sponge cake
- Apple pie with cinnamon cream
- Chocolate fudge cake
- Lemon drizzle cake
- Cherry Cake
- Jam tartlets
- Battenburg cake
- Rose and raspberry or chocolate macaroons
- Fruit cake
- Mini Bakewell tarts
- Chocolate mousse with sugared violets in shot glasses
- Mini English trifles
- Pink and lilac iced buns
- Lavender shortbread
- Chocolate éclairs
- Strawberry shortcake
- Custard slices
- Frozen strawberry daiquiris
- Mixed berry tea
- White chocolate mocha
- Jasmine tea
- Pink lemonade
- Chilled Chrysanthemum tea
- Raspberry bellini
- Cava with nasturtiums
- Pomegranate Martini
- Chamomile tea
- Champagne with hibiscus
- Chocolate flavoured cocktails
Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles.
Here’s a recipe for the unusual but delightful sounding rose petal sandwiches which is taken from The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree
ROSE PETAL SANDWICHES
60 dried organic rose petals
Few drops of rose essence
25g (1oz) butter, at room temperature
12 slices of soft white bread
6 tsp lavender honey
1. Soak the dried rose petals in a bowl of cold water with the rose essence for 20mins.
2. Drain and set aside.
3. Butter the bread.
4. Spread honey over 6 of the slices.
5. Divide the petals between 6 slices of honeyed bread.
6. Top with remaining slices.
7. Cut off crusts.
8. Cut each sandwich diagonally into four.
9. Serve immediately.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!
Easter is just around the corner and we are looking forward to yet another gloriously long weekend. For me, long weekends mean gatherings, socialising, fun, food as well as a healthy dose of r n’r – and I reckon afternoon tea combines all of these elements perfectly. I’m a huge fan of afternoon teas, and when it’s a holiday-themed afternoon tea, then that’s even better! One of the great things about hosting an Easter/Spring themed afternoon tea party is that if it’s a gloriously sunny day, you might just be able to hold your party outdoors. Inspiration for this party comes from colours and ideas associated with this time of year as well as food that is in season. Colours in soft, muted pastel shades are typical of Spring, and chicks, bunnies, Spring flowers, eggs and chocolate are what springs to mind (excuse the pun!) when we think of Easter, so these will probably play a role in your choice of food, drinks and décor. The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your Spring-themed afternoon tea party menu:
- Egg and cress
- Cucumber and cream cheese
- Chicken salad
- Chicken and pesto
- Ricotta and apricot jam
- Egg and asparagus
- Prawn cocktail
- Scotch eggs
- Mini asparagus and quail’s egg tartlets
- Mini Yorkshire puddings with lamb and mint gravy
- Pea and mint soup in shot glasses
- Bite-size lamb samosas
- Chicken tikka on bite-size naan bread with mint raita
- Spinach and ricotta/feta in filo pastry
- Cheese and spring onion scones
- Broccoli and spinach mini quiche
SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS
- Hot cross buns
- Fruit loaf
- Apricot muffins
- English muffins
- White chocolate and raspberry scones
- Rosewater and vanilla scones
CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:
- Lemon cupcakes
- Chocolate fudge cake
- Carrot cake
- Simnel Cake
- Mini rhubarb and custard tartlets
- Crème egg chocolate brownies
- Pastel coloured macaroons
- Chocolate whoopie pies
- Lavender shortbread
- Raspberry panna cotta in shot glasses
- Mini chocolate and cherry trifles
- Lemon tea
- Raspberry tea
- Vanilla latte
- Mint tea
- Elderflower cordial
- Shot glasses of thick chocolate milk
- Chocolate flavoured cocktails
Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles. And now I’m going to leave you with an awesome recipe for raspberry and white chocolate macarons. Yum!
- 130g pure icing sugar
- 110g almond meal
- 2 egg whites
- 65g caster sugar
- 4-5 drops of pink food colouring
White chocolate and raspberry ganache:
- 50ml double cream
- 100g white chocolate
- 45g raspberries, coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 140C.
- Combine icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor until finely ground.
- Triple-sift into a large bowl and set aside.
- Whisk two-thirds of the egg whites in an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks form.
- Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until fully combined and mixture is thick and glossy.
- Add food colouring.
- Stir in almond mixture in batches until fully combined and mixture slowly slides down sides of bowl when bowl is tilted.
- Add remaining egg white to loosen mixture.
- Spoon into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle.
- Pipe 3cm-diameter rounds of mixture onto heavy baking-paper-lined oven trays.
- Stand until a crust begins to form which should take around 5 hours.
- Bake macarons until firm.
- Cool completely on trays.
- Meanwhile, for white chocolate and raspberry ganache, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan.
- Remove from heat.
- Add chocolate, stand until melted, stir until smooth and glossy.
- Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable then stir until smooth.
- Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect, then spoon a teaspoon of ganache onto half the macarons. Sandwich with remaining macarons and refrigerate until set.
- Macarons will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated in an airtight container.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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!
Christmas day may be over but that doesn’t mean that the fun times should stop!
I absolutely love Christmas. It’s my favourite time of year and I don’t care what anyone says – it’s not just for kids! One of the things I love about Christmas is the chance to eat, drink and be merry (is that three things?) It’s also great that you have the chance to catch up with people you might not see a great deal of throughout the year, and that you have time to relax. Furthermore, could there be a more aesthetically pleasing time of the year that Christmas? This year I’m super lucky that I will have two glorious weeks off work. Yes, I know it’ll fly by but right now I’m just going to wallow in my super relaxed state of bliss!
So I think that the Christmas break is the perfect opportunity to indulge in a festive themed afternoon tea party. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge fan of afternoon tea. In fact, I’m a huge fan of anything that involves, food, drink, people and conversation. But there’s something extra special about having afternoon tea. I suppose that it’s because we don’t often find the time to have a real, proper afternoon tea so it’s become something of a treat.
And when you combine afternoon tea with my most favourite event of the whole year, Christmas, then you have a delightfully themed tea.
Of course, I’m not suggesting you have a Christmas afternoon tea on Christmas Day itself. By the time you’ve devoured the turkey with all the trimmings followed by a helping of Christmas pudding, tea will be the last thing on your mind! But the good news is that you can hold your Christmas themed tea at any time during the Christmas holidays which generally last for twelve days beginning on Christmas Day.
The beauty of hosting a Christmas afternoon tea during the season is that many of your family and friends are likely to be in town in order to celebrate the holidays, so it will be a lovely way to spend more time with them before they go home. There’s also no need to buy decorations for your tea – because it’ll already be there: the tree and other decorations will still be up; you might have poinsettias on the table; your fancy Christmas table cloth is likely to be adorning the table, and you may have lots of accessories in traditional Christmas colours.
Furthermore, it’s also a great way to use up any leftovers that you might have. Everyone knows that when it comes to Christmas, we really go town, buying/baking/cooking as though we’re facing the apocalypse. So there’s no need to prepare too much food, and in addition, any Christmas type food items that need to be bought are likely to be reduced in supermarkets after Christmas.
The list below gives food ideas of what you can include on your afternoon tea party menu which include typically Christmassy give festive flavours of Christmas:
Smoked salmon and cream cheese
Turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce
Ham and chutney
Ham, brie and apple
Bacon and chipolata
Cream cheese and cranberry
Cheddar cheese and chutney
Ricotta and orange marmalade
Mini sausage rolls
Mini Yorkshire puddings with turkey, stuffing and gravy
Filo parcels with cheese and cranberry sauce
Pigs in blankets
Baked brie with cranberries
Cheese and bacon vol-au-vents
SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS
Slices of Panettone
Cranberry and dark chocolate scones
Orange and cranberry scones
CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:
Spiced apple pies
Mini yule logs
Orange and walnut cake
Cranberry and orange jelly in shot glasses
Sherry trifle served in teacups
Ginger and cinnamon tea
Apple and cranberry fruit tea
Hot apple toddy
Spiced pumpkin latte
Shot glasses of thick hot chocolate flavoured with rum or Bailey’s
Remember to serve butter and jams such as fig, mulled plum or orange curd to go with the toasted breads and scones, and you might need some clotted cream if you’re serving scones which you could flavour with spices, orange zest or brandy if you wish. You might also need some chutneys and sauces to go with the savouries.
I found a delightful recipe for chocolate and orange scones, by Ellie Simmonds, which I have tried before so know it’s delicious and would be perfect as part of your Christmas tea.
700g/1lb 9oz self-raising flour
150g/5½oz caster sugar
2 large oranges, finely grated zest of both and juice of one orange
150g/5½oz chocolate drops
200ml/7fl oz whole milk, plus extra for brushing
- Preheat the oven to 210C/400F/Gas 6.
- Lightly butter two baking trays.
- Sift the flour into a bowl.
- Rub in the butter using your hands until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the sugar, chocolate drops and orange zest.
- In a measuring jug, mix the milk with the juice of one orange.
- Add to the flour mixture gradually until the dough just comes together.
- You may not need all the liquid. Be careful not to overwork the scone dough.
- Roll out the dough to approximately 2cm/1in thickness and cut out scones using a 5-6cm/2-2½in cutter.
- Transfer the scones to the buttered baking trays, brush the tops with milk and bake in the centre of the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown.
- Remove from the oven and cool on wire rack.
- Serve with clotted cream and satsumas.
I bought a book today which is absolutely, fantastically, smack-you-in-the-face awesome! It’s called The Vintage Tea Party Book and it’s by – I just love her name – Angel Adoree.
I’m a huge fan of books about tea parties, dinner parties and home entertaining because it’s based on something I love to do – have a house full of people eating, drinking and having a bloody good time! Angel says in her book that her parents ‘ have always been motivated by feeding people’s souls with food laughter and cocktails,’ – and that pretty much sums up the story of my life! And like Angel, I think my own parents played a big part in my love of home entertaining as it wasn’t unusual for them to have dinner parties and gatherings at home when I was growing up. I was allowed to join in even though I should have been tucked up in bed. But I grew up with memories of Dad’s awful jokes; raucous laughter; happy people, and empty dishes as everyone loved Mum’s cooking. So it’s no surprise that when I grew up I had an overwhelming desire to recreate those fabulous evenings.
The first thing you notice about the cover of The Vintage Tea Party Book is the shades of red, white and blue, and the images of top hats, monocles, pocket watches, Union Jacks, pipes, a cake stand, china teacups and teapots, pearls, butterflies and rose buds. What you get is a cross between a quintessential British vibe with full-on vintage glamour – two themes which feature heavily in this book. This suits The Vintage Tea Party Book down to a, well, tea!
The cover also explains that The Vintage Tea Party Book is ‘a complete guide to hosting the perfect tea party,’ but in reality it is so much more than that. What you essentially get is Angel Adoree between a hardback cover. We get a glimpse into the author’s life with pictures of her family, friends, and some childhood snaps. There are also quite a few pics of the present day Angel; a buxom lady with cherry red lips, and hair the exact same colour worn in a victory roll.
We hear about her childhood, work, entrance into the world of business, appearance on BBC’s Dragon’s Den, and her business venture, The Vintage Patisserie. And as if her appearance wasn’t enough of an indicator, the reader also learns about Angel’s lifelong love affair with all things vintage.
The Vintage Tea Party Book contains more than just recipes for a good tea party. There are ideas about how to host a party; helpful hints about sourcing vintage items; fashion and beauty advice for those who want to look 1940s; grooming advice for men; a little about the history of the Union Jack, and suggestions for games to play. There’s also arts and crafts with instructions for sewing aprons; drying edible flowers; making a butterfly display, and more. And let’s not forget templates for invitation and thank you cards. All this before we even get to the recipes.
And you won’t be disappointed with the recipes. They’re divided into three parts: brunch, afternoon tea, and evening tea.
The usual tea time treats are still there but they’ve been elevated to a more sophisticated level. So instead of your usual cucumber finger sandwiches, you’ve got cream cheese and cucumber heart-shaped, open sandwiches, and there are lemon scones with lavender cream instead of your usual run-of-the-mill (but nonetheless delicious) scones with clotted cream. There are some really unusual and delicious sounding treats such as hot baked grapefruit; chilled raspberry soup; crab choux, and pork and lemon quail scotch eggs. I especially liked the sound of the romantic sounding rose panna cotta, and the very unusual rose petal sandwich. There are also recipes for a selection of drinks including iced teas, smoothies, cocktails and hot drinks. I particularly want to try the white chocolate mocha and the bourbon slush.
The Vintage Tea Party Book is most definitely going to be one of the most inspiring books I own, and I can’t wait to try out the recipes and put the other suggestions to good use.
And just to give you a hint of how awesome this book is, I’ve posted Angel’s recipe for the divine sounding cherry and dark chocolate trifle shots. Yum!
Angel Adoree, we adore thee!
CHERRY AND DARK CHOCOLATE TRIFLE SHOTS
6 sponge fingers, broken into small pieces
100ml cherry brandy or chocolate liqueur
50g dark chocolate, grated
1 pack of dark cherry jelly, made up according to instructions, then chopped up
jar of morello cherries
100ml whipped cream
- Arrange sponge finger pieces at the bottom of 6 shot glasses.
- Add 1 tablespoon of chosen liqueur to each one.
- Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon chocolate.
- Once the sponge fingers have absorbed the liqueur, add a heaped tablespoon of prepared jelly to each shot.
- Top with a few cherries and more grated chocolate.
- To serve, top each shot with a heaped tablespoon of custard, and a tablespoon of whipped cream.
- Finish with decorative sprinkle of grated chocolate.
The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree
As much as I’m a cappuccino and cake kind of girl, I do love a good tea party – especially if it’s done properly. I know in the States, an afternoon tea party is considered to be a quintessentially British pastime. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news guys, but most of us here in the ‘old country’ don’t even own a piece of fine bone China, never mind drink from it every day. And I really cannot remember the last time I used a saucer. On the rare occasions I do drink tea, it’s usually from a cardboard cup – just like my cappuccino!
But I do know a typically British afternoon tea party can be a fabulous occasional treat. We don’t have them every day or every week, but they are very popular for birthdays, bridal showers, little girls dressing-up tea parties, and just generally when you feel like being a little bit girly and going overboard with the hats, gloves, tea dresses and pearls. Told you it’s not an every day thing!
Tea parties can vary in terms of theme, style and food served, and there’ll be more about that in later posts. Although they are usually considered to be quite formal occasions, they don’t always have to be. They’re just great fun and a chance to have a cup of tea and a natter with a huge slice of cake. However formal or not, there are certain rules (for want of a better word) which need to be taken into account for a smooth running party.
So here’s the low-down on tea party etiquette.
TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE
IF YOU’RE THE HOSTESS:
1. Depending on how formal you want to be, you may want to send out invitations. Make sure you send these out in plenty of time.
2. Greet your guests as they come in. I don’t really think a handshake and a ‘how do you do?’ is necessary as one book suggested. Hello and a smile work just fine!
2. Show guests to the table and invite them to sit down. Whether you give them assigned seating or allow them to chose their own seats is up to you.
3. As the hostess, it’s your job to serve each of the courses and pour the tea. Make sure the conversation is flowing and your guests are eating and drinking.
4. It’s fine to arrange for someone else to do the serving if you wish so that you can concentrate on just having a good time with your guests.
5. If you are not able to get outside help and you have a fairly large number of guests, you can nominate a couple of friends to help serve – especially if you know that they are happy to do so!
IF YOU’RE THE GUEST:
1. It’s always nice to bring a small gift for the hostess.
2. Take your place at the table and wait to be served.
3. Keep your purse or handbag on your lap or behind your chair but not on the table.
4. When the party’s over, always send a handwritten note of thanks to your host – preferably within a week.
1. Place napkins on your lap. If you need to leave the table, leave the napkin on your chair and not on the table.
2. No reaching across the table for anything. If you’d like something, ask someone to pass it to you.
3. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat with your fingers – no one eats sandwiches with a knife and fork – but anything that has the potential to be messy should be eaten with a fork.
4. Remember that thick cream is for scones – not for tea.
5. Take small bites of the sandwiches no matter how tiny they are. Don’t cram a whole one into your mouth. Now is not the time for party pieces!
6. When eating scones or muffins, break off a bite-size piece, then put a small amount of butter and/or jam on it. If clotted cream is being served, a small amount can be dabbed on after the jam.
7. Don’t dip the sugar tong or sugar spoon into your tea if you are taking sugar.
8. Stir the tea with your teaspoon and then place the teaspoon on the saucer behind the cup.
9. If your tea is too hot, simply leave it on the table to cool. Don’t blow on it to cool the tea down.
10. Slurping is not acceptable!
11. And neither is dunking biscuits.
12. Whatever our American friends might say, nobody here sticks their little/pinky finger out when drinking tea from a teacup. Who does that???
This is of course a rough guide and rules are open to interpretation. The most important rules which go without saying is that everyone should be happy, comfy, well-fed and having fun!
I think these pepper dipping bowls are an awesome idea for serving up dips, sauces, salsas etc. at parties. It’s especially for individual portions because then afterwards you can eat the bowl!
- Cut the stem ends off washed peppers.
- Dry with a paper towel.
- Remove seeds.
- Test the base of each pepper, and if necessary cut a little off , to make sure that the peppers will stand up when filled.
- Fill with a variety of dips.
- Serve with tortilla chips and crudités.