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52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge WK 2: Your Spouse

 

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I’m running behind on this challenge but I have to say, this is the week I’ve been looking forward to most – where I get to talk about my amazing Mr. D. And as it’s exactly seven years today since Mr. D popped the question after planning the most beautiful proposal,  I’d say that this post has come at the right time.

Courtesy of Tumisu @ pixabay.com

Courtesy of Tumisu @ pixabay.com

When I met Mr.  D almost ten years ago,  I really did think that that was going to be the first and last time I ever saw him,  despite my intention to stay in contact.  We lived on different continents and our lives moved in completely different directions so it seemed unlikely that we would ever meet up again.  I have never been so thankful to have been proved wrong!

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Being a die-hard romantic I wanted the old-fashioned eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room deal. I wanted popping champagne corks, symphonies, and fireworks. What I actually got was better than that: a sh**load of vodka, a hard rock band from Oklahoma, and nachos! People who hear about how met and got  together  think it’s like something out of a rom-com movie and I’m so glad that we have such a unique story to tell.

Courtesy of fradellafra @ pixabay.com

Courtesy of fradellafra @ pixabay.com

Admittedly since we got married, Mr. D now feels that he doesn’t have to try so hard, so things like opening car doors, pulling out my chair in restaurants and flowers are now a thing of the past! Hmmm… And don’t think I haven’t complained about it!

Courtesy of Erbs55 @ pixabay.com

Courtesy of Erbs55 @ pixabay.com

But one thing that hasn’t changed about Mr. D is his good heart. He has got the kindest heart out of everyone I know. He’s extremely compassionate,  forgiving,  non-judgemental  and he treats everyone with the respect they deserve.  He’s  the last person you’ll  ever find bitching  about anyone (though I have heard him complaining about me more than a few times!) Whereas my exes were so caught up in appearances  and being the life and soul Mr.  Popularity, down-to-earth Mr.  D.  really couldn’t  care less about any of that and is just intent on being his humble self. It’s an attitude  I find refreshing and is one of the reasons why it’s  not just me,  but why my family and friends love him him as well.

Courtesy of OpenClipart Vectors @ pixabay.com

Courtesy of OpenClipart Vectors @ pixabay.com

I always feel that you know when you’re with the right person because they bring out the best in you and Mr. D certainly does that for me despite us being total opposites. He’s been a very calming influence on me and the fact that we are so different means that it never gets boring and we learn tons from each other.

Courtesy of cspxbay @ pixabay.com

Courtesy of cspxbay @ pixabay.com

A few of our closest friends know that last year was a very tough year for us. It was one of the most stressful and traumatic periods we’ve ever encountered in our married life and I hope we never have to go through anything like that again. But marriage isn’t always wine and roses and as someone once said, sometimes you only know the strength of a relationship when it’s been pushed to the limit and you’re being tested. I’d like to think we’ve passed the test.

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Mr. D.  is absolutely my best friend, the love of my life and my most favourite person. I could spend all day, every day with him and never get bored. I’m so thankful I get to call him my husband.

Courtesy ofJohnNapat @ pixabay.com

Courtesy ofJohnNapat @ pixabay.com

And I will forever be grateful to that rock band from Oklahoma!

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Ideas For A Fabulous Valentine’s Day Breakfast In Bed

 

Yay! St. Valentine’s Day is about to descend upon us – and I’m thrilled. Say whatever you like about this day but I do love everything it stands for. And what’s so great about this St. Valentine’s Day is that it falls on a Saturday so it’s more like St. Valentine’s Weekend. Even better! And I’ve definitely got into the spirit of it. Although we’d originally planned to go away this weekend, I’ve been a little under the weather so we’ll be staying at home but it most definitely won’t be boring. We’ve got the cards, the gifts, the choccies, the booze, the candles, the rom-coms, the Valentine’s Day treats and all the ingredients for a fabulous dinner. Because we were long-distance for a long time, we never got to spend St. Valentine’s Day together until after we were married, so it’s very special to us.

 

So seeing as you have the whole weekend to lounge around and be totally loved up, there’s no excuse not to have a long, leisurely Valentine’s Day breakfast. A piece of toast on the go just won’t do especially as (I hope) you won’t have to dash to the office. And there aren’t many things that scream romance quite like breakfast in bed which is the perfect way to start a lazy weekend. And let’s banish all thoughts of your usual fare – Valentine’s Day is a great time to try something different and indulge in heart-shaped delicacies and dainty little pastries.

 

So here’s some ideas to inspire you – and have you wishing every day was a breakfast in bed day!

First things first. When serving breakfast in bed you’ll need:

  • A tray
  • Cutlery
  • Glasses
  • Cups/mugs
  • Napkins or kitchen roll
  • Flowers
  • Newspapers or magazines
  • A bottle of Champers (it’s a special occasion!)

 

What To Serve:

  • Porridge served with berries/chopped bananas, honey and cream
  • Pancakes with a selection of fillings: jam, honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, Nutella etc.
  • Homemade croissants with butter and jam
  • French toast with berry compote
  • Scrambled egg and smoked salmon bagel
  • Sausage, egg and cheese bagel (Mr. D’s favourite!)
  • A fry up! How often do you get to have a full English? Be sure to serve on extra large plates.
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Danish pastries
  • Muffins – these can be made in advance to save you from getting up early to prepare them.
  • Waffles with butter, syrup and strawberries
  • Steak and eggs
  • Fresh fruit smoothies (my fave!)
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Yogurt in a tall glass layered with fruit, cereal/oats and compote/honey
  • Stuffed French toast with Nutella and raspberries or mascarpone and blueberries
  • Crumpets with butter and jam
  • Hot chocolate made from scratch with whipped cream

 

And remember…

  • If you’re going to serve toast, make sure you prepare that last so that it stays warm.
  • Likewise if you’re going to serve yogurt, get that out of the fridge just before you go up so that it stays cold.
  • Make sure you have all the things you need before you go up. It’ll be annoying to run back down because you’ve forgotten the cutlery.
  • Napkins and kitchen roll are a must!
  • If you’re going to serve Champagne/sparkling wine along with the breakfast, make sure you pop it in the fridge the night before.
  • Don’t worry about crumbs or mess. This is quality time with your other half. Enjoy!

 

 

















Saying It With Chocolates And Roses

 

 

I love the pairing of chocolate and rose as a flavour combination. It works really well and tastes divine. So you can imagine my delight when I came across some recipes featuring the two.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge chocolate fan – who isn’t? But I also really like the delicate flavour of rose – the sweet fragrance alone is deliciously tempting. It’s not a common flavouring in most parts of the world, being more popular in Asia and the Middle East. In the UK, it’s probably more commonly known for being used to flavour Turkish delight and rose creams. However in the Far East where my mum comes from, it’s used to flavour a whole variety of sweet things including cakes, biscuits, ice-creams, jams, jellies, milk puddings and drinks. One of my favourite drinks is a rose milkshake made with a delicious rose syrup. My mum prefers to dilute the syrup with water to make a type of rose squash.

 

I’m not surprised that it’s not as popular here in England as it’s a very difficult flavouring to get right: too little and you won’t be able to taste it; too much and it will taste as though your food has been laced with air freshener! It’s got to be spot on. But when you get it right it’s just like the flower itself – beautiful.

So I found three gorgeous recipes which combine both chocolate and rose together. They’d be perfect for Mother’s Day, St. Valentine’s Day, romantic meals – any occasions in which roses and chocolates are synonymous. But of course you can make them any time you want simply because they look and impressive and taste amazingly good!

CHOCOLATE WHOOPIE PIES WITH ROSE MARSHMALLOW FILLING

Makes 10-12

 

INGREDIENTS:

COOKIES

  • 60g – 2¼ oz unsalted butter diced plus extra for greasing
  • 120g – 4¼ oz golden caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 20g – ¾ oz cocoa
  • 125g – 4½ oz plain flour
  • 1 rounded tsp baking powder
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp milk

MARSHMALLOW FILLING

  • 1 medium organic egg white
  • 75g – 3oz white caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sieved fresh orange juice
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 5 pink marshmallows halved
  • pink food colouring optional

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  2. Butter two baking sheets.
  3. In a food processor, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended, then incorporate the egg.
  4. Sift together the next three cookie ingredients and add to the mixture followed by the remaining cookie ingredients.
  5. Mix until well combined.
  6. Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture on to the baking sheets spaced about 7cm l 2¾ in apart to allow for spreading.
  7. Bake until just risen and firm without crisping at the edges – they should be soft and slightly cake-like in texture.
  8. Loosen them immediately with a spatula and leave to cool.
  9. If not assembling on the day store in an airtight container.
  10. Place the first four filling ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk using an electric hand-held whisk until combined.
  11. Set the bowl over a pan containing a little simmering water and whisk the filling at high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and moussey.
  12. Add the marshmallows and stir for several minutes until beginning to melt.
  13. Then whisk until smooth and combined, adding a little food colouring if wished to achieve your desired shade of pink.
  14. Remove from the heat.
  15.  Sandwich the cookies in pairs with about a teaspoon of the filling, matching the top and bottom sizes as evenly as possible.
  16. Set aside for an hour for the filling to set.

CHOCOLATE AND ROSE PETAL JAM VICTORIA SPONGE

 

Makes 1 x 20cm (8″) cake

INGREDIENTS:

CAKE

  • 225g (8oz) diced unsalted butter
  • 200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 200g (7oz) self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 25g (1oz) cocoa sifted
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) milk

FILLING & TOPPING

  • about 125g (4 ½ oz) rose petal jam or good quality pink or red jam of your choice
  • 350ml (12 fl oz) double cream
  • pink food colouring optional

METHOD:

  • Butter a 20cm (8in) loose-bottom cake tin at least 7cm (2 ¾ in) deep.
  • Heat the oven to 190C/170 C fan oven/gas 5.
  • Place all the cake ingredients in a food processor and cream together, about 3-4 minutes, until completely smooth.
  • Transfer the mixture to the cake tin, smoothing the surface.
  • Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Run a knife around the cake and leave to cool in the tin, then turn out.
  • For the filling, work the jam in a bowl to loosen in slightly.
  • In another bowl, whisk the cream with a couple of drops of pink food colouring until just starting to form soft peaks, taking care not to let the cream turn buttery.
  •  Slit the cake horizontally into three layers using a bread knife.
  • Spread the bottom layer with half the jam, and then half the cream. Repeat with the middle layer using up the remaining jam and cream and set the top layer of cake in place.

CHOCOLATE ROSEWATER MOUSSE

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 125g – 4½ oz dark chocolate about
  • 70 per cent cocoa broken into pieces
  • 2 medium organic eggs separated
  • 25g – 1oz caster sugar
  • 100ml – 3½ fl oz double cream
  • few drops rosewater to taste

METHOD:

  1. Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water.
  2. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff using an electric whisk, then sprinkle over the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking well with each addition until glossy.
  4. Fold the egg yolks into the whisked whites.
  5.  Flavour the cream to taste with rosewater and fold into the chocolate in two goes.
  6. Now fold in a third of the egg mixture to loosen it, and then the remainder in two goes.
  7. Spoon or pipe the mousse decoratively into dessert dishes or glasses.
  8. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Is The Love?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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