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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!

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Great British Bake Off Finale 2015

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Things I Got From My Mother – And Other Stories!

 

Here in the UK, Mother’s Day was way back in March. But the rest of the world -including Mr. D. – will be honouring their beloved mums on Sunday. But whether we’ll be celebrating or not, we’ll definitely be keeping our mums in mind.

Everyone says I’m my mother’s double. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve actually been mistaken for her. No it’s not that I look so old (well at least I hope not!) but Mum looks so young. She really could pass for my (slightly older!) sister. But I always felt that our looks are where our similarities begin and end as personality-wise we couldn’t be more different. I’m definitely more outgoing whereas Mum’s a bit reserved. Our style in dressing is very different: I probably dress a little too young for my age (why not? I can get away with it. I think!) whereas Mum dresses in a way that makes the Queen look like Avril Lavigne (which always frustrates me!) I like a good drink and can really put those cocktails away but Mum’s a teetotaller  who just has to look at a glass of wine and her head starts to spin. I like my music loud and angry while Mum’s the queen of the easy listening classics. We couldn’t be more different – or so I thought…

I was in bookshop this afternoon, perusing the cook books and wondering what to add to my already ever-increasing stack of cook books when it dawned on me where I got my addiction from – Mum! As a kid Mum had a whole load of cookery books (and I do mean a whole load of books) which I used to pore over, looking at the pics, while Mum would be putting the recipes to good use. All these years later, I’m doing the same (all I now need is the little girl to sit on the kitchen worktop and pore over the books…)

It got me thinking about other ways in which I’m a lot like my mother. I’m often so busy focusing on the differences that I don’t think about things that we have in common. It’s the same with the majority of my friends – they love their mums to bits but don’t think that they’re anything alike. Maybe one day they’ll also discover that they’re more alike than they think.

1. MUM AND I ARE BOTH FEEDERS!

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This is where the cook books come into effect. When you come to our homes, you’d better be coming with an empty stomach. Just don’t think you’ll be leaving with one. In fact you may need a crane to carry you out because we’re in danger of overstuffing you! Nothing makes us happier than cooking for other people and having people around our table (something we both get from Mum’s mum and my lovely grandma) and we feel really humbled by the appreciative comments we get.

2. WE WATCHED ALL THE SOAPS RELIGIOUSLY… BUT DON’T NOW!

 

I got my love of soaps from my mum who used to watch them all: Coronation Street, Crossroads, Dynasty, Dallas, Emmerdale Farm… and naturally I’d watch these too and became something of a soap addict myself, especially with the advent of EastEnders, Neighbours, and Home And Away. It was amazing because I couldn’t remember my six times table but I could remember what caused Sue Ellen to slap JR six episodes ago!

However over the years our love of soaps dwindled. In Mum’s case it’s because she’s too busy to keep up with what’s happening in Weatherfield or Albert Square, and in my case it’s because I just don’t watch TV as much as I used to, and on the odd occasion when I do tune in, I’d much rather watch something other than soaps (which in my opinion aren’t as good as they used to be anyway!)

3. WE’RE GREAT WHEN IT COMES TO THE OLD HOSPITALITY!

 

I only invite people into my home if I really like them, so it’s very important to me that everyone who does come to our home, whether it’s for a quick visit or to stay for a while, is made to feel very welcome and know that we are happy to have them over. So we go out of our way to make sure they’re happy, comfy and that they treat the place like their second home  (even though all of the above meant that Mr.D. and I once had to sleep on the sofa. Not good but hey – it was for our friends!)

And looking after guests is something I learned from Mum. However I think most people prefer to go to Mum’s than mine because she’s a much better cook than I am!

4. SPORT IS NOT OUR THING.

 

Just about everyone in our family is into a sport of some kind. And just about everyone supports a particular football team.

All except Mum and me. I’ve tried to get sporty in the past but it just wasn’t happening. Mum didn’t even try! It’s a good job I don’t live in California or I really would be in trouble.

We do however tune in to watch the World Cup especially when England’s playing. That’s as sporty as we get!

5. AND NEITHER IS DRIVING!

Mum never learnt to drive and nor has she ever wanted to. I once asked her why and she said that if she learnt to drive then that would be one less thing that Dad did – and he doesn’t do much as it is!

I did get my licence but sadly I’m a real hazard on the road so I tend to leave the driving to those who are less of a calamity.

6. WE’RE NOT ONES TO COMPLAIN

 

OK maybe not strictly speaking true as we have been known to have the odd grumble. But compared to a lot of people we know, we hardly ever complain. If life’s getting us down, something seems unfair, or we’re just having a bad day, we just suck it up and get on with it.

And on the rare occasions when we do complain, it’s only because it’s absolutely necessary. I guess you could say that we know how to pick our battles.

7. OUR BODIES ARE MADE UP OF NINETY SEVEN PER CENT SUGAR!

 

It’s not just my looks I got from my Mum but my incredible sweet tooth. Thanks to her, I’m a real sucker for sugar and it’s virtually unheard of for me to go to a restaurant and not end a meal with a dessert. And if I’m too stuffed for dessert, I at least take a peak at the dessert menu to see what I’m missing out on!

8. WE’RE USELESS WITH TECHNOLOGY

Oh my goodness, where do I begin with this? At least with Mum, she was born way before technology took hold of us the way that it has. She didn’t grow up in an era where people stopped breathing if they were clinically detached from their iPhones. I however, have no excuse especially as I’m a blogger as well. I’m not as bad as I’m making out as given a certain amount of time, I can usually figure things out. That said, I’m still far from good!

9. ADVICE IS OUR MIDDLE NAME

 

For as long as I can remember, people having been calling on my mum whenever they had a problem of some kind – and they still do. Perhaps it’s because Mum’s very understanding, a good listener, gives good advice, and tries to help out in any way that she can.

Well it’s a good job I’ve been trained by the best because at I’ve had all sorts of people – friends, family, colleagues, clients, random people on the bus – confiding in me about their problems.

I guess I just have one of those faces!

10. WE’RE REAL HOME BIRDS

 

Mum was always a home bird. I don’t think she even went to the pub as a teenager. I, on the other hand, was a real night owl, and once I got a taste of London night life there was no stopping me.

However now that I’m older, those wild nights out are pretty much a thing of the past – although nothing comes between me and my rock gigs! I’d much rather stay at home and cook for friends. and believe it or not, we still manage to have a great time!

Hope all the mums out there enjoy their special day!

 

Merry Christmas From Mrs. D

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Christmas is almost over. After all those weeks of planning and running around, driving ourselves crazy, and getting ourselves into near debt, Christmas is drawing to a close. But it’s been so worth it!

Christmas for us began at midnight when  managed to drag Mr. D. out for mass. I  love midnight mass – have done ever since my parents took us to our first midnight mass service when we were kids. There’s nothing wrong with going to mass on Christmas morning but for me it’s always been a midnight thing!

However Mr. D. and I woke up mega late today. Under normal circumstances, I would have got myself into a bit of a tizz but not  was determined to relax and enjoy the day. And we did. We had a late breakfast; opened a mountain of presents; got started on dinner, and cuddled up while watching a movie with a box of chocs. Bliss!

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I then watched Eastenders even though I no longer watch the soap. But Christmas Eastenders has always been a family tradition so I couldn’t not watch it. And what an explosive episode it was! I’ll definitely be tuning in tomorrow.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered, we had dinner very, very late but then that’s pretty much a tradition in this household. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are always served later than most people would sit down to eat, but that’s always been our thing and I’m guessing that’s how it’s going to stay.

So I hope you’ve all had a really fun time with all your loved ones and that you’re celebrating in a way that suits you.

Merry Christmas everyone xx

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My Anti-Bucket List

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Kick the Bucket.”

In the last few years, the world has gone bucket list mad – including me! There’s tons of things we all hope to do before we ‘kick the bucket’.

I’ve always been a bit of a bucket list girl and I’ve already managed to tick quite a few things off my list including being front row at a concert; visiting certain countries; going to a New Kids On The Block concert; finding my dream job, and marrying the love of my life.

But there’s still plenty of things that I haven’t done and am still waiting to tick more off my list, such as spending NYE in Time’s Square; writing a book; becoming a really good baker and confectioner; reading the entire Bible, and becoming fluent in another language… and many, many more! In fact I don’t think I’ll ever have a completely crossed-off list as I keep adding to it.

But the thought of an anti-bucket list had never occurred to me until I saw The Daily Post’s writing prompt, and it got me thinking about things I would never in a million years want to do, want to have, or want to go to!

So here’s my selection of twenty (that’s right, twenty) things – in no particular order – that complete my anti- bucket list!

1. LEARN TO MAKE QUICHE

image from bbcfood.com

image from bbcfood.com

I absolutely hate quiche with a passion. If you came to my house for lunch, you can be sure that you won’t be served with this vile savoury tart/flan/whatever you want to call it. Why the rest of the world is quiche crazy, I’ll never know. Even though I want to hone my baking skills, this is one area of baking I don’t feel I need to even bother trying to learn let alone improve upon.

2. BECOME A BIGOT

Obviously no one goes through life intent on becoming a bigot. And even when most people do have an extreme intolerance towards others, they naturally won’t admit to it or even realise how offensive their views are- though you will get a few who don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with having such prejudicial views and will defend these views to the hilt. What they don’t seem to understand is how ignorant they sound.

Going through life with an open mind is so important on many different levels and for so many reasons- at the very least it makes the world a far better place.

3. APPEAR ON THE APPRENTICE

 

Don’t get me wrong – I love watching The Apprentice and tune in every year to find out who will be Lord Sugar’s new business partner. It’s addictive, and as someone who’s keen to go into business, it is of great interest to me.

There are times I think, fleetingly, about applying to go on the show but I know I never would. The other contestants show way too much arrogance, ruthlessness and attitude, and many of them are nowhere near as good as they claim to be. I really don’t think I could handle so many huge egos under one roof.

I’ll still continue to watch the show though!

4. VOTE UKIP

UKIP

The media would have you believe that the whole country is full of UKIP supporters even though I know that that’s not necessarily the case. I can see why a lot of people have fallen under the spell of Farage and co. but those who can look at things objectively can see that they clearly lack credibility, so whether they are the flavour of the month or not, I will not be jumping on the bandwagon and be voting UKIP.

And is it just me, or does their logo resemble something similar to a budget supermarket chain?

5. READ FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

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It’s meant to have enhanced activity in the boudoir and had women buying the E.L. James novel in droves. Nothing wrong with that of course. However, unlike Christian Grey, I am a hearts and flowers kind of person, so this isn’t a book that will be gracing my bookshelf, and I prefer old-fashioned though slightly corny romance rather than raunchy in your face erotica. Give me Mills and Boon any day!

6. WATCH WHAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HOT ON  BRITISH TV RIGHT NOW

 

The Only Way Is Essex, Made In Chelsea, Big Brother, The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, I’m A Celebrity… these might constitute compulsive viewing at the moment but quite frankly I find it all quite boring.  I used to watch shows like these a long time ago but then it started to lose a bit of its gloss and I just gave up. However, I can’t escape these shows entirely because the ‘stars’ are always in the media. Even though I can’t profess to be a National Geographic kind of girl, this sort of telly really isn’t for me either.

7. BABYSIT A SPOILT CHILD

I like children as much as the next person but when it comes to children who lack discipline, don’t know the meaning of the word no, and think that all adults should do as they’re told (by them)… forget it! I once had the misfortune of babysitting a child (and not just any child, but a relative!)  who was a complete and utter nightmare but clearly thought that his behaviour was cute. And when his mum was told about his behaviour, she clearly couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to handle a spoilt child. I’m obviously not one of them.

8. BECOME ADDICTED TO TECHNOLOGY

There’s no denying that we’re in the digital age and we all use technology to some degree. But to become addicted to gadgets to the point where it overrides common sense and courtesy is unacceptable. I really don’t wish to be that kind of person.

9. APPEAR ON MASTERCHEF USA

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Once again, Masterchef USA is a show Mr. D and I tune into religiously every year, and we’ve actually picked up a few tips from this cooking competition. However, I would never want to be a contestant on this show, even if I did live in The States, because Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich could very easily reduce me to tears and turn me into a nervous wreck. No thank you!

10. ATTEMPT TIGHTROPE WALKING

 

 

There are a lot of adrenaline junkies out there but I’m not one of them and heights are not my thing, so you won’t see me on a tightrope anytime soon.

11. SWIM IN SHARK INFESTED WATERS

 

As I’ve said I’m not an adrenaline junkie and clearly do not have a sense of adventure, so once again not for me.

12. RETURN TO WORKING IN RETAIL

 

Before anyone accuses me of putting down people who work in the retail sector, let me explain. I spent more years than I care to think about working in retail, so I have a lot of respect for those who work in retail because I know how tough it can be – especially at this time of the year.

In theory, it should all go swimmingly. After all it’s not the worst job in the world; you get to meet people every day; and there are some exceptionally enjoyable tasks i.e.- going to trade shows, generous staff discounts etc.

However in practice I’ve found it incredibly draining. Dealing with the general public is not easy. Dealing with those in head office is even harder. Sometimes your colleagues don’t understand the importance of working as part of a team. And let’s not forget with more and more stores open for longer hours and seven days a week, it leaves you with little time for yourself, family and friends. I still like the idea of owning a shop of some kind but I doubt I’ll ever do it as I found it incredibly draining.

13. WORK FOR A NATIONAL NEWSPAPER

 

It was my childhood ambition – until a careers officer said after a consultation that I lacked the ruthlessness and forceful character to be a journo. That and the fact that I didn’t like to pry into other people’s business!

Yep, I think I’m better suited to teaching English!

14. HAVE BOTOX

 

I know I’m getting older and I can see the signs. I don’t look or feel twenty one any more. However, I don’t believe that Botox is the answer – why would I want to inject poison into myself? I don’t believe in putting anything into my body that really shouldn’t be there, so I will fight aging with happy and healthy living.

15. BUY SUPER EXPENSIVE CLOTHES

 

When I was a teenager I was into labels and brand names as most of my peers were. That didn’t always mean I’d get them though and fast forward several years, I’m very grateful that my parents didn’t give into my every whim. I still love clothes and probably have more than I need but I don’t spend a fortune on each item and love spotting a bargain. I’d hate to spend a grand on a coat and then feel I’d need to wear it for the rest of my natural life and then be buried in it just to get my money’s worth!

16. BECOME A POLITICIAN

 

Where do I begin???

17. BE PART OF THE IN-CROWD

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During the course of my life, I’ve met some exceptionally interesting people who seemed to have it all. They said all the right things, had all the right things, looked the right way, surrounded themselves with all the right people and were seen in all the right places. In a nutshell, they were the in-crowd.

The only thing is that their hearts weren’t often in the right place and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised what’s important.

18. TO WATCH ANY MOVIE THAT’S BOUND TO LEAVE ME TRAUMATIZED

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Twelve Years A Slave and The Passion Of The Christ are out as interesting and as fascinating as they are. When I watch a film, I want to be entertained not left feeling depressed.

19. OWN A FLASHY CAR

We’d all like a flashy car parked on our drive but I can’t help thinking what a waste of money it is. Unlike houses, the value of a car generally tends to go down not up. So I think I’ll invest my money in bricks and mortar, thank you.

20. RIDE A BIKE AROUND LONDON

visitlondon.com

visitlondon.com

I am most definitely not hot on two wheels at the best of times but riding around London with its super busy streets which I don’t believe is really ideal for cyclists… I’ll give it a miss. I’ve heard a great deal about accidents on our roads and even been at the scene of one, and my heart really goes out to those who have been hurt or worse. And I take my hat of to those who are far braver than me and are willing to have a go.

What’s on your anti-bucket list?

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Nici Wickes’s Trinidadian Chicken Curry And Caribbean Black Cakes

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Travel and food are two things I love. And one of the things I love about travelling is sampling all the local delicacies. So it’s no wonder that I’m addicted to a TV cooking show that combines my two favourite things. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of cooking shows but World Kitchen hosted by Nici Wickes is refreshingly different. Not only does Nici whip up interesting and exciting dishes from around the world – and make it look so easy – but she takes viewers on a culinary adventure as she heads off around the world, visiting fantastic places and learning about the local cuisine. Nici then heads home where she recreates many of the dishes that she’s learned to make from the comfort of her own kitchen. Each episode usually sees her rustling up one main and one dessert from the country she’s just visited.

TV chef Nici Wickes

TV chef Nici Wickes

 

The New Zealand-born chef is an absolute joy to watch with her sunny personality, mile wide smile, abundant energy, and her enthusiasm for cooking just shines through. But Nici is not just a pretty face, and neither is she just another TV chef. As well as being a seasoned traveller, Nici is also a cookery writer,  business woman, actress, motivational speaker, owner of a cooking school, business coach and runs workshops in leadership! Wow – does this lady ever sleep???

Nici has a multitude of fantastic recipes but I chose to include the dishes she made after her visit to Trinidad. I love the awesome flavours of Caribbean cooking, and I was famished just watching Nici cook these! But for more amazing recipes check them out here.  And tune into World Kitchen if you can.

TRINIDADIAN CHICKEN CURRY

 

A delicious fusion of Indian and Caribbean flavours, this curry is perfect for those who prefer a milder, yet flavoursome, curry.

Serves 4-6

GREEN SEASONING:

1 green capsicum, de-seeded and chopped roughly
1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 bunch of fresh coriander (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
¼ – ½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt

 Curry

3  Chicken Breasts – skin on, cubed
1 cup green sauce (recipe below)
2 tablespoons rice bran oil
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1-2 teaspoons garam masala
½ cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon mustard (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 fresh mango, skinned and cut into 2cm cubes
Steamed rice and store bought roti

METHOD:

  1. Blend all ingredients for the green seasoning in a blender or food processor.
  2. In a bowl, marinate the chicken in the green seasoning.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium-sized, heavy based saucepan.
  4. Add the onion and sauté until soft then add the spices (cumin, turmeric, garam masala) and fry for 2-3 minutes until aromatic.
  5. Add the chicken and green seasoning and stir until coated in the spice mix and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  6. Finally add the coconut milk, mustard (if using), salt and pepper.
  7. Gently stir in the mango and heat through.
  8. Serve with rice and roti.

CARIBBEAN BLACK CAKES

 

This is one of my favourite cakes. One of the things  I like about this cake is that the dried fruits are blended so you get the flavour but not the appearance. This is great for me because although  I love  which I’m not that keen on! This cake is usually served during special occasions in the Caribbean. Good reason to make every day a special occasion!

Ingredients: 

 2 cups mix of raisins & currants
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup rum
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons aromatic bitters flavouring

Cake batter:

150g unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 teaspoons lime or lemon zest

METHOD: 

Prepare the fruit: Place the raisins, currant and prunes in a large bowl, pour in rum, warm water and bitters.

  1. Leave for the fruit to soak up the liquor while you make the batter.
  2. Preheat oven to 150 C.
  3. Grease a 12 hole deep muffin tin.
  4. Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well to incorporate.
  6. Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, mixed spice and nutmeg), golden syrup, vanilla essence and lime zest.
  7. Mix gradually into the creamed mixture to form a batter.
  8. Set aside.
  9. In a food processor, pour the soaked fruit and juices and blend until thick and still a bit chunky.
  10. Now add the fruit puree to the batter and fold in until well mixed.
  11. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins.
  12. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
  13. Serve warm with sour cream sweetened with brown sugar.

imagesCAHZOS9O

Auntie Fee’s Kitchen Rules

tv

 

If the name Auntie Fee means nothing to you, then Muthaf***er, where have you been?

Auntie Fee

Auntie Fee

 

As someone who enjoys cooking shows, I am totally blown away by the latest hot, new chef on the cooking scene, who’s most definitely stirring things up in the kitchen. Based in South-Central LA,  her cooking methods are a little unorthodox; she doesn’t use ingredients that you need to order online; she’s not too fussed about presentation, and she’s got a mouth to rival Gordon Ramsay’s. Her video clips which she posts on YouTube have gone viral and I’m wondering how long it’ll be before she gets her own show. I’m talking about new American cook, Auntie Fee, also known as Chef Sista Girl.

Two weeks ago, I hadn’t even heard of Auntie Fee, real name Felicia O’Dell. But now the latest cooking sensation has the world in stitches with her culinary antics and expletive- laden commentary, all filmed by her son Tavis Hunter who acts as cameraman – and often gets an ear-bashing from his mum due to what she perceives to be annoying questions, unhelpful input and dodgy camera work. If you’re looking for the genteelness of Delia, the seductive charms of Nigella, or the perfection of Martha – forget it because as the name of her Facebook page states, Aunty Fee Keeping It Muthaf***ing Real In The Kitchen, Muthaf***er!

 

Auntie Fee's son and cameraman, Tavis

Auntie Fee’s son and cameraman, Tavis

 

Auntie Fee’s choice of language is most definitely a little on the colourful side – and that’s putting it mildly – so she’s probably not going to be a hit with those who are easily shocked or offended. However, most people evidently think she’s awesome, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a TV chef so entertaining since Nancy Lam and her henpecked hubby, Ben.

The first time I happened to stumble across one of her video clips, where she made ‘something sweet for the f***ing kids,’ I watched it three times consecutively and howled with laughter. In fact my laughter could be heard all the way in South Carolina (Mr.D was Skyping his bestie at the time!) At that time there was very little info available about Auntie Fee, but she did have a Facebook page which at the time of liking, had less than ten likes – now there are thousands! Talk-show hosts have been clamouring to get her on their show, but even though Auntie Fee was allegedly holding out for Oprah, she did make an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live via Skype – and we got to see Tavis for the first time – last weekend, where she made a five minute meal using shrimp and garlic bread – and as expected she brought the house down!

My friends and I cannot get enough of Auntie Fee and her antics, and as annoying as it may be for some people, we quote her on a regular basis. Forget literary figures and noble statesmen, this cooking sensation has some real gems. We’ve watched her prepare raisin turnovers, egg rolls, chicken wings, a noodle soup dish, and a strawberry shortcake. A lot of Auntie Fee’s cooking is aimed at families on a budget or people who don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. Admittedly, it’s not the healthiest of food and doesn’t always look appealing (sorry Auntie Fee!) If you think Delia got a lot of stick for preparing food with her rings on, wait until you see how Auntie Fee seasons her chicken wings – not for the faint-hearted! And Auntie Fee is well aware of the criticism regarding her levels of hygiene and makes defiant references to it during her clips.

 

af2

 

But whatever you may think of her recipes, one thing’s for damn sure: Auntie Fee is a breath of fresh air in an industry where some chefs take themselves – and food – way, way, waaay too seriously. Auntie Fee may be at the other end of the spectrum but she is hilarious with it, and I for one cannot wait to see what else is on the menu.

Someone give this lady and her son their own show!

CLASSIC AUNTIE FEE QUOTES

1. “I don’t know what the f*** this is. It’s just something sweet for the f***ing kids.” – When asked what she was making.
2. “Muthaf***er, this is not no prison food.” -After Tavis cheekily asks if what’s she’s making is like prison food.
3. “I need to get me a f***ing cameraman cos you trippin’.” – Getting annoyed with Tavis’s questions.
4. “Goddamn it, I ain’t got no muthaf***ing name for it yet, muthaf***er!” – Just before she named the sweet treats ‘raisin turnovers.
5. “I don’t give a damn whether they broke or not. You smash ’em out how you wanna smash ’em out.” – Clearly not one for following instructions.
6. “This muthaf***er make any f***ing thang taste good!” – On dried parsley.
7. “Cook it for three hours if you want it to fall off the muthaf***ing bone. I swear this s**t will.” – On cooking chicken wings.
8. Aunty Fee: “I meant to say that you was my assistant. But instead I said you was my informant.”
Tavis: “Yeah, don’t ever say that again.”
9. “We had it for dinner last night. I don’t know where your fat ass was.” – To Tavis.
10. Tavis: “So this like the ghetto way of doing things.”
Aunty Fee: “We don’t talk ghetto okay? I’m not ghetto.”
11. “Oh but that Jimmy Kimble, Jimmy Kimmy, what’s his name? Jammy Kimmy…” – Unable to say Jimmy Kimmel’s name.
12. “You got an old Crisco can by your sink, then you a mutherf***ing G.”
13. “Now I can wet this with my hands if I want to, because this is my mutherf***ing shit.” – On sealing pastry edges.
14. “Tavis the camera better be on me. We only got one shot at this.” – Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
15. “Say something so I know we communicating!” – To Jimmy Kimmel

imagesCAHZOS9O

Tenth Masterchef Winner: Congrats Ping

 

 

 

I’ve finally gotten around to watching the finals of the tenth – TENTH??? – series of Masterchef. This has been a great series with tons of amazing contestants who really gave it their all. I’m still disappointed however, that Alex, the rock n’ rolling wrestler was knocked out early on in the competition (gotta support my fellow rockers!) and I would have loved for Rani to have gone further as she did make me laugh but I think it’s fair to say that the best woman won.

 

All three of the finalists – Jack Lucas, Ping Coombs, and Luke Owen – were nothing short of awesome and really cooked for their lives (not to mention the Masterchef title!)

 

At an age where most people’s culinary skills extend no further than opening a tin of rice pudding, twenty one year old Jack amazed everyone with his flair and skills, and very rarely put a foot wrong. And Luke was a huge fan of daring flavour combinations and experimenting with food. His experiments weren’t always majorly successful but his boldness in the kitchen impressed Masterchef Judges John Torode and Greg Wallace.

 

 

But it was Malaysian-born Ping who really stood out from the moment she entered the competition. The very first dish she made – a curried chicken dish – just made me want to stick my hands through the television screen and grab a mammoth bowlful for myself. Even though Malaysian cuisine appeared to be her signature style, Ping showed her ability as a versatile cook by successfully cooking an array of non-Malaysian dishes. There was no doubting that Ping really put her heart and soul into everything that she was cooking, and her dedication, organization, talent, and the super-fast pace at which she worked were just extraordinary. As the finals approached I was so sure I knew who’d win – and I was right!

 

 

Ping says it’s her goal to introduce more people to Malaysian cuisine – she has ambitions to bring out a cook book and open a Malaysian style café – and I truly hope she achieves this. As someone who has family who hails from this part of the world, I can honestly say that Malaysian food is one of my most favourites. It’s just a shame most people don’t really know about it. The main that Ping created for the finals – nasi lemak – is the dish I always choose when I go to my fave Malaysian restaurant. There are many different variations of this dish but it basically consists of coconut rice with a variety of different side dishes. I always say that the restaurant I often frequent serves the best nasi lemak ever, and their version contains coconut rice; a spicy squid sambal; crispy fried chicken wings; deep fried anchovies and peanuts; a cucumber salad and a fried egg. This would most definitely be my last meal!

I’m so passionate about this dish that I’ve included a recipe for anyone who might want to attempt it. But be warned – it might be addictive!

 

 

I’m disappointed that this series of Masterchef has come to an end and I have to wait for another year. This has been an amazing series and I cannot wait for the next one to begin. Mr. D on the other hand, can’t wait for Masterchef USA to begin it’s fifth season as he much prefers that to our home-grown version. I like both of them and appreciate each of them for what they are but I’ve noticed that if you’re more interested in food than contestants’ dramas, then Masterchef UK it is. And of course we have the delightful John and Greg!

 

Ping hard at work

Ping hard at work

 

So congrats to Jack and Luke for doing so well to get to the finals. They seem like really cool guys who have a real passion for food and I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear of them. And of course congrats to Ping. I just hope she hurries up and opens that café. Nasi lemak, mee goreng, chilli crab… bring it on!

 

NASI LEMAK
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
•Oil, for deep frying
•Cucumber slices, for garnish
•Sambal chilli (recipe above)

Ingredients for the SAMBAL CHILLI:

40 gram dried red chilli

100 gram onion

25 gram garlic

5 tablespoon cooking oil

80 gram ikan bilis (anchovy)

25 gram sugar (to taste)

250 ml water 

 

Ingredients for the rice:
•250 gram rice
•275 ml water
•225 ml coconut milk (I used lite coconut milk)
•1 onion (about 125 gram), cut into chunks
•1 star anise
•1 large cinnamon stick
•Pandan leaves, tied in a knot (optional)
•½ teaspoon salt
•2 teaspoon sugar

Ingredients for the chicken wings:
•500 gram chicken wings (about 8 pieces)
•3 eggs
•½ tablespoon turmeric powder
•½ tablespoon salt
•½ tablespoon white pepper powder
•2 inch ginger, pounded
•3 tablespoon corn flour
•6 tablespoon rice flour

Ingredients for the ikan bilis and peanuts:
•50 gram peanuts
•20 gram dried anchovies

1 fried or boiled egg per serving

METHOD:

  1. To make the sambal chilli , rinse anchovies with water and allow to dry completely.
  2. Place dried anchovies in a food processor and grind into fine powder.
  3. With a pair of scissors, cut the dried chilli halfway to remove most of the seeds.
  4. Soak dried chilli in water to soften, then drain the water.
  5. Blend dried chilli, onion and garlic to form a smooth paste.
  6. To a heated wok, add cooking oil and stir-fry the ground ikan bilis for about 2 minutes till fragrant.
  7. Add the ground chilli paste and sugar and stir-fry over low heat for 10 minutes, adding water as you fry to avoid burning the paste.
  8. The resulting sambal chilli should be moist and pasty.
  9. For the rice: Put all the ingredients for the rice in a rice cooker.
  10. Leave to cook and remove onion, star anise and cinnamon stick when done.
  11. For the chicken wings: Mix all ingredients to form marinade and batter, and allow to settle for about 10 minutes. 
  12. Dip the chicken wings in mixture, and fry until golden brown and crispy over medium heat for about 2 minutes each side.
  13. For the anchovies and peanuts: Deep-fry the peanuts and ikan bilis separately before mixing together.
  14. To assemble: Serve a bowl of coconut rice with the chicken wings, egg, anchovy and peanut mix, and garnish with 2-3 slices of cucumber topped with sambal and  chillies.

 

Congratulations Donnie Wahlberg… And Grow Up, Fans!

 

Most girls never forget their first childhood crush – and I’m no different. I love, have always loved and will always love New Kids On The Block. From the first moment I saw them bopping away on Top Of The Pops, they captured my heart, and even though I’m now very much a hard-rocking chick, there’s a piece of my heart where they still reside and refuse to move from – and that’s fine with me!

Like thirty million other young girls, I was convinced that I was going to be Mrs. Jordan Knight and had my former teenage self had her way, this blog could very easily have been called Chez Mrs. K! But alas it was not to be. Mr. K refused to wait for me to grow up and went on to marry someone else – paving the way for the man who did wait for me. Which is great because becoming Mrs. D is the best thing that ever happened to me – even if Mr. D does question my taste in music!

 

 

Earlier this week, television presenter Jenny McCarthy announced her engagement on The View (the American Version of Loose Women) where she is one of the anchors and flashed her beautiful yellow sapphire ring. And who’s the lucky man? None other than New Kids On The Block’s very own Donnie Wahlberg who McCarthy has been dating for the past year. It’ll be the second time down the aisle for both of them, and I, for one, cannot wait for the glossy ten page spread. For Jenny’s first wedding she wore a stunning vintage-style 1930s gown so it’ll be interesting to see what she wears for her wedding to Donnie.

 

But it seems that not all the fans are jumping up and down at the idea of Donnie finding his Favourite Girl. Some of the nasty remarks and comments I’ve come across are really shocking. I’ve even had to reread some of them twice to make sure that they really do say what I thought they did. It actually made me see red. I suppose mildly catty comments are inevitable. But to say that these comments are mildly catty is like saying that water is a little bit wet! I’m not going to repeat any of these hideous remarks but it seems as though they were written by females who still think they’re eleven years old and back in 1989, where they’re making up dances to New Kids’ songs in the playground. What’s shocking is that some of these women have let slipped that they’re married! MARRIED??? Oh my goodness ladies – it really is time you got a grip!

 

 

True, I don’t think anyone would have thought of pairing Donnie and Jenny together – but then don’t opposites usually attract (definitely do in the case of Mr. and Mrs. D!) And how does Donnie’s love life concern his fans? Shouldn’t they be happy that their idol has found love instead of making derogatory comments about his new fiancée? And did they really think that they had a shot – a real shot – at marrying a New Kid? Furthermore, did they actually think that Donnie would stay single and available while they grew up and moved on with their lives? It’s beyond ridiculous! Whether anyone thinks that Donnie and Jenny are a match made in heaven really isn’t anyone’s business except – surprise, surprise – Donnie and Jenny’s. And assuming that we’re not relatives or close friends of the couple, it’s not as if any of us actually know them well. So who are we to pass judgement?

 

 

 

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the level of vitriol I’ve discovered. A look at forums and comment boards regarding all things New Kids On The Block have indicated that for every fan who is happy that the band members have the whole relationship and kids package, they are about a hundred haters who have absolutely nothing nice to say. And that’s putting it very mildly. In fact what’s even more disturbing than the nasty name-calling are the most ridiculous allegations against the New Kids members which could seriously put their relationships in jeopardy had they not been married to really strong women who knew well in advance that this sort of spiteful behaviour came in the job description of wife of a New Kid!

I’m absolutely appalled that the people who run these sites and forums have not removed these comments, and I’m even more surprised that the New Kids haven’t threatened to sue. Maybe they’re just too smart to read such comments. Or maybe they do read them and just laugh at how pathetic these women are. I remember back in the ’90s, the New Kids – like many male pop acts at the time – couldn’t admit to having a girlfriend for fear of alienating fans. They couldn’t even admit to having had a girlfriend. But as they are all grown men in their forties, do we still expect them to pretend that they’re still waiting to experience their first kiss just to keep us happy? To be honest, this wouldn’t actually make me happy – I’d just wonder what was wrong with my idols!

 

 

I suppose the real issue here, is that the spite, jealousy and hostility that women are famous for pelting each other with is still there. And I know it only too well – I did go to an all-girls school for five years. If a woman has something that another woman wants, you can bet her Fendi clutch that she’ll feel the full force of the other woman’s insults as they rain down upon her. I suppose what some of these ‘fans’ don’t realise is that they are actually dealing with real people – not just faces on a poster that’s stuck on the wall – and their families. And real people have real feelings and feel real pain. I wonder how I would have felt, had I really become Mrs. Knight and I had to read the most disgusting rubbish about me, written by people who hadn’t even met me. Actually I know exactly how I would have felt and that’s why I think it’s just wrong. I really cannot believe just how childish some people can be. It really is about time some people learned to grow up.

And on a less ranty note, congrats to Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy. I hope they prove the haters wrong. I really loved how Jenny got all emotional when she was telling the girls on The View all about the engagement – she very nearly set me off too! Awesome news and I’m so glad that one of my fave New Kids has found someone who has the right stuff!

 

Dinner At Mine By Chris Smyth

Journalist Chris Smyth’s debut novel Dinner At Mine is the reading book which has accompanied me on my way to work for a week – and it definitely made the bus trip seem a lot shorter which must mean that I enjoyed this book immensely!

One of the reasons why I picked up this book was because it’s loosely based on the concept of TV’s Come Dine With Me; a show of which I’m a massive fan. To be honest, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Come Dine With Me and many countries actually have their own version of the show – some of which I’ve seen and enjoyed. Even though the show has been around since 2005 (nearly ten years. My goodness!) it’s still as popular as ever with viewers despite slight changes to the format and for a while the nation went Come Dine With Me crazy, hosting their own dinner party events with friends.

 

And that is basically the concept for this book: a group of friends get together and compete to see who can hold the best dinner party. Even though they got the idea from the TV show, there are some fundamental differences:

  • Dinner parties are hosted in pairs rather than by four or five individual hosts.
  • Dinners are hosted once a week over a four week period rather than on consecutive nights.
  • There is no cash prize – they’re competing purely for glory!
  • Sadly, there is no voiceover from Dave Lamb. Shame!

The couples hosting dinners are: happily-marrieds Rosie and Stephen, proud parents of baby Jonathan; career couple, secretly-yearning-to-be wed Sarah and her ultra-competitive boyfriend Marcus; socially conscious vegetarian Justin and his beautiful,  American, artist girlfriend, Barbara, and reluctant singletons, Charlotte and Matthew who are thrown together by Rosie  in the hope that dinner won’t be the only thing cooking between the two of them!

 

The competition is Rosie’s idea and she is the one responsible for selecting this eclectic group of people, some of whom are good friends, while others are acquaintances and some are meeting the others for the first time. What should be simple and straight-forward proves to be anything but. Despite Marcus being the most competitive, determined to find fault with the other teams, friendship counts for nothing as everyone wants to be the best and win despite there not being any prizes – and they will go to any lengths to achieve their moment of glory.

 

The actual dinner party events are secondary to the tensions and problems in the lives of the competitors which is further exacerbated by the competition causing jealousies, insecurities and hostilities to come to the fore thus creating friendships and relationships to collapse faster than a cheese soufflé. There is tension between best friends Matthew and Stephen regarding lawyer Matthew’s former relationship with Rosie while the three friends were at university; Sarah is questioning her career and relationship choices;  Barbara’s career is in decline and she’s having trouble renewing her visa, both of which impact heavily on her relationship with Justin, and trouble-making loudmouth Charlotte can’t help stirring the pot every opportunity she gets.

 

I found this book to be a real page-turner; I couldn’t wait to get to the end. I really liked how the novel was divided into four parts, where each part focused on a different party which gives the reader a real sense of where they are in the story. The characters decide the best way to deliver votes is by email and I thoroughly enjoyed reading their overly frank comments and ridiculous reasons for why points were being deducted (tactical scoring of course!) And there were a few twists in the tale too – some of which really surprised me.

 

Smyth tells a great tale of what happens when an element of competition is introduced within a circle of friends. It could even be a metaphor for modern day society in which manners; honesty, and consideration towards others count for nothing as it’s every man for himself, and indeed many of the characters do exactly as they please and take what they want at the expense of the others. All the characters are flawed in one way or another but I have to say that  by the end of the novel, I really couldn’t stand most of them. Gossipy, bitchy, uptight, highly-strung, back-stabbing… all thanks to a three-course meal! It also seemed quite obvious to me that one character had an alcohol problem while another seemed to be suffering from a mild form of depression but neither of these issues were touched upon. I was also quite disappointed that the endings to some of the sub-plots were not neatly tied-up but were just left hanging.

However, I really did enjoy reading Dinner At Mine. It was thoroughly entertaining. I’m sure many of my fellow commuters thought I was a bit of a lunatic, grinning away to myself, but there were also moments were I felt quite sorry for some of the characters, and believe me, if I could have climbed into this book and given some of the characters a good slap – I would have!

A great book published by Simon and Schuster in 2012. I can’t wait to read Smyth’s next novel.

 

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