Thursday, 31 January 2013

Happy Anniversary Stephen!

Romantic Snow Globes by

I'm posting this a little early, as I want to include the post in Why I Love My Husband, The Neverending List link up this week, which I happened upon purely by chance after a blog I follow posted about it.   Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore my husband and so seeing as I was writing this post anyway and sharing it with my followers, now I can share it further afield.   I simply won't tell him about it until Saturday :-)

The 2nd of February 2002 was a very important date in my life. Yes, you guessed it. Groundhog Day. Ironically (VERY ironically), also the date of my wedding to the man of my dreams - Mr G.  Or at least he would be the man of my dreams if he stopped snoring long enough to let me sleep.  Anyways...

If I try to make a run for it, I wonder if anyone will stop me?

 Bless him, he looks absolutely terrified doesn't he? 

While I was cool as a cucumber...

Too late now matey.  What's yours is mine, and what's mine is mine as well!

I liked lilac back then.  A lot...

Why I love my husband...

1.  We met a week after I had been unceremoniously dumped by my ex boyfriend.  He persevered but didn't push.  He travelled a 200 mile round trip to see me each time, and spent a fortune on mobile phone credit to keep in touch with me.

2.  When I told him I wasn't interested in anything heavy, just some fun and companionship, not to mention love, engagement, marriage or babies or it was off, he didn't.  When I realised I was in love it turns out he'd been in love at first sight.  We have since got him glasses.

3.  We maintained a long distance relationship for 21 months.  I say we - he maintained it, as I don't drive.

4.  He gave up everything to move 100 miles away to be with me.

5.  He asked me to marry him four months after we met.  Down on one knee down by the water.  It took another 2 years and four months to finally get wed, but here we are!

6.  He will support and encourage me in anything I want to do, and never criticises me if it doesn't work or I give up.

7.  He'll go along with all of my hairbrained schemes.   All of them.

8.  Despite having a huge dislike of fruit with savoury food, if I cook a recipe that has fruit in it, he will eat it.  Even when he knows I'm doing it to try and find something he does like, so I can go 'Ner!'.  I have this need to make him like smoked salmon, purely because I do, and I don't understand why he doesn't.

9.  Most people can do the 'in health' part but balk at the 'sickness'.  He has supported me through one of the biggest things possible.  I couldn't have done it without him.  I hope my nursemaiding of him over the last 4 years has gone some way to pay him back.

10.  He makes me laugh so much.   Sometimes by doing nothing.  Sometimes we'll laugh until we cry and neither of us can say why we're laughing.

11.  He only cooks about once a quarter.  And when he cooks, he only has one recipe.  But when he cooks it, it's so good, it's worth my cooking 360 days a year to his 5. 

12.  I have never met anyone with whom I am so compatible, we share the same views on so many things that it's uncanny, which also goes a huge way towards the lack of arguments we have.  We still argue, but about stupid stuff - because the big stuff we agree on.   He's not only my soulmate but my best friend as well.

13.  Without him I wouldn't have our children.  I may have had other children with a different husband, but they wouldn't be these exact children, 50% him and 50% me.

14.  His pathetic and hilarious excuses for his increasing amount of grey hair.  Which include but not strictly limited to: - tinsel, highlights, glitter and 'Sun In' hair colour.

15.  He thought I was the most beautiful girl in his world, and still did when I was 9 stone heavier than when we met.

16.  He'll drive anywhere to get me anything, in any weather.  Which probably has something to do with his shopping mania more than wanting to be helpful though. 

17.  He never buys me flowers on Valentines Day.  He buys me flowers at any point in the year because he loves me, because he thinks I need cheering up, to say thank you and just because.  I'd rather my numerous and surprise bunches of flowers through the year than one bunch at a hugely inflated price, just because someone dictates we should be romantic on that day.

18.  He blows ice cream.  He blows anything that's eaten off a spoon.  Fine if it's soup... hysterically funny if it's Tiramisu and you're in a restaurant, and people are staring at you...

19.  He bought me my first Maneki Neko. 

20. What you see is what you get.  He doesn't have a nice persona for other people and a mean one at home.  The man you see, that's who loves me.  And I am so lucky.

To be continued....

I've really enjoyed doing this post because I am a firm believer in giving gratitude because it attracts more of  the good stuff back to you.  Some people just complain non stop about their partners and then wonder why they have a crappy relationship.  Don't get me wrong, he drives me mad at times, he does plenty of things that drive me mad, but for every one of those, I can give you twenty things I love.  Why focus on the one negative when you've got twenty positives to feast on? 

So here's to us, Mr G.  Thank you for not only the last 11 years of marriage but the last (nearly) 14 years of being together.  Love you more than rainbowth, kittenth, thnowdropth and meerkatth x

Friday, 25 January 2013


Hands up who remembers Cavegirl?   Well, today (and yesterday for that matter) - like evolution gone backwards, I am Cavewoman.  Unlike Cavegirl, I look like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards and not lightly backcombed.  My hair is greasy and lank, I smell stink, and I am still in my dressing gown (It's 4.15pm at time of writing).   In keeping with my 2013 goals to spend more time with my friends, I have four coming for a meal tomorrow, a curry banquet.   If they could see me now, they wouldn't come near me, let alone eat anything that I prepare for them.  I will have to bathe soon, it's getting so bad I can't even bear the stench of my feet.  I told Mr G just then that I was going to run myself a bath and he said - I quote - 'You might need to have a shower after, as well, just to be safe'.

'What on earth has happened?'  I hear you cry.  'What has turned this dynamic (snort) go-getting (gigglesnort) Mum into this smelly, hairy Neanderthalette?'  You must be thinking.  Right?

Well.  It's all Emma's fault over at 4 Munchkins plus Mummy and specifically this post which I not only found very poignant but I could really empathise with.  As well as a fellow blogger, Emma is a neighbour and a friend and similarly we both have four children.  If anything, she has more on her plate because at least one of mine is nearly an adult (although, saying that - I think a toddler would do more around the house!). 

Ok - it's not really Emma's fault as such.  Only vicariously.  As I said, I found the post poignant.  I know she's been laid up for a few weeks with her leg, and I hope I'm right in saying that maybe she felt a little bit 'Grrrrrrrrrrr' at those who appear to be so bloody perfect when she's trying to vacuum shuffling around the room on her butt.  I have perfect days, we all do, even if they are rare.  But the reality is, most days in this house go like the one in Emma's post.  When you come to think of it, how else are the days meant to go when you've got four children and a house to run?  Many, many days I am left feeling inadequate.  Wiped out.  Feeling guilty that I haven't the strength to do anything other than what I've achieved between 9 am and 3pm.  (Do I really have to cook?  Does it have to be nutritious?  Will something frozen suffice, please?)  I feel cheated that my time is spent doing stuff that saps my strength.  Then I feel cross that - the very next day I have to do exactly the same things - yet I can't 'Oh just leave it, you'll only have to do it all over again tomorrow'.  I feel cross at the attitudes of those who think they're in the position to criticise and condemn those who stay at home as 'lazy'.  I feel melancholy that there seems to be nothing left of me anymore, that isn't tied in with Mum or Wife.  I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong.  I love being Mum and Wife.  Just would be nice to have, even 10% of 'Me' in there.  However I don't know if I could fit it in, and if I could, I'd probably feel guilty about it anyway.

So I started thinking (which is always dangerous) and the next morning, I armed myself with my camera, and literally - I don't know what you'd call it - catalogued or chronicled my day in (crap) photos.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the pictures, whether to write a blog post or whether they were just for my own benefit, just to see.  Was I lazy?  Certainly, I know my blog posts aren't the most interesting ones in the world, but seriously, my day in pictures?   Zzzzzzzzz...

Flicking through them, tidy kitchen, empty sink, breakfast being made, kids eating breakfast, kid with nosebleed in the night and his dried blood encrusted face shoved in shower, bloody (actual bloody not swear word bloody) CREAM coloured bedding (which had only been put on the day previous) stripped, sink piling up, worktops full of packed lunch stuff and fruit and drinks bottles, washing up done again, washing up dried and kept, all the while whilst having to contend with THIS:

I love Spongebob, but not before noon on any day

Clothes airer emptied, clean clothes upstairs, make beds, keep clothes, empty ironing basket becomes full ironing basket with clean, dry clothes, intercept - a 3DS game, a paperclip, a marble, a juice bottle lid, a pack of mints and money from pockets before putting the washing on, wet washing on airer, airer full again, radiators all full again, bloody bedding washed, blood not come out, bloody bedding rewashed, forgot to put liquid detergent in the drum.  Put in liquid when cycle stops, SPIN bloody bedding instead of washing it again.  Wait for spin cycle to stop and wash bloody bedding for third time that morning.  Make homemade soup, make lunch, eat lunch stood up, sink full again, decide what's for tea, vacuum downstairs, wash lunch dishes, start peeling vegetables for tea.  (I'll stop now.  There's another 7 hours of mundanity minimum before my day wound down).   This puts me at about 1pm, where I wanted to sleep and felt like smashing the camera.  It's Groundhog Day!  Which incidentally is also my Wedding Anniversary.  Anyway, I digress...

Any objections, anyone?  No?  Good.

Yesterday I woke up - and I could barely move.  An attack of Sciatica.  There's also something going on to do with ligaments in my back, the Doctor didn't explain it very well, however one thing she'd made crystal clear was, it was a case of coping with it with pain relief until I couldn't cope any longer and I'd be looking at an operation.  Not in this lifetime Doc, not in this lifetime!   I'd done 'too much'.  Every step I took was excruciating - but I'm not one who can just sit down, or lie down - even the Norovirus only floored me for one day.  The way I look at it, is if I'm going to be in pain lying down, or sat down, then I may as well be in pain getting something done.  Even if it isn't as much as the day before.  I was in so much pain, my head was foggy, I couldn't formulate sentences or responses to simple questions.  Add codeine and caffeine to the mix and I probably was as coherent as the cavedweller I was beginning to resemble.  I longed for a bath but knew even if I managed to get in the bath, chances are I wouldn't get out again.   Today?  Not as much pain but I'm stiff as a board.  Today I have sat down for most of the day, simply because my body is aching from being tensed up all day yesterday and I can only walk in a slow shuffle.  I look, smell and walk like a tramp.  Tomorrow, (please God because I have dinner guests!) I know I will be fine again. 

So, the moral of the story is.  To be a perfect Mummy I would either have to run myself into the ground and/or compromise my physical health.  Or lie.  We can all lie in blog posts.  Goes against the grain of the honesty you tend to find amongst Bloggers but hey, I could lie.  It's an option.  I may have days, any given day where everything will go to plan and I'll be Perfect Mum, but there won't be two consecutive ones.  I'll never be able to tell you when they'll be.  How often they'll be.  Or, even, if they'll happen at all.   If Perfect Mum means I do one days extreme housework and end up incapacitated for two or three days, and plain ol' Mum means I get to do half-hearted housework for seven days and still be able to walk and look after my family (also half-heartedly lol), then perfection can jog on.  I'm with Emma on this one.  Mum will do me just fine as well!

Cavegirl - OUT!
(I'm going for a bath.  Promise!)

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Snow Day?

As you may have seen, yesterday I was a bit cross that the promised snow (that hit everywhere else in the country except our town, seemingly) didn't turn up.  The kids were disappointed, and I was disappointed for them.  Facebook, Twitter and blogs I subscribe to were full of pictures of snowmen and little ones having fun in their wellies.

Kids went to bed at 9pm on the dot, we looked out of the window before closing the blinds and the snow situation hadn't improved any since yesterday's blog post.  I too retired to bed with a coffee and my Kindle.  My bed faces the window and a little later I could see a flash outside, and figuring it wasn't lightning in this weather, I knew that my husband was taking photos.  In the cold.  In the dark.  As you do.

He came bounding up the stairs.  'Have you seen it out there!'.    In the space of an hour an a half, the dusting of snow had turned to...

It didn't fall all through the night, my thimble sized bladder and the fact that I'd forgotten to take an antacid before my curry made sure I was up several times in the night to check, but there's a good few inches fallen, enough for the kids to at least make a snowman, and for at least one of them to be reduced to tears by being hit with snowballs.  It is also one of the most gloriously beautiful days I've seen in a long time, everywhere seems illuminated because of the sun hitting the white snow.  The sky is blue and tinged with pink, and everywhere looks like a Christmas card scene.  One of those days that makes you glad to be alive (and a bit cross that you have enough food and drink to survive the end of the world, but forgot the coffee... 4 spoons left my friends, you ain't seen Frazzled Shell until you seen her without her Carte Noir...).  

In other news, I wanted to show you a picture (forgive the mess - this is the shared bedroom of 6 and 9 year old brothers and it's as haphazard as it gets).  Ryan has been obsessed by Minecraft for ages now, but didn't  have an XBox 360 until Santa brought one for him and Adam this Christmas.  He'd been on computer art programmes designing all manner of things in the interim.  On Tuesday I finally bit the bullet and in a joint effort between my debit card and my eldest son, managed to download the game for him to the console. He's spent every hour possible creating a lovely little world (although I still don't quite see the point of it all, despite it being explained to me, but it seems very unoffensive compared to a lot of games on the market!) and this morning, he called me through to see the latest thing he'd made in his world or land or whatever it's called.

Ryan and his Minecraft Sonic the Hedgehog

What a clever and artistic little chappie, there's no disputing who the big blue hedgehog is, right?  And assembled out of blocks too.  He's now working on Super Mario by the side of Sonic.  Ryan makes me laugh when I tell him how artistic he is, he'll reply 'I'm artistic and I'm autistic.'  That may be true, but being autistic is definitely no barrier to creativity, is it?  

Best go and see what we can make of this snow, after all my complaining!

M x

Recipe - Chicken Tikka Masala Phal

Toilet rolls and baby wipes in the freezer in preparation, ladies and gentlemen, this one is a burner.  You thought it was hot going in?  *Shakes head*.

To save time, energy and repetition, first of all, you need to take another look at this post here and you need to follow the instructions for:
a)  Marinating your tikka meat
b)  The curry Base sauce
c)  The Spice mix
d)  Cooking the Chicken Tikka-ed pieces

The marinated and cooked Chicken Tikka pieces

Essentially this dish is exactly the same as the Chicken Tikka Masala up to the assembling part. 

The two curry sauces assembled up to adding the meat and the cream

As I knew that the Phal would be far too hot for the children (even though the eldest two will eat anything up to a Madras!) I made them a Chicken Tikka, it was no big deal as the meat was the same, just the pan of sauce a little different.  Both sauces are identical with the exception of the additional spices in the Phal.  You can't tell them apart, right?

Onwards with the recipe for the Phal:
400g pre-cooked chicken tikka
Vegetable or sunflower oil
1 tsp garlic (chopped or minced)
½ tsp fresh ginger(I used puree)
1 tbsp Tandoori Masala 
1 tsp spice mix 
1 tbsp tomato puree (diluted with 3 tbsp water)
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp hot chillies, finely chopped (you could use less hotter chillies and it would still be a tasty spicy dish)
3 ladles of curry base
1 tsp creamed coconut, crumbled
2 tbsp fine desiccated coconut
2 tbsp sugar (optional, I don't use)
½ tsp salt (optional)
100ml fresh single cream
milk (if required, I was happy with consistency of mine)
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
1 tbsp ground almonds (optional)
fresh chopped Coriander (optional - I don't use as neither Hubby nor I can bear the taste)

Stir the creamed coconut, dessicated coconut and ground almonds into the cream to make a paste.

Heat a little oil in a pan (I used a heavy based frying pan) and add the garlic, ginger and chillies.  Fry for a few seconds, stirring continuously.  Do not burn.

Remove pan from the heat and add the Tandoori Masala, spice mix and chilli powder.  Also add the diluted tomato puree, stir together and return to the heat.

Add a ladle of the base sauce, mix well to combine all the spices.

Add the precooked chicken to the pan, and the remaining sauce.  Simmer together for about 5 minutes.

Add the cream mixture, sugar, salt and lemon if using and stir together.  If sauce is too thick for you, thin it out with a little milk or extra cream.

Garnish with coriander, if using. 

Chicken Tikka Masala Phal, with boiled rice and garlic naan for dipping!

This was probably the best curry I have made in a long time, my husband vowed it was the best curry he'd eaten anywhere, at home or in a BIR, ever in his life.   Admittedly it was very, very tasty.  This is something I've had to teach my friends when they come over for food, vowing 'Anything hotter than a Korma and I'm done'.  No, no, no.  I've had food that is so hot you can't taste it, that's not good food.  We can all do that, by shoving so much chilli powder into a dish you can't tell what it is.  If you get your spice blend just right, you can get the heat of the dish, while still maintaining the taste of the curry.  Subsequently I've had some Korma-friends sit down and eat a Vindaloo, and the ones who couldn't eat it did try it and comment that although hot, it was really tasty.

I'd love someone to try making one of the curries I've posted, please let me know if you do in the comments.  I know it may look a bit daunting with all the different steps but in all honesty, if you read through beforehand and make sure your spices are all out and mixed, and your veggies are chopped, writing the blog post about the curry is more time consuming!

M x

Friday, 18 January 2013

No-Snow Day

The following pictures are more for the benefit of UK readers, who, will be able to judge how rubbish this weather situation is against their own.  These pictures were taken 2.30 pm.  The snow started at 8.50 am.  So nigh on 6 hours of snow has amounted to...

A disappointed Adam

One wrapped up husband
This is the roof of our outbuilding - after 6 hours
Neighbour's back garden
Our front garden - please ignore dead things please, it is Winter...
So, BBC weather, you can take your 'Amber Weather Warning' and your 12 inches of snow and shove them where the snow doesn't fall.  Here, evidently!

The kids were given an unofficial Snow Day by myself - because it was a lot easier than traipsing through the wind to pick them up from the school when they decided to shut the school - which they did.  Oh well, maybe if it carries on there might be enough to make a snowman tomorrow?

M x

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Recipe - Pork Madras

What better a dish to have on such a cold day than a spicy Madras curry!  (Pizza, according to the two youngest, all the more for us then!).  Still no snow, it's promising it bad countrywide tomorrow, but as I've touched on before, Anglesey has its own weather system.  Anyone seen The Simpsons movie, where there's a huge dome over Springfield?  A bit like that.  Over the bridge and off the island, a few miles away could be inches deep in snow.  We'll probably have a heatwave.  Nevertheless it's pretty cold at the moment, so in keeping with my vow to reduce food wastage, todays meal comes from the freezer.

If you saw my New Years Eve curry post, then you'll know that firstly I made a curry base sauce for the Chicken Tikka and Jalfrezi, if you missed this post you can find it here.  I always make a huge pot of the curry base as opposed to enough for one curry, simply because it freezes well and it's a great thing to have on standby in the freezer.  Just add the relevent meat, veg or seafood, additional spices, maybe a bit of cream, and you'll have a curry that is just as good as a takeaway (and for a fraction of the cost!).   I used the plastic takeaway style containers with lids to freeze the sauce in, and I had enough left over to make this curry.

I had to do another little shop today, at the Indian grocers to get fresh spices.   I always try to support the ethnic grocery stores when I can above the big supermarkets, I for one would miss them if they weren't there because a lot of the products they stock, you can't get locally anywhere else.   Also - you have the cost.  I managed to get large bags, 400g weight of Cumin and Coriander today for just over £2 each.  You can pay anything from about 80p (for a store's own label) to £2.00 (for a premium spice range) for a small glass jar of these spices, and they only contain between 40 to 50g in each jar, so it really does work out much better value to buy this way if  you cook a lot of curries.

We had to laugh when we saw the latest addition to our 'Not Quite Right' photographs, thankfully the shop had just opened up and the owner had gone to open the chiller cabinets at the back of the store so we were able to snap this quickly.  Sorry about the quality of the photo, my husband has given up on technology and gone back to a very old, very basic phone.

Honey?  Could you grab me a jar of 'Shito'?  We're clean out...

My spice haul!

And I promise, using up what base was left after NYE!

First and foremost heat up your curry base sauce in a pan.  I used two of these containers of sauce.

Cut up your meat into chunks, I used large pork leg steaks that I bought and froze last week in Morrisons. 

Fry the meat in a little oil until sealed with 1 tsp minced garlic and ½ tsp ginger.  Remove from the heat and add 1 tsp of the Curry Spice Mix (see this post), 1 tsp of Chilli powder, 1 tsp of Curry powder and ¼ tsp of Tandoori Masala.  Stir to coat the meat.

Mix 1 tbsp tomato puree with 3 tbsp water.  Return the meat to the heat and stir in the tomato puree mixture, fry for a few seconds.

Add the curry base sauce a ladle at a time and mix in well.  Reduce heat and simmer until the meat or vegetables are cooked.  If (like me) you like your pork tender, then I'd advise that you put this dish into the slow cooker.  Unfortunately tonight I didn't have enough time to do this, but I will do the next time I make it.

Et voila!  Pork Madras, Pilau Rice, Spinach Pakora

Not a scrap was left over, and we enjoyed it so much that I may make another curry tomorrow as well, try out something new this time :-)

M x

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Mum 'Cringe' Moment - Enid Blyton, pure filth?

When I were a lass *Hovis Music* ... I remember, we weren't spoiled as kids.  We had gifts at Christmases and Birthdays and so the treats in between were really special to my brother and I.  I was a bookworm as a child, I still am to an extent, but back then I would choose reading above anything, playing with toys, watching TV, playing outside.  As a result, my Mother bought me the hardback range of Enid Blyton's books.  I think she bought me one a month, and I would so look forward to receiving those books.  Vicariously, I flew on a magic rocking chair to far away lands.  I lived on a farm.  I was a performer in the circus.  The fact these books had been written in the 1930's and 1940's did little to dampen my spirit.  I loved my books.  The Famous Five books and Secret Seven books I would pick up with my pocket money at Coffee Mornings that were all the rage in the 1980's.

I remember hearing some vague discussion some years back about Enid's books being 'politically corrected' and re-edited and tampered with.  I was mildly cross, wondering to myself if anything was sacred anymore.   I didn't get the full story...

After passing the books down to my cousin, on the premise they were looked after and returned to me, my Mother gave me the set of books.  The children's curiosity in this large pile of new, unread books grew.  A spark was lit in me, as I remembered my absolute favourites of the books - and what better way to re-read kids literature again than - to a kid?  That was decided.  All three children on the bottom bunk, gathered round, snug in their pyjamas, ready to make a start on 'The Enchanted Wood'.  I could still remember Moonface and his slippery slip slide from his house to the bottom of the tree, Silky the fairy with the long golden hair.  Watsisname.  The quite deaf Saucepan Man.  And of course, the Angry Pixie.  As if it was yesterday.  A time of innocence and wonder...  I picture myself reading to my three angelic, pyjamaed angels, cheeks rosy, eyes wide as I relay these magical tales to them, stretching their imaginations to the limit, knowing that they too wished, as I did once, that they had a magical tree, with different lands on the top every few days, and that they could go too.

Anyone know where I'm leading with this tale yet? 

I'm barely into the story and the peals of laughter start.  From the moment I introduce Jo, Bessie and Fanny to the children.  USA - are you sniggering?  Well if you are, I can tell you that UK over there, with her hands over her face shaking her head - she ain't laughing!  UK is mortified.  Because it might be slang for 'butt' where you're from, but where I'm from?  It's a slang term for a lady's... nether regions.  Vagina.  Is everyone cringing from the same hymn sheet?  Good.

I press on, unabashed.  I tried for ten minutes, ten whole minutes, to get past this issue.  In the end, they were crying with mirth, I was crying with frustration.

Child 2- 'Mum?  Why did they call her that name?  It's a swear word.'

Me - 'It's not a swear word, it's slang for... you know... girls... twinkles (our family name of choice for... you know... fannies).

Child 3 - 'Still, it's not nice really, the author should have given more thought to it.'  (You think?)

The only small mercy was, that I didn't get past this issue for their cousin to be introduced in the sequel.  This is their cousin DICK, by the way.  That would have been seven shades of fun!   Seemingly now, Jo, Bessie and Fanny are now Jo, Beth and Frannie - and cousin Dick?  He's now Rick.  I think I may need to invest in a later reprint...

Frazzled Shell - out!

Monday, 7 January 2013

It's... oh... so... quiet... SHHHHHHHHHH!

And they're back to school.  All of them.  Six hours of relative silence will fill each weekday.  It's so quiet that my husband and I will be whispering to each other for three days out of sheer confusion.  There's mixed emotions here, dear readers.  I won't say I was waving them off with snot and tears streaming down my face.  But neither have I got bunting and balloons adorning the house, and I'm not cartwheeling for joy.  The reason being...

One wrecked house.

I am not over-exaggerating, only shame stops me from posting photos as proof.  But hey, I love a challenge.  There's nothing more I love than my ordinary routine of spending five days cleaning and clearing, to have the kids undo my work in two days flat.  However.  This is different.  They've been home since the 21st December.  That's... *counts mentally* seventeen days of decimation they've had versus my *counts mentally* approximately two days of cleaning?  The odds are not stacked in my favour.

Apart from the six week summer break, this has to be the worst clean up for a Mum.  At Easter break, attractions start to open, the weather is better (unless you live where I do, or anywhere in the UK for that matter).  In the summer the kids can be shoved into the garden with their tents and toys and craft supplies and water pistols and left all day, walks in the woods, days on the beach (unless you live where I do... see above...).  The Christmas break, has seen six people confined to one house, with visitors.  With more new stuff coming in than old stuff has gone out.

I've said it before and I will say it again, this house AIN'T big enough for the amount of stuff we have.  So, you know what?  I'm adding a goal.  Stuff.  Everywhere.  And in 2013 - we're downsizing our stuff. ALL of us, you hear?  (Three of the 'ALL of us' I refer to subscribe to this blog, I'm talking about you!)

I could speak to you ad infinitum about decluttering.  There's nothing you can tell me about decluttering that I don't know or haven't tried.  You know what the problem is?  It's always my stuff that gets decluttered!  My CD's and vinyl?  Converted to MP3 and sold at car boot.  My books?  Donated to Oxfam and the ones I want to read again bought for the Kindle.  My clothes?  Nowhere to store them.  Bye bye.  The two ASD kids won't part with anything.  The youngest even keeps rubbish in case it comes in handy for something (Mum, can I keep this foil sweet wrapper?)  The eldest won't part with his video cassettes.  We don't even own a VCR anymore.  Every McDonalds toy that has darkened my door... you get the picture?

The worst culprit used to be my darling husband.  Specifically with clothes.  It's got so bad now, that before he's allowed to buy a new top, he has to get rid of two.

Him -  'I'll keep this for when I lose weight'.

Me - 'How long have you had it for?'

Him - 'About 25 years'

Me - 'Yeah, why not.  Keep hold of it then, it'll be back in fashion in another 5 years...' Grrrrrrr.

Today, however, my darling husband took charge in the bedroom (Stop it! You know what I mean, I'm talking about cleaning here!  Tsk!)   My normally sentimental guy was practical and ruthless, and we managed to get so many clothes cleared and ready for donating (and not just mine for once!).  He found stuff he forgot he had bought.  He then was ruthless with my stuff (Which ran along the lines of  a) That's nice;  b) That'll be nice when you've lost a few more pounds and c) I wouldn't let you out of the house wearing that and if you insisted I'd walk several paces behind you).  As a result the wardrobe is empty at the bottom, the clothes aren't crammed together so tightly in the wardrobe that I can't see what I have, and I have two empty drawers.  Small drawers granted, but they're empty.  Not for long.  But I'm relishing them for one night. 

I feel lifted and liberated.  The house looks no tidier than it did this morning, but I know, in my mind, what has been achieved today.  The clothes that I feel guilty that I bought and I know I'll never wear, be it because they don't fit, or don't suit me?  They can go to someone who will love them.  And benefit a good cause in the process.  It's still a charitable donation in a roundabout manner, isn't it?  The high heeled knee high suede boots that I bought on sale for £5 that I can't get over my calves (anyone laughing with me/at me yet?), the high heeled ankle boots I bought on sale for £3 that I have wore once, to a funeral (by the time I was greeting the bereaved family, I had no sensation in my toes, and had someone been there to physically wrench them from my feet - oh yes, they were those kind of boots, didn't I mention? - I'm sure my toes would have been blue).  I now have a self-imposed lifetime ban on buying shoes with a heel higher than 1 cm.   

So, how do you feel about 'stuff'?  Do you love stuff and clutter around the place?  Or are you minimalistic?   Do we place too much value on having 'things' just for the sake of it?   I find it mentally draining, but I think that's because the house we live in is smaller than our old one (albeit one room extra).  Our personal space has decreased immensely, and so has the amount of storage space and space for furniture.  If I had a massive home, would I feel differently?

I'd be really interested to hear what you think about this issue, whether you're a hoarder or a thrower!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

What I really, really want is a Takeaway...

...or a meal out in a restaurant... or for someone to cook for me for a change... ho hum.

And on we go.  I was determined that we don't do a big shop this year until there's nothing left that we can make a meal of.  Of course, I will have to buy fresh bread and milk, things for the school packed lunches, fruit for their breaktimes, I will buy fresh veg to accompany any meat I have, I will buy meat to go with pasta or rice or couscous or vegetables... but the cupboard is going to have to be bare before this Mother Hubbard toddles off to the supermarkets again.  If tea is beans on toast, then beans on toast it is.

I shouldn't complain, it's not actually that dire, put into context.  It's food.  At least we have it.  At least we have a choice.  My youngest was watching a charity advert concerning the third world with a look of abject horror the other day, asking me what the stuff the baby was eating was.  The narrator answered for me - flour and water.  I could see the cogs turning in his mind as he thought - that's the glue we do crafts with when the real stuff runs out and Mum's being a cheapskate.  I think I could see his six year old conscience being pricked, as he realised this is what I keep ranting on about when he's looking at his tea plate as if I'd emptied the compost bin onto it.

And then my husband goes and hits me with...

Him - Apparently there's some extreme weather system going to be hitting us in the next 10 - 30 days.

Me - Define 'us' and can you be a little bit more specific time-wise?

'Us' apparently is not just confined to the weather system directly above our house (believe me, it more or less exists), but the UK in general, and the minute he mentioned Russian weather systems and rain turning to snow I'd already tuned him out and was thinking about Burger King.  Especially as I had spied he was holding a booklet of Burger King coupons that had come in the newspaper today.   Burger King has this hold over me, this strange allure that turns me into a Homer Simpson-eque type person.  Drooling, incoherent, with the uncanny ability to eat more in one sitting than I would do in three days.  I decide I will have to - for my own sake - shred the coupons.  Remove the temptation.

So tea was so uninspirational I didn't even bother to take a photo (was that a hurrah?).  Sausages in the oven to colour them (nothing worse than anaemic sausages in a casserole!).  Cooked up some carrots and the last parsnips (yay!  See you next December guys!) and added them to the pan with the sausages, a sliced onion, a sliced red and yellow pepper, a tin of baked beans and a tin of chopped tomatoes.  Bunged in a little water, a vegetable stock cube and a couple of bay leaves.

It was pleasant, nothing to write home about, I think someone ate a bay leaf...  and already I am struggling with my goal.  Especially now I know the threat of bad weather lurks.  I wouldn't say I am a panic buyer but I do like to be prepared, just in case, a family of six can get through some food, I tell you!  Best see how I get on over the next few days then.

Sorry for the rambling post!  (Aren't they all, though?)

Stopping the waste - anyone for soup?

2013's Goal number 2:  Stop food waste.

This won't - by any long shot of the imagination - be the most interesting or inspiring blog post I've ever published.  I can see by my stats that the Pizza Pies, the New Years Eve curry and the Crunchie Cheesecake are what you're all loving!  However, two days ago dear readers, I was a woman on a mission.  The mission (that I chose to accept) was to use up all those bits and bobs lurking in the house after the Christmas and New Year period.  And what was the first thing I came across?  A massive box of Black Magic chocolates.  However this has a BBE of June so (sadly) I could not take this into consideration.  I may take it into consideration later tonight though.  Especially when I think about the leftovers I had to play with and therefore the horrors I am going to be consuming this week under the guise of 'food'.  Ready Steady Cook this was not...

How do you solve a problem like... this mini vegetable stall?

Boosted along by my favourite Beatles tracks blasting out in my cosy (pffffffffft) kitchen, George Harrison's guitar was not the only thing that gently wept.  So did I, sobbing and muttering to myself as I peeled 900g of sprouts.

Seriously.  900g of sprouts.  Who makes these decisions for the supermarkets?   What lunatic buys 900g of sprouts?  (Me.  For one.  However in my defence, they were reduced to 25p and I couldn't leave them there for that).  It's a vegetable that nobody likes in the house except me, my husband will have 'a couple' and my daughter 'will have one just to say that I had one' and then she only leaves it anyway!

Soup was the word.  At the end of the day, we all know how to make soup, so I won't bore you with a huge recipe for each bowl.  

I made Cream of Brussels sprout soup - sprouts, water, chicken stock (although you could use vegetable), 200g potato, 200g onion, blitzed at the end with a good splash of cream.

I made Bacon, Tomato and Red Pepper soup - which was a favourite in the kitchen where I worked - saute a little bacon in a little oil, add a sliced red onion, diced red pepper, you could add some potato for added thickness, a little water and some vegetable stock cubes and then I shove in three cans of chopped tomatoes.  Blitz until smooth, don't blitz, part blitz - it's lovely any way.

I made Cream of mushroom soup - chopped mushrooms, a diced onion, water and stock.  Takes very little cooking this one, and at the end when blitzing add some cream.  Not the most appetising looking soup - but very tasty!

Brussels Sprout Soup

Tomato Bacon and Red Pepper Soup

This is what I ended up with after my soup making exercise...

As I said previously the mushroom one doesn't look great... If you've got a weak stomach you may struggle with it, but it's tastier than any mushroom soup I've ever poured from a can.  So, all in all 18 portions of soup, packed up and into the freezer for a cheap and cheerful lunch for hubby and I over the next week. 

It has to be said though - and I know it's from my perspective as a Brussels lover - the sprout soup was absolutely amazing!  I can see how even the ardent sprout hater could comfortably eat this.  It was delicioso! (Too much Dora, sorry!)

I had a large piece of Roast Beef left over that I wasn't confident enough to slice... I once nearly chopped a large piece of my thumb clean off slicing meat, it was under a plaster for about 2 months until I was confident it wouldn't drop off and had knitted together!  I'm useless with blood, needles, illness etc, so I tend to play it safe!  A little too safe sometimes!

I cooked up some potatoes, cabbage, onion, swede and mashed small bits of the cut up beef into the mixture (I used scissors... if you're interested... yes, yes I did).   Used a deep pastry cutting ring to make patties, and put them on a baking tray in the fridge.   Blitzed two almost-stale pieces of bread to make breadcrumbs, and when the patties were cold, dipped them in beaten egg, and into the breadcrumbs, and fried them in a little oil to crisp the outsides, then I put them into the oven.  I'm a bit cross that I didn't take any photographs of this process.

And finally.  I made a huge stir fry mixture, and put it into a large plastic tub in the fridge.  Wilting spring onions, peppers, onions, chillies, mushrooms and carrots.  We had this for tea last night, I just added some chicken breast, and two sachets of Chilli and Garlic stir fry sauce that had been languishing in my cupboard for months and months... a little boiled rice, and that was a meal for 4 of us.

Sometimes things just show up for me - like signs that I'm on the right track.  This article came the same day via my email newsletter from  This is where I turn into my mother and start wagging my finger, muttering about 'starving children'.  It's absolutely disgraceful the amount of food that is wasted in this country, at any time of the year, not just Christmas.  They mention a really good website on there that I've used for about 5 years now.  I think they'd have been very proud of me on Thursday!

That's not the end of it, now I have to tackle what languishes in the freezer and the very few fresh ingredients that remain.  Today's dish is going to be a semi-homemade sausage Casserole - not my favourite dish by a long shot - but I'm determined to 'Use it up' (Goal number 3) and 'Stop food waste' (Goal number 2) in 2013.

M x

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Back to the old routine - sort of!

After a bright sunny start to 2013 (where I managed to get some washing dried outside! YAY!) true to form, by today it was drizzly and dull again.  The Christmas tree is still up - which isn't usual in this house - whatever tradition dictates, as far as I'm concerned, once it's a New Year, Christmas has gone and it's onwards.  I think it's probably psychological, I know that once the tree is down, I have to start the spring cleaning.  Was there ever a better excuse not to clean than Christmas decorations?  I don't think so.

So it doesn't feel Christmassy anymore, despite the tree and cards.  Everything is open and running, the kids will be back in school in five more days.  The cleaning can wait until then.

So - 2013 goal setting isn't coming on in leaps and bounds but more of a light mincing.  My goals are sashaying down the street that is my life.  Think Alan Carr.

Goal number 1.  Walk more.  I don't like the gym.  I don't like structured exercise.  I like walking.  What I don't like however, is rain.  I live in Wales.  It's not looking good.  Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter.

Goal number 2.  Stop food waste.  So, dear readers, for tomorrow I am looking for a recipe that will use up, sprouts (about a kilo of), parsnips, mushrooms, a pot of double cream, half a pot of natural yogurt and two mince pies.  It's not looking... appealing from where I'm standing.  But I will do it.

Goal number 3.  Use it up.  I think everyone has, at one point received the story via email about never saving something for a special occasion.  Sometimes it was lingerie, sometimes it was a dress saved for best, and it turns out the owner of the clothing in question was dead and was wearing it - for best - to her own funeral.  All these things we have, we can only use in the here and now.  Why am I balking at using £50 face cream on a normal day - I won it, I didn't even have to pay for it - isn't every day 'normal' for me?  When should I use it?  On the odd day that I live a celebrity lifestyle?   When having lunch with Cheryl Cole?

Goal number 4.  Cook the books.  Not as fraudulent as it may first sound.  The last time I counted I had over 100 cookbooks.  It's probably closer to 110 now.  The amount of recipes I cooked from them last year was around three.  Sometimes too much choice is overwhelming for me.  Life would be a lot simpler with two cookbooks, one search engine, one social network...

Goal number 5.  Spend more time with my friends.  Despite being a great year, 2012 was very poor for socialising with friends.  When we first got back in touch a few years ago, my school girlfriends and I started off well, meeting up a couple of times a year, then it went to Christmas, and we haven't even managed that the last two years.  My circle of friends at home, I think we got together twice last year.  It's not good enough.

Goal number 6.  Decide what I want to be when I grow up.

Goal number 7.  Grow up.  This one I'm having the most trouble with.  I read a really interesting article today, called 28 Powerful Questions for a Happy Life.  Specifically question 5.  How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?  Physically, about 50.  Mentally, about 15.  Somehow I need to reign them both in and get them closer to my real age of 29 *cough* *liar*.

And that's where I'm up to, up to now.  Any of my friends want to come around tomorrow for Brussells Sprout soup?  Any advance on 'No'?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to my lovely friends and followers, I hope you had a nice evening whatever you decided to do.  New Years Eve is traditionally a night where we have my parents over, and I make a curry banquet for us all, and then we play games or watch a comedy DVD.  Unfortunately my Mother was ill this year and so it was just my little family of six.  We had our curry (see previous post!) and then we played on Beatles Rock Band until about 11.45pm, where we turned over to BBC2 to watch Jools Holland ring in the New Year, and watch the spectacular fireworks in London.  It was a lovely display, highlighting the things that had happened this year in Britain, the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics, and it brought it all back as to what a wonderful year this has been - not just in terms of the patriotism and unity our country seemed to be in for once - but what a good year it has been for my family.  I don't think I can remember a better year.  And you know what, I'm determined 2013 is going to be even better for us.  I have a really good feeling about this year.  (This is where by tomorrow, my rabbit is dead, my washing machine breaks down and my husband leaves me...!)

Resolutions - no.  Goals - yes.  I'm going to be working on my Vision Board later, I'm definitely a convert and an advocate of Vision Boarding.   If this is something you think you might be interested in, my friend Carmen has some wonderful stuff up on her website TheNewHappyMe, and you can find useful information about Vision Boards here.  To have been a witness to her own personal journey this last year has been a breathtaking privilege, she's a true inspiration to men and women alike - showing how you can follow your dreams and change your life.  If she told me that dipping myself in honey and rolling around in feathers would make me fly, this clever lady would probably be right.  Do check her website out.

So what goals do I have this year?  I don't have anything concrete as yet, I'm going to sit down and have a think about them, but - I want to lose some more weight.  I want to walk more.  I want to cook more.  I want to read more.  I want to create more.  I want to spend more time on the things that make me happy and less on the insignificant.  The keyword here seems to be more.  I want more of the good stuff, I want more out of life. 

What are your resolutions or goals this year?   Do you think resolutions are a waste of time, and do you think goal setting is much more realistic?

M x