Archive | March, 2012

Roast Potato & Fennel Salad with Warm Pancetta Vinaigrette

28 Mar

With the warmer weather coming our way, why don’t you try this lovely salad. Another recipe from my fabulous friend Jennifer who has allowed us some delicious recipes from her own private recipe book ‘Southern Belle’ she bakes and cooks for many events and I have been lucky enough to try her food! It’s Yum! Dont forget to try baking her apple and cinnamon muffins I have also posted.

Roast Potato & Fennel Salad with Warm Pancetta Vinaigrette

This recipe satisfies a winter craving for a warm, hearty salad when there’s very little in season except root vegetables and fennel! I love the combination of crisp roast potatoes with the sweet, caramelised fennel and salty pancetta. The dressing is whisked together in a sauté pan and the apple cider vinegar really makes these simple flavours sing.
The salad is ready in the time it takes for the potatoes to roast. I tend to chop them on the small side so they don’t take as long to cook. Serve this salad with crusty bread or a shop bought roast chicken for a satisfying week night dinner.

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Yield:

4 Servings

Ingredients:

500g charlotte or other variety small salad potatoes, chopped into small cubes
1 fennel bulb, core and stalk removed, thinly sliced cross wise
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil
Salt & pepper
2 small bags or 1 large bag mixed salad leaves (I prefer the watercress, rocket and spinach combo)
400g pancetta cubes
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced or grated on a microplane
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Place the chopped potatoes and fennel slices on a roasting tray, drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss until the potatoes are well coated. Spread the vegetables into one single layer and roast for 30 – 40 minutes until tender, golden brown and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking to ensure even browning.

While the potatoes cook, place the salad leaves in a large serving bowl.

Heat the remaining 2 tsp olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the pancetta cubes and fry until crisp. Remove the cubes from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on some paper towels to drain.

Add the Dijon mustard, garlic and cider vinegar to the pan with the pancetta drippings, whisking thoroughly over low heat. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Add the warm potatoes, fennel and cooked pancetta cubes to the salad leaves. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly to combine. Garnish with parmesan cheese. I prefer thin shavings made with a vegetable peeler for this salad. Enjoy!

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Happy marriage

21 Mar

To get the picture completely clear I thought it would be good to take you right back to the start of my ‘love life’.

I was a regular 15 year old girl and like any girl of this age had always dreamt about meeting the man of my dreams and living happily ever after, this was a great thought but the problem I had was that I hadn’t even kissed anyone let alone fallen in love. The thought of having a boyfriend or anyone paying me any attention felt far away, my self esteem was low and I thought I was going to be left on the shelf.

At 16 years old I enrolled in fashion college, this was a huge step for me as I wasn’t the most independent person in the world and the thought of leaving my comfort zone seemed very daunting, I was soon put at ease the first day at college when I was greeted by a great bunch of classmates who made me feel so welcome, amongst these new friends was a boy called Danny, I noticed him by his eyebrow piercing and thought to myself he’s not bad.

As I was so insecure about my looks I never thought any boy would find me attractive as I didn’t feel attractive myself so the thought that Danny might like me never entered my mind.
As the weeks went by I started to develop my friendships and I found myself being drawn to Danny, we were hanging out all the time and I just loved been with him, he made me laugh and always encouraged me, could this friendship be turning into something else I thought?

As the months went by our bond together grew and on the 4th november 1999, Danny asked if ‘I’d go out with him?’ I tried to play it cool and said yes, but if it doesn’t work out can we still be friends?’ but the reality was that this was the best day of my life, someone liked me, someone wanted to be with me and the amazing thing was that I wanted to be with him.

20120321-172147.jpg Then and now, 13 years together

We were inseparable, we did everything together, we even got part time jobs at the same company just so we didn’t have to spend any time apart. I couldn’t imagine life without him, we brought out the all the good things in each other he made me value who I was, made me see the person that he saw and gave me the confidence i so needed, we were made for each other and even at 16 we knew that this was our destiny to be together.

After 2 years together Danny asked me to marry him, even though we were only 18. everyone who was close to us knew us as couple and couldn’t imagine us with anyone else, when making big life decisions if those closest to you are happy about it then its a good indication your doing the right thing, when you find ‘the one’ and I believe he or she is out there for every one of us then my thought is why wait?, I have always believed that marriage should be the start of your life and not the end. If two people are going the same direction, when their lives join, they take off! nothing can hold them back. The sad thing is a lot of couples marry without having the same ideas on how they want to take their journey of life, hence they stop and end up living a life holding each other back.

When planning our wedding we dreamt about it being the best and being a representation of our personalties, the only problem was that this was going to cost and as we were paying for the wedding ourselves we knew that our dream wedding would be a difficult task to achieve but that wasn’t going to hold us back, we knew we could do it somehow.

We planned the wedding to be in August 2002 and started working as much as we could to save money. We had to get part time jobs at a telesales centre to help pay for the big day, although we hated the jobs we could earn commission on selling kitchens and bathrooms over the phone, we had become those annoying people who cold call you when your just about to eat your dinner, sorry, but it was for the cause, every penny in commission we earned was put aside and we became super strict with our budget, so much so that our daily budget for lunch was set at £1 (9p bread roll and micro noodles) we managed to save quite a lot but still needed a minor miracle to pay for the wedding we wanted.

9 months later we got what we wanted, the perfect dream wedding, every detail was met, we were just blown away by peoples generosity, people would offer their talents as gifts or offer to pay for a section of the day, all this for us, these amazing family and friends made our dream a reality. We actually totted up what the day would have cost if we didn’t have all the help and it was close to £20,000, we felt the most amazing sense of proudness and gratitude knowing that if you set your heart on something and never loose sight of the end goal then YOU will get the rewards, our day was living proof of this statement.

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We started our marriage on the same page, both knowing each others wants and needs, both in tune with one another’s thoughts, if something Is going to work then all the components that make up that device must be working too, it’s the same with relationships, both have to be pulling in the right direction and if you strip it back its quite simple to work out the formula for a successful marriage.

Be best friends, I know this term may sound a bit cheesy but trust me it works. A best friend is someone that you can be yourself around, someone that you can trust with the any secret, someone that you can laugh and cry with, someone that no matter what you say or do will love you the same, someone that will fight your corner and someone that you can have fun with.

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Knowing each others love language, this may be a new term for you but this basically means knowing what your partner wants, there are 5 love languages and these are; words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, physical touch, acts of service. These 5 simple things will automatically fall into our character type and one of these languages will be our favourable option that make us feel the most loved, the important thing is that your partner knows yours, here is an example

Your husband works away, he’s home for a few hours here and there and on occasions he may bring you some flowers or a nice piece of jewellery, he wonders why your never happy, after all he is spending all this money on gifts and working hard to support his family, the fact is your not bothered about the gifts as that doesn’t make you feel loved, what you are bothered about is spending some quality time with him, just being together makes you feel loved as you know he is putting you first.

This concept of love languages is about ‘speaking your partners’ language, find out what they like and do exactly that towards them, they will then feel loved which ultimately will lead to you feeling loved. I Recommend a book called ‘the five love languages’ by Gary Chapman

Trust, an obvious one that I’m sure everyone has had to deal with at some point but it’s so simple to get it right if your both honest and I mean honest about everything. I don’t believe that relationships should have secrets, secrets grow like weeds and they grow fast, the longer you leave it the deeper the root gets and the harder they are to dig up. Often if you have trust issues it hurts you more than it does your partner which is never healthy in a relationship, deal with it early to avoid it growing.

Heading in the same direction, this basically means being on the same page, if your partner has a dream to emigrate to south America and your dream is to live in Yorkshire your whole life then there’s going to be a problem, obviously there can always be a compromise but never to the point where you are holding each other back, you HAVE to be on the same team, that is the only recipe for success, opposite teams both want to win and that stubbornness can halt a relationship.

Love, this is an action towards each other that can be based on affection, kindness and compassion. Liking each other is not enough, if you split ‘love’ up then you can break it down to some key points that in marriage will help, the first one being attraction which ultimately develops a bond between the two parties, the second is ‘attachment’ which is the bond that will promote a long and healthy relationship and the last one is ‘commitment’ which is the promise that the relationship will be cemented together no matter what.

Friends, having great friends around you is very important. Chose friends that lift you up, encourage you and that you can have fun with. I don’t think it’s good as a couple to isolate yourselves from friendships, before long you will need them. Make sure you share a group of friends that you both can relate to, that you can help one another and bring the best out of.

These principles have been the key to my amazing marriage, this year we celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary and I can honestly say that it has been the best 10 years of my life, every day I get to wake up with the man of my dreams and every day seems like a new adventure. Now we get to start our family together building it on the foundation of our strong marriage

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Now I’m not claiming to be a marriage guru but what I can say is that we are blessed to have what we have and I don’t take the responsibility of marriage lightly, what I will say is that the formula we have definitely works so feel free to give it a shot

Reply from Downing street

20 Mar

I received a reply to the letter I wrote to The Prime Minister. Thought you might like to read it:

Dear Mrs Greig

The Prime Minister has asked me to thank you for the letter and card.

It was kind of you to write and share your experiences and to let us know how well you were cared for staff in your local NHS services. We know that they are dedicated, caring, talented people working in our health service and just as complaints help NHS to deal with things that go wrong, stories such as yours let us know where good practice can be found. It helps us tell others in the health service how to improve the way they serve the public and to make sure that they expect and deserve.

Giving praise where praise is due gives great encouragement to staff who strive every day to meet the needs of the people in their care. As you know, their jobs can often be very demanding and words of thanks are an important boost to their morale. I have, therefore, forwarded a copy of your letter to the Department of Health so they too are aware of your praise

Yours sincerely

Correspondence Officer

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Apple and Cinnamon muffin recipe

13 Mar

One of my talented friends owns a baking company called ‘Southern Belle’ her cakes and muffins are to die for! As a special treat she has let us in on one of her special recipes that we can enjoy making and eating at home! Thank you Jennifer for this yummy recipe.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins
These muffins are seriously good!! And the best part is that they are super easy to make and are much better for you than the cakey alternatives available at the shop.
This recipe uses both plain flour and whole wheat flour for added fiber and protein. There is very little fat in this recipe – the muffins retain loads of moisture from buttermilk and applesauce, which also boosts the apple flavour. I adore cinnamon, so I’ve used a full two teaspoons here. Ground nutmeg adds extra warmth and some freshly grated lemon zest really brings out the flavour in both the spices and the apples. Added texture and crunch comes from the brown sugar pecan topping. The muffins will keep for at least 4 days if stored in an air tight container. Make them today, you won’t regret it!!

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Yield:

12 muffins

Ingredients:

Brown sugar pecan topping:

50g light brown muscovado sugar
50g pecans, chopped
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Muffin batter:

125g plain flour
125g whole wheat flour (a fine ground whole wheat flour produces lighter baked goods!)
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
130g light brown muscovado sugar
59 ml vegetable oil
2 large eggs
237 ml applesauce (look for an apple content of at least 70%)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
175 ml buttermilk, shaken
2 medium sized apples, peeled, cored and chopped into ¼ inch pieces (I love the combination of a tart Granny Smith with a sweet variety such as Pink Lady)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Line a standard 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners or coat empty cups with a non stick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, remaining 1 ½ tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest, baking soda and salt. Whisk together for a full 30 seconds to ensure ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 130g light brown sugar, oil and eggs until combined and smooth. Whisk in the applesauce and vanilla.

Whisk in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Mix until just combined. Over mixing or beating the batter heavily at this stage will result in tough muffins! Fold in the apple pieces.

Fill the muffin cups ¾ full (I like to use an ice cream scoop to ensure the muffins are the same size) and top each cup with two teaspoons of the brown sugar pecan topping. Bake for approximately 17 – 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out mostly clean, but with a few moist crumbs.
Cool the muffins in the pans for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Best and worst red carpet dresses of 2012

8 Mar

The red carpet season has just climaxed with The Oscars, so many stunning couture dresses and some great styling disasters!

THE TRENDS

There have been some trends going on this year. They have been carried off in some of the most amazing designs I have seen. Here are some of the dresses showing the looks on the red carpet for 2012. Done right and done so wrong

WHITE

This years award for colour of choice has to go to… white! There has been so many beautiful gowns in white but these have to be my favourite

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BLACK

This is how to wear classic black but still stand out from the crowd. These dresses show that no matter shape or size, picking the right cut and keeping it simple can make you look sexy and classy.

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Black isn’t always a safe option, these celebs show how playing safe isn’t always right.

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GOLD AND SILVER

These ladies look absolutely stunning in these gold and silver dresses showing their curves in all the right places. Great styling.

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Too much! these metallics unfortunately are bordering on cheap. Ever heard of less is more?

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BLACK BELT
A clean silhouette and natural coloured dress nipped in at the waist by a dark coloured belt to create that hour glass shape. Beautifully simple, but still wow.

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There were other colours hitting the award ceremonies but the jury is still out on some of these bold colour choices

ORANGE

Soon to be this seasons new colour. If your going to wear it, try and get it right. These ‘A’ listers showing they are nearly there. Cameron Diaz getting it just right in this Vicoria Beckham dress. But not sure on Fergies choice on teaming it with black ‘Bridget Jones’ knickers quite works for me.

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BLUE

Oh dear, these dresses are all wrong, some great design ideas but the colour and over use of pattern turn them into a fashion disasters and can tie dye ever look good? unless your campaigning to save the forest.

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GREEN

When picking a colour to wear, pick the right shade to match your skin tone. Some shades of green can make you look washed out. Not quite sure these celebs have it quite right.

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BLACK AND WITE

Here it is in black and white. what were they thinking?

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RED

Beautiful detailing and standing out in these figure hugging red dresses.

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These ladies in red look like they are going to a fancy dress party not the oscars! with elements of the 50s and 80s.

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RED FLORAL

These celebs are taking us back to the 90s, not quite sure we are ready to back there yet.

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PURPLE AND MAUVE

A fabulous colour for olive and darker skin, these Hollywood stars look fabulous in these purple shades

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PREGNANT AND GLOWING

This model and reality star show how beautiful and still glamourous a pregnant woman can look. Hot mamas to be

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Ticking off the bucket list (Los Angeles)

5 Mar

I believe in living life to its fullest and never taking a day for granted, I never want to get to my grave and feel like I hadn’t lived, when we leave this earth, we cannot take our money or our possessions with us but what we can do is leave a lasting list of memories for others to cherish, that’s why this post is about some of the items on my bucket list that I wanted ticking off, I encourage anyone to live there dreams and do all the things that they want to do!

From being a little girl I have had an obsession with all things American, a few of the things on my bucket list would need to take place in the USA. So when we came to the point of feeling we were ready for kids, we decided to plan a ‘last trip before kids’ holiday to LA.
We went all out! A trip to Vegas to renew our vows, a tour of the UCLA university Campus and clubbing on sunset, we were going to live the ‘American dream’

Pics of some of the things I got ticked off my list

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A night out on sunset blvd. $1 bills fell from the sky that night, we collected $45 between us!

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The tailgate (where people have BBQ and play beer pong) before the UCLA college football game with our friends Dave and Louisa

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Watching the game, we sneaked into where the college kids were and sat near the marching band, felt like we were in a teen movie!

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We all renewed our vows in Vegas where Britney got married. Even got a limo there! Bottom right: The gang after we all renewed our vows to each other. 19 years of marriage between us.

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The ceremony. One of the highlights of the trip, always wanted a cheesy wedding in Las Vegas

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We went to McDonald’s for our wedding breakfast!! Our grooms strutting their stuff in The Venetian casino hotel

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Top right winning a jackpot on the wheel of fortune of $6! Bottom Left: The Rehab pool party in The Hard rock casino

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Fun on the beach. Top left: watching a band. Middle left: tandem biking along Venice beach. Bottom left Danny and Mitchell hiring a surf board.

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Top left: S’mores on the beach (biscuit, chocolate and melted marshmallow squashed together. Yum!) Top right: shopping down Rodeo drive. Bottom left driving a convertible Mustang along the Malibu coast. Bottom right: we went to sit in the audience of the Tonight show with Jay Leno

We got the most out of our trip and made everything count. Our bucket list continues and the cool thing now is that we have our precious children to share it with us, my friend Esther and her husband Mitch had Indie Rae 30th may 2011,followed by our beautiful Eivissa Cali,17th September 2011 and finally Louisa and Dave had their little boy Austin Basil, 13th Febuary 2012

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Bottom left Louisa and Austin. Bottom middle: Me and Eivissa. Bottom right: Esther and Indie

make the most of every opportunity that comes your way and treat every day as if it were your last and finally have no regrets!

Losing my brother

1 Mar

I have been wanting to write about a subject that i have personally found difficult to talk about, never mind write about, but I believe in facing your fears and hopefully my experience can help someone.

At the age of 10 I lost my younger brother, Steven, who had an accident at a swimming pool. He was running along the side of the pool, when he slipped and fell in the water, he was immediately rushed to hospital where he was put on a life support machine, after a few days of no response, the doctors told my parents there was nothing they could do and that the life support machine should be turned off.

Those days while he was in hospital I stayed with a friend and I prayed every minute that he would be ok and trusted that god would protect him, I kept strong and didn’t for one minute think anything other than positive thoughts. I remember visiting him in hospital and seeing him lay there with tubes hanging out of him and a mask over his face, I wanted to ask if he was pretending as this was a game we used to play but for some reason didn’t and instead I remember looking at him and feeling such peace, I knew god was going to look after him.

A few days later,the lady I was staying with said we had to go to the hospital, once there I waited in the car whilst she went to see my parents, a short while later, she returned and asked if I wanted to go in? I didn’t really want to but she insisted and reluctantly I followed her in, in the corridor, i saw my cousin crying and I said ‘don’t worry, he’ll be fine’, I was greeted by mum and dad who sat me down and told me that the machine had been turned off and he had passed away.
‘No no no no’ I was saying. how could this be? Immediately I looked for things that I could have done to save him, maybe if I was at the swimming pool I could have stopped it, these thoughts were followed by regrets like the time I told him I would play a game with him but didn’t or the time when i wanted to spend time with him but went to my friends instead, my world came crashing down, the thing i loved more than anything was taken away from me. My beautiful brother Steven Alexander Tindale, aged 7 was gone but truly not forgotten.

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Top left: Me, My sister Joy and Steven. Top right: Steven he was such a fun happy boy
Bottom left: Me and My Mum. Bottom right: My Dad and My baby Eivissa

The weeks after his death was such a strange time, even though I was only 10 years old, I felt like a grown up, I understood everything and found my own way of grieving. I avoided his room for weeks, the thought of going in there and seeing all his toys and his things everywhere was too scary to deal with, even the toys around the house that belonged to him, I avoided. Everything that reminded me of that day I wanted to erase, the dolls that I was playing with on the day it happened were packed away and never played with again,

As the years went by, I kept a lot of things bottled up, I never wanted to bring up the subject of Steven in front of mum and dad as I didn’t want to upset them.
Despite what happened I had the best upbringing I could ask for, I have a loving mum and dad and little sister who I adore, I’m so thankful that they remained strong for us and we kept a strong family unit that will never be shaken.

I got to a point in my life where I felt I could deal with things and even though the tragedy will never be forgotten, I felt that I had got to a good place in my mind about the situation, Everything was brought back into light when I had my interview with the production crew of one born every minute, they asked a lot of questions and the subject of my brother was brought up, I remember the producer asking why I had such a positive outlook on life even though I had gone through such a horrible experience, I told her that I’ve always being a very positive person and I like to see the good in everyone and everything, bad things will always happen to good people but the only person it hurts by being negative is yourself. I could have easily taken my circumstance and got angry at god, angry at people and angry at the world but why, why should my life suffer because of my past hurts, I live for now and cherish every breath I have and thank god for my wonderful husband, beautiful daughter and amazing family and friends, this life we live in is so short and I’m determined to make mine count.

When my daughter was born it made me see things through a parents eyes, I love her so much, love that I thought I would never feel, it’s weird how you are willing to die for something that has only been in the world a matter of seconds, I began to truly understand the pain that my parents must have gone through and I have cried a lot recently over my brother and loss my mum and dad must have felt.

I owe a lot of the way I am am down to my mum and dad who have the most positive outlook on life, I never hear them say anything bad about anything, they truly are great role models and amazing people, what they dealt with should never happen to any parent but the way they remained even though the answers as to ‘why’ it happened may never be answered is inspirational and defiantly shaped the way I am.

The message I want to send in this blog is quite simple, bad things will always happen to good people, it’s natural to have emotions and scars that will always be there but we cannot let this define us as people, we have the ability to choose our thoughts and choose how we do life, and my attitude is to do it as well as I can and enjoy every second of it! I choose to not let my past hurts destroy me, rather use them to help others.

This post is in memory of my little brother Steven ‘safely in the arms of God’