Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Those magic changes....

I'm back, after a very long break, and an awful lot of major life changes. It's been a traumatic, hectic, fantastic, hilarious, tragic, exciting, exhausting and surpsising few months here.

The first major change is that I am now a single mummy!
A lot of soul searching brought us to the realisation that although we have a great friendship, we no longer functioned as a couple so we have gone our seperate ways. Becoming single after 13 years has been a massive learning curve for me, the last time I was single, I was a teenager!
I'm getting there though, and at least I feel ready to be putting my feelings into words again.

The second major change is that I've just been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, which has put a few of the more important aspects of my life on hold, like work and of course my beloved pole dancing! I've been in lots of pain, but it seems to be getting under control now which is good.
In the meantime I've been concentrating on other things I love doing, especially cooking! Look out for my new blog, Dolly's Diner, coming soon!

Anyway, like the tree hugger that I am, I've taken these big scary life changes and turned them into opportunities for bigger and better things.
I'm a huge believer that when a crisis hits your life, it's simply clearing the way for something better to come in. All we have to do is embrace the change, let it happen and be grateful for the lessons that are being offered to us.
Easier said than done a lot of the time, but it's always good to remember that sometimes the worst things that happen to us often lead to the best of our blessings.

I'm going to be blogging about a number of different topics over the coming days, as well as starting on the new food blog. I'm open to suggestions, if anyone has anything they want to see, either food wise or life wise, please leave a comment!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Party Susie Tuesday - Greek theme

My kids are what can only be described as Fussy Eaters. Don't get me wrong, they're not the worst out there (I was a fussy eater as a kid, and ate nothing but tinned macaroni cheese until I was 11), but as a passionate and experimental cook, it can be very frustrating to make a dish that they won't even try!
One thing they are very good with is eating raw vegetables (we're still working on cooked ones), so whenever I feel like trying a new recipe, or cooking something they might not be keen on, I like to bring out the Party Susie and do a pick n mix tea. This means that they don't feel overwhelmed by a plateful of new stuff, but with a bit of luck they might try a little bit without pressure.

I decided to start doing a Party Susie night every tuesday if possible, and taking the opportunity to start subtly introducing a few new flavours.
Tonight's dinner was a kinda Greek theme, with lamb and apricot meatballs, paprika sweet potato wedges, tzatziki, and the usual favourites of carrot, cucumber, pepper and baby corn sticks, with strips of toasted pitta bread.

It was a really yummy dinner! I love doing things pick n mix style. I actually find that I eat less because I tend to just use a little side plate rather than filling up a big dinner plate, and the kids really enjoy having control over what goes on their plates!

I'll try to do a different Party Susie every tuesday, so if anyone has any ideas or really wants to see a particular theme, let me know!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Eggy ideas..

Well, have you all been dutifully blowing out your eggs for easter crafts? I hope so! If so, what have you been doing with the eggy insides? I love eggs, they're so versatile. We go through about 18 eggs a week, they're a real staple food in this house! I always buy free range, I like my animal welfare! Anyway, here are a few things I like to do with eggs... * fried/poached/boiled/scrambled eggs on toast * use them in a cake * fritatta * french toast/eggy bread * hard boiled eggs, smooshed up with butter and eaten on toast with cress on top * omlette * egg fried rice. I did a couple of these this week, so here are some super simple recipes if you're wondering what to do with your eggs... OMLETTE - beat 2 or 3 eggs per person and pour into a medium hot frying pan. Add grated cheddar and shredded ham on top, and cook until the bottom is set. Put the pan under the grill and allow to bubble until the top is set and the cheese is golden brown.
Yum! A super easy meal, good for breakfast with baked beans and toast, a lovely lunch or light supper when served with a salad and some crusty bread, or a substantial dinner served with potatoes and steamed veg.
There are endless combinations of things you can add to an omlette, it can be as simple as just a plain egg omlette or you could add any number of meats, cheeses and veg! One of my favourites is mushroom, cheese and chilli.

EGG FRIED RICE - another extremely versatile recipe with endless combinations! First of all, cook some rice, or use leftover cooked rice. If you don't have a rice cooker, I highly recommend them. makes cooking rice so easy, just chuck in a couple of cups of raw rice, add the water, switch on and forget it! It automatically switches off when the rice is ready and even keeps it hot for up to 12 hours.

Get your wok really hot, with a little splash or oil, preferably sesame oil. Add a couple of handfuls of frozen peas and stir until they are cooked, then add your cooked rice and stir quickly. Move your rice and peas over to one side of the pan, and add 2 eggs, beaten with 1tsp sesame oil. Leave this to cook for a minute or so, stirring gently to scramble them, without mixing into the rice yet.

When the eggs are set, break up and mix into the rice and peas. Add a splash or soy sauce, and you're good to go!
Perfect egg fried rice, delicious! This is an absolute favourite in my house, and I love experimenting with different things to add to it. It's a great way to use up leftover cooked meat
such as chicken or ham, and you can also add chopped vegatables like peppers or tomatoes.

Today, I did a pick n mix style dinner - lots of bowls on the table with stir fried peppers, mushrooms, chillies and garlic, onions and chopped gammon steak. The kids love helping themselves and "making" their own dinner.

Hope you're making the most of your eggs!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Easter egg fun - empty eggshells!

The kids and I decided to do some easter crafts today. We really wanted to use some empty eggshells, both to decorate and hang from an easter tree, like this one at Attic 24, and to paint faces on and fill with cress seeds to make cress heads . Well, the cress heads can be done with scooped out boiled eggs, so that's no problem, but for the painted eggs, we need empty but complete shells. To do this, you have to blow the eggs out. How do we do such a thing? First, you need an egg and a sharp needle... Use the needle to gently poke a small hole in the top and in the bottom of the egg. Wiggle the needle from side to side to make the hole slightly bigger, and jab the needle around inside the egg a few times to break up the yolk...
Hold the egg over a bowl and blow gently into the top hole, so that the egg comes out of the bottom hole. This action will make your kids giggle about how the egg looks like it's peeing! You'll end up with a nice bowl of scrambly egg, stay tuned for ideas on how to use this in delicious recipes...
You'll end up with a nice empty egg with little holes in it...
Fill a jug or bowl with water and some kind of sterilising solution, you could use a few drops of bleach, I used sterilising tablets. Hold the eggs in the water until they fill up, this sterilises the inside of the shell. If you're impatient, like me, you could suck the water into the egg until it's almost full (but not completely, you don't want a mouthful of bleach!).
Leave for a few hours, then blow out the water and dry the egg. Ta da! Nice empty eggshells for painting. We're going to tie string into ours once they're painted and hang them up. the kids had a ball!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

This too shall pass

This time last year, I was in a Very Bad Place. I was more stressed than I ever thought possible, juggling a busy job and erratic working hours with spending time with the kids, keeping on top of the house, facing a sprialling debt crisis, coping with three dogs and of course, visiting my dad in hospital. This was the most stressful thing of all, we knew he was getting worse and every day brought a new setback. Most days, he'd be barely conscious and looking ghastly, and on the rare occasion he was awake, he'd usually be so full of morphine, he'd be hallucinating and screaming at us to eff off. It was a truly horrible time in my life, and over the following months, it only got worse. We faced the worst nightmare and watched my dad die, honestly the worst experience of my entire life. We then went through the stress of selling the house, wondering why the house wouldn't sell and eventually having to empty the thing! I went into a bit of a self destruct, working myself into the ground to keep my mind off things. I will never understand why, but I chose this time to take on a new job, in a hospice, looking after dying people. I managed to stay for 8 months, but I really struggled to enjoy it, it was just way too soon. I also had no social life and almost no contact with friends at this time, so I ended up in a really dark place - lonely, isolated, desperate and very very sad. Anyway, why am I telling you all this? Because this week, I feel like I've finally come out of the dark place and life is actually good again! We've handed over the old house, so the months of clearing and moving are over! I've also started a new job, back at a wonderful place I worked in years ago, caring for adults with disabilities. The staff are brilliant, I love the job and feel genuinely happy there. The kids are happy and settled, enjoying the freedom of living here with lots of other kids nearby to play with. Mum is doing well, she's even booked a holiday to Germany by herself, which makes me so proud! So basically, life is good again. It was such a horrible time, and I honestly went through moments when I felt like I'd never be genuinely happy again, but it's so true that no matter how bad things get, it will always pass eventually. juts ride the storm and you will see the sun again. I lost my brother 14 years ago. He was also in a very bad place and saw no way out, and he took his own life. I think about him all the time, and it makes me so sad to think that whatever seemed insurmountable to him at the time would be ancient history by now. Life will always have ups and downs, and there will always be times when things seem hopeless, but there is always a way out, and the sun will always rise again.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A day of simple pleasures

I've had a busy day today. Hell, who am I kidding - every day is busy! The kids are on Easter holidays, which is great because the weather so far has been lovely, and we've made the most of it with lots of fresh air and exercise. We're also pretty skint at the moment, I've just started my new job and don't get my first pay until next month, so holiday entertainment has to be either free or really cheap! Here's what we did today... I have a big induction workbook to complete for my new job, so while the kids played on the computer this morning, I got going on that: We had lunch, then went off to meet some friends at a lovely local rare breeds farm. The kids had a ball feeding all the animals from the big bag of apples and carrots we brought;
We got home and had a yummy dinner (Jools' pasta), then the kids ran outside to play football while we tidied up;
The library was open until 7.30pm, so Daisy and I sneaked off at 7pm to choose some new books;
The kids got into jammies and settled down to watch a DVD, so I decided to make a yummy pudding for the grown ups to eat while watching TV. I used up some cooking apples and made an apple sponge;
Which was very good served hot with ice cream!

It's been a really lovely day, and the kids are loving the fresh air and freedom of the school holidays. I'm working tomorrow afternoon, so hopefully we can get out and do some running around before I start work!

Daisy and I started to plant a few seeds yesterday - lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and strawberries. Tomorrow, we plan to plant 3 kinds of peppers and some sunflowers. I'd love to spend some time next week clearing out the garden and preparing to plant some summer veg. I've never been able to grow anything successfully before, so wish us luck that this year we'll get a bumper crop and cure my fear of gardening!

Monday, 4 April 2011

A beautiful family walk!

Yesterday, it was a lovely day, so we decided to blow away the cobwebs with a long family walk at Dunnottar Castle. It's a beautiful ruined castle just 10 minutes' drive from us, and we love it there. It's so full of fascintaing history - William Wallace, Mary - Queen of Scots, the Marquis of Montrose and the future King Charles II have all had links with the castle, and there are plaques all over, telling the rich history. One of the first things we saw was this face-like shape on a wall, isn't it cool? The kids thought it looked angry, I think it looks quite happy... Shortly after we arrived, it started raining, but the sun came out almost immediately, and made a beautiful rainbow which looked like it was coming right out from the sea...
There are tons of little rooms, with various hidey holes. This was once a bread oven!
The castle is built on top of a cliff, so that the inhabitants could have easily seen enemies approaching from the sea.

It's a truly beautiful setting, absolutely breathtaking. It's not the most easily accessible, you have to walk right down to the bottom of the cliff, and then up a fairly steep staircase cut into the rock, but it's well worth the walk!