Sunday 16 September 2012

#QPR Membership Pack Giveaway :)

A huge thank you to everybody who entered my giveaway, which is now closed and the winner has been notified.

To prove that Rafflecopter picked the winner at random I did in fact video it, which you can see here!

I may well be doing more #QPR giveaways in the near future, so stay tuned!

Lets not mention yesterday by the way - onwards and upwards :)

Annie x

I have upgraded my Season Ticket to have membership status.  Mainly for the ability to get extra tickets for friends (not family they are all Gooners), and generally help genuine fans on twitter, who might otherwise miss out!

As a Member we get sent out packs as a thank you.  This year was no different, and it is indeed fabulous, but I already either have most of it, or won't use it - it will just look pretty and gather dust (I don't dust) ;)

I have therefore decided to make it a giveaway on my blog - I am using Rafflecopter so a winner will be independently chosen at the end!

Any problems give me a shout on @annieqpr as I'm fairly new to Rafflecopter myself.

I look forward to your comments, but bear in mind I can't reply on here otherwise I am in danger of winning it myself!

To tweet about it by the way, when you hit the button it says "paste in the tweet URL", ignore this and just hit the "tweet" button above it, it will then set it out for you and you just have to enter your twitter details, it won't spam you or direct you elsewhere!

a Rafflecopter giveaway GOOD LUCK!
Annie x

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Slow Cooker Brisket Beef Chilli :)

This recipe was passed to me by the lovely @TheLadyCatalina on twitter!  We met on there when @Mark_Bright united us as #Brightysbabes offering our score predictions :)  And some tweeters are just "keepers" :)

This is unlike any chilli I've made before!  Because you use brisket, as opposed to mince, it becomes more authentically like a pulled beef, and is to die for!  The aromas during cooking were amazing too!   This recipe makes a lot, so lots for the freezer :)

Herbs and spices suggested "to your taste" and I have written what I did.   I would probably increase the chilli power next time as I prefer a bigger kick, but then I do have a hot palate :)  This is my take on the Lady's recipe, feel free to make it your own :)

Olive oil (for browning)
1.5kg Beef Brisket
Just add meat
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Tin of chickpeas
3 tbsp tomato puree
3 tbsp Bisto granules, or 2 x Oxo cubes (not mixed with water)
2 onions, 1 white and 1 red chunky chopped
Punnet mushrooms, chunky chopped
3 mixed bell peppers, chunky chopped
3 garlic cloves chopped
Hot Chilli powder to taste - I used 3 tsp would increase next time
2 tsp each of oregano, basil and sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Put tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, tomato puree, garlic, Bisto granules/Oxo cubes, herbs, chilli and seasoning into the slow cooker and set to low.
Chop brisket into large chunks, sprinkle with any/some of the herbs and brown all over.
In the meantime add the onions, peppers and mushrooms to the slow cooker and mix well.
Once browned, add the brisket, using tongs, and mix with the rest of the ingredients.
Leave on low for at least 6 hours.   Stir and check for taste, adding further herbs, chilli or seasoning as needed.
Ensure beef is tender enough that it easily breaks up before serving.

Cat serves hers with any of the following:-
Basmati rice
Jacket potatoes
Garlic bread

As Chris works for a company that distributes Mexican foods, I got him to bring home some salsa, soured cream, jalapenos and guacamole, and served with tortillas!

Just amazing, thank you Cat - will be nagging you for more recipes AND to get you blogging :)
Annie x

Monday 10 September 2012

M&S man-over challenge - Nominating Chris

Being Arsene Wenger :)
I am nominating Chris for this M&S Man-Over Challenge.   It is our 10th Wedding Anniversary on the 21st September, and I hate to say having forgotten our anniversary for the last 4 years, he's never held it against me!  Chris of course has never forgotten it and just likes to gently remind me that if I'd remembered and he'd forgotten, they I may not have been so forgiving - fair point :)

Therefore, to make it up to him, and show how much we love him, I would love to win this prize for him, and give him the opportunity to spoil himself for a bit!   He loves nothing better than to buy the kids little treats and hide them under their pillows for them to find :)

Corporate Chris :)
He's a good husband and a doting father to Jasper and Scarlett.  He works hard and hardly ever spends money on himself - his beloved Arsenal being his only passion outside of his family life!

I think he thoroughly deserves a man-over and certainly would love a new M&S Suit  I am loving the "Savile Row Inspired" range, the striped one is my favourite, which you can see here, but I guess it would be down to him?

I'm going to keep this as a surprise so if you know Chris shhhhhhhh

Keeping everything crossed :)
Annie x

Sunday 9 September 2012

Tummy Tuck and Lipo - the Blog

NOTE: Posting this at 3 months on!
You can see scarring on hips - still happy tho!
June 2012
Three weeks ago I went into a private hospital in London for an abdominoplasty and liposuction.  I always intended to do a blog post on it, and thought I'd start writing today as I have woken up feeling pretty good all over.   For the first time since the operation I feel less numb, flatter (more drainage to come though) and pretty good about myself in general.   This is despite a belly button infection that I'm on antibiotics for!

I can't do the big reveal yet as I have to wear the corset day and night for another few weeks yet, but I'm confident I'll get there! (Pic above as good as I can get so far).

To go back to the beginning then, on the morning of the operation, 3rd June 2012, I was very very excited.  I guess there were some nerves but the excitment that I was finally going to get rid of that "apron" was just immense.  Chris drove me down whilst our lovely neighbour minded the children, and they settled me into my room before letting Chris come and see me.   It was a lovely big room with private bathroom and shower, though of course I couldn't use the shower and post op the toilet seemed an awfully long way away carrying drainage bottles!

My surgeon came to see me and drew the inevitable lines all over, he even told me to breath out and relax, I guess breathing in was futile at this point!   So now I had to just sit and wait, in my paper knickers, backless gown and anti-DVT socks - beautiful!

A few more blood pressure checks, and a visit from the anaethatist later, I was taken up to the operating theatre.  I walked in and lay down as instructed, trying not to look around too much.   The mood was light though, my surgeon made some jokes and I lay down waiting for sleep to take over - I swear to God I was smiling!

When I woke up, everyone was having a good look at me, including Chris and the student nurse - by all accounts it was very impressive but I didn't see as immediately I had to don the "garment" - a white surgical looking thing, which looks nothing like the vision the word "corset" brings up!

I had a fairly relaxed evening, apart from 2 hourly checks on blood pressure and drainage, but my nurse was so lovely and I was still smiling.   I even insisted I get up to go to the toilet myself, very gingerly, but I did it.  I finally had a toastie late afternoon, having been nil my mouth since the Saturday night, but I couldn't manage the grilled salmon I'd ordered for dinner!

So on the 4th June (my late father's birthday) I came home.  It was the Street Party to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee, but I wasn't in much of a mood to celebrate.   Chris was going to Coldplay around 6pm too, but I just wanted to go to bed.  I had to lay in a V position, and it was very unconfortable.  The children were loving the party, so again my lovely neighbours looked after them, fed them, then let them in.  They both knew about the operation - by now the whole street did, but no specifics - and they got themselves straight into bed.   Gone midnight and the music in the street was still bellowing and I was very grumpy - but self inflicted and all that!   I have since found out the range of different operations people thought I'd had, including certain reconstruction somewhere haha, so they are all intrigued now I've told them the truth!  I'm not much good at secrets!

To sum up, I am absolutely loving it, and still look at my tummy as if I'm having an out of body experience.   The tummy tuck itself wasn't painful, just a little awkward at first to get around, as you have to walk hunched over.   The worst bit was actually the lipo, it was very itchy and you can see from the bruising below the trauma the body must go through.  Ironically the lipo was only a couple of hundred pounds as it was incorporated with the tummy tuck!

Would I do it again - in a heartbeat!   Would I have anything else done, maybe, but no plans as I really am very, very happy!  This Summer I was so confident on the beach and at the pool!  I realise that no-one else really cared what I looked like before, but for me, its been a big injection of very much needed body confidence!

So, to properly diarise the process I guess pics are required eek!  Not for the faint hearted but am now loving it!
3 weeks after :)

Before pic eek!

Stupid pic *nervous* ?

Day 3

Day 7

Feel free to ask any questions, I am very candid about the whole thing!
Annie x

Friday 7 September 2012

Back to School

So 5th September 2012, back to school for Jasper, big boy going into Year 4!  AND of course, first day in Reception for Scarlett!

I blubbed like a baby on Jasper's first day, but I was very excited for Scarlett, being older maybe, being a sibling, I don't know, she just seems more ready than Jasper was.

When we said goodbye she hugged me a little tighter than usual, a sign of a little anxiety maybe, but she went in and blew me a kiss.

Today was her 3rd day, and she still wants me to hang her stuff up for her, which I know they will crack down on next week, but she is going willingly into the classroom, and comes home ever so happy!

So that's it then, both in the hands of the school between 8.50 and 3.15, and boy do I miss them, well until around 3.30pm when I consider boarding school *jokes*..........................

Love you two xxxx

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Our Olympics and Paralympics

This Summer has been "awesome" as Jasper said, we had fantastic holidays away, but whilst back in blighty we could forget the rubbish weather and get stuck into the Olympics.

We were lucky enough to get to the Quarter Finals of the football at Wembley, the Paralympic rowing at Eton Dorney, and on Saturday we are going to Brands Hatch for the road cycling.

What has really overwhelmed me is the Olympic volunteers - so helpful, so cheery, so informative, the events have been well run, no queuing, everything has been unbelievably, dare I say it, un-British-like!


Just thought I'd share some pics and then have this post as a memory for the children :)

High-fiving policemen :)
Jasper with the torch in St Albans :)
St Albans flame Catherine Street


We woz here!
So woz they!

Mandeville :)

Eton Dorney, rowing

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Slow Cooker Cauliflower and Spinach Jalfrezi

Well it's MeatFreeMonday and I thought I'd have a play!  This was supposed to be a Balti but decided it should be Jalfrezi instead (minus Fenugreek, not my fave spice)!   I added the home-made paste to some chopped tomatoes as I feared it would be quite dry, and it turned out to be a good idea!
For the Jalfrezi Paste
Put these ingredients directly into a whizzer/blender!
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2cm piece of ginger (or helper)
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp groundnut oil
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 fresh green chilli chopped
Small bunch of fresh coriander
Toast the following in a pan until popping, then pound with a pestle and mortar and add to the whizzer/blender contents!
2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp brown mustard seed
1 tsp coriander seeds
Toasting seeds, aroma is amazing :)
Erm - whiz to a paste!  Some of the green chilli stayed still intact but I quite like that!

This now makes ups your basic Jalfrezi paste, which can be frozen for future use!

1 x jalfrezi paste as above
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 onion chopped
1 large cauliflower trimmed and cut into size of your choice
1 can of green lentils drained
150g fresh spinach

Put the cauliflower and lentils into the slow cooker.
Fry the onion until soft, then add the jalfrezi paste and chopped tomatos and bring to the boil
Add this to the slow cooker, stir and cook on low for 6 hours
Remove lid, stir, then add the spinach and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Serve with nann bread or rice, or whatever you like :)

Annie x

Monday 3 September 2012

Meal Planning Monday 3rd September 12

 For once I've actually planned for the working week, so thought I would join in with this.   Not managed to work out the weekend yet properly though, so this may not even count?

I have no idea if I have to credit someone or link back to a blog, so please shout if that's the case, I'm not deliberately going off piste!

MONDAY - or meat free Monday - Slow Cooker Cauliflower and Spinach Jalfrezi
TUESDAY - Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken
WEDNESDAY - Slow Cooker Brisket Chilli - courtesy of @theladycatalina
THURSDAY - Mushroom Burger
FRIDAY - Slow cooker Thai Green Prawn Curry
SATURDAY - no idea, at the Paralympics
SUNDAY - family roast tbc :)
Mushroom Burger :)
The children however will be having the following!   I would prefer us all to eat together but I have to feed my clients around 5pm, so feed my kids then too.   Since school starts this Wednesday, kids will be in bed by 7pm anyway :)

MONDAY - Pesto Pasta
TUESDAY - Chicken Goujons
WEDNESDAY - Spaghetti Bolognese
THURSDAY -  Sausage and Bean Stew
FRIDAY - Shepherds Pie

Have a good week all :)

Annie x

Sunday 2 September 2012

Chocolate Golden Cake, courtesy of L'Orchidee, Westfield Stratford

A while ago I was invited to Rhythm Kitchen in Westfield Stratford, and was shown how to make the most delicious Sea Bass.   (There is a video on my sidebar).

I was recently sent a downloadable recipe book incorporating recipes from Westfields diverse collection of East London restaurants.

Jasper checking they're OK
In all its glory!

I chose to give the Chocolate Golden Cake a whirl, courtesy of L'Orchidee, and as it was the Paralympics added my own twist with some red, white and blue decorations.

The recipe did make probably double the quantity of chocolate butter cream though, so next time will halve!

Go Team GB
Below is more information, with an opportunity for you to download your free copy too!

Today Westfield Stratford City launches a free downloadable cookery book, packed full of recipes from its famously diverse collection of East London restaurants.
Showcasing Westfield Stratford City’s extensive food offering, the ‘Around The World Recipes From Westfield’ book hopes to inspire visitors to taste something new at the centre and try some of the authentic recipe creations at home.
The cookery book features 25 recipes from ten popular restaurants including a variety of cuisines like moussaka from The Real Greek, Busaba Eathai’s pandan chicken, Caribbean sea bass by Rhythm Kitchen and All Star Lanes’ champion chilli con carne.
To assist with re-creating the dishes from home, the cookbook highlights expert advice from senior chefs at these leading restaurants, describing why their recipes were selected.
Executive Chef at Busaba Eathai, Krit Sangsida, describes their pandan chicken as: “Great for family and friends, when you have a special occasion.”
Thomasina Miers, co-owner of Wahaca, points out that: “The secret to a good guacamole is to really mash up the chilli to a paste before you even think about adding the avocado.”
To download the free cookbook and watch videos of the chefs re-creating these much-loved recipes step-by-step, visit:
As well as accommodating 1100 diners in The Balcony area alone, Westfield Stratford City has over 50 places to eat and drink, so hungry shoppers will be sure to find something to their taste.
Find out more about the extensive range of eating options at Westfield Stratford City here.

Annie x

Slow Cooker Chicken Madras Curry

I normally make a lamb madras curry, so wanted to try something a bit different.   After a trip to our local Hedges Farm, we got some chicken thighs which the lovely butchers stripped off the bone for me - they really are delicious, and thigh meat is a cheaper cut, yet one of the cheapest too!

I am loving that customers are becoming more discerning, and the use of mutton and brisket and generally cheaper cuts of meat are becoming more popular, particularly as they lend themselves towards this type of cooking :)

2 cardomom pods, split
Seeds for pounding
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp grated fresh root ginger (I used cheater)
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
1kg diced chicken thigh
1 tbs butter or ghee
300ml plain yoghurt

Scrape the seeds from the cardamom pods, and crush them with the other seeds and spices in a pestle and mortar (or in a small bowl with the end of a rolling pin).  Chop 1 of the onions and add to the mix along with the garlic.  Pound again, or, as I did, whiz in a blender, then add the tomato paste and do the same.

The the chicken in a sealable container, and coat the meat with the marinade using your hands.   Cover, refrigerate and leave for at least 2 hours, or if you can overnight.

Take the meat out of the fridge long enough to get to room temperature for cooking, and pre-heat slow cooker if necessary (I tend to turn mine on as I'm ready to prep, not sure what the instructions said)!

Slice the remaining onion, and fry in a pan with the butter, for around 3 minutes, until lightly browned.   Remove with a draining spoon and put into the crock pot.  Add the chicken to the pan and brown on all sides.  Stir in the yoghurt, bring to the boil, and tip into the crock pot on top of the onions.   Stir, cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours, until really tender.

I stirred in some cooked rice and served together.  Yet again, not sure the pic does it justice, but it was delicious and had wonderful aromas throughout the day, which didn't linger (tends to happen when using curry powders).

Annie x