Tuesday 25 November 2014

That Design Store, St Albans

On Saturday I was having my hair done, and Apollo and I were chewing the fat about the changing High Street, and obviously blaming the loss of a lot of our individual shops down to the influx of discount shops, and the slippery slope from there.   After my new "do" I wandered into town, only to discover the opening of a new Shop, where the old Whittards used to be, called That Design Store.
I had to have a look see, and I wasn't disappointed, it was full of lovely designer goods, from gorgeous lighting, champagne buckets, candles (that I NEED in my life), and other kitchen accessories (can never have enough)!

It reminded me of a scene from my favourite all time show "Absolutely Fabulous".......

Eddie: I'm opening a shop, Pats.
Patsy: Ooh, what are you going to sell?
Eddie: Oh, just gorgeous things, you know.
Patsy: Ooh, lovely.
Eddie: Gorgeous, tasteful, little stylish little gorgeous things.

The candles I was particularly drawn to, as they were made out of recycled wine bottles, and they smelled beautiful!  I love wine, I recycle everything I can, and I love candles.   These will definitely be on my Christmas list!

This is an unsponsored post, but I thought I'd share the love, as definitely some great Christmas present ideas in there, so go have a look!

Some more of this back in our lives would be fabulous! IMHO, though I wouldn't say no to a Primark - fickle thing that I am!
Thanks for reading!
Annie x

Sunday 2 November 2014

At the wrath of a mums group on Facebook

So apparently I have been trolled?  Luckily I am too old to be that bothered, but it sure provoked a reaction amongst the baying crowds of local mummies!

I dared to ask out there whether other people would consider leaving their near 7yo daughter at home for 20 mins max whilst you nipped out for something?  It was meant slightly tongue in cheek, whilst still being interested in peoples opinion (I never left her by the way)!

The reaction varied from "stupid women", "unfit mother", "case for social services" to "did you not hear what happened to Maddie McCann"?

I bit my lip several times, and sat on my hands even more, as I saw the comments fly in.   Was more irked by the "does she not know better" but then they started to bring into the forum what I did for a living!  No matter my profession I am also a mother, and that is how I approached the forum.

To be fair a lot of mums sprang to my defence and it definitely sparked a debate,

Although I didn't leave her on this occasion, in fact dragged her out in her onesie!!!!! I do think the answer is down to the child in question and the set up at home.

1) Both my children know how to access the phone and call me, Chris, my mum or Chris's parents, or the police.
2) They know not to answer the door (have previously left Jasper who is 10)!
3) My house is so damned risk assessed you wouldn't believe, and safeguarded beyond reason, even my husband has trouble getting into the knife drawer!
4) Would always check a neighbour is in and child is aware in case they were worried.
5) I do a fire drill every three months with all the children.
6) Lastly, and most importantly, I know my child!

I believe children should be brought up to be independent and that their confidence grows with being given said independence.

Someone mentioned "but what if you were in a car accident and she was left at home" erm, would that not mean she was in a safer place!

Just thought I'd put it out there, but in the meantime will run and hide in a wifi-less zone until Next Christmas ;)

Annie x

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Crete, has it succumbed to some British tourists expectations of food.........

Don't get me wrong, you can still get great food, fresh vegetables, fish that were probably still swimming locally a few hours ago, and meat that looks and tastes like meat.  Not a white, insipid piece of plumped up pork in sight!


Back in the day, after a great meal, you would traditionally be served some fresh fruit, maybe with honey, and some Greek yoghurt, to accompany the slug of Raki of course!  This holiday it appears it's all change.   Gone are the fresh figs, or pomegranates, grapes or apples, it is now chocolate cakes and waffles drowned in Nutella, in huge portions, to which my kids of course fell in love with. Problem is, they would previously have devoured the fruit and yoghurt just as eagerly............

what would you chose?

Portion size, in some tavernas, also seems to have gone into the humongous regions.  We ate in one of these recently and it made me feel sick at the sight of it - I was brought up having to eat everything "because there are starving children" somewhere.  Last night I saw some children being served food on huge platters, with mounds of chips, the size even my dear old dad would have struggled with.

Yes, I know, you can leave food, and we all did, it just seems such a waste.  The amount we left probably would have fed us for the week!  We may not be going back to that taverna for a while!

Luckily, our favourite place hasn't succumbed to this war over bigger the better!  It's about quality, not quantity, however they have given into the chocolate cakes for dessert.

Whether it's what the tourists demand, or what the Cretans think we expect, I'm not sure, but either way it's a sad, sad thing..............And it's evident that some of the local ex-pats have markedly put on huge amounts of weight too.   Wonder why, hmmmmmmmmmmm

Rant over, now back to the sunshine, which thankfully no-one can mess about with (not going there ha)!

UPDATE:  Since writing this post I have discovered that you can still get the fruit and honey option if you ask for it, but the chances are the waiters will try to upsell you to some cake or waffles etc. Last night we had the fruit and honey, and without the option of anything else, the kids loved it.

Annie x

Monday 8 September 2014

Vietnamese Food, with Kids, Easy Peasy lemon Squeezy! #pancakes

So we had the best holiday in Vietnam, kids were amazing and then some.  We came home last Tuesday and people were very interested in feedback, and guarantee the 2nd question was about he food.  Well Marks and Spencers have launched a Vietnamese food range, so that shows its "bang on trend", and I will be trying it tomorrow, but thought I'd let you see what we ate first hand.

Firstly, it's not spicy food.  The food is amazing and flavoursome, but they offer chillies and sauces for you to add heat if you wish.  The Pho is a principal dish in Vietnam, and can be eaten at any time. We saw a lot of the locals eating it for breakfast too.  It is pretty simplistic but absolutely beautiful. Considering I don't like soups, or wet food(!) even I loved it.  A lot of the mums from home were concerned about food for the children, but there was rice and pancakes on most menus, so if they didn't want to try anything else, they could still eat well.   Personally, when dragging kids around museums and stuff and they are happy to do so, interspersed with rice or pancakes, I'm all over that! Having said that, they also had spaghetti bolognese a couple of times, which also features in my Vietnamese cookbook!

Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) I added the chilli myself!
Vietnam is renowned for its street food, and we were actually staying in what they called "food street" in the "Old Quarter"of Hanoi (incidental not planned)!  If you stayed in an all inclusive or a posh hotel in the City, and wandered into the old quarter, you might turn your nose up at the street traders, but!!!!!!    We were staying in an apartment overlooking "food street" and they washed and scrubbed everything to within an inch of its life, and could not have been cleaner - food, surfaces, pots and utensils.  We ate locally every night and we had the best food, without any "tummy" issues, another question I was asked!

We also loved it when eating local clams, to die for, to see a pizza delivery guy turn up at a hotel which overlooked "food street"..... no words!

White roses

street food, you picked it and they cooked it and brought to your own hot plate, see below

Spring rolls and chilli dip

Squid in banana leaves

Clams to die for - from food street, you ate what they had basically!

Cao Lau a favourite for Chis, local to Hoi An - includes pork rind!

Our bungalow in Hoi An, they cooked for us on Saturday night, as an offering and a thank you!

Spring rolls, on every menu, but delicious

Wantons, a favourite of mine, if not too greasy!

Steamed spring rolls

Stuffed squid

Morning Glory and garlic (a type of water spinach)

Sticky rice, Scarlett couldn't get enough of it (thankfully)!


Jasper had his own method of eating with chopticks, but it worked!

Trying some new fruit
My initial worry was that we would end up eating dog.  On the contrary most traders and locals had dogs as pets.  We were told that you could definitely get it in Hanoi, but we didn't go looking.  We had a book with us to translate the menus, but to be honest we didn't need it.

I will have a go at trying my own, it will never match up as it won't be in the location, in the heat, and deserved after a long day out in the sun or on the water, or up a mountain!

Will keep you posted!
Annie x

Monday 11 August 2014

So Where's The Missing Pound? A bit of a yarn of my dad's!

My dad (RIP) used to love to tell this story to people, I still enjoy it myself, and for some reason it popped into my head so thought I'd share!

3 flatmates were in need of a new washing machine, and they found one for sale locally for £30.
They asked their mate John to get it for him, since he had a van.
John duly obliged, and when he went to pick it up, did a deal with the seller and got it for £25.

When he delivered the washing machine back to the flatmates, he explained the deal, and with the £5 change they agreed to accept £1 each back and let John keep £2 for his petrol.

So.............................if the girls therefore paid £9 each, 3 x 9 = £27, plus John's £2 = £29!
Where's the missing pound :)

Annie x

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Domino's Carnivale Pizza Party

As I write this, we have of course been eliminated from the World Cup 2014, after the worst performance in over 50 years.  Having read the title of my blog however, you can probably work out that I am a huge QPR fan, and having gained promotion to the Premiership last Month, via the play-offs, I shall continue to smile this Summer!

We have however been enjoying the Brazil World Cup for other reasons.  Experimenting with International fayre, and the odd Brazilian tipple.  I was therefore delighted to be asked to host a Domino Carnivale Pizza party, to coincide with the England game.

So, friends invited, house decorated, Caipirinha's mixed and Domino's ordered - I love their website where you can track your order through prep to delivery status, the kids were sat watching it progress too and getting very excited!

The new additions to the menu, as part of the Carnivale range include:

Fiesta Pizza - chicken breast strips, red onions, green and red peppers, seasoned with a fajita spice, with a drizzle of Mojito style dressing.

Rio Pizza - Pulled Barbacoa Beef, punched up with a kick of chipotle sauce, red onoins, green and red peppers.

Nachos - with Domino's secret recipe tomato sauce, topped with mozzerella cheese, with or without jalapenos, served with a tangy salsa dip.

Fajita Wedges - the favourite potato wedges baked with fajita seasoning, served with a tangy salsa dip.

We all had a bit of everything and everyone agreed that the spices were just right!  I particularly loved the nachos with jalapenos, and both pizzas were fantastic - it's a shame they may be only appearing for the World Cup?

The kids also had a bit of everything which was a turn up, but I also got them some little choccy bits for afters.

Shame about the result, but we still had a great party, with great company, food and drink :)

For more information you can read the Dominos Blog or follow them on twitter @dominos_uk - a proper account with real people yayyy!

So to France 2016 for the Euros then, Go Engerland and
Come on You Super Hoopserssssssssssssssssssssssss
Annie x

Thursday 5 June 2014

Portuguese Piri Piri Pork Burger with Aioli

I was very excited to be asked to put together a football themed burger for Waitrose.com, and having been given a choice, I chose Portugal as my country to represent.  There are some fab recipes on the page, and I will certainly be having a go at some of the others!

When you think of tastes for Portugal, Piri Piri chilli springs to mind, along with other herbs and spices, and definitely pork over beef,  Also, my lasting memory of Portugal was a garlicky mayonnaise they served with bread with each meal.  So I settled on a Portuguese Piri Piri Pork Burger with Aioli.

Armed with my shopping list I popped down to Waitrose to get said ingredients.  My first problem was that I couldn’t find any Piri Piri chillis.  However, I did find a pre-prepared rub in the Waitrose Cooks’ ingredients” section, which saved me from buying all the spices individually.  I did consider one of the many sauces you can get, but settled on the rub as it had the perfect blend I was looking for. 

I was also going to make my own Aioli, but again Waitrose already produce a garlic mayonnaise, so didn’t feel the need to re-invent the wheel.

Ingredients – makes 4 good size burgers
500g Waitrose lean, minced free range pork
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 free range egg yolk (we have our own chicken)
2 tsp Piri Piri Rub
(salt and pepper is already incorporated in the rub, so didn’t add any further)
Iceburg lettuce leaves
Vine tomatoes
Crusty rolls
Waitrose Garlic Mayonnaise
Small Portuguese flag – optional!

With your hands, combine the free range pork with the onion, free range egg yolk and Piri Piri rub.  If you’ve time to marinade then I would, but will still taste delicious if not.

When you are ready to cook, pre-heat your grill, or fire up the BBQ, and cook for around 6 minutes each side, depending on the thickness of your burger.

Load your roll with the burger, lettuce, tomato and garlic mayo, and serve with some spicy wedges and salad.

Will of course be cheering on England, but will also look out for my new second team Portugal.  For├ža Portugal!!!!!

Thanks for reading.

Monday 26 May 2014

QPR Are Premier League :)

Finally, after a long, hard season, players injuries, and memories of previous years hurt and anger, we are Premier League.

We got through the play offs, drawing with Wigan away, before beating them at home in extra time. That home game was yet another game where we really shouldn't have won, if anything about football was fair, but we won, we pulled out a gritty, fighting spirit, though at the end of the day the score sheet will record 2-1.  I will forever remember the ground rocking, the fans in fine voice, the players determination and ultimately playing for the team.  That huddle...........nuff said!

The club itself has made huge efforts to reconnect with the fans.  A lot of us on twitter have met and have become one great family, and QPR have made sure they are on there too, posting pictures and videos and having live discussions where they listen to us on the phone and on twitter.  After the way previous owners have treated us, it has been brilliant to be listened to and appreciated.  Our new owners are just perfect for us, and admit that we are all learning together, but WeRTogether is what is most important.  The players we have now, and 'Arry, can't speak highly enough of them, and under previous regimes we've not that that.

Even little touches like supplying every single one of us with flags on our seats.  Before, during and after we waved those flags and made so much noise, it was brilliant, and I think it gave our fans an edge. AMAZING! To be honest it felt like a home game, our own fans chanting and our own songs playing - maybe Derby have the same songs I don't know, but it felt good.  We all know that Derby were the better side on the day, using the width and passing well, but we never gave up, even after going down to 10 men, we kept at it, and - as per many a QPR fans dream, Bobby scoring with his sweet left foot on 89 minutes.   There were screams, tears and much jumping and hugging and kissing - bruised and battered but worth every minute.  Then the agony - we'd no idea how much added time, and we battled wave after wave of attack - similar to the end of ET against Wigan - finally the whistle, and the dream came true.............

After the excitement of Wembley, the club were immediately inviting us down to Loftus Road the next day to start the promotion party.   We were allowed in free of charge, and got to see the players and owners and ground staff and it was brilliant.  I even dared go on the pitch, something I've not done since the plastic pitch - I got told off and not dared to venture on since.  Amazing!

Philip Beard told a story about how, after the game at Wembley, he found himself left with the Cup.  He decided taking it on the tube wasn't such a good idea, so he took it onto the coach, only to find that he had inadvertently got onto the Derby coach - priceless!

Uncle Tony gave a great speech to us all, he is such a great man who cares - people who say our club are greedy don't know us at all.  It may be fab to have money but it doesn't maketh the club!  Tony's words about the last time being in the Premiership - "last time we were Virgins, now we are not".  Again, brilliant.

Now I sit here, with my blue hair and blue nails, on my own as the family are in Germany - I was supposed to go but no way I was going to miss this weekend.   I have a smile on my face, and I have Saturday's game playing on a loop in the background.   And I can never be lonely, I just pop over to twitter and chat with da family!  Thank you QPRTwitFam, there's no-one else I'd rather have experienced that with,

Thanks for reading.
Annie x

Photos from left to right
1) Myself, blue hair
2) With the boys 
Barry Cope, Whitey @MatwhiteQPR, Ben Jammin @Ben_Jammin_85 , 
Moisty @MoistStrawberry, Me @annieqpr, Liam Bousfield, Fieldie @TractorBoy1987
Beer courtesy of Lidl, Chips courtesy of McDonalds
3) My right foot
4) Clint Hill lifting the trophy aloft, at the Loft but not in the Loft

Wednesday 30 April 2014

Mushroom burger to die for............

I am entering the Betta Living Vegetarian Recipe Competition, with my super Mushroom Burger.

My husband introduced meat free Monday to me.  He often complains since that he would prefer a lamb chop with it, but rules are rules.

If you've never tried the mushroom burger I would urge you to do so, it is so tasty and meaty - ironically - and its a healthy twist on a favourite dish!

Mushroom Burger
Olive oil
Portobella Mushroom
Cream Cheese - I use Philadelphia Light
1 Garlic clove chopped
Roll of choice
Lettuce, tomato etc. or whatever you wish to load it with!

Brush the mushroom all over, lightly, with the oil, and place under a medium grill for 6 minutes each side.   Mix the garlic into 2 tbsp of cream cheese then place the mixture around the stem.   Put mushroom back under the grill for a further 6 minutes and its done.  Load it into a roll, with whatever you like, and enjoy! :)

Thanks for reading
Annie x

Schwartz Chicken Curry Recipe Mix for Slow Cookers

I was asked to review a Recipe Mix for Slow Cookers.  In my head I heard "packet sauce" which is not really my thing, but was willing to give it a try.  It was a real eye opener, as the "sachet" contained all the spices etc. required for a beautiful chicken curry.  Although I have a lot of spices to hand in my cupboard, it was simple, and a great idea to have in reserve.  For 80p (at my local supermarket) Schwarz has saved you the faff of buying in all the spices individually, and requires a lot less storage space too!  It also says mild, but it had enough of a kick to it to satisfy our taste.

1 packet of Schwartz  Slow Cookers Chicken Curry Recipe Mix
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
450g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
450g chicken, diced - I used thigh
400g tin chopped tomatoes
175g fresh spinach (I actually used a 200g pack)

1) Place onion, pepper, potatoes and chicken into the slow cooker pot.
2) Mix sachet contents with the chopped tomatoes and add to the slow cooker pot.   Stir through.
3) Cover and cook for up to 4 hours on High, or up to 8 hours on Low, or until meat and potatoes are tender and cooked through.
4) Remove lid, stir spinach through and stand for 5 minutes before serving.

They do say you can brown off the meat first if you like, but I was happy to put mine in knowing that it will be well cooked after 8 hours, and using chicken thigh works perfectly for a slow cooker curry.

Chris and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and obviously made too big a deal of it as the kids, who had already eaten, decided to come and steal some of ours too!

My eyes have been duly opened.   I have also bought a Hot Chilli Con Carne recipe mix to try too - it wasn't required for this post, but after the success of the curry, I'm going to try a few more (it was fab by the way)!

Have also discovered a great new recipe website - you can never have enough right?

Thanks for reading!
Annie x

Disclosure:  This is a featured post, but written by myself after cooking the recipe up yesterday.

Sunday 9 March 2014

Slowcooker Vietnamese Yellow Coconut Chicken Curry.............

I've adapted this from an original recipe, to our taste, and it is so yummy.  As I write this has been cooking for 6 hours and the smells are amazing.............
2 tbsp Groundnut or Sunflower Oil
1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Around 500g chicken thigh cut into pieces
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1-2 thin green chillies (seeded if preferred), finely chopped
200ml Coconut Milk (I use reduced fat)
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 tbsp Yoghurt (I use Greek 0% fat total)
More yoghurt and chilli powder to serve (optional)
Handful of coriander leaves

I'm going to throw some cauliflower in in a minute too, last time I added 100g of spinach towards the end.....

1) Heat the oil in a pan, add the spring onions, garlic and chicken, and fry, stirring, for 3 minutes.  Tip into the slowcooker.
2) Add the chillies, spices and coconut milk to the pan, and bring to the boil.  Top over the chicken and season to taste.
3) Cover and cook on High for 2-3 Hours or low for 4-6 Hours.
4) Stir in the yoghurt, taste and re-season if necessary.  Serve over rice, with a dollop more of yoghurt and some chilli powder (optional), and coriander leaves - if you remember to buy them!!!!

Just beautiful, we are off to Vietnam in August, and if I find curries like this I will be a happy bunny!
Thanks for reading!
Annie x

Thursday 20 February 2014

Vegetable Lasagne and Face Painting, what's not to love........

My daughter went to her friends house for a playdate after school, and came back raging about what they had to eat.
So I duly texted Hannah - our multi-talented face painting artist of Glitterbox fame - to find out what they'd had.  Turns out it was a vegetable lasagne, and Scarlett had 3 helpings of it!!!  I asked for the recipe, and Hannah, being a recipe phobe, texted me what was in it.

I've since made it for all of us, the kids devoured it, and Chris loved it too, compliments indeed from my carnivore husband!   So, with permission from Hannah, here it is, just as I received it.


Having then nosed around at what Hannah has been up to - as you do (I blame my new obsession with Facebook), I discovered some photo shoots Hannah has been involved with, and she said she was happy to share too, so have a look see below!  Puts my England flag on my blogger header to shame ha!

This was for a Valentines Day shoot Hannah did recently, photography by Jeanette Lendon (who took some fantastics pictures of my kids yesterday), and make up by Karen Snook.  

Maybe, when QPR get promoted back to the Premier League, then Hannah can paint me a nice logo - no worries Hannah, it could be a while yet!


Thanks for reading, now go make the lasagne and let me know how you go!

Annie x

Tuesday 18 February 2014

The Real Greek - We Are Dining in W12!

 I was set a challenge, to take on a Westfield London restaurant's signature dish head to head. Had lots to choose from, and was torn between Mexican Wahaca, Brasilian Cabana and The Real Greek.................I settled on The Real Greek in the end, as I am more familiar to Greek food, (we have a Villa Annie in Crete that we frequent).

We headed to Shepherds Bush for the day (home to the mighty Super Hoops), and picked up my mum on the way.  The signature dish here was the Souvlaki, a popular dish across Greece, and served slightly differently depending on where you are.

In Crete the Souvlaki would simply be skewers of BBQ's meats, and if in a wrap it would be known as Gyros - which translates as "plate" i.e. it is a meal in one.
Here the Souvlaki was served in a flatbread wrap, with their own home-made tstatsiki, red onion, tomatoes, sweet paprika, and a choice of meats, haloumi or falafel.  I opted for the chicken.   It was truly scrummy, the flavours transported me straight back to the little shop in Kalyves where we often stop for lunch..........I must go back to W12 and try the other fillings too, I love haloumi/squeaky cheese as we call it  (though I would say this is more a Cypriot ingredient).

Anyhoo, I digress.  I have since produced my own version of this dish.   It was every bit as yummy, and I enjoyed making it, as much as I enjoyed watching the kids devour it.  We are off to Crete in April, and this has just served to make my heart pine for my little piece of Greece.........bring on the sunshine!

Annie's Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki, red onion and tomatoes in a flatbread wrap!

2tbs olive oil
2tbs lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of salt
500g chicken thighs (skinned & boned) and cut into squares.

Combine all the ingredients and marinade for a minimum of 2hrs, but longer if you have time.

For the tsatziki (this makes plenty)!
170g plain Greek Yoghurt (I use the Total 0% fat)
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 glove garlic, crushed
Pinch of salt

Again, combine all the ingredients and put in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

You will also need flatbreads, skewers, tomatoes and red onion, or whatever other fillings you like.  I also added grilled sweet peppers.

When you are ready to go, thread the marinated chicken onto skewers - if using wooden ones, make sure you have pre-soaked in water for at least 15 minutes.  Put under a medium grill for around 8 minutes a side, until no longer pink in the middle.

Load the flat bread with the chicken, a couple of spoons of Tzatziki (to taste), tomatoes, onion etc. wrap and eat.

In Crete, when you order the Gyros, they put chips in it too, the kids and Chris like it, but I always take mine out - a carb too far in my mind, but hey as you like it!

Thanks for reading!
Annie x

Sunday 2 February 2014

Slow Cooker Roast Pork with Crackling........YES Crackling!

No I'm not going mad, I was sceptical too, but you know what, it works and was bleeping delicious!  The picture speaks for itself...................

The idea is that you let the pork cook slowly in the slowcooker, then finish off in the oven for 45 minutes, around the same time it takes to make your roast potatoes.

Found this recipe at slowcookerqueen.com it's a fab website...... *goes off to search for more little gems*.

UPDATE: I have since used this method for my slowcooker "roast" chicken and it works a dream too :)

Thanks for reading!
Annie x