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Simply is the Best

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts.” 
– A A Milne

After Road Trip Junkie I’m aware that not everybody loves Haribo as much as me. My auntie wrote to me after and said that she didn’t agree with the “Haribo thing” and that she would take a ham sandwich on her road trip. There are various reasons why I wouldn’t take a ham sandwich on a road trip. (I like bread, unfortunately it doesn’t like me so much.)

However, this simple statement did get me thinking about sandwiches, or more to the point, the best ham sandwich I ever had.

There is a little bakery in my home town called Shephards*. They do a beautiful white poacher (I call it a mini french stick, but apparently its not! who knew?) Along the road is Lyells’* the butcher, proper ham….none of your papery animal of non description here….this is real ham, from a real pig, done by a real butcher. Then there is iceberg lettuce (cold and crispy) and tomato (not too ripe, just nice with a bit of bite) and a light sprinkling of salt.

Serve on a plate, one that you remember since you were a little girl, the one with French writing and a chip in it. Pour a packet of crisps (ready salted) onto the plate. And get stuck in.

That was the perfect ham sandwich. It was one of those sandwiches that from the first bite you knew that you never want it to end. It is the sandwich that no other sandwich will match in the history of sandwiches, for me at least. Other sandwiches are good, some are even epic, but this is MY sandwich, and I will never forget it as long as I live.

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What’s your best sandwich memory? it may have nothing to do with the sandwich at all (we know how memories work!) I would love to hear yours.

*Both Shephards Bakery and Lyells’ Butchers are in Wide Bargate, Boston, Lincolnshire

 

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Road Trip Junkie

“I’m on my way from misery to happiness today (uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh)”

-I’m On My Way, The Proclaimers

A road trip holds out something that other trips don’t. I’m not sure of the appeal but they always make me excited.

Over the years there have been various road trips I’ve taken. The earliest one I remember is when I lived in Australia and I drove with my friends Jesse and Joy from Perth to Albany. We drove on the coast, via Margaret River (wine making country) And, by fluke, went at wine festival time so we took full advantage of the tours, the samples and the nibbles – no drinking and driving of course! We even went to visit an olive farm (are they called farms?) Food, but mainly wine, featured quite heavily on that trip.

When I moved back to England and got a car, driving journeys changed. I was petrified when I first started driving in England; I soon got the hang of it though.

As I hadn’t had the chance to see much of the UK growing up I wanted to see the country I was living in, so my then housemate and I went driving up to the Lake District. We literally ate our way round the lakes.

The little B&B we stayed at was literally 2 mins walk from a brewery pub (I really wished I could remember names, sorry) so we saved one afternoon specially to eat there. A main meal, a side and a pint each left us both feeling pretty stuffed… But not defeated! Soldier on we did, and order dessert we did (along with another pint.) The dessert arrived on a plate as big as a planet and I am ashamed to say that I physically could not finish the desert nor the ale. I had never eaten to the point of physical pain like that before. This is testimony to the deliciousness of the food and ale. Following the feast, it took us about 15 mins to walk back to the B&B to lay flat for about an hour – just long enough so we didn’t feel like we would actually burst at the seams. Having recovered, on we went with the rest of the day. I would like to say lesson learnt, but…

…this is just one of many many road trips.

Carlisle (red rope liquorice trailing round the car), Scarborough (waffles on the beach), Whitby (THE best fish and chips at Magpies), Cornwall (looking at a rough map, pointing to a cheese farm and actually managing to find it) Scotland (ranting over chips), more recently Glencoe/Fort William and various other places (Equi’s Ice-cream on a snowy day.)

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The thing is, all these trips have something more in common than the friends who went with me, and that commonality is found in a loyal, dependable and trusty… snack! I am not a very pleasant person if I get hungry, and you need to take out a loan to eat at a service station now therefore road trips need snacks. A staple of any of my journeys has been Haribo. That artificial flavouring and the rush of the sugary high makes for the best sing-alongs, waving at other car drivers and conversation going. The come down is not so nice… but then there is always more Haribo!!

So here is to road trips, to the sights seen, the company, the destinations but mainly to the gummy bears who were always there for us when we needed them.

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Hobbes: Why is this snowman looking at a snowball?

Calvin: He’s contemplating snowman evolution.”

– Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

I don’t do cold. I hate feeling cold, I hate being out in the cold, I don’t like the cold full stop. Fully armed with this knowledge I decided to up sticks and move to Scotland about 2 years ago. By choice, to the frozen North.

Not the brightest spark hey?

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As much as I hate the cold (did i mention that i don’t like the cold?) I do love winter. I love all seasons equally, I’m not into season favouritsm (Summer!!!!) But there is a certain charm about Winter, I’m sure you would agree. The bright blue skies and the frosty mornings. The fact that your duvet becomes magnetic and is unable to be separated at all from the mattress.  The way that your mattress sucks you in and just will not let you escape until you utter the magic word – but to remember that is just too much effort and you fall asleep again. The fact that you don’t have to stay up late to see some amazing sunsets or get up ridiculously early for sunrises of equal beauty.

Snow as well.

I am not ashamed to say that I get as excited as a little kid on Haribo and fizzy drinks about snow. I love it. I love the clean look. How overnight all the ugliness of towns and cities and the like are gone. The way the world seems so much brighter even if the sky is dull and manky. I also like that everything goes that little bit slower. Mainly I like that because I am lazy and I hate to rush. So the fact that I HAVE TO slow down and take everything steady and its not my fault is brilliant. I love that snow sneaks up on you, I love that one minute you can see everything, you put your head down and the next time you look up – BAM- you’re stuck in a snow globe. I love the crunch underfoot. There is no happier time than walking in the snow at night while the sky glows of the streetlights off the falling snow and listening to a good bit of blues. Beauty in a moment.

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I am not a big outdoor person. In fact I’m not at all an outdoor person. I am the least outdoor person going. I like the great indoors. Being an indoor person is also good during snow. And I have just the hot chocolate for the occasion. You have to earn this hot chocolate by going out and making a snowman or just wandering like a grinning idiot in the crunchy white stuff.

Whatever you choose to do earn it mind!

Warm you from the inside Hot Choc.

Milk (enough for 2 mugs)

1 chilli (or be daring and make it 2)

1 cinnamon stick

1 pinch of ginger (big pinch if you’re like me)

1 tsp Honey to sweeten (taste and make sure, you can always add more)

Bournville Cocoa Powder (Follow the instructions on the pack using some of the milk you have already measured out)

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1. Make a small slit along the skin of each chilli, just enough to show the seeds

2.Heat the milk in a saucepan along with the cinnamon stick, the chillies, and ginger on a low heat

3. Mix the cocoa powder as instructed on the pack 

4. When the milk is warmed up, add the honey and the cocoa mix. With a whisk, mix thoroughly

5. Take out the chillies and the cinnamon stick and serve.

Now, last but not least, winter music to drink this to:

Goodbye Old England – Laura Marling

Long December – Counting Crows

White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes

Winter – Joshua Radin

January White – Sleeping at Last

With a good winter warmer and a good soundtrack even I can stay warm in Scotland.

YEY! There is hope yet.

“What do you mean he don’t eat no meat?
Oh, that’s okay. I make lamb.”

-Aunt Voula, My Big Fat Greek Wedding

I always have this quiet mini panic whenever I have to cook for a vegetarian. It’s really quite unfounded, because I can – and do – eat vegetarian food and quite frequently cook meals without meat, without even realizing it. So it truly is quite silly.

This evening, we decided to invite a couple of friends over that we’ve not seen in what feels like forever, despite the fact that they live just round the corner, to come for dinner and a good old fashioned catch up and a movie.

Vegetarian alert! Followed by slight panic.

I raided the veg shed, and found two butternut squash. Excellent, vegetables…now…what to do?

As I’ve started my blog up again I have found some fantastic blogs. So I thought I would turn to my fellow bloggers and their tried and tested recipes.

Enter ‘eat like a girl’ what a fantastic site!*

Oh how I long to eat like a girl. Oh how I long to have a page so well established with so many followers as ‘eat like a girl’.

Then I saw it there….nestled quietly in the recipe corner minding its own business, there was my savior!

Butternut squash, chickpea and spinach curry.

Even just reading the ingredients smelt good.

I checked down the list. I had pretty much everything (I will admit that I didn’t have coriander, and also really didn’t have time to get it, so I did it with everything but that.)

In went the medley of spices….the smell was amazing. That smell that warms the nostrils and let’s your tummy know that it’s gonna be a good night tonight.

In went the butternut squash, being smothered in the spices (cheeky little chunks, they loved every minute of it) then in went the rest.

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I was amazed. This was not just turning out to be a good vegi curry. This was turning out to be a flipping good curry, full stop. This was a celebration of the butternut squash! This was a full on fiesta of flavour and colour….it was a playful attack on the senses, much like a tickling fight, except a lot more pleasant.

The curry in the tasting stages was so good that I had to write and tell the author of the blog, Niamh, how utterly in love with this curry I was.

Come the evening of the meal (curry is always better the next day of course) we all downed our respective bowls… with a squish of lemon on top (don’t miss that out as it really does makes such a difference.)

Well guess what? We all went back for seconds.

We mmmmmmm-ed and aaaaaaaaaaah-ed our way through it all. I had thought that I would cook a bit more than planned, as I usually cook too much for meals, that we would have some left overs for the next day. Nope, no such luck here….it was gone baby! We downed the lot….followed by a catch up, topped off  by meringue, raspberries, blueberries and cream and The Count of Monte Cristo.

What an evening.

What a curry.

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*www.eatlikeagirl.com

http://eatlikeagirl.com/2008/11/04/butternut-squash-chickpea-and-spinach-curry/

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”

-George Bernard Shaw

Do you ever wonder what you’re thinking about when you don’t actually appear to be thinking of anything? Just me? Maybe. I decided to make a conscious effort to remember or be more aware of what I’m thinking when I actually appear to be thinking of nothing. (I need to clarify, I’m a massage therapist so my job doesn’t use a lot of brain activity and I use public transport A LOT! So I had plenty time to conduct this experiment.)

The next day at work I put this in motion. In with my first client of the day, a full body massage. Excellent, this gives me an hour and half of in-my-head time. Massage/experiment commence.

Thought pattern goes as follows:

I like Parma ham (yes I really did think that)

I really do like Parma ham

I like Parma ham on its own. Oh but it is nice with a good mozzarella, cracked black pepper, a little salt, sliced beefsteak tomatoes and ripped up basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Oh yes, I do like that.

But its also nice with figs, fresh figs. Well I think its nice with figs. I always buy figs with this intention but I really like figs and I always eat them before I get the chance to do anything with them. I really must make an effort next time I get figs.

I wonder if scrambled eggs with ripped up Parma ham on top is nice too? I’m sure it is, because Parma ham is just amazing generally.

This is a scaled down version. The fact is that I thought about Parma ham for the whole duration of the massage. Not only that but proceeded to think about Parma ham for the rest of the day.

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Amazed at myself for actually being able to do this for a full day (also secretly a little proud too) I went home that night and told my flat mate what I had discovered.

Far from being impressed, she could not believe that I had managed to think about just Parma ham for a whole day.

“How?” She asked

“It starts with Parma ham and then goes on to what you can do with it.”

“But…HOW? All day?”

“Its quite easy. So what do you think about, then, when you’re brain is wandering?”

“I don’t know really. I’ve never stopped to think about it.”

And as a passing final comment on the matter, I replied,

“You should try it”

Try it she did.

She informed me of this one afternoon while hanging out the washing on one of those rare sunny Scottish days.

“I did that thing you said about”

“What thing?”

“Thinking about what you think about.”

“Oh yeah? How’d that go then?”

“Well I did it while I was on the way home on the bus just now”

“And?”

“Well there was this guy at the front of the bus. And I saw his hand.”

I’m already really not able to guess where this is going. But I like to wait for the main bit as her stories always seem to be slightly off key.

“And I thought ‘he must be Russian because his hand looks Russian. But then I thought he might be Scottish chav. But then I saw his thumb again and thought his thumb looked Russian.’ ‘”

By this point the washing is not actually being put out by me anymore because I am in a heap on the grass, just about crying with laughter.

“A Russian thumb?”

“Yeah” she replies all defensively. “Russian thumbs are different to Scottish thumbs.”

When I had stopped laughing just enough, I had to ask, “So was he Russian or Scottish?”

She replies with a dead pan face while continuing with the washing, “Neither. He was Polish.”

“I’ve moved in with some friends now….the best way I can describe them is, that they are adults who eat cereal at night time.”

-Jon Richardson

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There is nothing quite like a PJ day is there? I do love a well earned day where you switch your phone off, ignore everyone, don’t open the curtains and have to do nothing at all.

The thing is, I’ve found that if I leave everything to chance then nothing much ends up happening at all. So, may I advise a list for your PJ day? I have found this be essential to fully appreciate the simple enjoyment of nothingness. If you think that making a plan for a day that should be spontaneous makes it sound less fun – Oh – you could not be further from the truth my friends! I have tried it and tested it. IT WORKS!

Two lists are needed.

LIST 1:

This list is to include films to be watched, which are to be pulled off the shelf and placed into 3 piles on the floor in front of the TV (yes, no and maybe piles.) That way you won’t have to rummage about finding them (or not finding them) in the wrong boxes and argue over what is to be watched on the day. Much less stressful I am sure you would agree.

This list also includes tasks to be completed throughout the day. Well, “This would be asking a bit much!”, you might say – granted that would be the case if these were laborious tasks such as ironing or hoovering. But, no! These tasks should include things such as: laying in (to be ticked off the list upon getting up, thus making you feel like you have accomplished something just by getting out of bed and putting you in a good mood for the rest of your slobby day), face masks and soaking feet. So not exactly a taxing list…but very definitely achievable.

LIST 2:

THE most important list ever. The ‘things to be eaten’ list. My last PJ day list goes as follows:

Cuppa (tea for me, coffee for flatmate)

Chicken wings, Kettle chips and salad

Ben & Jerry Ice-cream (a tub each, preferably Chocolate Fudge Brownie)

Toasted Bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon with a glass of OJ

Quality Street (they needed eating!)

Hotel Chocolate chocolates (freebies! they always taste better)

Crumpets

chocolatey cereal (bought specially for the occasion)

The order is irrelevant, though bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon is a mighty fine way to start any day, especially a day with a list full of nothing to get done.

We derived great satisfaction in ticking off the foods from the list, it was actually quite sad how quickly one of us would reach for the list to scribble off the last food or film. Also how annoyed one would get if the other one beat them to it.

Personally, I believe our PJ day was such a success because of the organised list. We watched everything we wanted to watch, we did everything we wanted to do, and most importantly we ate everything we planned to.

See, lists CAN be fun.

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For the perfect ending to a PJ day. You really must put on clean PJ’s to go to bed.

Snackage

Person A: ”
Did you know, Bramley Apple Pies are only 48%
filling?”

Pesron B: “But…how do
they KNOW that the pie will only fill 48% of
you?”

-Anon

I’m not from a particularly large
family. I mean I have the usual grandparents, aunts, uncles and the
likes. I myself, am an only child. (I can hear the sharp intake of
breath already!)

Cooking has always gone on in our house, and it always seemed as if it was for more than the three of us. There were always left overs. As a kid, I thought the best meals were the so-called “hotch-potch” meals (next to beef wellington of course), the ones made from all the left overs.

So it
stands to reason that when I moved out of home and into a place
with a housemate I discovered that I am physically incapable of
cooking for one or two people. Four, five, maybe even six people,
yes, not an issue. We ALWAYS had left overs!

Our endless leftovers made for some
interesting dinner combinations. Bolognese and rice with salad is
one I particularly remember. (We sat on the picnic blanket in the
back garden laughing at our mismatched yet delicious meal.)

It got me to thinking about odd
food combinations.

Recently a friend who adores jam on
pancakes added butter to the equation and declared to the whole of
the breakfast table, “You HAVE to try it! It far surpasses any
previous pancake experience you’ve ever had.”

Another experiment with a friend of
mine: S’mores toast. It was a lazy day, with lazy weather and lazy
people. So a lazy breakfast was required. Toast is pretty lazy. So
how do you experiement with a lazy breakfast when you feel
lazy?

You put nutella
on the toast, followed by peanut butter, followed by marshmallow
fluff. A very sticky, messy breakfast designed to stick to
everything it touches!

We all have our little comfort
snacks. Here are a few that have been shared with me:

toasted pita bread
and marmite

cream crackers and peanut
butter

cream crackers, butter and
jam

ryvita and
pate

digestive biscuits and
cream cheese

brown bread and lettuce
sandwiches, with a glass of milk

cornflakes and ice cold
milk, at night

The list could go on, it is endless,
the food combinations – limitless.

Never turn your nose up at someone

else’s snacking preferences. Either try them, or just embrace the
fact that they choose something different and that they are not
munching on your snacks!

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