Saturday, 31 January 2015

January Round-up

I'd love a January do-over, anyone else?  How quickly did that month come and go?  Well, it's been a mixed bag of tricks this month, highs and lows.  So, to ease you in to my recap of January 2015, we'll start with something new that was both a high and low.  Mr G took a shower.

Not content with my washing him in a cat litter tray, he decided he wanted a shower.  But he wasn't meant to get his dressings wet.  So, he posted this on Facebook.  




You know, Facebook.  Everyone's an expert...  I rolled my eyes and went back to my book.  And then I look up to see this travesty in front of me...




'Help us, babe' said Mr G.  So, muttering to myself, I wrapped cling film around my husband three times.  But not before I took a photograph of him struggling to do it himself.   

'You want a hand in the shower?' I ask, hoping he'd say he could cope, but knowing he wouldn't.

'Please' he replied.  'I can't bend down to scrunchie my bits.'

Oh.  Joy. 

So, we're stood in the bathroom, him in the bath, water hitting the cling film and spraying everywhere.   Me scrubbing bits of my husband that no wife should ever have to touch without latex gloves. That wasn't in my wedding vows, I tell you.  And I have visions of some bizarre ER type scenario, where my husband is wheeled into resus with foamy testicles and wrapped in wet cling film like a joint of defrosting pork.  So I warn him not to bloody slip in the bath.  I wouldn't be calling the paramedics to face that scene.   




Mr G had his operation and although too early to tell, it seems to be a success.  He can't feel the 'inside' pain he'd been experiencing, only the pain of being cut open in four places.  He managed to pick up an infection too, so is on antibiotics.  Apparently there was extensive scar tissue from his abdomen to his liver.  Ouch! 

Before he went in to hospital, we went off for a romantic night away to Llanarmon to a cosy, romantic little Inn called The Hand Hotel.  I got magnificently drunk on red wine that was 15% ABV.  Fifteen. Per. Cent.  Absolutely mullered.




I've done a bit of cooking... recipes are all in the posts under 'January'.  Thanks to this, I've reached my target of a minimum of two blog posts a week.  

I've read a bit too, my Goodreads challenge needs updating but I can't do it on the ipad.  And hands down, the best book(s) I have read this month are by a lady called Chrissy Anderson, the List Trilogy.  The last time a book (books) got me this bad was L D Davies's Accidentally on Purpose Trilogy.  The List Trilogy is up there as a keeper, a re-reader, and also holds the honour of one of very few books that made me cry.  It doesn't matter whether you see Chrissy as a hero, or a villain, whether you'd have made her choices, or not, there will be something that you can identify with in her story.  For me, there was lots to identify with, but particularly poignant was the loss of her best friend to cancer, when I was reading it merely days before the fourth anniversary of the loss of my beautiful best friend Em to cancer.  Absolutely recommended as a must read.  

My eldest son has been conditionally accepted to University in Aberystwyth and Liverpool.  And that got me thinking.  I'm toying with the idea of going to college in September on an Access course.  The problem being... Access to what?  Because in two years time, my baby will start secondary school.  I'll be 41.  And I still don't know what I want to do with my life?  I can tell you what I don't want to study, but that leaves very little left.  I saw a Degree that was English and Creative Writing and Mr G thinks that would be great but I'm not sure...  I love writing but whether I'm any good at it is another matter.  I love to cook and bake but the thought of turning it into work doesn't appeal.  But that's looking too far ahead at the moment, I have to live for today.  And decide what to apply for in the first instance!  Ideas or suggestions in the comment form please!  

February tomorrow!  The 2nd sees a very auspicious day indeed in our household!  Groundhog Day... and our 13th Wedding Anniversary!  The 5th sees Mr G turning 53, and apparently the start of the 2015 Rugby League season, yay.  And good old Valentines Day on the 14th.  So I am currently recipe gathering and stalking ;-) 

And making lists, my lovely Mr G ;-) 

M x




Health/Beauty Review - Gwyneth Paltrow's Steam Clean of the... Lady Garden

I've been a long time admirer of Gwynnie's, I'd even go so far as to say she is something of a guru to me.  I spend hours daily on her 'Gloop' website, I would never have known how delicious Kale could be without her (handy hint, the best way?  Covered in batter and deep fried then dunked in mayo!  Mmmmm!) and although sceptical at first, the 'summer berries and walnut cleanse' did actually both make me feel like a new woman and make my farts smell more fragrant.  The next time though I may shell the walnuts first.

So, imagine my sheer delight yesterday when I saw that Gwynnie's latest advice for her sisters, was to steam clean our fadges.  Woop!  Scorn was being heaped on her by experts and gynaecologists alike. Pffffft, like what do they know, right?  I know who I'd sooner trust!   

Being on a budget, unlike multi-millionairess Gwyneth, I decided against hopping a plane to the US, and instead went to my go-to beauty therapist.  The one who colours my hair and cuts my toenails and  does the odd bit of topiary on my bush.  The one who gets paid in food.   Mr G.










Mr G advises extensive facial coverings for this treatment, but at the very minimum safety glasses.  A mask.  And those nose pegs you use for swimming.  Apparently some of the splashbacks and dislodged debris caused a fair bit of irritation to his eyes.  

*Disclaimer - don't try this at home ;-)  

*eyeroll* 

That woman... Whatever next?  

M x


Recipes - Creamy Tomato Soup and Corned Beef Crispbakes

First off, Creamy Tomato and Basil Soup.  I had tomatoes that needed to be used up, so I bunged these in in addition to the tinned tomatoes (don't judge me).



Ingredients:
Large potato, diced finely
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly 
500ml Chicken Stock
2 tins of chopped tomatoes, and any rogue ripe tomatoes you may have
Fresh Basil
2 tsp sugar
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Double cream


Method:
Soften the onion and garlic in a little olive oil, then add the carrots, potatoes and stock.  Cook for ten minutes until the vegetables have softened.  Add the tomatoes, sugar and torn Basil leaves (according to taste).  Adjust seasonings.  When cooled, blend with a hand blender.  

When serving, I stirred in a tablespoon of double cream and garnished with extra Basil.  I served this with toasted bagels.


The next recipe, Mr G is at it again.  When I was making my shopping list the other day, he piped up 'Do they sell those Crispbakes there?'.  No.  No they don't.  And not fancying a hike into town to M&S, it looked like I was making them...


Yes, I did have mine with salad and baked beans.  Rebel...

Ingredients:
1 large tin of corned beef
200g potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 onion, chopped really finely
3 slices bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
200g sweetcorn (optional).


Method:
Put the blitzed breadcrumbs into the oven at Gas Mark 5 to crisp up.

In a bowl, mash the potato, corned beef, onion, sweetcorn (if using) and Worcester sauce.  Check seasoning.

Shape the mixture into patties, dip in the egg and then into the breadcrumbs.  Place onto a baking tray and refrigerate until time to cook.

Cook for about 15 minutes at Gas Mark 5.  

So easy to make, and very cost effective compared to the price of store bought ones.  

M x

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Recipe - Tatws Pum Munud

This is the third time I've attempted to post this today.  Curse you, Blogger app.  Anyhoo...



I asked Mr G what he wanted for tea last night, and instead of the usual 'anything, you choose' (I'm cooking it, bringing it to you, then washing, drying and keeping the plates after... YOU choose! 😜) he asked if I would make a pan of Tatws Pum Munud, which is a traditional Welsh dish, and the name translates to 'Five minute potatoes'.  Why, is beyond me.  I've never cooked it nor prepared it in five minutes.  But I also don't care enough as to why it's called this, to Google it.  Other UK counties have their own versions of this with different names, and everyone makes and cooks it differently.  Growing up in Lancashire, Mr G's Mum would make this dish, but leave the bacon rashers whole.  Some people cook it in the oven, as opposed to on the stove.  Some people use stock, some just water.  Old potatoes make it more of a 'hash' whereas new potatoes stay firm.   This was my take on it last night.




Ingredients: (serves 4)
Olive oil
9 or 10 rashers of bacon, fat trimmed, and cut into pieces
3 small onions, sliced
2 large carrots, chopped
800g new potatoes, peeled and sliced about 4mm thick
380ml chicken stock
Ground black pepper

Method:
Heat a little oil in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat and fry off the bacon for about five minutes.  Remove from the pan to a plate.

Add the onions and carrots to the pan, add most of the potatoes, followed by the bacon, and the rest of the potatoes on top.  Pour over the stock, and give the pan a good shake of black pepper.  Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are cooked, stirring gently occasionally.




The dish shouldn't need any salt.  Serve with crusty bread to mop up the 'gravy'.  We like to eat this dish with baked beans.

M x

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Infection, infection, infection...

Mr G has an infection in his drain wound.  Standard.  The District Nurse came out to redress his wounds and immediately phoned the surgery for antibiotics.  He's in a lot of pain, but not complaining very much at all, which is unlike him.  The complaints have been coming from me, today.  Our new orthopaedic mattress seems to have cured my back problems by about 90%.  So, not pain free as such, but still, that's an impressive improvement.  Life changing for me after years of pain, from the moment I wake until I go to sleep.

Until today, where I am mid-sciatica attack, the spasms in my back coming in painful waves, radiating down my left leg.  I tried to explain to Mr G that I'd lived with the pain for so long, that it was familiar but unwelcome all the same.  I have no strong painkillers left - I've had no need to renew the prescription.  I know what the issue is.  The bloody camp bed.  My bed since Saturday night, while Mr G lies next to me on the sofa.  And as much as I don't think I can take another night on it (or the pain the next day), I won't leave him on his own.  When he wakes, I wake, and I get him his pain relief.  So he's trying to convince me that it will be safe for us to sleep together, but I know I'll probably end up kneeing him in his stomach or something... Ah well, the things you do for love, eh?

Insanity uttered from my family this week includes...

Lying in the dark in the living room...

Mr G: Thank you

Me: What for?

Mr G: Looking after me.  Doing everything.

Me: It's only what I do anyway, isn't it?

Mr G: I know... But.  What would I have done now, if I didn't have you to look after me?

Me: You'd have gone in a home.

Mr G: Yeah, one of those Clairvoyant homes.

Me: Convalescent?

Mr G: That's what I said?


Discussing the District Nurse's visit and Mr G's er... Current (lack of) hygiene issues...

Mr G: I'll have to be hosed down before she comes.

Me: I'll give you a strip wash in a bowl if you like?

Mr G: Maybe I could go for a shower?

Me: Are you meant to get the dressings wet?

Mr G: No...
 
Me: I'll do you in here then and get you dressed in clean clothes.

Caitlin: Why are you going to be washing him?

Me: Well, his nether regions and the like... You know... Need a scrunchie and a threat of Lynx?

Caitlin: *mutters* nether regions... Nether regions?

Me: You know... Down below?

We watch as the penny drops, and her look of confusion turns to abject disgust...

Caitlin: Oh Mum, can't you just... baby wipe him or... something?

Well, being the dutiful wife I am, I can proudly say, I did not 'just baby wipe' the love of my life.  However... I couldn't find a bowl in which to wash him in.  So.  I used a cat litter tray.  We don't have a cat, by the way.  Never have.  Don't ask.  I couldn't tell you.  Welcome to my world.  

In other news, the usual scaremongering about the weather, the impending snow etc... zzzzzzz... It's not going to happen.  Not on Anglesey.  Nevertheless, my Mother has brought forward her weekly shopping trip to Morrisons by a whole day (because the weather is going to be awful from Thursday) so tomorrow morning, I shall be escaping for a whole hour, to panic buy carbs and three boxes of wine.  Happy Days! 

Recipe - Sticky Banoffee Pudding

One of my most often made desserts is Sticky Toffee Pudding.  Ridiculously quick and easy to make, it can be whipped up in ten minutes and out of the oven a mere 35 minutes later.  As Mr G is out of driving action for the foreseeable, I'm trying to use up all the bits and bobs we have in, so that when I go shopping, I don't have to carry too much!

I have a load of dried fruits after last year's Christmas pudding making.  I found a bunch of bananas in my pantry that had started to turn black.  I wondered if there was something I could do with them.  I don't like banana bread, Banoffee tart was just too sweet (yes, there is such a thing sometimes!).  Cake.  Banana cake?  Or... What if I put mashed bananas in my Sticky Toffee Pudding?  Would it work?  Well!  Only one way to find out!


I'm no photographer, so I'll spare you the step by step photographs, but the above is a slice of the finished article before it was drowned in double cream!  

For the pudding:
150g chopped, pitted dates
250 ml hot water
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
60g butter or margarine
60g caster sugar
2 free range eggs
150g self raising flour
3 bananas, mashed (leave these out for plain Sticky Toffee Pudding)

For the Toffee Sauce:
100g butter
200g light soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
125 ml double cream

Mix the dates, water and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl, and leave to soak for ten minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.  

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the eggs, making sure they are well mixed in.  Still stirring gradually add the flour, then the date mixture (including soaking liquid), and the mashed bananas.  

Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 1lb loaf tin.  Put into the oven and bake for 35 - 40 minutes.

To make the sauce, melt the butter and sugar in a pan over medium heat.  When the sugar has dissolved, add the vanilla and the double cream and stir well.  Simmer for five minutes, stirring often.

Serve a slice of the pudding with lashings of toffee sauce, cream, ice cream or custard.

This went in one sitting.  Everyone had a little piece to try, to see if they liked it, and - they did!   I think it was better received than the original.  Although not strikingly different, the addition of bananas to the cake made it very moist, and very, very moreish!  Next time I'd definitely make two and freeze one. 

Ok, ok, I'd make four and freeze two ;-)

M x

Saturday, 24 January 2015

What a difference a week makes!

This time last week, we were sat by a roaring log fire, glass of red and pint of Guinness in hand.  This week, post-op Mr G is lying on the sofa, Lucozade in hand, covered in fleecy blankets and I am watching him like a hawk.  

Thursday came, and although he was third on the list, he didn't go to theatre until 1.30.  I phoned at 4, and the nurse told me that he was out of surgery, still in recovery and ok, albeit very confused.  So at 6.30 my brother's girlfriend and I went visiting.

As we reached his bed, this is the sight that met us.  'What the bloody hell...' I muttered.


His eyes were shut and flickered open.  I told him to stay asleep if he wanted.  He shook his head and was trying to talk.  A nurse came and took his obs and took away the mask, and brought him coffee and biscuits.  While I laughed at the state of him.  Animal print trolley bumpers.  Surgical gown.  Some plastic sheet thing.  Inflating stockings.  And the obligatory net knickers.  His nether regions looked like a shoulder of pork... 

Turns out that he was full of adhesions, joining his liver to his abdomen (ouch/yuk) so no wonder he's been in so much pain!

The nurse said he had been a 'naughty boy' in theatre, hence the cot bumpers. So he was pushed from theatre, through corridors, to his ward, with those on.  


By yesterday, although his consultant had given him the go ahead to come home, the nurses vetoed that decision as they wanted him to be more mobile.  So he decided to take their advice and stay in for one more night.  His appetite had returned anyway, so I took him chicken fajitas in!  He looked a lot better.  The nurses gave him his medication in his locker, bag was packed and they said once he had the once over from the Doctor he could come home.  

9 o'clock in the morning, the on call Doc was on the ward and he got the ok to come home!  Our friends Helen and Gavin went to pick him up and he was in the house by 10.  I was so pleased to see him, I can't put it into words.  


He's very sore, I've been pumping him with pain relief every four hours, and he's sleeping on and off but in himself, he's fantastic.  Just have to make sure he doesn't start doing anything stupid this time, no garden furniture, fencing or wooden outbuildings!  He's on strict bed rest until August.  

In other news, proud-mummy trumpet-blowing news... My eldest son has been conditionally accepted to Aberystwyth Uni and Liverpool John Moores!  He's still hoping to be accepted on the Computer Science course in Bangor University, that's his preferred choice, and I admit, that would be easier all round, including for my sanity!  But Aber isn't too far away, and Liverpool has great transport links home and to Manchester, so it's not the end of the world if Bangor falls through.  Still, fingers crossed!

M x



Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Overnighter - The Hand Hotel, Llanarmon DC

With four children too many to qualify for a 'dirty weekend', we occasionally get the next best thing, a mildly grubby night away.  In fact, a whole 24 hours to the minute from leaving home to arriving home.  It's days like this that confirm to me that my baby days are through.  My friends are all having late babies but the little tastes of freedom that I'm getting, reminiscent of the early days with Mr G (pre children) have reignited something in me.

So, at 12.22 pm we left.  We took the scenic route, planning to stop in Llangollen quickly to pick an anniversary gift up for each other.  Mr G muttered something about not drinking in the afternoon and I do believe he uttered a very camp 'I'll have a skinny latte or something'... 

I'm Vixen apparently

In Llangollen, we were, according to the sat nav, about 6 or 7 miles away.  This was about half past two. Result.  I could almost taste the wine, and Mr G was salivating over his... coffee.  So off we go down this winding country lane.  As we are about to turn...

Road ahead closed.

We look at each other.  I laugh.  When I say 'laugh' I mean something bordering on manic hysteria.  Decide to follow the original road, maybe we could pick up the lane further on.

No.  Because we own the worlds crappest sat nav.  Not only is her Received Pronunciation grating, but she doesn't even make an effort to pronounce the Welsh names right, and the worst thing of all?  In situations like this?  Where you can't go up a road?  Does she give you an alternate route?  No. She sends you round, in circles, back to where you came from, to face the same challenge.  We could be 100 yards from our destination, but she will send you back to complete it her way.  So, off we go, following our instincts.  Sat nag decides that to put us back on our original, untakeable route, she's sending us up a hill called Methodist Hill.  It was not far off vertical, and our car was built in 1993.  How it is still on the road is enough of a miracle, nevertheless.  I prayed all the way up, and at the top, we were barked at (literally barked at) to make a right turn that defied logic.  We finally managed to do a 74 point turn, and get the car facing said road, and we continue.  We see a gentleman walking, so Mr G decides to stop. 

Mr G:  Excuse me. We're trying to get to a place called Llanarmon, The Hand Hotel, but the road we needed to take is closed. Do you have any idea in which direction we need to head?

Stranger: stares at Mr G:  No. There's no pubs up here... 

Mr G:  Yes I know, the sat nav has brought us up here to put us back on our original route.  But the road is blocked.  Do you know how to get to Llanarmon? 

Stranger:  stares vacantly at Mr G.  
(I won't lie, thoughts of Royston Vasey play on my mind to an accompanying soundtrack of 'Duelling Ukuleles'.  Are you local? Special sausages etc.  Three minutes of uncomfortable silence pass between us, and...)
               
Stranger:  Well, I know there's no pub up here.   

Mr G:   Llanarmon? Any idea? 

Stranger:  No.  But then, I'm a stranger to these parts myself.

Ten years later.

The Northern accent was a giveaway, I was about to burst out laughing/into tears, undecided, and Mr G's face was a picture.  He thanked the gentleman and wound the window up before bursting into a foul mouthed tirade.  Including the gem 'f***ing Northerners' which, given that he's from Wigan, is a bit rich. So we discuss heading towards Chirk.  Because one of us thinks we remember Chirk mentioned on the website. At this point, sat nag is going nuts, still trying to send us back to Llangollen, and to punish us for our lack of compliance has put every turn about twenty metres out.  Which means we miss each and every turn because if we did actually turn on zero, at the point she tells us to turn?   We would be in someone's living room/a park/a supermarket or a stream.  

An hour and a half or so later, we complete our seven mile journey.  As we turn into the village, The Hand faces us and it looks idyllic.  



We grab our overnight bag and check in.  I ask if the receptionist has a hammer I can borrow to smash the devil's tool to smithereens.  She laughed.  But I wasn't joking.  We were shown to our room, I took the obligatory 'pre messing it up with your crap' photos...


Mr G turned from a latte drinker into Father Jack, announced 'Drink' and dragged me downstairs to the bar. 

We had a game of darts... My first three darts, I hit - the wall, treble 20 and outside bull.  Still a long way off a nine dart finish but the look on hubby dearest's face was priceless.  I realised that I throw darts like a girl.  It's not as easy as it looks.  And Mr G is probably right not to let me near ours until he can reinforce the walls.  We played pool and I was beaten twice, because I also play pool like a girl.  I pot two of my balls, the cue ball, and nine times out of ten, the black.  As standard.


We went to the bar and grabbed a bench by a blazing log fire, then spent about an hour chatting with a lovely couple who were friends of the owners.




We had a dinner reservation and had a lovely meal.  Mr G had locally made burgers smothered with Welsh cheddar on a brioche bun with home made chips and salad, and I had the biggest Chicken and Gammon pie, which had a creamy sauce over it.  Mr G had Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert, he ate it before I could get a pic.








We had a few more drinks in our spot by the fire before retiring to our room.  I won't tell you what we did there...

Ok.  Truth be told?  We watched Match of The Day, had a coffee, took an antacid and fell asleep before midnight #hardcore 

In the morning, Mr G asked what the weather was like.  'We're snowed in' I told him.  Jokingly.  He went to the bathroom, glanced out of the frosted window and came back to our room, opening the blinds quickly.   


Not quite 'snowed in' but more snow than we see at home! 


We had a lovely breakfast, I even tried black pudding for the first time in about thirty years, took advice from staff as to which way to return home, scraped the snow and ice off the car, before setting off very tentatively down country lanes. 



We decided to head for Wrexham to pick up the A55, and give coming back through Llangollen and Betws y Coed a wide berth, just in case it was snowy and icy all the way home!  

So all in all, a very enjoyable break away, touched only slightly by the usual lunacy that follows us.  We highly recommend The Hand, the owners and staff were all lovely, and so helpful.  The food was outstanding.  The room is probably the nicest we've stayed in, and the bath was massive!   Nice touches were a cafetiere and proper coffee in the rooms (as well as instant) and decent biscuits.  Not a custard cream in sight.  It was a nice way to take our minds off what's happening tomorrow, I can't believe that another year sees yet another operation, it's getting beyond a joke now.  Fingers crossed that this op will do the trick for Mr G and he can get back to his happy, pain free self.

M x

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Recipe - Fakeaway - Doner Kebab with Chilli Sauce



Ok, so now I am officially 'Best Wife Ever'.  A title which, after last night, is rightfully mine, and can never, ever be taken away from me.  I made... Doner Kebab... in my kitchen.  I saw the recipe for this on a Facebook page I follow called 'Feed your family for about £20 a week'.  They have some great recipes for frugal and budget eating, and this was one that piqued Mr G's interest. I'm no longer a huge lamb Doner fan, I find it too fatty and greasy.  I'm the chicken Doner fan. Nevertheless, anything to please my lovely hubby.  And save a heck of a lot of money into the bargain!


For the 'kebab' meat:
500g lamb mince
1 tsp Salt (original recipe, I used less, but would include the full amount next time)
1 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Dried mixed herbs


I put all the ingredients into the processor and blitzed it until it was all combined.  Then I shaped it into a lump.  A lump, is the best word I can use to describe it.  Lol.  I'd preheated my slow cooker to High, and in went the lamb lump.  This took 4 hours to cook on High* (6 if you cook Low).  I then made my chilli sauce and red cabbage.

Chilli Sauce:
1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 tsp mint sauce
25 ml vinegar
2 hot red chillies, seeds and all
1/3 tube tomato purée

Into the food processor, blitz until only little pieces of the onions, garlic and chilli remain.  You can make it hotter or omit chilli seeds to tone down the heat.
 


  

When the meat was cooked, I sliced it thinly and assembled the kebabs.  First I heated the naan bread, then added iceberg lettuce, sliced onions, tomatoes, the meat, red cabbage (recipe for this is with the Chicken Doner fakeaway) and then the chilli sauce.  Voila! 

 

Observations.  
  • The meat was drier and less fatty than a takeaway kebab.  Obviously the less fatty is good, the drier not so...  *After speaking to a friend on Facebook, she told me that it was being debated on a slow cooking group as to whether this should be wrapped in foil as it cooked.  That the meat would remain moist, but the downside would be that all that fat (and there was a lot that came out!) would remain within the meat.  As a result, I cooked the meat for 2 and a half hours 'naked' and for the last hour and a half, I wrapped it in foil.  It wasn't unbearably dry, don't get me wrong.  The addition of salad and chilli sauce, that moistened it up a lot.  However, next time I will wrap the lump in tin foil as it cooks for the duration and then see what the lesser of the two evils is.  
  • The meat tasted like kebab meat, but didn't have the smooth texture, it was more like a burger.  My daughter commented that it tasted authentic but healthier.  Mr G thought the taste was 'spot on', he liked the texture of it, but still prefers the texture of the real thing.  Mr G particularly liked that he could pick the whole thing up and eat it and there was no fat or grease dripping out of it (many a T Shirt has been ruined by this takeaway!).  I ate and enjoyed mine, but as I said previously, I'm not a huge fan of lamb Doner anyway.  Another bonus is knowing precisely what went into it?  Every scrap was eaten, and on the whole really enjoyed so I think it can be marked as another fakeaway success.  Would I make it again? Definitely, I think Mr G will be wanting it at least once a week!  
  • I used 500g of lamb mince and this made three kebabs.  I'd bought this amount of lamb with the intention of using it for three adults and one teen girl.  It actually did two adults and one teen girl, and it has to be said that there wasn't loads of meat, as there would be in its takeaway counterpart.  The next time I make it, I would be inclined to double up on the recipe (I have a double slow cooker) and then freeze any leftovers.  This, of course, is a joke.  Leftovers?  In this house?  Please.
  • Even doubling up the meat, to make four hefty, meat loaded kebabs for four adults, the cost of the naan bread (which falls if you make your own!), the salad, and the chilli sauce ingredients, and assuming that you have a decent basic spice cupboard which contains salt, pepper, garlic, cayenne and dried herbs! - I estimate that this could be made for about £12, which is about the cost of two kebabs from a takeaway.  So - not the cheapest of fakeaways, but if this is your thing?  It's not a bad little recipe.  Do check out their Facebook page 'Feed your family for about £20 a week' for other great ideas. 
To finish off, I see that over the last few weeks, my other fakeaway recipes have been my highest read posts, so it seems that a lot of people are belt-tightening?   Have you had any good results with fakeaways?  Let me know in the comments (with a link to a blog post if you have one) and I'll check it out :-)

M x

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Circumference of an Onion...

It's so hard getting back into a routine, any routine at all.  And possibly pointless, because in a few weeks I'll have to scrap it and assume a new routine.  So my days are currently being spent in a weird hybrid of blind, silent panic and frantic, silent list making and plotting.  I drive Mr G crazy with my lists and my need to have everything mapped out to a tee.  He made this clear by writing, on MY memo board...

'Make a list to list things not on other lists'

The cheek of it.  He may mock, but, that list actually does exist.  Just don't tell him, ok?  I like to look at it this way.  My plotting means that when we go on holiday, everyone has everything they need.  When we go camping, I have lived out each and every day in my head, from dawn til dusk, including on occasion prebooking activities and printing tickets... And as such, I remember to pack the tin opener, and a sharp knife.  Ever tried cutting raw onion with a plastic picnic knife?  He mocks me whenever I pull my notepad out.  He rolled his eyes when I found a list app for my iPad.  Now, when I'm tapping away, he thinks I'm on Facebook or emailing someone.  He doesn't realise I'm mapping our future out for the next decade.  And planning our meals until June.

My name is Shell, and I am a control freak.  One of us has to be.  And my control-freakery makes sure things like this happen before the event, when they can't happen after...

Mr G's op falls 11 days before our anniversary and 14 days before his birthday, so it looks like yet another occasion falls victim to his operations (I've missed a Mother's Day with him in hospital and he was even operated on on my birthday a couple of years back. Best.  Birthday.  Ever).   Even though I'm sure he will be home, he won't be up to going out, and probably not up to getting merry with friends at home.  So I arranged babysitting for the four children, and went behind his back to book a night away in a cosy little inn in one of our favourite parts of the country.  I already hold the Lifetime Achievement award of 'Best Wife EVER' after 2014's stellar performances in 'Summerhouse' and the sequel 'Drumkit'.  But it doesn't help to remind him occasionally, just how bloody lucky he is to have me.  So on the 17th of this month we're off to The Hand at Llanarmon!   


Breakfast and evening meal booked.  Me, him, wine, no children?  Romantic much?  Every time I think about it I laugh like Candace does every time she thinks she's going to bust her brothers.




You're probably wondering what today's blog title is about, right?  Yes, you've guessed it.  That man gone done it again.  Yesterday, I was a bit out of sorts, and bless his little heart, Mr G helped me cook tea, and then got up, went in the kitchen, washed all the dishes and pans, cleaned down the stove, steam mopped the kitchen floor.  He then came in and sat down.

Mr G:  What's circumference?

Me:  *wondering if this is a trick question, as per* Erm...

Mr G:  This is probably  the wrong word.  But aren't onions circumference?  It's not the right word but you know what I mean. 

Me:  *deadpan*  Seemingly not?

Mr G:  You know, they go with anything, don't they?  Steak, cheese, salad...

Me:  Versatile?  Is that the word you're looking for?  Versatile?

Mr G:  Yes.  

Last but not least - I am going to be adding to my 'Fakeaway' series of recipes.  In previous years I've done a Chinese dish, an Indian dish, and a Chicken Doner Kebab.   I've now found a Doner Kebab fakeaway that I want to try, so I'm going to be inflicting testing that on the lovely Mr G and the children tomorrow.  If it's not a complete disaster, I will post my results.  If it is a complete disaster, I've got Just Eat on standby for the real thing (#winwin) but I am confident.  Like a boss ;-)

M x

Monday, 5 January 2015

Happy New Year!

It has been 29 days since my last post... Time certainly has flown by, hard to believe Christmas was eleven days ago!

Mr G isn't very well at all... zonked on the sofa on morphine again, poor guy.  We went to Maelor in December to see Mr Makwana and it appears that only one of the metal 'anchors' used in the reconstruction is working. The one that moves his ankle up and down is ok, the one that moves side to side isn't doing the job, leaving his ankle unstable. It was apparent he was in a lot of pain, and the consultant said something about tendonitis. Decided to try him with some injections in his ankle as a last resort before surgery.  He had his pre op on the 15th of December for the phantom gallbladder, and a couple of days later received his op date, 22nd of this month. Ye Gods.  He is in excruciating pain, but really worried about this particular surgery, which isn't like him.  I'm worrying too, about him, about what happens if this surgery doesn't resolve the problem, if it makes it worse, and the usual 'having to hold it all together, all by myself, and not being at all prepared for it' panic.  I will hold it all together though. I always do, and I always will. 

Christmas was a funny one... We'd received a phone call from my ex the week before Christmas to say his father was very poorly, so Mr G and I took Dan down to Manchester.  Talks between us all concluded that it was better for him to stay with his father over Christmas, so for the first time ever, I didn't have my eldest son with me on Christmas Day.  It made it feel a bit flat, but the important thing is that Dan got to spend time with his Grandfather and all his family on that side and hopefully leave him with some nice memories for years to come.  We all had lovely pressies, we were very lucky and blessed indeed, and we ate so much Christmas Dinner that we couldn't manage my homemade Christmas pudding!  We eventually had it on New Year's Day, when we had a second Christmas dinner for Daniel and my in laws.

Santa came and destroyed my living room...

Missing Dan...

Spot on!

Woop!

A lot of women would be gutted/file for divorce if they received stuff for the kitchen for Christmas.  Not I.  Oh no, not I.  You can keep your diamonds, gold, Pandora charms and the like.  I'm not the high maintenance one in this house (Mr G, in case you need ask).  You want to make me happy?  Breadmaker.  Soupmaker.  I've coveted one of these meat slicers for years, because I am terrified of blood + knives + cutting myself = appallingly cut meat.  

New Year's Eve was a cosy affair, my sister in law and husband and friend and daughter joined us. We shoved the heater and power on in the shedpub and got tipsy on wine and licorice Sambuca!

Bartender! 

In other news, I've been enjoying watching the Darts World Championship, my favourite Mike van Gerwen was knocked out in the semis though.  I bought a dartboard three weeks ago and Mr G won't put it up in the shed until he has a board to put it on. Something about holes in the walls? As IF. He of little faith!  I've put 'hit 180' on my '40 before 40 list' (more on that later...) and he rolled his eyes at me as if I'd said something unrealistic.  I might add '9 dart finish' to the list, just to finish him off.  This is he who came out with this, the other day, in the car...

Mr G:  Look Adam, in that field. An Alpaca!
           (Pause)
           Oh wait. No it's not. It's two sheep, sleeping...

Hero?  Three chords.  Three...

I've been really impressed with an app called Readly.  I'm not a magazine reader, but this is for cost purposes rather than content.  If I could afford it, I'd buy every cookery magazine every month, but they're not cheap are they?  I took out a free fortnight trial with Readly, and what impressed me was that it was just that, a free trial, no card details required. I find this is how a lot of companies suck you in, when you forget about cancelling. Or the small print, which you rarely read, makes it difficult to cancel.  With Readly, you have access to hundreds of magazines. Not only the latest editions, but the back issues.  Not just UK magazines, but US ones, Asian ones, European ones. One membership can be shared over five different devices, so for our family size it's ideal.  The cost in the UK is £9.99 a month, which is less than our newspaper bill was. We were so impressed with the variety that we cancelled the paper delivery, and took this subscription out.  Examples of the titles and genres for those in the UK; cookery magazines Olive, Delicious, BBC Good Food, Eat In. Women's weeklies such as Chat, Pick me up, Take a break. Women's glossies such as Instyle, Marie Claire. Craft and hobby magazines like Make and Sell Jewellery, Card Maker. For the children there's Match, Beano, Dr Who Adventures. For my husband there's his childhood favourite Commando!  Oh, and he's a tad obsessed with the US Cabins and Timber homes ones. Lots of car magazines, photography magazines, gardening magazines, sports magazines, shooting magazines, boat magazine, knitting magazines... You get the picture. Well worth it for the two week trial alone, or if you spend over £10 a month on magazines!  Less clutter and better for the environment!  The only downside is, if your magazine comes with a free gift, you don't get it.  If you're a parent, this means less flimsy plastic crap to squirrel away.  Always thinking...

Plenty of goals set for 2015. One is to stop wasting time playing games on my iPad. So I've deleted them. Another is to blog at least twice a week... Halfway there!  Another is to quit Facebook. Or at the very least streamline it. Get rid of the -ists, the intolerant, and ANYONE who shares anything posted by Britain First. The usual start-of-the-year stop wasting/buying more food, so we are eating randomly for the next week or so... that's just for starters ;-)

I turn 40 next year, and so I've started on my '40 before 40' list. I've got about 8 items on it so far.  One is really special and exciting, but as you know, the curse... The curse... My lips are sealed until nearer the time!  
So all in all, very little to report over the last month, but I am really excited about 2015. Once Mr G is out of hospital and recovering, it has the potential to be, and I'm certain it will be a great year for our family.

Also huge congratulations to our friends Nicola and Chris on the birth of your twins!  Can't wait to meet them!

M x