Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Comfort food for the mind

How do you deal with stress and that general feeling of yuckyness you get when something’s bothering you but you can’t quite pinpoint what it is or everything’s bothering you and it’s all just too much of a blurry mess to figure out? That feeling of living in a bowl of spaghetti I suppose, or like you’re trying to make lasagne sheets out of spaghetti, order out of chaos.

Some people run (like jogging, not running away although plenty of people do that…), some people eat buckets of ice cream.  We all have a ‘go to’ activity that we do when we’re feeling a bit ‘meh’!  That one thing we do that consistently makes us feel happier.

I clean.  Cleaning is my ultimate comfort food activity for the mind.  It helps me to work through the chaos in my head at times and while I’m working my way from room to room, making everything perfect, sparkly and shiny, I’m also processing thoughts and emotions which kind of just disappear into thin air as I go.  The result?  A tidy house and a pretty tidy mind with everything in a bit more order.  

Sometimes I want to make huge breakthroughs in lots of different areas of my life but know that there is no miracle overnight solution (the walls that need painted, the carpets that used to be perfect until the puppy came along, the loft that needs tidied, the fitness target I want to achieve, that extra half stone I want to lose!) but the one thing I can do and achieve, all in the one night is a perfectly tidy house.

My ‘comfort food’ activity is my battery recharge time, my ‘in my own bubble’ time and if I didn’t have it, I’d surely go mad.  And…my house would most certainly look like a bowl of spaghetti.

It’s my ‘time out’ when things become overwhelming and I find it difficult to break everything down into bite size chunks.  Cooking also works (specifically soup making – there’s something therapeutic about chopping, stirring and blending).  Gardening’s good too.  It has to be something positive, so opening wine and Kettle Chips is not what I would class as a ‘comfort activity for the mind’, but it is a pretty fabulous reward for a tidy house.

And of course, filling the house with beautiful candles, flowers and general pretty things!


Table set

So I posted a whole month ago and promised a table reshuffle and I kept my promise.  It's taken a month to reshuffle.  A few key dishes have been sent back and on the whole I've managed to create more space at my table for lots and lots of great things to happen.

I'd say a month is enough for a life reshuffle.  No more shuffling.  It's amazing what happens when you break through to the other side.

I have the road clear to do the things I love and writing is one of those things so will be posting every day now.

I should really start sharing the stuff I write for my newspaper lifestyle section since it's seemingly good enough to be published and paid for in pounds.  Hmmm - let's see what I have...  It might be too early for a Cocktail of the Week but I'm sure my Give it a Whirl might be just the thing!

Happy Wednesday!


Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Moveable Feast

I like to think of life as a moveable feast.  

I often have far too many plates at my table.  Sometimes I have too few and that feels a bit odd so making the decision about what to actually have on that table can be a difficult one and it's a decision I've stretched out for far too long.  I say far too long, it's not actually been far too long.  Life has a way of adding and removing dishes without any logic or predictable pattern that it can be difficult to see what the basic layout of that table should be.  The fundamentals. The 'nice to haves'.  The jazzy extras. The stuff you know you should be eating but really just want to push right off the table.

I've had to wrestle with the notion that having a full table doesn't mean you have to keep everything on the table.  Sending a dish back with a 'It's fine - I won't be needing any more of that' is a bit of a gamble.  Hmm - what if I fancy a bit of that later?  What if I need a bit of that later?  What if I can never have that again?

See?  Not easy.

My table really was too full and what's more, it was too full of dishes which bore no relation to one another.  So in one corner I had some mashed potato, with a bowl of jelly next to it.  In the middle of the table I had an enormous roast haunch of venison with a side serving of roast potatoes and Skittles. A Thai Green Curry served with a giant bowl of Angel Delight (albeit Butterscotch) and a baguette. A beautiful cheeseboard served with chocolate animal biscuits.

Every dish fine on its own (probably with the exception of the Angel Delight) but a bit of a dog's dinner really, or a super feast for a 60s dropout from San Francisco.

So - I made the decision to send some of these dishes back and to move some of the other stuff about.  I sent the Thai Green Curry back.  I kept the roast haunch of venison.  The Skittles and the Angel Delight sit together.  The baguette and the cheeseboard are getting to know one another better.  The chocolate animal biscuits have been joined by a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

I made the decision to stop consulting.  So, at the moment, I no longer run my PR Consultancy.  I wanted to remove the overwhelming responsibility for the success or failure of the PR for a number of different businesses.  I was spreading myself too thinly, flying by the seat of my pants and feeling unreliable, scatty and generally disappointed with myself.  With nobody else to share that responsibility, I decided that things would only go in one direction and I wasn't prepared to put my professional reputation on the line or disappoint clients.  So I called the waiter.  The Thai Green Curry was removed from the table without too many splodges spilling over and marking the tablecloth and it all stopped.

I chose professional integrity over money which is completely bumming I have to say every month when Mr School Fees comes knocking but I know it was the right thing to do.

So, my table is looking a bit different now, but reassuringly so.  I have a great job - I am so, so lucky and that's my main focus.  I realised a little while ago that writing is my biggest passion and that I had been a bit lost in the wilderness without a voice for a while as I tried to figure out what was what and what to do really.  Working, running a home and sleeping has pretty much been my life this year and really just allowing life to take its course.

A year ago to today, I resigned from a job because it felt like the right thing to do.  Everything in my life was thrown up in the air and I didn't know where all the pieces were going to land.  It hasn't been a simple process of just picking things up and getting on with it.  When everything in your life is thrown up in the air, you question every single decision you make from that point on.  Throw 'Turning 40' into that, and you've got the perfect storm for a midlife crisis.

Crisis has been averted by making some bold decisions.  I believe if I had continued to work an almost full time big, big job with running a PR consultancy, a clothing business and a home (single handedly), someone would have suffered.  Probably me, more than I did.

So, having gone full circle now after the decision I took a year ago, I'm liking the look of table.  I have no doubt there will be more dishes added but at this stage in life, I'm definitely going to be making sure that they are the right ones to complement my feast - my solid staples with side portions of madness.

And I'll be doing lots, lots more writing.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Steal Her Style - Kylie Minogue

If you were watching The Voice this week, you couldn’t fail to be wow wow wow wowed by Kylie’s drop dead gorgeous gold number.  We can’t all be as beautifully perfect, tiny, slim and dinky doo as Miss Minogue, but we can wear gold dresses and still look fabulous!

Hers was Stella McCartney, priced £3125.

Ours is M & S.  Not as slinky but just as dinky.

Scoop Neck Jacquard Prom Belted Dress, £89, Marks and Spencer.


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Cocktail of the week - Champagne Limoncello

With Easter just a hop around the corner, you’ll no doubt be planning get togethers with families and friends and perhaps wondering what to serve to make your bash go with a zing and swing.  We are over spoiled with recipes at Christmas but when it comes to Easter, it’s the same old same old.  It’s always about the lamb and the chocolate eggs, and while I like tradition and all that goes with that, I like to put my own twist on things, do things a bit differently and add a bit of interest and “oh my goodness what was that?”, so this Easter, I’m serving up these for friends and anyone else who hops by!


8 (3 x ½ inch) lemon rind strips
8 tablespoons Limoncello
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 bottle Champagne/Cava/Prosecco – whatever fits your budget


1.     Roll up each stip of lemon rind and place 1 into each of the eight champagne flutes
2.     Add 1 tablespoon liqeur an ½ teaspoon juice to each glass
3.     Serve immediately

Lemoniscious.  Like Springtime in a glass!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

New take on a comfort classic!

So I've been writing about all things food and cocktails and having parties and doing all that whilst working full pelt at around 200 miles an hour.

I'm surprised my oven even knows who I am, but it does and I have a bundle of great things to share.

When I do a party, I do a proper party.  None of this, rocking up with a bottle and sitting having a natter.  Nope.  Parties should be fabulous.  If they're nothing but fabulous, it's just drinking wine with a bunch of mates.  So...all the stuff from the party later including recipes, choons, and a details of a fabulous new party within a party that one of my gorgeous friends has started in my next party post.

In the meantime, if you're feeling a bit like your tummy needs a wee hug today, throw one of these together with a cup of tea, or a glass of wine if it's been that kind of day and give yourself a big pat on the back.  It's hump day - the rest of the week is all easy down the hill!

Grilled cheese

The humble cheese toastie.  Images of pre-greasing the insides of a Breville toaster to prevent burning stickyness and still producing something that looks like it was hurled out of a volcano spring to mind.

With Restaurant magazine reporting that the toastie was one its top menu trends for 2014, I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about and why.  As if I needed to, I’m a piglet for a toastie!

The cheese toastie has to be the ultimate in comfort food (unless you are eating a toastie similar to the one I had a couple of weeks ago which I don’t think even had any cheese in it…just a lot of toastiness…) and done well, this is proper old time classic of a winner!

There are some simple things you can put a new twist on and it’s great or even better than great, and some things you can’t.  Beef bourginon, leave as is, cheese toastie – let’s play!

So here’s a cheese toastie with a bit of a difference.  This is what was voted one of London’s Best Sandwiches in the Food Network’s journey through sandwich land, served up by Kappacasein in Borough Market.

Recreate at home using my recipe for one hungry person!

80g good cheddar, grated
20g Gruyere cheese, grated
2 slices of sourdough bread
2 tsp of finely chopped red onion, leek and crushed garlic

Assemble the sandwich and place it in a hot, lightly greased griddle pan (if you don’t have a panini toaster), place a frying pan on top and weigh down with a couple of cans.

Cook for about three minutes until crust starts to brown and the cheese melts through the pores of the bread.  Flip a couple of times so it cooks evenly, make sure you don’t overcook.