Tuesday, 31 January 2012

My Spag Bol

My Mum taught me how to make the classic Spaghetti Bolognese.  It was the only thing I remember Dad would ever cook for dinner.  I also remember it being a competition of whose Spag Bol was the best!

When I moved out of home at 18, Mum gave me a few of her classic recipes and a bunch of print outs from her Good Housekeeping book.

One of my favourites is still the Spag Bol so I have decided to share it with you here.  I have changed it only slightly.  I used to use a smaller quantity of beef stock as I found it quite unpredictable how runny the sauce would be using 1/2 pint but have since started using the new Knorr 'stock pot' instead as it's concentrated so the sauce is never too watery but still has a nice rich flavour.

Serves 4-5

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed (I use 2 if they're small)
500g lean steak mince
1 oxo cube
150g mushrooms, sliced (I like a lot of mushrooms)
1/4 pint of red wine
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1.5 tablespoons tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs (I ran out the other day so used Oregano)
Knorr beef 'stock pot' (or 1/4 - 1/2 pint of beef stock)
1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper (add more later to taste)

Parmesan to taste


Heat a little oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes over a low heat until softened.

Add the mince and stir until starting to brown.  Crumble over the oxo cube and stir.  Add the mushrooms and fry for 2 minutes.

Add the red wine, chopped tomatoes, puree, herbs, stock and salt and pepper.  (This time I also added some chopped sun-dried tomatoes.)  Bring to the boil then simmer gently for 45 minutes.

About 15 minutes before the end of cooking time, boil the spaghetti in plenty of salted water until al dente and taste the Bolognese sauce to see if you want to add more seasoning.

Serve the sauce over the pasta and grate over the parmesan to taste.  Yum!

Monday, 30 January 2012


OK, I lied - I'm afraid the honeymoon post isn't going to be finished today as I just checked and it's nowhere near written - it's the two after that I have prepared, oops!  Also, my book is just too good!!!  If you haven't read them I can highly recommend the Millennium books.  (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, etc...)  They are a bit graphic in places with severe violence but they are a really good read with great story-lines.

Please excuse the lack of interesting posts today as I bury my head in the last of the three books this lunch time while snuggled in my duvet before heading back to the day at work from hell!

Thank you ;)


I will try to get my next honeymoon post finished and posted today but it's been a busy weekend of baking, eating, seeing friends, obsessively reading my book (3rd in the Millennium Series) and celebrating 5 years with my husband!


Off to work now but will hopefully get it up at lunchtime.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Afternoon Tea

Today I enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea with some of my best girls!  I invited my girlfriends round to watch our wedding DVD (while Nik is at work) and belatedly celebrate my 30th (as so many of them were away or couldn't make it over the Christmas period - annoying birthday that I have!)  I LOVE being the hostess and getting to make and bake yummy things for my friends and making the flat look all pretty.  Unfortunately as organised as I like to think I am, I always end up rushing around at the last minute!  (Luckily Anne arrived early so helped me make the sandwiches!  Thanks Anne!  Oh and she also gave me a super cute green birthday card with a dragonfly on it!)

The flat has been a bit of a tip lately (as Nik's been working so much and I've been obsessed with my books) so we still haven't put the Christmas decorations back in the attic (they've now been shoved in the spare room), the study has been at a standstill since getting it liveable for visitors over Christmas and the washing/ironing has been piling up!  Hence yesterday was spent frantically trying to sort out the study and rest of the flat on my own.  It does tend to take an event of some kind to urge me on to tidy properly and get rooms finished!

The study is now pretty much finished - just need the last few files and papers sorted by Nik and a couple of boxes of 'memories' sorted by me (currently also shoved in the spare room so I could show everyone the new study today!)  I can't wait to show you the before and after pictures!

Luckily I planned ahead a bit and on Thursday I baked a blueberry & lemon drizzle cake and macadamia & chocolate slices.  Then today I made the rest of the goodies I had planned - cherry brandy muffins, cumin seed wafers, sour cream and chive muffins, Yorkshire puddings and bread.  (Nik mainly did the bread, I just baked it.)

Blueberry and Lemon drizzle cake

The treats went down really well (I was even asked for doggy bags as there was so much food)!  I will post recipes soon of all the cakes I made but in the meantime here are a few pictures...

Couldn't resist these green meringues from Wholefoods Market!

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Green Meringues

Cherry Brandy Muffins

Macadamia Nut Slices

Earl Grey or 'normal' tea

Sweet Chilli Pistachios in my cute new bowl from Sarah

Cumin Seed Wafers with cheese and olives (and other crackers)

YUM!  Yorkshires!

The savouries - Yorkshires with Roast Beef and Horseradish Cream
Ham Sandwiches (made by Anne) on Sesame Seed Bread or Parmesan and Tomato Bread
Sour Cream and Chive Muffins

We enjoyed stuffing ourselves (I made waaaay too much as usual - I always seem to pick dates when so many people can't make it, either that or maybe they secretly don't like my food  :-/ or me!? :-(  In the end I was expecting 8 and 5 of them came so we had plenty of food to go around) and then we settled down with the popcorn to watch the DVD.  I love watching it and could happily watch it over and over (in fact I did watch it twice today as Julie couldn't come until later so wanted to see it from the start :) )  Thankfully they all seemed to enjoy it too and it wasn't just me grinning away at our wedding day.  Cherry Tree Films really edit it in such a way that it's fun to watch and not just a series of events as they happened.

They have put our 3 minute highlights film on their blog if you would like to see what they had to say about our day (they said some lovely things!) and leave them a comment or have a look at some of their other beautiful films (I think I've watched all of them!)  The lovely Steve has also given me permission to embed ours here so here it is...

I am a bit annoyed at myself for talking so fast (as usual) and, like most people, cringe listening to my own voice but I still love it!

Thursday, 26 January 2012


I'm having a bit of a thing for heart prints at the moment.  Just in time for Valentines Day!  I have spotted a couple of cute things in the shops lately so thought I'd show you some of them (and of course did a quick on-line search for a few more!)

There are quite a few sweaters I am liking...

Oasis Heart Print Top £42 

Next - Block Stripe Sweater - £25

Also in Red - Next £28
Next - Heart Sweater £28 grey

Kookai Heart Print Cardigan £34 (in the sale)

I'm also loving this Oasis flared dress...

Oasis Fit & Flare Dress £25 (in the sale)

And this top, also from Oasis...

Heart Print Shell Top - Oasis £35

And this cute skirt from Next (you can't see the print very well in this picture but it has white heart outlines all over)....

Heart Print Flippy Skirt - Next £28

Have you spotted any cute heart prints, or other prints for that matter?  Think I'm off to burn the credit card!  

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Nik's graduation!

I still haven't written about my clever husband's graduation.  Mainly because it was just a week before the wedding so there was a lot going on at the time!!

Anyway, he did it, hubby graduated from his second degree (I know, he's mental!  One was more than enough hard work for me!!) and is now a fully fledged doctor.  Now the really hard slog begins as his chosen speciality is a small one and competition for training places is fierce.

But, for now, here are some pictures of us looking all dolled up for his big day before our big day ;)

Dressing down my hen night dress with wedges

Beautiful Bute Hall

Proud family :)

Proud Wife! (Although I was still a fiancĂ©e then!)

Modelling ;)

Handsome Hubby

Then we all went out for a yummy celebration dinner at Rogano...


Hmm, I must have been ranting about something funny!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Happy Birthday Mum!!!

Today is Mum's birthday and since she won't get her card in time (as it's still in my handbag, oops!) I decided I would use my blog to make it up to her ;)

I've always been very lucky that I can tell my Mum anything.  I seem to remember her being the stricter parent until I was about 17, when she suddenly seemed much more relaxed.  Although I've always felt like we were friends, it wasn't until I was older that I really appreciated her as one.  I suspect it's the same for most girls who just don't like being told what to do and it's only when they let you go off and make your stupid mistakes that you start to realise that these Mums are actually pretty wise and useful to talk to!

When I was 18, my Dad moved abroad for work and I moved out of home in my 2nd year at university.  I would say moved out for the first time, but it was the only time since (unlike all of my uni friends) I actually properly moved out.  I didn't go home for the holidays, I didn't go back to get washing done, I didn't have my own room there any more.  After two years (when my brother started university), there was no 'home' - it was rented out and Mum went to join Dad in Saudi Arabia.  My new flat was my home.  And I loved it!

It was during these two years after Dad left but before Mum went to join him that I grew even closer to her. We would chat most evenings on the phone - something I suspect we wouldn't have done as much of, had we been living in the same house (chatting obviously as the phone thing would just be silly!)  I specifically remember one year when I used to watch Big Brother (the year Jade Goody was in it) and after each episode, she would ring and we'd share our opinions and laugh about the shenanigans!  We would spend time together when she would come over the river (I was still only 30 minutes away from our village, in the big city) to go shopping in town or to visit when she needed to go to the supermarket but I never felt like she was trying to keep an eye on me, just that she wanted to spend some time with me.  We had great fun.

"That" knowing look

One particular thing I remember was when, for my parent's 25th wedding anniversary, Dad wasn't able to be home so he arranged with me to take Mum out in a Limousine (I forget whose idea that was) and he paid for it.  So off we went for an hour being driven around the city, just me and Mum and a bottle of Champagne in the back of this huge white Limo!  I had it drop us at the student's union and we continued to spend the rest of the night dancing away!  I just loved that I could take my Mum to the union, meet up with some friends and have a great night!  She was dragging me up to dance towards the end!

Me & "The Mums" in a club on my hen night - my MIL is pretty cool & stylish too!

She has an amazing sense of humour, she's stylish, she is a great listener (not that she has much choice most of the time!) and is fantastic at making all kinds of things, especially crafts.  I still remember the matching outfits she used to sew for us when I was little!  The rainbow check skirt being one that sticks out in my mind - I loved it!!

Out shopping with our Desigual (a favourite shop of ours) garments on!

Not quite so stylish in our Abayas (but still shopping)!

Nowadays I only get to see her once a year (sometimes twice if I'm getting married for example!) but we still have so much fun!  If I am visiting her, or we meet up somewhere else, we often go diving as a family.  We ALWAYS find time to shop wherever we are.  We have great chats about anything and everything and I really value that.  I know that she understands me, sometimes even when I don't understand myself, and she is really good at advice.  I know she gets frustrated with me sometimes (mostly when I try to do too much) but she still tries to help and somehow always remains calm, at least relative to me!  She reminds me of my husband in that respect - she is not a worrier like I am and she too is a calming influence on me.

Last year she really made a huge difference to me.  The year I got married.  I couldn't have done it without her.  By that I mean not just the organisation, support and crafting involved in creating our wedding day, but actually being the person that I am, which enabled me to meet Nik in the first place and also to realise that he was the perfect man for me (not perfect, absolutely not, but for me, yes) and to want a marriage and to have a marriage to aspire to.  They are now at 35 years!!

Mum looking proudly on (with Dad and David (brother))

I can't remember what she said but I'm sure it was wise or funny, maybe both!

We don't talk as often these days and I know Nik doesn't understand that sometimes we go weeks without a phone call or email.  Usually when nothing much has happened.  But sometimes we have phases of speaking almost every day - usually when nothing much has happened!  (Thank goodness for Martin Lewis and the 1.5p a minute deal on the CallChecker!)  That's one of the great things about having your mother as a friend.  She doesn't get upset if you don't ring for a while.  She doesn't care if you don't have much to say when you do ring.  She gets it when you phone just because you are ill even though she can't do anything about it (especially from thousands of miles away) and even when you sometimes can't actually talk.  She doesn't care if you are a bit mental and tell her all kinds of crazy exciting things, or just phone to cry at her about something ridiculous.  She DOES get a little mad if you forget her birthday though.  (I did that once and it was awful!)

So, thank you Mum for being my Mum.  I am very lucky to also have you as my friend.

Love you!

Your card will be posted today and you will receive it sometime in February probably (hopefully!)  I haven't forgotten, I just didn't remember in enough time.  

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