You find me just a few hours away from my milestone birthday. I have had a really tough week causing me a lot of heartache and making me question some of my key life choices. On top of that, I need to value life because I was lucky the other day to survive when travelling in a car when the brakes suddenly failed. There is lots more but perhaps some things really don’t need to go on the blog.

At core, I am perhaps stronger than I think and more special than I am often treated so let’s get back to my fantasy birthday wish list.

N is for nudes. I have loved nudes for years possibly since seeing some amazing pencil drawings in the Master’s Lodge many years ago. I wish I had taken down the name of the artist as I remember the Master saying they felt the artist would do very well and that they had made a very good investment. It appears I may be getting a large painting of a nude woman for my birthday. The painting already holds memories because of where it is currently displayed and if I do get it I suspect it will stay with me for life.

O was a letter I struggled with but a friend suggested an overseas trip would fit the bill. I would love to visit Italy next although long-term I want to go to Russia and fulfil that childhood dream.

P is for perfume because my current bottle of Poison is running out fast. I don’t know whether to replace it or try a new fragrance entirely. I like bold in your face perfumes. P is also for penguins as I love anything related to them.

Q is super-easy as it is for all things Queen. Don’t Stop Me Now and all that!

R is for Radox as I still think it is so very lovely in the bath.

S is for seals because I have loved them ever since visiting Gweek Seal Sanctuary with my parents as a child. When they asked what I wanted to do on the last day of our holiday, I insisted we return to see the seals and one in particular who had been shot through the head. I wrote to the founders afterwards and they wrote back and I had an autographed book about the place for years on end. S is also for soaps as I love those quirky home-made types with vibrant fragrances.

T is for tantalus because I miss the ones my parents had holding 3 decanters. I don’t know why I found it so exotic perhaps because it was locked and I had no idea where the key was kept. T is also for theatre because it is perhaps the thing in life I love most. I have not been a lot for the last two decades, one of my great joys lost in the marriage and parenting mix. This needs to change. It is my life too!

Unconditional love – this was a friend’s suggestion and it is something I crave. I am not sure I have ever had it and it must be wonderful.

V is for vin or wine but as I will spend my milestone birthday with new French friends let’s leave it as vin.

W is for wok because I do not have one currently. My first was bought by a college friend for my 21st and it sparked an interest in Chinese food and one pot cookery.

X is for Xylopone because I want one. It really is as simple as that.

Y is for yoga. I have always wanted to get into this and made some attempts but never seem to stick with it. Again the issue is about me taking time to work on myself rather than just cleaning, working and parenting.

Z is for zebra-patterned knickers because I was struggling and an old school friend suggested this one. Well, why not?

Which of my choices do you like best?

My Random Musings
3 Little Buttons

Confessions of a New Mummy

Cuddle Fairy

Let’s talk burgers. For me, a burger is all about the topping. I adore a stacked burger, dripping with sauce, smothered in melty cheese, maybe a slice or two of crispy bacon.

I also love a burger when it’s dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles…and perhaps a squirt of mayo, mustard or ketchup. Let’s face it, the regular toppings will never fail to be delicious, but occasionally I want a burger with more character.

The one rule about burger toppings is: there are no rules! Burger toppings just got a whole lot more exciting. So fire up the grill, seize your spatula and prepare to wow your loved ones with my eight tried-and-tested, outrageously tasty ideas that really work.

1. Crispy Hash Brown Burger

If you’re like me then burgers and chips make an indulgent dinner, and this recipe combines the best of both. All you need is a fried egg, a couple of pieces of bacon and some Cheddar cheese. Then on top of my burger patty, I’ll add some hash browns. You can either buy potatoes, shred and cook them or just buy some frozen ones and cook them to save time (I use hash browns by McCain, as they’re super tasty and low in fat and sugar). This delicious burger is all about providing a solid base for the day.

2. Cheddar and Broccoli

Normally served as a side dish to pork or perhaps used in a casserole, this burger topping isn’t usually found between two buns and piled on top of a beef patty. But, I say it’s cheese – so the rules must bend. Just use 700g broccoli florets and 150g grated Cheddar. Heat some oil in a frying pan, add the broccoli and simmer, stirring occasionally for two to three minutes (the broccoli should look bright green and deeply charred). Cover each burger patty equally with shredded cheese and the cooked broccoli.

3. Feta, Cucumber and Mayo

It doesn’t matter how you cook your burger, I think they’re best served with a dollop of feta which really amplifies the flavour. My loved ones always ask for this delicious topping – I normally serve it on chicken burgers, and sometimes add some olives to ramp up the flavour! For this topping, all you need is 50g finely chopped cucumber, eight tablespoons of mayo, and 100g crumbled feta. Simply mix the ingredients in a bowl and top over your burger. If you like, dress with lettuce and tomato.

4. Avocado and Black Bean Spread

Create black-bean spread by using a can of black beans, a touch of chilli powder, lime juice plus a splash of oil. Then blitz everything up in a food processor until smooth. The dip adds the wow factor to your burger, transforming it from a simple sandwich into a gourmet sensation, as well as adding some serious bulk if one patty just isn’t enough. On the bottom half of the bun, coat it with the black-bean spread, pop in your burger and top with avocado slices.

5. Blue Cheese Spread

While blue cheese might sound ridiculously indulgent, it really works – just a small smear on your burger makes it taste incredible. For even more flavour, crumble some blue cheese into a small bowl with some cream cheese and a spoonful or two of cream to make a heavenly spread. Use any leftovers as a dip for fries and veggies.

6. French Herbs

Why not whip up a French-style burger topping like the chefs do? Fancy French cooks often flavour food with what’s known as a compound butter – softened butter blended with herbs and seasonings. For some extra lusciousness, mix butter with chives, lemon zest, and green peppercorns; mint, basil, and lime zest; or tarragon, parsley and marjoram. Your taste buds will be in for some serious zing.

7. Sweet Peppers and Blue Cheese

Adding slow-roasted peppers not only brings colour to your burger, but also a smack of sweetness. Get a selection of coloured bell peppers, slice into strips, toss with olive oil, and roast them for an hour or so at around 150°C, until they’re melt-in-the-mouth soft. Throw in a couple of hot peppers for a bit of heat and personality and top with blue cheese. Adding a touch of garlic will give an extra layer of flavour.

8. Tzatziki

Although this Greek-style dip is classically mild in flavour, you can jazz it up by adding loads of grated garlic to make it sharp enough to pal up with your burger. I make my tzatziki dip with finely grated cucumber, well-drained, full-fat yoghurt, garlic, and dried or fresh mint, so the spread doesn’t slide off the bun. To make it more Mediterranean, I use fresh tomatoes and onions, not forgetting a dash of crumbled feta.

When you’re next in need of some comfort food, try some of these alternative burger toppings. They’re great for a weekend treat or midweek meal, or bring them along next time you or a loved one fire up the grill for burger night!

My Random Musings

Many of us find selecting gifts for men a challenge. As women, our tastes can be very different and it is hard for us to get inside our men’s heads. To make matters worse, getting them to actually communicate what they would love can be an uphill battle. So if you want to treat a man in your life but don’t know where to start, here are 5 great ideas for men’s gifts that should help put a huge smile on his face.

Watch

Isn’t it great to see the return of watches on wrists? I think there was a period where we thought our mobile phones would do when it came to telling the time.  We forgot that watches can express individuality and are a key style item. I love a watch with a good leather strap and a really interesting face preferably showing different time zones or similar.

Jewellery

It is easy to see jewellery as the domain of women but why not treat the man in your life to a jewellery item that he can show off and keep long-term as a memory of a special time together. I remember college friends wearing bracelets and how fine they looked often choosing one that showed who they were as a person. Nowadays, there are beautiful and creative bracelets for men available or perhaps your man would prefer a pendant necklace?

Key chain

A lot of men I know love a gadget and a really simple one is a key chain with various useful items kept conveniently all in one place. It might include a screwdriver and a bottle opener which as we know can get you and your man out of many an emergency situation.

Bags

Bags are a good option for most men although obviously you should take his individual lifestyle into account when making your selection. If he like to be outdoors a lot, a rucksack may be  the very thing. Perhaps he travels a lot on business and would like a retro looking holdall in leather? Hip packs are a great option for the festival goer in your life. You could even pop an extra present inside the bag as another treat.

Old favourites

If you decide that none of the above are quite right for your special someone, you can fall back on old favourites like scarves, gloves and even socks. This is where you can bring in your creativity in finding brands that are new to him online. If all else fails, if you get a gift card you can be absolutely sure that he will like what he buys but I think a personal touch is better as it really is the thought that counts.

What would you love to buy the man in your life?

 

 

 

 

My Random Musings

With Christmas just around the corner, there are bound to be plenty of opportunities for evening drinks with friends after work. Perhaps you’re long overdue a catch up, or maybe you’re celebrating the end of the working year with colleagues – whatever the reason, you want to look your best. Choosing the perfect outfit to take you from the office to the bar can be tough – but it’s definitely possible!

These helpful tips will help you to find the right combination of office-ready and off-duty. Inspired by the latest trends from AW18, this desk to drinks guide is all you need to look your best this season.

 

No-fuss dressing:

It’s important to choose an outfit that doesn’t require too much preparation after you’ve finished work. Like every year, we’re embracing the glitz and glam of the winter season so include a touch of sparkle in whatever you choose. This chunky knit and skirt combo is perfect for a seasonal party, keeping you warm enough for when you’re walking from bar to bar but dressy enough for when you hit the dancefloor. The style of this jumper is ideal for the office, and the high-neck brings an edge to your workwear look. Simply pair with black jeans throughout the day and swap for a mini-skirt for the evening. Pair with your favourite pair of heeled pointed courts and clutch bag, complete with gold embellishments, and you’re ready for whatever the night holds.

If you’d rather change into something else before heading out, there are ways that you can work around this. Style down a jumper dress during the day with tights and flat pumps and dress it up on the evening with a cross-body bag and printed shoes. Black is the perfect colour for work-to-play as it gives off sophisticated vibes in a business meeting and creates a classy evening look when you head out to the bar. Accessorise with chunky drop-earrings and statement rings to complete the look. Fortunately for us, knitted jumper dresses come in a range of styles today, suitable for all shapes and sizes. Choose one with a leg-split for something that’s less formal where can show off your pins post-5pm.

From desk to dinner:

Of course, not every after work get together involves going to the bar, an after-work meal is also a great way to catch up with your friends. Style-up in this season’s colour palette — autumnal brown. Choose a culotte waistline to show off your curves but keep it formal with a jumper and blazer. When it’s time to clock-out, swap your smart coat for a leopard print jacket and you’re ready for the evening! Bringing together different garments from the same colour palette is an on-trend technique that’s ideal for work-to-play outfits — it creates a look that’s well put together and not too loud for work.

If bright colours are more your thing, you don’t have to stick to a muted colour palette; deep burgundy and emerald tones are always a hit and they don’t look too over-the-top for the office. A good way to make an outfit more formal is to add a tailored blazer and mid-heel court shoes, you can even tweak your look by wearing your hair in a neat bun to exude a work-ready vibe. Once you’re out-of-office has been switched on, remove your blazer and throw on a pair of block-heel mules or studded suede heeled sandals to give the illusion of beautifully elongated legs.

Additional tips and tricks:

If you’re heading out for a drink in the run-up to Christmas, you might want to think about staying warm. Maxi hemline dresses and buttoned-up, collared neck tops are ideal office-ready fashion, as they’re both formal and comfortable for important meetings and busy days. But what do you do in the evening? When it’s time for drinks, use a belt to cinch in your waist and create a gorgeous, party-ready silhouette. Then, throw on your tallest pair of heels to get you in the mood for a fun night out. Dress up your look with statement jewellery — think chunky necklaces, bangles, and big hoop earrings — then quickly slick on an extra layer of mascara and eyeliner and you’re good to go for a big night out in minutes.

 

 

 

I am a week away from my milestone birthday. How I have managed to survive 5 decades on the planet is a mystery. I intend to celebrate and to be proud of how far I have come through good times and bad. So for a bit of fun I thought I would imagine all the things I would like to have in my life over the next year or so. I should warn that the items on this list may be quite random – welcome to my world!

A is for Afternoon Tea and Abacus. Afternoon Tea is always delightful and I had an abacus years ago. There is something lovely about an abacus and I would like another one.

B is for blankets, Baileys and books. I love to read and am managing to find time to do it recently after a long dry spell. As my late Mum said, you are never truly lonely if you have a good book and fond memories. Baileys should speak for itself and I know is a guilty pleasure for many of my readers too. Blankets are important because I like to keep warm and snuggly. In fact, if I had enough blankets, I could also have a beach hut all year round!

C is for cushions, champagne and chaise longue. My other half hates cushions so the only ones we have are in my daughter’s room or in storage. My Mum always had cushions and I would like some of my own on the sofa to be enjoyed. Champagne is something I only truly enjoyed when I was a teenager on French exchange. It was very good and I think it spoiled me for lesser versions. So I am on a mission to find a lovely bottle of Champagne. I had a chaise longue but it was not retro enough and actually not very comfy either.

D is for duvets and decanters. I do enjoy duvets and the higher the tog the better. I want a decanter because my parents had them and so this one is pure nostalgia really.

E was a letter I struggled with. A friend suggested eroticism and once I find out what that is, I may well consider it.

F is for flowers and I would like some to be delivered every week. My other half buys them so rarely for me so I have started buying them myself from time to time. I would love the luxury of them just turning up on the same day every week.

G is easy because I have wanted a globe drinks cabinet for years. I know why of course. It is because my amazing Uncle Lawrence had one in the Seventies when we used to visit him regularly at his flat in London. I would also like a glitterball because I have just always fancied one.

H is another letter I struggled with. A friend suggested a hot tub but I would want one to myself as I am such a shy, introverted woman.

I is for Impressionist prints. I have always loved Impressionist paintings. I chose a card with one on to present to my parents when I got into Cambridge and we all took a day off from life to celebrate going to Ilkley and indulging in hot chocolate fudge cake.

J is another letter I struggled with. I used to want a Jaguar but I think that moment has passed. Maybe I will just settle for jelly either with ice-cream or in a trifle just like my Mum used to make – boozy and with deep layers of cake, jelly, custard and cream.

K is for kiss. I would like to have a kiss from someone who really wants to put one my way. Don’t they say you have to kiss a frog who will turn into a Prince?!

L is for lighthouses. My late Dad started this one off I think as he took us to Flamborough a lot. I used to hate it at the time but nowadays I love all things lighthouses and have often thought I would like to live in one. L is also for lamps because I would like to have lots of them just like my Mum did and have seen some spectacular ones recently in vibrant colours and that give off aromatherapy scents too.

M is for music, maxi skirts and Mah-Jong. I love an eclectic range of music. My other half does not like me to play it loud.  As he now has poor hearing and we have a bigger place, I can get away with it more. I keep wearing trousers and miss having maxi skirts but cannot seem to find any in the shops here. If anyone knows a good online store for maxi skirts, let me know. Mah-Jong is a game that my lovely Uncle gave me years ago but I was too young and could not grasp the rules. I do remember the set was beautiful and would like to finally learn the game before I am older and even more grey.

I warned you it would be random!

I will work on N-Z tomorrow!!

If you had to pick just one item off my list to receive yourself, what would it be?

Milestone Birthday

 

 

Cuddle Fairy