31 January 2012

The Best Cheese on Toast in the World Ever!

I can read your minds, you know.

"Oh Sandy, why are you telling us how to make cheese on toast? We know how to make cheese on toast."

Of course you do.

We can all make cheese on toast, but this is no ordinary cheese on toast. Oh no, this is the best cheese on toast in the world EVER!

Salad cream
Sliced tomatoes
Dried mixed herbs
Salt and white pepper (optional)
Sliced or grated cheddar cheese (compulsory)

Toast the bread fully on one side and a tiny bit on the other side to stop it going soggy
Spread with butter, then marmite, then salad cream

Add a layer of tomatoes, a sprinkling of dried mixed herbs, and season

Finally add the cheese and put under the grill


You're welcome.



25 January 2012

Handy Bendy Sandy

I've always been pretty flexible - hence the nickname. I first took a yoga class ten years ago. It changed my life. I knew instantly this was the exercise/hobby/lifestyle choice for me and I practised every day, for years. I last took a yoga class the day before I went into labour with Presley. That was four years and five months ago. Since then I've practised progressively less and less. I'm stiff, I'm off balance and I'm tense. Last night, finally, I found a new class.

I unrolled my yoga mat, relieved that there were no cobwebs or moths inside. I stepped onto it, feet bare. I felt connected to the mat, to the floor, to the studio, to the earth, to me. I slowly and gingerly laid down. I began to relax and lengthen. There was a little more space between each vertebrae with each out breath. I could feel the curves of my spine on and off the mat.

As I made each movement my muscles remembered, the cat, the cow, and the downward dog. My shoulders were tight and mostly unyielding, but with each twist I unwound. I remembered how to breathe and when. Finally, becoming a corpse, all stress oozed away. With tears in my eyes I knew I was in my spiritual home.



20 January 2012

1 2 3 4 5

1 Husband
2 Children
3 House moves
4 Homes
5 Years married

Happy Anniversary, Andy.

I love you more each day.


17 January 2012

Why I'm Glad I Always Carry my Swiss Card

I wasn't a boy scout, but boy am I always prepared.

I'm the woman with the bulging handbag. I've always got a pen, paper, parking money, tissues, water, painkillers, plasters, a mirror, a hair clip, chewing gum, lip balm and hand wipes.

I also always carry my Victorinox Swiss Card. I think I must use one of the attachments every day. If the light is good I'll whip the tweezers out and tidy my eyebrows (apologies to anyone watching me in the nursery car park). If I notice a rough nail, out comes the nail file. I use the scissors for crafting, the blade as a screwdriver - why oh why can't you just change batteries any more? And I'm always finding a use for the pointy thing, most recently freeing a toy strawberry from a toy cup.

My Swiss Card came into its own today. I had to cut myself free from a toilet. Yes, that's right, I was tied to a toilet.

Warning: Only read the next bit if your stomach is strong and you don't mind TMI!

As if having to go for a poo at the supermarket wasn't bad enough, I realised  - while I was sat there - that the ties from my shirt were dangling in the toilet bowl. I tried to gently lift them out and clean them with toilet paper, but they were sodden. Then I remembered I had a pair of scissors on my Swiss Card. I carefully unhooked my handbag from the toilet door and cut the ties from the shirt. I then wrapped them in toilet paper and put them in the bin. I was free!

It was kind of like having to gnaw your own arm off to get free, but not quite so painful.


13 January 2012

Roasted Veg Recipes

I adore roasted veg, although I have to admit it's a little tedious chopping these

into this

When I roast veg I usually use both my roasting tins and make loads and loads and loads.

Did I mention that I adore roasted veg? Aside from the fact that it tastes amazing, it is also good for you. It's vegetables. Depending on your portion size, I'm guessing you could get your five-a-day on your plate quite easily.

My choice of vegetables (chopped into 1cm cubes):

Butternut squash (peeled)
Sweet potato (peeled)
Red pepper (deseeded)
Yellow pepper (deseeded)
Green pepper (deseeded)
Onion (peeled)

I season with salt and pepper and add fresh or dried basil.

I then drizzle generously with olive oil and mix well.

I always add a whole bulb of garlic to each tin, as individual, unpeeled cloves. These roast along with the veg and give the most amazing flavour. Roasted garlic tastes different from normal cooked garlic.

I roast my veg at 200 degrees for 40 minutes to an hour, until it's soft.

When the veg is cooked take out the garlic cloves. It is helpful to count them in and out again. Squeeze the soft roasted garlic out of each clove and either simply serve with your roasted veg or use in a sauce.

Here are a few recipe ideas that make the most of all that lovely roasted veg.

Roasted Veg and Pinenut Lasagne

Roasted veg (as above)
Roasted garlic (as above, mashed)
45g Pinenuts
Lasagne sheets
400g Passata
250g Mascarpone cheese
50g Cheddar cheese (grated)
50g Italian hard cheese (grated)
125g Mozzarella (sliced)

Heat the mascarpone, stirring until it becomes liquid. Stir in the roasted garlic and the passata

Layer the lasagne in a dish. Start with 1/3 of the roasted veg, sprinkle this with 1/3 of the pinenuts, followed by 1/3 of the lasagne sheets, then 1/3 of the tomato and mascarpone sauce. Repeat this process two more times.

Top with the grated and sliced cheeses

Place in the oven (pre-heated to 200 degrees) for 40 minutes

Serve with salad

Pasta Bake

This uses the same ingredients as the lasagne, but with pasta shapes instead of lasagne sheets.

Make the tomato and mascarpone sauce (as above)
Stir in cooked pasta (75g per person - dried weight) and the roasted veg
Pour into an oven-proof dish
Top with the grated and sliced cheeses
Place in the oven (pre-heated to 200 degrees) for 30 minutes

In this version the roasted veg will break up as you stir it into the sauce. Perfect for any veg-shy children!

Roasted Veg, Halloumi and Minted Couscous

50g Couscous per person (dried weight)
Chopped fresh mint or a tablespoon of prepared mint sauce
Large knob of butter
Roasted veg
Roasted garlic
75g Halloumi per person

Prepare the couscous as instructed, then stir in the butter and the mint
Top with hot roasted veg, roasted garlic and roasted Halloumi (chop into 1cm cubes and add to the tin of roasted veg for the last 5 minutes of cooking)

Puff Pastry Tarts

Roll out ready-made puff pastry. Cut into 4 squares (to serve 4). Top with roasted veg, pinenuts and cheese, leaving a 2cm border around the edge. Cook in the oven as per the pastry instructions.

Filo Parcels

Prepare large squares of ready-made filo pastry (a couple of layers should be enough). Fill with roasted veg and cubed feta cheese. Gather up the edges of the pastry and scrunch at the top to seal. Cook in the oven as per the pastry instructions.


Roasted veg works really well in wraps. You can also add left-over roast chicken or cheese or couscous or all of the above.

With Salmon and Rice

Bake salmon fillets in the oven for 30 minutes in a tin foil parcel containing lemons, olive oil, butter, a little white wine or water, seasoning and basil.  Serve with rice and roasted veg. This works best with peppers, onion, courgette and aubergine.


12 January 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Jeans - Evans, circa 2002. Every time I wear these vintage jeans I am aware it could be the last time. They have a 'designer' rip in the buttock area. They're a bit drafty in the winter, but us fashionistas have to suffer to look fabulous.

Jumper - TU at Sainsbury's, 2011. A new addition to my capsule wardrobe in a classic charcoal colour. I anticipate this piece will see me through several winter seasons.

Pants - M&S, circa 2007. Stylish*, yet comfortable.

Socks - Next, 2010. Pale pink with a hint of grey on the soles.

Bra - The Sale at Debenhams, 2009. That's what Debenhams is called now, there's always a sale at Debenhams.

*Not really

For bloggers modelling nicer clothes than mine, check out...


10 January 2012

Reasons to Love Living in Milton Keynes #5

Milton Keynes is a new city. It was carefully planned.

My next-door neighbour moved to our village in the 1960's, when - quite literally - Milton Keynes was all fields. She loves telling the tale of the time a bull showed up in her garden and the police thought she had been on the gin.

She is a bit of a hoarder and recently gave me the information pack she received from the Milton Keynes Development Corporation in 1972.

You know what? They succeeded.

Milton Keynes is beautifully laid out. The grid system of roads and roundabouts means the traffic flows easily. Navigation is straightforward and alongside every road are trees. There are thousands of trees to obscure the new housing estates. There are woods and parks and lakes and canals and hedgerows. There are 270km of redways, safe paths that crisscross the city for walkers and cyclists.

The detailed plans in the information pack were accompanied by an artist's impression.

This must have frightened the life out of the existing residents!

Can you spot David Blaine in the ice block? How prophetic.

Thank goodness the giant Dalek is just a figment of someone's fevered imagination. It's a shame about the slide though...


4 January 2012

What is the Point of Social Media?

Oh how the world has changed in just a few short years.

In January 2009 I had an old fashioned mobile phone and sent a few texts. I sent the odd email too. I used Amazon and Ocado, but did little else online on my old PC. I had no idea what a blog was. My children were 16 months and 4 months old. I was a stay at home mum and I spent my days chasing my tail. We walked to the shops most days, with Presley in a pushchair and Cash in a sling. I sat with my babies as I fed and played with them.

Skip forward to January 2012 and some things are still the same. I use my old-fashioned mobile phone to send a few texts. I send the odd personal email. I shop online, not just at Amazon and Ocado, but elsewhere on the internet for toys, clothes, electrical appliances and things I don’t really need from Lakeland. I'm still a stay at home mum. My children are now 4 and 3 years old and attend nursery for 15 hours per week. We walk to the shops and the park. I sit with my children at mealtimes and play referee when they fight over toys.

The big change in my life is social media. I have a smartphone and a laptop. I’m a member of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, many forums and Blogger. I have over 500 blogs in my Google Reader.  I play Words With Friends.

I could, if I chose to, spend all day every day flitting around in my online life. Is social media a hobby, that can be put aside, or is it something more?

How did we keep in touch with our real-life friends before Facebook? Now we read their status updates and click ‘like’ or comment with a ‘dislike’ as appropriate, but are we really in touch with them or is Facebook a poor substitute for friendship? When did we last chat on the phone or meet up in person? And don’t get me started on Facebook’s appaling privacy record…

I sometimes find it bizarre that people tweet about the most personal of events. They ‘live-tweet’ births, deaths, accidents and relationship break-ups. It just seems a bit… needy to me. Are we all just attention-seekers looking for some kind of validation by telling the world that we’ve just thrown up, or that there are only thirteen sleeps until our holiday or that we’ve written an unmissable blog post?

Does a tree really fall in a forest if there’s no one there to Twitpic it and tweet ‘Timber LOL’?

Of course Twitter can be wonderful if you need advice. I have made some genuine real-life friends through Twitter and hopefully I have other friends there that I haven’t met yet, but I often feel like I’m wasting my precious spare time tweeting and chatting when I could be writing or learning to sew or even – yes, really – cleaning the house. Perhaps I don’t value these friendships as much as I should? I see other online friends chatting happily together every day and I feel left out. I wonder if I need to participate more. I wonder if they see me as their friend even though I don’t tweet daily. Can you have real friends in social media without that time commitment or is it a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’?

I am incredibly nosy, that’s why I love reading blogs and looking at people’s photographs. I tend to lurk online more than participate (sometimes I simply don't have anything interesting to say) and I notice that some people seem to be online all day every day. Even Christmas Day. Surely this is the one day of the year when the online world should pale into insignificance as you spend time with your family. Live. Be in the moment. Step outside the social media bubble. Catch up with your online buddies another time.

I did an experiment over the holidays. I didn’t post anywhere online for 9 whole days. I spent time with my family. It was possibly made more special and private because I didn’t tweet about it. If I had told you that I made the best Christmas lunch ever (which I did), would you really care? I don’t think so. It would have been amusing to tweet that my mum bought me a meat thermometer for Christmas. You could have replied ‘I think she’s worried about the turkey ROFL’, but it would have taken both of us away from our children. I want to remember the look of wonder on Presley’s face when he came into our bedroom with his stocking on Christmas morning. He was too excited to speak. I’d have missed that if I had my phone in front of my face, jabbing away typing ‘7am and I’m the only one awake LMAO’.

I guess, as with most things in life, balance is everything. I sometimes think that life was simpler before social media. Perhaps I’m just being anti-social.

What do you think? Do we spend far too long online or is our real life online now? How do you get the balance right for you?

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