And of course it rained!

It’s so typical of the great British weather! It’s absolutely gorgeous all week. Come the weekend and the sun decides to take a break too!

This weekend was no different. All week it was beautiful. Friday I worked at home. Temperatures reached 25 degrees. Did I go outside and enjoy it? No! Why? Well firstly I had work to do, but secondly, I thought I’d have plenty of time in the sun at the weekend.

We had 4 friends coming to stay and had planned outdoor activities!

Firstly breakfast on the patio followed by a lovely walk around Stratford-upon-Avon. It was the river festival. Bands would be playing and a few little stalls selling a variety of goods. As it is held on the banks of the River Avon, it was going to be a lovely few hours relaxing!

Well that was the plan! What wasn’t planned was the rain! Not to be put off we all still ventured out to Stratford, after eating breakfast indoors !!

Dinner was going to be a braai! We had the biggest piece of meat to cook!

Just as we thought the rain was going to stop, it started up again! The Gazebo it was then. Rain was not going to stop 3 South African men from doing what they do best!

As we 3 ladies watched them through the lounge widows sipping our Gin and Tonic, you can’t help but laugh at the body language of the men!

One of them checks the heat of the fire using the hand test! Then another checks it! Wait for it, yep, the third one has to check it too! Just in case one of them got it wrong !

The meat was a big beast and a challenge to cook. The fire to hot, the outside would burn but the inside would be raw. The fire too low and it would never cook. So, as with the 3 bears, it has to be just right!

After a couple of hours it was done. Absolutely gorgeous!

Sadly we had to eat indoors again!

My ice cream cake was probably the only thing that was pleased about the change in weather!

You know, the weather may have not been in our favour but it didn’t matter. We still had fun!

It doesn’t matter how much you plan things in life, something always goes wrong! Take it as an opportunity not a disaster!

Don’t put things on hold. Adapt and have fun!

Here is the video to my weekend:

This week the weather is going to be unpredictable. Don’t let that stop you enjoying life! Embrace it!

Have a good week.

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Feeling hot hot hot !

Wow, what great weather we had this weekend! So who has a Braai? Ok BBQ? Yep it has the be done.

We went the whole hog and had 2! First one Friday night and another last night. You have to love eating outside.

Last nights Braai was all about using the leftovers. It’s amazing what you can create with a bit of imagination.

Saturday temperatures reached over 34 degrees for us! Not that I sat out in it myself! Oh no! We had friends round on the evening so first things first I needed to catch up on the housework! It has to be done especially with 2 malting dogs!

Talking of malting dogs, they do struggle when it’s so warm! Fido thankfully knows how to cool down. He stands in the shower waiting for someone to turn the taps in for him!!

Anyway, back to the friends coming for dinner. As it was going to be such a lovely day I decided the menu needed to reflect that.

Hubby offered to make his prawn soup! It’s light but very tasty. Perfect for a hot summer evening.

For main, I opted for pineapple and salmon kebabs with Jerk seasoning, with home grown new potatoes and a pomegranate and feta salad. As a salad dressing I made a Dijon mustard dressing. So far all free on Slimming World, but still tasty.

Now, this is where it got interesting. For dessert, I decided on an ice cream cake. Well why wouldn’t you!

The cake requires 2 layers of ice cream and a raspberry coulis, topped with a ginger biscuit layer! Sounds fab doesn’t it! And it was apparently (I made a syn free version for me).

The problem I had was the weather! I mean, when it’s over 34 degrees outside, how are you supposed to stop the layers melting while constructing them!

It was a case of moving very quickly and having a hubby on hand to open freezer doors for you!

I published a video of it here!

I had to laugh when I watched it back. I looked quite fresh at the start of it! By the end I was definitely wilting !!

The main thing is the food went down a treat! Note to myself though! Don’t try it again unless it’s about 10 degrees cooler!

I’m not complaining though! I love it when it’s hot hot hot !

Have a good day.

The Pioneer Women – My current inspiration!

Do you ever read a magazine or see something on TV that gets your creative juices going? Over the years I have!

In previous years it’s been Jamie’s 15 minute meals, The Hairy Bikers and of course not forgetting, Ready Steady Cook.

My current favourite has to be The Pioneer Women. I’m totally hooked. I’ve even series linked all her episodes.

So who is The Pioneer Women? Ree Drummond! I love her nick name Ree. Her real name is Ann Marie. My own name is Maria but have always been known as Marie to my family. As a kid my nickname was Me Me. My nieces still call me it. Ree is such a great nickname for Marie!

Ree seems to have an amazing life, living on a ranch in Oklahoma in America. She is married to a real cowboy – Ladd – and has 4 children. How romantic does that sound?

Her cooking is every day cooking from dinners to desserts, to things that keep the kids happy!

She always starts the programme with the phrase ‘welcome to my frontier’.

Ree started off blogging about her time on the ranch back in 2006. Her blogs have even won awards.

In 2011 The Food Network awarded her her own Series called what else – The Pioneer Women!

She prepares every day meals from chicken pie, pork ribs, chicken dinner, pork chops to easy desserts and cakes in her lodge. I think she is now up to series 20!

What I love about her is that she showcases her food in such a way that you can easily transfer that to your own kitchen. She doesn’t use fancy gadgets, just everyday pots and pans like we have.

You have to sometimes translate some of the ingredients as we call some things a different name here in the UK.

I love sitting down in the evening and catching up on an episode. Last night she did a beef stroganoff. I haven’t done one for ages. It’s definitely something I’m planning for next week now.

Now when I say she inspires me, that is exactly what she does. I wouldn’t cook her meals exactly to her recipe as she uses ingredients I wouldn’t, because I’m on Slimming World. Don’t get me wrong, her cooking is amazing and my hubby would eat them just as they are. I just need to shift a few pounds as you know, so a tweak would be needed for me.

She uses cream, butter, oil and salt. All things I wouldn’t use. This is where the inspiration comes in! I look at what she makes and try to work out how I can do it for me on Slimming World. Most things can of course be changed. There are some things she makes though that you definately wouldn’t want to mess with, like her chocolate episode! Marshmallows covered in chocolate and cookie pieces! I think my nieces would have a great time making those.

On the whole though, her recipes easily transfer into syn free versions. This is what I love about cooking. Taking great ideas and making them your own.

I’d love to cook alongside Ree and create great meals together that taste good but work for Slimming World too. Obviously that isn’t her cooking style or requirement. I should image with the work they do on the ranch, they soon burn off any calories.

Ree is such a natural presenter. It’s like a friend showing you how they cooked dinner tonight. She is so easy to watch and I’m also loving following her life on the ranch. Watching her children growing up and going off to college!

If you haven’t seen her programme before, go along to The Food Network and check her out! Maybe she will inspire you to get into the kitchen too!

It’s time to go home!

Today is a very sad day!  We have to leave this amazing place and return home.  This place has been absolutely amazing and has exceeded our expectations a thousand-fold!

Our flight is scheduled for 10 am so its another early start.  I have already packed most things the night before!  If you know me, I can’t leave anything until last minute.  Obviously, the toiletries we need for today can’t go in until last minute, but you know what I mean!

I’ve pre-booked our pickup.  They have confirmed they will be here at 7.15 am, and they are punctual.

I take a last look across the old town from our balcony.  I’m going to miss that view!

This morning I made sure I was up early enough so I could sit one last time on the balcony, drinking my tea, taking in the view!  I wanted to make the most of every minute here!

As we travel in our taxi to the airport, I get one last chance to look back and see the view from above of Kings Landing and the Red Keep – aka Dubrovnik!  The sun is shining on the orange roofs below.  The sea is clear and bright blue.  This place certainly has some magic!

It is only a short trip to the airport.  Getting through security is very quick and easy.  We have 2.5 hours to kill.  There isn’t a lot to do here but as we are early, we decide to grab a drink and something to eat.  Whilst small, it is very comfortable.

After a while we decided to head down to our gate to wait to be called for our Easyjet flight home.

Just before we board, I decide I should pop to the ladies!  I have a middle seat so its not always easy to get out on the plane, without disturbing the person next to you! Plus what if they are sleeping, do you wake them? I’m not sure if you should!

I pop off and do what ladies do.  I’m walking back to the gate.  I’ve seen a man looking out across the runway looking at the planes and think nothing of it.  Suddenly he turns and gets his leg in front of mine!  There is nothing I can do.  I’m falling at a pace.  Ahead of me I can see the edge of the lift and metal bollards, they are heading towards my head at speed.  I can’t stop myself.  I quickly put my arm up to try and protect me.  With a thud I hit the floor, bollard and lift! 

At first, I can’t move.  I’m somehow wrapped amongst the bollard.  Thankfully I didn’t hit my head, but my leg, arm and hand really hurt.  The man has rushed to me so apologetic.  He knows he was completely to blame and is mortified.  I’m suddenly aware of a lot of people around me waiting for their flight home!

The man wants to call for help but I assure him I’m fine.  I need to get my flight home and its boarding soon!  He helps me up!  I’m trying hard not to cry.  The pain is horrendous.  I can’t show the man how I’m feeling, he feels so bad as it is, and it was an accident.   These things happen.

As he helps me up, he apologises again and asks if I need anything.  I say I’m fine and not to worry.  I slowly walk off trying to put a brave face on it.

As I walk back to my seat, I don’t know what to rub first.  I think I’ve broken a finger at least!  I quickly mention to my hubby that I’ve had a fall but then our flight is called so we board the plane!

I travel home feeling very bruised and battered.

After a horrible drive home in the pouring rain we relax and unwind!  As I take my coat off, I see the extent of the damage.  A beautiful bruise on my right arm.  My right hand is also swollen, and I can’t move my little finger.  The pain is horrible.  Bruises start to appear on my leg and knee too!  My hubby suddenly realises it wasn’t just a little fall after all!

I soldier on for 10 days now.  The bruises are starting to fade a little, but my hand is still in pain.  I decide that maybe I should have got it checked out sooner, so book an appointment with my GP. 

After checking it he confirms that yep I have a fracture!

It is amazing how in a split-second things can change.  I’m not cross at the man.  It was an accident.  I’m sure he is still feeling mortified about it.  And if anyone knows me, if an accident is going to happen it has to be me who will have it!

At the end of the day, it was still the most amazing holiday.  It isn’t goodbye Dubrovnik, it is until we see you again!  We will be back!

Day 1 – Dubrovnik exceeded my expectations!

I’m currently sat on an EasyJet flight from Dubrovnik airport en-route to London Stansted! I live in the midlands so I really have no clue why I chose Stansted, but hey ho!

The flight is under 3 hours. Not too bad.

We arrived 5 days ago. Our flight was 6 am so we arrived with almost the whole first day ahead of us!

We arrived at our apartment before it was ready! Apartment Lukre is a 2 bedroom apartment, 5 minutes walk from the main entrance to the old town. Off a small kitchen area is a beautiful balcony with fabulous views of the old Town. Perfect for having dinner on or as I did, sit and enjoy a lovely cup of tea. If I was lucky the church bells would be ringing out. I never tired of it!

The owner of the apartment was lovely. So friendly. They can collect you from the airport if you wish and arrange trips for you.

They also have a double room next door to our apartment which our friends had. At 115 euro for ours and 55 Euro for the room, it is definitely value for money and a great find.

Even though our apartment wasn’t ready, the owner let us leave our bags so we could get out and about.

The 5 of us in our group headed off to the old town.

If you are a fan of Game if Thrones, you will fully understand why it was used for filming the movie!

As you walk through 2 sets of gates you come upon the Main Street! It’s beauty takes your breath away.

There is a water fountain like no other to your right. The water is cold and refreshing, so don’t forget to fill your water bottles up there.

One word of warning! There are a lot of steps in the old town! The pavements can become very slippy when it rains. It is definitely a place where you leave your heals at home! Comfortable shoes will ensure you enjoy the best of this beautiful old town!

The town is full of small streets and alleys packed with churches, beautiful buildings, shops and restaurants. It might feel daunting but you don’t need to worry, you can’t really get lost.

A must do is to walk around the city walls. It costs 300 kuna (£25) each, so not cheap but worth it! It certainly is a good workout, but the views make it something not to be missed.

Food and drink inside the old town is more expensive than outside, but you can still get some reasonably priced restaurants and cafes.

We had been warned to book our restaurants before coming, as they can get busy, especially on peak times, so we had prebook all nights.

Our first night was at a lovely restaurant in the old town – Konoba Jezuite. The menu was quite varied with mains ranging from £15-£20. Beer is £6 a pint and a bottle of house white around £23.

After placing our order they brought out baskets of bread with a pate dish. All complementary. I opted for the Tuna salad which was gorgeous as my main.

As we paid the bill they brought out cherry liquor! Gorgeous.

We took a slow walk back to the apartment via a local supermarket where we picked up some local wine and beers. It is so much cheaper. About £1.20 a can of larger and £3 a bottle of white wine.

We chilled out in our apartment excited at the day just gone and the days ahead!

I’m really loving Dubrovnik!

Tomorrow is our GOT walking tour.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to see the old town in my video.

When you want a specific dish but you don’t have the recipe!

Have you ever had a taste for a specific dish, or seen something on the TV or in a magazine but you don’t have a recipe?

This happens to me all the time. The other one I get from my hubby is ‘my mum used to make ……’. When asked how she made it, of course he never has a clue!

This week when at my Slimming World group, we were given a sneak preview to a new cookery book which feature meals for Extra Easy SP meals.

I’ll be honest, when I heard there would be another recipe book, I’d decided not to buy it without even seeing it. I have so many already which I don’t use all the time. I also couldn’t think what else they could bring out that would be worth me buying another time one!

As I flicked through, there were so many recipes I loved. It’s not on sale yet as it will be part of a 12 week countdown. As I’m so close to target It won’t be worth me buying one. Well I keep telling myself that! I’ve been messing about for 18 months now trying to get into my target range again!

For me, the motivation has slightly gone as everyone especially hubby doesn’t want me to lose that 7lb again, but I do!

Anyway back to the book! I know it will be a couple of months before I’ll be able to buy it.

There was one specific recipe that really caught my eye! Moroccan Lamb! Now if you know me, you will know I don’t eat lamb, but I thought it would be great with chicken!

I tried to memorise it in my head!

The next day I planned to make it! I couldn’t however remember what liquid was required. It certainly wasn’t in the ingredients so maybe it was in the instructions which I hadn’t really read!

I contacted my consultant who kindly sent me a photo.

So last night I set about to make the dish I’d been dreaming of all day!

I got all the ingredients ready from what I had remembered. I grabbed my phone to check them against the pictures my consultant had sent!

As I looked at my phone the colour drained! I’d somehow deleted the message! Can you believe it!

I was not going to be put off! I decided I would make it anyway using my memory of the recipe and my own cooking knowledge.

Here is what I did:

I love experimenting with food! I never let not having the recipe stop me being creative!

If it doesn’t turn out quite right first time, try it again a different way! It might not taste exactly like the one on TV or in that magazine, but who cares! If you like it, then that is all that matters.

So what you waiting for? Get into the kitchen and start being creative! You will be amazed at what you will come up with. It will also bring variety back into you mealtimes.

Good luck and let me know how you get on!

Why are short weeks so long?

A friend reminded me of this today and she is spot on!

Today is the last working day of our week! Monday was a bank holiday, so why has it taken so long to get to Friday?

It’s one of the mysteries of life? Surely 4 days is less than 5! So on that basis tomorrow should have arrived sooner!

I have some theories! Is it because we are so relaxed from our long weekend that it takes us longer to get back into work? Is it the extra sleep we had that our bodies want more? Or is it just that we enjoy being off more than we enjoy being at work ?

I wonder if people on shifts get the same feeling ?

Whatever the reason, I am so so glad it is Friday!

This said, I do love it when you have a bank holiday! Obviously it means I get more time off, but for me there is another reason!

Bank holidays mean that people are more likely to tag leave onto the break! That then means one important thing – I get a seat on the train to work! Woo hoo!

It might be a small thing, but believe me, it means a lot! No standing squashed up to the person next to you! No listening in to other people’s conversations, being able to write my blog etc etc.

With Easter being late this year it falls only a week before May Day. Then it’s not long until Whitsun! Ooh how exciting! There is hope that for a few days over the next month I will be able to have a relaxing trip to work!

I’ve probably jinxed it now. There will be cancelled trains etc and I’ll be back to standing. Ah well, it’s like the lottery. You have to have a dream and live in hope!

Sometimes it’s the small pleasures in life that make the biggest difference!

Have a good weekend x