2/26/2012

My Love Affair With Nutella

As World Nutella Day was on February 5th (No, I didn't make that up. There really IS a World Nutella Day!) I know I'm a little late in showing my appreciation, but I felt that the time has come that I openly blog about my infatuation with this heavily concoction. Especially, as lately there are few things I love more than Nutella. It's an addiction that has well and truly grown out of control, and I'm embarrassed to say that I'd probably fight a small child if they were about to eat the last spoonful in the jar.
 I seriously put it on/in anything and everything. Toast, crumpets, pretzels, my finger(s), strawberries, apple slices, bananas, pancakes, yoghurt, ice cream, Ritz crackers...I've even dipped a carrot in it..which I'm not proud of and I don't suggest you try as it wasn't a winning combination (this is coming from the weirdo who likes carrots dipped in Ketchup). So, as you can see, I'm out of control. So out of control that I would gladly eat a spoonful of dirt or a moldy toasted bagel as long as they were smothered in a velvety layer of chocolately goodness. Heaven help me if when I'm pregnant Nutella is a craving, because I'm confident that a pregnant Amanda could single handedly demolish all the Nutella in all grocery stores within a 15 mile radius. And if there ever came a point that there wasn't enough on the shelves to satisfy me...heads would roll. Consider yourselves forewarned. Haha
Now while I'm well aware this is pathetic, after all it IS only a chocolate spread you say (and by you, I mean a person who hasn't tried it...otherwise you wouldn't be saying that) but what's a Nutella-loving-girl to do? So rather than battle my addiction, I decided that as Weight Watchers allows me to happily continue to enjoy my Nutella (in moderation, obviously) I would go on the hunt for yummy recipes, and I'm happy to report that I've found quite a few keepers that I'd like share with my fellow Nutella-heads now. So here, in no particular order, is a list of yummy recipes for Nutella-addicts like myself. May you marvel in all of their gloriousness as I have.

Nutella Yum-Yum #1 - Nigella Lawson's Nutella Cake
Nutella Yum-Yum #2 -Nutella Sticky Buns
Nutella Yum-Yum #3 - Nutella S'mores
Nutella Yum-Yum #5 - Peanut Butter & Nutella Brownies
Nutella Yum-Yum #6 - Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies
Nutella Yum-Yum #7 - Nutella Milkshake
Nutella Yum-Yum #8 - Nutella Crack Pie (Adaptation on Momofuku's Crack Pie in NYC) 
Nutella Yum-Yum #9 - Nutella Trifle
And finally...Nutella Yum-Yum #10 - Pumpkin Nutella Bread 
I know you're probably looking at all of these drool-worthy recipes and thinking: Holy cow, these totally aren't diet friendly. And if you're thinking that, you're 100% right. They're as calorific as can be, but they're all packed full of Nutella, which means they're downright delicious, so who cares! Haha! Besides, every now and then a bit of indulgence is okay. Life is too short to deny yourself of yumminess all the time. 
AMEN!
So please, ignore what skinny-as-a-rake Kate Moss said and enjoy these scrum-diddly-uptious recipe's as much as I have. After all, it was the least I could do to share a bit of heaven with all of you. If you give them a go please let us all know how they turn out! :) And by all means, if you have any yummy Nutella recipe's of your own that you're be willing to share, feel free to comment below! :)

Nutella lovers UNITE!

2/23/2012

I want to be your Sledgehammer.

Today started out brilliantly. The sun was shining. I made super yummy pancakes with the kiddies (one of which I managed to flip 10 times!) It was so warm outside that we didn't have to wear coats or mitten at play time. We hid in tires and became pirates. At one point I even found myself as an evil shark trying to eat all of my students, only this shark tickled instead of biting...and was panting like a dog after about 2 minutes of chasing pray. I got many hugs and heard lots of giggles. And to top it all off, one of my little girls was beyond excited to take me by the hand and show me some baby daffodils she'd found that were beginning to bloom (we'd been learning all about growth and decay, and had gone on a daffodil hunt a couple of weeks ago. Little Emily was unbelievably proud to have spotted some baby daffodils all on her own. Awww!) 

But when I got home it turned into the most craptastic day ever, which resulted in a teary phone call to the hubby and my Momma back home. I tried with every bone in my body to stay calm and keep positive thoughts, but I needed a good cry and I needed reassurance and support. You need not worry, I'm not dying and the world isn't coming to an end. I just happen to be in a stressful situation that I'm hoping doesn't spiral out of control. Although for various reasons I'm not ready to talk about it on here, please keep sending positive thoughts my way. I could really use them :)

In an effort to cheer up, Carlos and I were watching old music videos that we remembered and loved from our childhood on YouTube. I, of course, found Wannabe by the Spice Girls while Carl suggested Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf. But there was one music video in particular that put a smile on our faces. We sang the words, tapped our feet and wondered just how many photos were used in order to create such a masterpiece (surely it must be in the thousands) when we put on Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel. This song has single handedly put me back in an optimistic and happy mood. I just love it, and the music video is one of my favorites. So thank you, Mr. Gabriel, for not only creating an awesome song, but an awesome music video that is still as relevant and 'cool' now as it was in 1986. I hope it makes you bop along and smile too.
Thanks for reading, guys!
Take good care,


2/20/2012

Animal Print Scarves, Babies and Brown Paint. Oh My!

To be truthful, this weekend was pretty relaxed an uneventful. But nevertheless, I though't I'd share it with you, cause I'm awesome like that :)

The hubby spent Friday night out with one of his best mates, Mick, and they enjoyed a few (or 20) beers while I stayed home, had a bath and fed my addiction to the show One Born Every Minute. If you love anything like A Baby Story or Bringing Home Baby then this is definitely a show for you. However, before embarking on your One Born Every Minute adventure for the first time, please note that you ACTUALLY see babies being born - as in blood, guts (C-Section's) and the occasional babies head making its glorious gooey entrance to the world. So if you're someone who gets woozie at the sight of "nasty bloody stuff" you may want to reconsider this viewing pleasure. Oh, and another thing. Every single episode offers you the joy of hearing pregnant women screaming down the hospital in birthing agony, so you may want to give your husband/boyfriend the heads up so he has time to make his escape from the livingroom. I made the mistake of putting this on while Carl was sitting on the couch once and I'm pretty sure he was scarred for life by the sounds these women were making. His eyes were the size of golf balls, his nose was wrinkled up and he said "their screaming sends a chill down my spine!" to which I replied "when I'm giving birth to our children I plan to look straight into your eyes while I scream the house down, you're going to feel the pain you've put me through too buddy." hahaha poor bugger. No really though, I can't wait to look lovingly into his eyes, whisper "I love you" gently and marvel in the joy that we're bringing a precious child into the world...but if giving birth is anything like the bazillion kidney stones I've had (trust me Mom's, I know it's worse) I can tell you right now I won't be saying that til the baby is wrapped in a nice fluffy white blanket in my arms. The (preferably small) amount of agonizing hours leading up to that time won't be peaches and cream folks, and it would be unrealistic to assume otherwise. Nevertheless, I can't wait to have a baby, which is why I think I'm so obsessed with this show. Seriously, I think about it all the time. And working with little kiddies day in and day out makes it even more profound. Either way, it's very important to Carl and I that we do it 'the right way' and wait until the time is right for us. Though I wish we were, we're not at that point just yet, so I'm counting down the days until we're settled back in Vermont to begin our little family :) In the meantime, I'll keep dreaming.

On Saturday we went to our favorite local coffee shop down at the Docks, ate toast, drank hot chocolate and tea, and people watched. It was so relaxing and so lovely.
After our tea break, we headed into town for a bit of shopping. I was on a scavenger hunt for animal print scarves, black construction paper, string and picture books. In the end I found all of the above, and it was precisely this concoction of ingredients which provoked the following Facebook status: "You know you're a teacher when you spend a Saturday night cutting up 10 animal print scarves so on Monday the kids can make collages. You trace and cut out 80 bazillion paper bats to hang from the ceilings in order to make the classroom look like a 'cave', and you practice reading "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" in your most animated voice to a stuffed teddy bear. LAME!"  Thankfully, in the end all of my hard work (i.e. the cutting out of paper bats that nearly drove me 'batty' HA! and those stinking scarves were practically made of stainless steel and dulled my scissors, prolonging the craft exercise FURTHER) paid off because the kids had an absolute ball making their collages today. Some of them very kindly shared their artwork with me and I brought a few home to hang up. I'm showing you now as I'm pretty positive they'll be famous artists by time they're 20 :)
While I was on my animal print scavenger hunt through the city centre, Carl and I stumbled upon the most ADORABLE old man who was performing Oprah outside of a shopping centre in order to raise money for a children's hospital here in Liverpool. I thought he was brilliant, and the fact that he was sitting outside in the cold for hours singing his heart out to strangers in order to raise money for children made me cry. I got goosebumps and teary eyed while I watched him. It makes my heart full to know that there are such giving and wonderful people still in the world. I know the video quality is a bit craptastic, but I managed to record some of his performance so I could share it with others. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did and it makes your heart full as well.
I love his joke at the end: "That's my impression of Pavarotti after his diet" haha! What a little gem!
Carl and I were tuckered out from trompsing around town all day, so when we got home I decided to finally test out a new recipe I found online for Chicken Alfredo Pizza. As a high schooler I worked in a local pizza place in Vermont and used to make Chicken Alfredo Pizza's ALL the time, but I never had the desire to try one. This still baffles me today, especially as I'm a dedicated Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo lover, but the recipe sounded delicious and I decided to give it a go. All I can say is boy am I glad I did! Yowza! That pizza was one of the prettiest pizza's I've ever made and it was SO yummy in the tummy. I had a bit of chicken and loads of broccoli, cauliflower and red onion on my half, while the veggie hater had chicken and ham on his. It was SUPER filling (I could barely eat 2 pieces) but the entire time we munched Carl said his famous "This is lovely! This is bloody lovely" He has demanded we have this again in the near future. Now I call that a pizza success! While the recipe is a bit more involved than a normal pizza, it was definitely well worth it and I think I'll be making this for friends on a dinner date night in the near future. If you're looking for a pizza change, I highly recommend you give this a shot! :)
Saturday night the hubby spent at one of his good friend's house having a FIFA Xbox tournament (Seriously?! Are all men such bad dorks?) so in order to keep myself sane while I worked away on bats and scarves I finally watched the film One Day. I cried the entire last 20 minutes (as in bawling my eyes out...I'm worried my hormones have turned me into an emotional basket case as there's no way any normal sane person would have sobbed like that after only having watched a film. I'm a freak. But that's another issue.) It was SUCH a great movie though, and I am entirely too excited to read the book now. I've heard it's even better than the film :) It's my next 'have to read.'
Sunday Morning Carl and I got up and went for a bit of a walk around the city and for the first time I wore my beautiful earrings the my Momma got me last Christmas (I love them, Mom! High five!)
Sunday night I enjoyed a nice long mother-daughter chat via Skype. Mom gave me the low-down of Vermont family news and informed me that my Daddy-o will be going in for surgery on his shoulder and bicep on the 28th of February. He's been having lots of trouble with his arm for about a year now (hugely problematic when you own your own carpentry business) and although I know his surgery is going to be a very painful one, as will his recovery, I'm so glad that he's finally able to go in and rectify the problem. Excuse my lack of medical knowledge, but I'll try to explain what I understand of his surgery to the best of my ability (sorry if I get it wrong, Dad!) Mom was describing how because of the intense pain in Dad's arm, the doctors are afraid that there may be additional damage that MRI scans can't depict, and these injuries won't be found until Dad is in surgery and they're able to cut him open and have a proper look. For instance, if they find that the muscle in his bicep has detached and has moved down his arm he may have to have other muscles scraped from his bone so that everything can be reattached properly. OW! How painful does that sound?! I'm praying that they don't find anything which requires additional time in surgery or additional recovery. Although I'm worried about his surgery, I am so thankful that soon he will be patched back up. Can I ask that all of you send lots of positive thoughts his way, and pray that he may have a smooth surgery and quick recovery. (Even though I'm all the way in England Papa, I'm thinking of you, I'm sure everything will go smoothly, and I hope you can begin to recover soon. And if you're feeling a bit blue about the whole situation, just think of the amount of free time you'll soon have to watch Gunsmoke and John Wayne movies haha :) love you xoxo)

Today I was back in school, scolding a child for painting an entire counter top, a fellow classmate and the sandbox with brown paint. I seriously don't understand. They take ages to go pee and wash their hands but can redecorate the classroom in record time. Tiny terrors! (Please note: I say this with as much love and affection as humanly possible).

Well it's entirely too late to be up on a school night, so I'm afraid I'm going to love and leave you now. I'm late for a hot date with my pillow.

2/17/2012

O-R-E-O

In an episode of Sex And The City (After F.R.I.E.N.D.S this is 100% the best show on the entire planet) the ever so insightful Miranda Hobbes hit the nail on the head when she said: "I have low self-esteem, but I express it in the healthy way...by eating a box of Double-Stuf Oreos." This statement is the pinnacle of my existence. It deserves a big fat "Amen Sista!"
This was me as a child...
While I'm well aware that Oreos mainly consist of Sugar, Crisco and High Fructose Corn Syrup (so gross) I can't help but love them. Nowadays I limit myself to 3 cookies at a time...otherwise things can get very out of hand very fast, and before I know it my pants no longer button up...But I don't just dig into those bad boys, no sir, because we all have a 'special' way we eat them. It would be tragedy to just start greedily chomping with no premeditated routine. Big Oreo no-no! My cookie eating fiasco is as follows. Step 1: Always make a small neat pile of my cookies next to my glass of cold milk.  Step 2: Ever so carefully pick up a cookie and slowly begin to submerge the bottom half in the milk. Step 3: Force myself to keep it dunked for AT LEAST 5 seconds. Step 4: Take the cookie out of the milk to see if sufficient sogginess has been acquired. If not, dunk again. Step 5: (optional) Swear like a Banshee when my Oreo breaks and sinks to the bottom of the glass. Final Step (if my Oreo hasn't already committed suicide): Nibble away at the milk soaked cookie in baby bites as to savor the chocolatey goodness.
Not only are Oreos yummy, but miraculously they're just 1 Weight Watchers point per cookie. This allows me to indulge in them (occasionally forming a not-so-small neat pile...)on those craptastic days where junk food is a necessity. But the best thing about them is that they ALWAYS remind me of my Grandma Bedard. As soon as I begin to chew my first mouthful I am transported to Grandma and Grandpa's big old red house with the wood stove that always crackled away and smelled like winter. And there on the counter right by the front door sits the big porcelain frog cookie jar. Oreos are a kids best friend and my Grandma always had that jar fully stocked (thanks, Grandma! You're the BEST!) But while I haven't eaten any Oreos today (I think I'm going to have to rectify this soon after I close my laptop) I did see a new commercial for them that I just HAD to share with the rest of the world. Because in all honesty, it's so cute it would be a crime if I didn't. 

So without further adieu, I give you the new 2012 UK commercial for Oreos. If you're anything like me, by the end of this you'll consider kidnapping this adorable little girl just so you can sit and have a conversation with her. (I feel that as I'm a teacher it's necessary that I say this next statement. Don't worry parents, no matter how adorable a student is I would never ACTUALLY kidnap them. May you rest assured).

Enjoy!
Best quote of the commercial: "Then you put them back together....because they're married" 

I certainly hope that melted your heart as it did mine. And if nothing else, I've just inadvertently become a great advertising pawn for Nabisco. Haha!

2/16/2012

French Toast Breakfast Muffins...aka "Mini Mom's Betty Crocker Cake Doughnuty Muffins"

I know I've already posted today (click here to read that) but something else happened which brought back lots of memories and provided me with the opportunity to finally share another one of my Memoirs that I wrote for my Undergradute Creative Writing Dissertation. I've already included one of the other's that I'm most proud of in this post, but there's another which I'm particularly fond of that I'd like to share now. With that said, you're probably wondering why the hell I've named this post French Toast Breakfast Muffins...aka "Mini Mom's Betty Crocker Cake Doughnuty Muffins"? I can see you sitting there scratching your head thinking 'What do muffins have to do with creative writing dissertations? Has she lost her marbles? Why is she rambling about things that have nothing to do with the title? I can see the picture of these damn muffins below. Is she trying to make me hungry? What kind of a cruel person does that when it's just after New Years and I'm trying to stick to my ridiculous resolution to lose 80lbs by July?!?' to which I say this: be patient Yoda. All will be revealed.
Today I found a recipe for these yummy little things called French Toast Breakfast Muffins (above is a picture of the ones I made, still warm in the middle, in all of their glory. It's okay to drool, I did too). As I'm going out tonight with the girls for my beautiful friend Kate's birthday (Happy Birthday, Babydoll!) I'm well aware that vast amounts of wine will be consumed, as will vast amounts of calories from the meal. Between the goodies I ate on Valentine's Day and tonight's outing, it's totally unrealistic for me to try to stick religiously to my WW points this week. Obviously I'm not going to go haywire, I'll continue to rein myself in to a certain degree, but if everyone else is ordering a piece of the Chocolate Fudge Cake at dessert, you can bet your bottom dollar I am too! And ya know what, I'm perfectly okay with doing that. I refuse to make myself feel bad for enjoying a night out with the girls. I feel more comfortable in my skin now than I ever have, and this whole down-a-dress-size-thing has given me a tiny puff of confidence that I will finally be at my goal weight in no time. I'm gonna live a little, and in my attempt to do so, this morning I made these muffins that were dipped in melted butter and then rolled in cinnamon sugar (OhMyGoodness!) I have to admit that subconsciously I must be trying to behave as I did choose the smallest muffin on the cooling wrack when sampling them (normally it's the opposite. I'm that obnoxious person who tries to find the biggest and snatch it up. I blame it on my Dad...you'll read why in my memoir) But as I put that sugar coated little morsel up to my mouth I got a big wiff of warm cinnamon and nutmeg and was immediately transported to the breakfast bar back home in Vermont where I sat watching Mom fry homemade Betty Crocker Cake Doughnuts as a little girl. When I took a bite they tasted so much like those doughnuts that I smiled and a tear went down my cheek. It's amazing how a smell or the taste of something can you bring you right back to your childhood and make you feel close to your loved ones. It made me miss home, and immediately after gobbling up the last mouthful I dug under the couch for the fancy box that housed my fancy bound Dissertation.  My collection of food memoirs. As I settled on the couch with my cup of tea I flipped through the pages until I read the following:


 Cake Doughnuts   



3 1/3 cup all-purpose flour* 

1 cup sugar 

3/4 cup milk 

2 tablespoon shortening 

3 teaspoon baking powder 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

2 eggs 
Vegetable oil for frying


Makes 24 ring doughnuts

Heat oil (2 to 3 inches deep) in deep fat fryer or Dutch oven to 375F. Combine all ingredients with 1 ½ cups flour and mix until just incorporated (dough will be sticky) Stir in remaining flour. Turn the dough onto generously floured surface. Roll dough out until 3/8 inch thick. Cut with floured doughnut cutter. Slide doughnuts, one at a time, into hot oil with wide perforated spatula or spoon. Turn doughnuts as soon as they rise to surface. Fry until both sides are golden brown (around 1 to 2minutes on each side). Remove carefully from oil (do not prick surfaces) and drain on paper towel or wire rack. Serve plain or shake one at a time in a bag with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.

The warm fragrant smell of the hot oil tickles my nose and teases my bulging taste buds.  Immediately I feel my tongue swell and salivate. My eyes are drawn to the bubbling pool of golden fat in the little black fryalator, then to the mound of plump, puffy golden rings on the paper towel below. They’re still piping hot and I watch the tiny oil bubbles pop and sink into their perfectly brown surfaces. I study each doughnut, trying to pick the fattest of the lot, and admire how each of the fluffy treasures is vaguely different. Most have lost their perfectly round circumference when Mom dangled them above the fat and slowly let go. They’re stretched ever so slightly, but I welcome these imperfections because they remind me that they were not made by some factory machine, but my Mom. I carefully select my pray and drop it onto my wrinkled napkin. Experience has taught me to gently break the ring in half first as to allow some of the scorching heat and steam to escape. The centre is moist, light and springy – like a sponge with its pockets and craters.  There are tiny specks of the deeply aromatic cinnamon and nutmeg. Sweet spiciness instantly fills my nostrils and my patience reaches the breaking point. I dive in.  The cake like dough is delicate and absolutely divine. There is a spiced sweetness that is reminiscent of carrot cake. I swallow my first mouthful after hardly chewing and greedily take another bite. Sumptuous. Luxurious. Like warm buttery air on my tongue. I take another.
~
Moms always make the very best food; the food we remember as adults and, no matter how hard we try, will never be able to make as delicious. The smell of hot oil, cinnamon and nutmeg can bring me right back to my wood bar stool in the kitchen; Mom stands turning over sizzling doughnuts in the piping hot pan. There isn’t another food that reminds me of my mother more and now that I’m all grown up, in my own house thousands of miles and an ocean away, I find myself making them just to feel closer to her.

She stands at the edge of the bar leaning on her elbows reading the recipe from her old fashioned, very worn but very loved, orange Betty Crocker cookbook. When I was really small I wondered if that book was actually a tribute to my mother and whether someone had written it just for her. After all it did say Betty in big white letters on the front, and Crocker is strikingly similar to Cousino when you can't spell. When Mom reads something or concentrates real hard, she drums her finger nails along the counter. I could work out from the narrowing of her eyes and the ba-da-dum-ba-da-dum that she was going through the ingredient list in her head. In no time the cinnamon, nutmeg and pink Tupperware containers with the flour and sugar were lined up in front of me; along with the big yellow ceramic bowl which was always used to make doughnuts or house our Halloween candy.

I remember the first time I noticed she had snuck a tiny bit of apple sauce in them. Although I’ve always loved the stuff, at the age of 11 the thought of pulverised apples in my doughnuts was absolutely disgusting. “That’s gross!” I’d yell as I wrinkled up my nose. “Well, it’s good for ya! And I’ve put it in them before and you ate them then too” she’d reply. Truth was, I liked sitting to watch Mom bake not only because I aspired to do it just like her someday, but because it was my way of spying to make sure she  didn’t put anymore gross stuff in whatever I was eating. My mother was and still is famous for that.  Like the time she made one of my favourite suppers, Mac and Cheese. “Why does it taste funny? What did you do to it now?” I scowled while I poked at it with my fork. After trying to convince me nothing was different... and failing, she finally admitted to the onions. Or another time dad spilled the beans on the turkey liver and heart in the Thanksgiving stuffing. One time I caught her putting mayonnaise in the chocolate cake. From this came the ritual of sitting at the bar and watching Mom cook.

Once the ingredients were mixed together with the old wooden spoon and the big yellow bowl was heaping with fragrant, brown speckled dough; Mom would remove her rings and gold watch, set them on the window ledge above the sink and begin to roll the dough out as if it were a fluffy pie crust. The next bit was my favourite because if I hadn’t been too much of a nuisance and Mom wasn’t in too much of a hurry, I’d get to help cup them out.
Mom had an old tin doughnut cutter that jingled and jangled when you shook it. There was a large round circle that had a smaller circular attachment which fit into the middle just under the handle – this little attachment made the doughnut holes (my favorite). I’d dip the cutter into the fluffy white mound of flour Mom had on the counter and then go to town, happily squishing the tin ring into the soft dough. A Whiiiiisssshhhhh sound would escape between the soft dough and counter and a small puff of flour would rise. As I worked my way through Mom would come behind me, scoop up the outer rings of doughnuts - leaving the centres behind - and carefully drop them into the bubbling oil. Immediately the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and hot fat would make me salivate, and I’d grow impatient. It was also at this time Dad’s recliner chair made a loud thump as he pushed the foot rest back down and shuffled into the kitchen. I knew when I heard the click, click, click from the heel of his leather slippers that the first batch of doughnuts were about to be devoured. My blood would begin to boil. No sooner would Mom have lifted the floating sizzling rings out of the oil and placed them on the paper towel would Dad have scooped them up and started nibbling. Without fail, and with a mouth full of steaming doughnut he’d yell “Woowee baby! Those are HOT!” and begin to chew frantically. With a burnt mouth and full tummy he would shuffle back to his recliner and paperwork. 

Even to this day the fact that Dad always waltzed in and gobbled up most of the bronzed treasures secretly makes me fume – in fact I’m surprised I never had smoke coming out of my ears.

Once the mountain of dishes were dripping in the dish rack and her gold jewellery at home on her fingers and wrist, Mom would fumble through the clumsily organised cupboards below until out tumbled the barrel-like plastic doughnut jar. Reaching deep down into its ravine, she would line the bottom with crisp fresh paper towel and methodically stack the fried doughnuts and their centres inside. I studied her hands as she twisted the white plastic cover clockwise until it was snug (too snug for my tiny weak muscles) and watched as she slid it to the middle of the bar, reminding me I was to ask before I helped myself.  In no time the rhythmic thump, thump, thump of her feet dancing down the stairs to the laundry room echoed through the house and I began planning my sneaky robbery. I knew that if I made any attempt to pilfer the booty within the same evening Dad’s bat ears would detect me and in a matter of minutes I’d find myself on my bed with bottom lip outward and my arms and legs folded like a little Indian. I sulked until suddenly I recalled the half an hour gap Sonya and I had from the time Mr. Sumner opened the school bus doors and said goodbye at 3:30 to the growl of Dad’s work truck pulling into the driveway at 4. I decided I would wait until then to take action. With my master plan devised, I scampered into my room and pressed the triangle button on my cassette player. Screeching ‘People of the world – Spice up your life! Every boy and every girl – Spice up your life!’ into the head of a brush, I revelled in my slyness.

The next morning I scuffled my feet in the pebbles where the end of our driveway met the road. Sonya swayed behind me and in unison we sang to the little black fluff ball below: “Max is our puppy, our beautiful-a puppy. Don’t let him pass by you…do do do do, do do do do. During the afternoon when Maxy plays, he always gets his way, eating hamburgers and hot dogs… do do do do, do do do do.” She had obviously fallen out the right side of her bed this morning. I smirked and motioned my little sister to come forward – I knew I had to grasp this opportunity to butter her up or else things could end tragically. I could just see it - before Dad had even walked in the door, had time to take his hat off or drop his keys on the bureau she would scream “Mandy snuck some doughnuts!” Ha! I don't think so, not on my watch! She scuffled closer to me. “You know how we have time after we get off the bus before Dad comes home?” She nodded. “Wanna sneak some doughnuts before he eats them all? They’ll never know and we can have at least 2 each!” I boasted. After some hesitation, a smile broke across her lips and I knew I had triumphed. Mission complete! I had my accomplice. Now it was a waiting game.

The grumbling motor of Dads maroon work truck behind moved closer and I impatiently wondered why Mr. Sumner and his big yellow bus were so late. Dad pulled up next to us and cranked away at his driver’s side window.  “Alright, I’m off” he said as he fidgeted with the black baseball cap on his head which read Cousino Carpentry in perfect stitched cursive. “Oh, and I’ve put a trap in the doughnut jar – as soon as you twist open that cover it’s gonna snap down on your little fingers like a mouse trap, so you better be careful! And I’ve counted every single doughnut in there so if you eat one, I’m gonna know!” He said this in his smug sarcastic Dad tone and I could tell he was proud of himself. “Have a good day at school!” he said as he looked up the road and accelerated out of the driveway – beeping as he faded away around the corner. Intolerable rage swept across me and I had to fight the tears from wetting my cheeks.  "There's no trap, he's bluffing" I tried to console myself. 

At 3:30 I bounced off the bottom step of the school bus, sprinted down the drive way and to the rafters in the deck where the key was hidden. Frantically twisting the handle, the lock clicked and the door swung open, banging against the wall to my right. My sister and I hurried to our designated bar stools and there we sat with our mouths open in awe. The white plastic cap and rim of the jar were completely covered with layers of strong silver Duct-tape. I looked at Sonya in disbelief. “Holy cow! Where’s the trap that snaps our fingers? Do you see it yet?!" I said as we wiggled to peer through the plastic at the bottom of the cap. For minutes we studied the jar from every angle, but this malicious booby-trap was nowhere to be found. “I don’t know, but it must be in there somewhere. I bet its hiding, maybe its invisible!” Sonya suggested. I stared at the plastic jar of golden doughnuts for the remainder of the 30 minutes wondering how bad the ambush would hurt my fingers and if it was worth it. 4 o'clock on the dot the grumble of my tummy mix with the grumble of Dad’s truck and fury washed over me. My time was up. Failure. My mission had to be scuttled.

In the end, I never was able to sneak a single one of those delicious golden rings, and in my teenage years I would learn that indeed, Dad had been bluffing. 


The Vow

You all know I'm a sentimental schmuck, so this next statement should come as no surprise to you. Last night the Momma-in-law and I went to see the new chick-flick The Vow.
The verdict you ask? I LOVED it! A big thumbs up! Although I wish the story would have been carried on a bit further, the ending irritated me cause I wanted to see more. Haha! Guess I'm too damn nosy for my own  good! I won't give anything away, but I promise if you're also a sentimental schmuck and into these chick-flick movies that require a stash of Kleenex in your coat pocket, this is for you girlfriend!
I've adored Rachel McAdams ever since The Notebook (One of my all time FAVORITE lovey-dovey movies. It's right up there with Pretty Woman, You've Got Mail and Runaway Bride...oh and Sleepless in Seattle). She's so gorgeous (totally have a girl crush on her) and such a perfect actress for these romance roles. Just as I predicted, she didn't disappoint me and was just as fabulous and adorable as always. I have to admit, however, that I was a bit sceptical of Channing Tatum playing the lead in such an ooey-gooey film. I guess I still think of him as the "hard ass punk" in Step Up and G.I. Joe. And I've still yet to see Dear John, so that image has just stayed. But he was SO endearing and wonderful in this (not to mention he was Robert Pattinson quality eye candy). 
Yes, that stash of Kneenex in my coat pocket came in handy from time to time because yes, I imagined what it would be like if this had been Carl and I. I even asked him while we chatted on the phone as I walked back home if he'd try to make me fall in love with him again...his response was half "huh?" half man-grunt. He was playing FIFA and hadn't even heard my damn question. But who says romance is dead, eh? Ha!  Seriously though, can you imagine how heartbreaking it would be not to remember your husband or your life together? I can't. I'd be so lost, and there would just be this gaping empty hole inside. But everything happens for a reason and if things are meant to be, they'll work themselves out.

You'll just have to watch to see if they're meant to be, and if things worked themselves out. I highly recommend you do. And throughout the entire film, keep in mind that this is based on a true story which makes it even more amazing.

If you've already seen this movie, I'd love to know what you thought. Did you love as much as I did? If you're going, get a large popcorn for me, stockpile the tissues and let me know your verdict!

Thanks for reading, guys!
Take good care

2/14/2012

Be my Valentine

The day where it's totally okay to be ooey-gooey-lovey-dovey is here. It's Valentine's Day, and I LOVE IT! I woke up this morning happy, smiling and full of love. I even sang Carl our favorite Ingrid Michaelson song (and no, my voice doesn't sound like a choir of angels, but that's not the point now is it!)

I know there are loads of people out there who moan about how utterly ridiculous and unnecessary Valentine's Day is. The most popular phrase is: "it's just another excuse for Hallmark to make money. You should tell your partner you love them EVERY day not just on this one day of the year." And to that I say a big fat BAH HUMBUG! Don't buy a card then! Maybe I'm just a sentimental schmuck, but I LOVE Valentine's Day just as I love all of the other holidays. And just because there's a 'special' day of the year where you take EXTRA time to show your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend how much you love and appreciate them, that DOESN'T mean you shouldn't do it the rest of the year as well. Carl and I fight daily over who loves the other more, hug and give loads of eskimo kisses and even surprise one another with little thoughtful tokens of appreciation throughout the entire year, but we still enjoy a special day that provides us with the excuse to be a bit more 'ooey gooey' than usual.

But even before there was a Carl and I, my Mother used to ALWAYS make Valentine's such a fun holiday with her quirky gifts. Every February 14th my sister and I would wake up to a special basket hanging from our bedroom doors. And it would never fail, inside was always the most awesome/adorable/practical gift. There was chocolate (duh!) which was normally in the shape of Hershey's Kisses, but as tasty as chocolate is it was never the main attraction. Every year Mom always got us the most funky Valentine's boxer shorts or pajama pants she could find. They were always different, always a bit more dorky/adorable than the last pair, and we always wore them to bed the rest of the year. I love this tradition so much that it's something I'll definitely be passing on to my children. By the time they're 18 they'll have a sock/underwear drawer full of these funny little shorts just as Sonya and I did. I can't wait.














This year, because I was off from teaching and had lots of free time yesterday, I decided to Valentines-ify our house. I love decorating for holidays and doing crafty little things anyway, but this gave me the opportunity to use this bunting template that I found a while ago and cut out/create my own bunting masterpiece (I'm going to be having lots bunting at our 2013 wedding, which I'll be making myself, so this gave me the opportunity to test it out and see if I'm any good). If you're looking for a more in depth tutorial demonstrating how to assemble paper bunting click here, I found this site really helpful too! In addition, I also made my own conversation hearts and stuck them to and fro, prettied up some beautiful pink flowers my mother-in-law brought me on Sunday and put out an adorable little booklet that I made for Carl about 7 years ago when we were still doing the long-distance thing. For those of you who don't know, we went a year and a half without seeing each other at one point, and I especially found it difficult being so far apart. Everyone kept telling me 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' but to be blunt, that optimistic crap just wasn't cutting the mustard. So, soon after one of his visits I made this little photo book out of paper lunch bags and sent it to him in the mail. At the time it made me feel better to write "goodbye baby, but not for too long" and "it's not the end, it's only the beginning." What's more, we love looking back at it now. I sometimes wish that the me from back then could see us now so she wouldn't cry so many nights wondering: will we every be together without an entire ocean in between us? I feel so blessed to be where we are now. Happy, together and embarking on our adventures. It really is a cute little love story, even if I do say so myself. * insert "Awwwwwwe's" here*






The hubs had a stock pile of vacation time to be taken so he booked the day off and we enjoyed a relaxing day together. We woke up late, lounged around the house, exchanged our small gifts and cuddled. After we got dressed (please note that my attire was coordinating with the holiday haha) we ventured off to our favorite bakery,  enjoyed yummy cake (I had Pecan Pie. Mmm) strolled through the city centre where he bought me 3 roses (I've NEVER got roses before so I was absolutely tickled pink) and headed back home to eat a home cooked meal that had been simmering away in the crock-pot while we were out gallivanting.




This year I did things a bit different in terms of my gift. I got him Hershey's Kisses (mostly because ever since I took him to NYC where he visited the Hershey's store in Times Square he loves them and they're not really sold in England. However, I managed to find an American candy stall that stocked them so he was in luck...ironically, this is also where he got my yummy 3 Muskateers for me. Ha! Great minds think alike, eh?) Aside from the chocolate, I found a really creative idea on Pinterest for a DIY Love Card Deck and decided I really wanted to make one. The best part, it was virtually free! Had we had an old deck of cards lying around I would have used them, but as we didn't I ended up just buying a cheap deck. The rest of the project required my printer, tape, a Sharpie and a good hour trying to think up 52 things I love about him (not that it was hard to find 52 reasons, it was just time consuming trying to be creative and not write boring/predictable goo like "I like your eyes, I like your nose, you're kind...") I'm as pleased as punch with how it turned out, and I think this was Carl's favorite gift. He sat there grinning from ear to ear this morning as he flipped through all 52 things I love about him (even if somewhere around the #39 card I may have accidentally skipped a card and messed up the rest of the counting from then on. Ah well, so what if there happens to be an outcast card with no number on it... no one will ever know...only you and the other couple hundred people who read this post. Ha!) I love that this deck of cards, like that photo book I made 7 years ago, will be something that we can look at later down the road and smile. I think after we have children, maybe for our 10th wedding anniversary, I'll do this again. I'm excited to see what new things I love about him and how our relationship will have grown even stronger with time.
 To finish off our Valentines night we're about to cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie. I've enjoyed today. It's been the most low-key Valentines that we've shared yet, but it has been my favorite. Regardless of the fact that we show each other how much we love one another on a daily basis, it's nice to have a 'special' day to elaborate a bit more. And, it was our very first Valentines as Mr and Mrs Anderson. May there be many, many more :)

Whoever you were with, whatever you were doing, I hope all of you enjoyed a wonderful Valentine's Day.  

P.S. I want to wish a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of my best girlfriends, Alli. I hope Mike spoiled you rotten and smothered you with love ;) Miss you to the moon and back.
xoxo

2/13/2012

Adele, you go girl!

You'll all know after reading this post about how much I adore Adele. Along with Coldplay she's my all time FAVORITE artist in the entire world. I've listened to both her albums 19 and 21 religiously on my iPod since they were first released, I know every single world to every single song, have 'Rumour Has It' as my ring tone and even stock her blog. Back in 2008 the hubby and I considered To Make You Feel My Love as our first dance song at our wedding and for a surprise graduation present he got me tickets to see her last October...which I was heart broken about because her vocal cord surgery meant that the gig had to be cancelled and I never got to see one of my musical idols. Yes, I cried when this happened. Yes, I blogged about it in the post above. And yes, I still vow to see her perform live one day. It WILL happen, mark my words. Ha!


But watching her completely kick BUTT at the Grammy's with not only her performance but her sweep of the 6...yes SIX awards that she was nominated for was absolutely wonderful. She's so gorgeous, so talented and so humble. I feel SO happy for her and I'm ecstatic that she's back sharing that gorgeous voice with millions and being rewarded for it. You go girl!
video
 I'm also in love with her new hair-do/makeover. I think she's beautiful no matter what she's wearing or how her hair is, but I think the blonde bob really suits her. And is it just me or does she look as though she's thinner? Either way, she's a knock out. Before I stop rambling about fashion, I have to voice how stunning her dresses were. I loved the custom made Giorgio Armani gown, obviously, but that polka dot dress she wore for her performance I absolutely adored. Yes, I know I'm biased as I have an obsession with all things polka dot, but I'm sure there are non-polka dot obsessives out there who liked it also. I've been patrolling the internet trying to find out where it's from (hoping and praying it doesn't cost £500) but have had no luck as of yet. BOO! If you know, do share! This polka-dot-aholic would love to buy one! 



What an amazing night for an amazing singer. It's so good to see a talented, down to earth person who deserves these awards actually getting them. May Adele continue to reap the reward so that ungrateful brats like Kanye West do not. Haha! 

Thanks for reading, guys!
Take good care,

Within in the past couple of hours the beautiful Adele has announced that she'll be taking a break from music for the next 4-5 years :( Not gonna lie, I very nearly shed a year as it puts my vow to see her sing live at a bit of a stand-still, but I'm okay with it. As long as SOMEDAY I get to see her sing, that's enough for me. I'd rather she took the time off to rest her voice, be happy with her new lover boy and use the free time to write another amazing 'happy' album :)  She's been quoted saying the following which cracked me right up with the whole vegetable patch thing:

"So at least now I can have enough time to write a happy record. And be in love and be happy. And then I don't know what I'll do. Get married. Have some kids. Plant a nice vegetable patch."
I can and will wait. Her music is worth that ;) And in the meantime I'll continue to obsess over her previous 2 albums and Coldplay. Haha! 

If like me, you're finding that you're in denial and need proof of this shocking revelation, click here to read the report.

Yes folks, yet ANOTHER blog update!

I told you I stocked Adele's Blog and I'm SO glad I do! If, like me, you were feeling a bit down in the dumps as the realization set in that Adele wouldn't be producing another amazing album for AT LEAST 5 years, then have a read of this. It'll cheer you RIGHT up! To give you a hint, the blog ends with this phrase:

"5 years? More like 5 days!"

YAY!