Sunday, 21 February 2010

The First Kiss

When I was a young girl (and I'm talking the teenage years) my friends and I would discuss kissing, boys, relationships... you know, the regular Saturday night sleepover gossip ritual. We imagined kissing a boy as handsome as Leonardo Dicaprio or turning up on the arm of someone as hunky as Paul Walker and we longed for the day when we would play their leading lady.

The kisses looked amazing, but watching the edited and produced smooches between two beautiful Hollywood types set us up for an unrealistic expectation of what our own experiences would be like.

I remember some of my more experienced friends recalling their lip-locking encounters describing them as too toothy, like straightening a piece of string on your tongue and one, as saliva boy.

My first kiss was so far removed from the knee-knocking, earth-shattering fiesta I was anticipating, quite frankly it turned my stomach. I was 15 and away at summer camp in Oxford. It was a disco night, which meant 50 girls clamouring for the mirrors in the campus bathroom, fizzling heat eminating from so many pairs of hair straighteners, Spectacular glitter christening the air as we hurried to apply liberal amounts to our eyelids, arms, chests (pretty much every exposed bodily area) and multi-coloured tube tops shielding an array of fledgling breasts.

It was one of those - "oooh, Mark wants to kiss you tonight!" scenarios, so I knew it was coming, but that does not mean I was prepared for what was to actually, come! He was a good three inches shorter than me (and I am not tall) and he had braces (yes the atypical teenage boy)- lucky me, certainly no Leo Dicaprio moment. He approached me on the dancefloor and after a brief attempt at slow dancing with me, suggested we exit the disco and find a quiet spot... this was round the back of the building in the shadow of the night. He then proceeded to insert his tongue into my mouth and perform some kind of washing-machine style oral exam. I made my excuses and was able to mentally block it until 8am the following morning when I awoke and ran for the bathroom in memory of my ghastly first kiss...

Of course I have had many more good, great and even excellent kisses since then, and now with my husband of course, they are fantastic!!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Dassa's Low Fat Bakery

Chocolate Cream Pie

A Friday night dessert special - this was a hit with my friends, who had us round for dinner in their studio flat in Golders Green a couple of weeks ago.

Grease your pie dish with 1 calorie spray, or your Benecol spread and pre-heat the oven to 200 C.

Dough/pie shell:
175g all-purpose flour
2 tbsp half-spoon sugar
115g Benecol Olive (low cholesterol) spread
1 egg yolk
2-3 tsp cold water (or until you reach the right consistency for your dough)

Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl, then rub in the Benecol until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Mix together the egg yolk and water and add to the dry ingredients. Knead into a dough and then mould to your pie dish. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and then bake in the oven for 15 minutes with a circle of parchment paper covering the base of the pie. Remove the paper and bake for a further 10 minutes - the pie shell should now be golden and crisp.

50g cornstarch (or cornflour)
90g half spoon sugar
160ml low fat single cream
275ml skimmed milk
90g dark chocolate (organic) - broken into pieces
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp Benecol olive spread

Mix the cornstarch (cornflour) and sugar in a non-stick pan. Gradually blend in the cream and then stir in the milk and chocolate. Heat on a low light and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture thickens and boils (resist the urge to eat the chocolate mixture straight from the pan!). Remove from the heat. Beat the egg yolks in a separate bowl, then stir in a few spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture one at a time, and then pour the combined mixture back into the pan, stirring constantly for a further minute (but do not allow to boil). Remove from the heat and stir in the Benecol. Allow to cool and then pour into the pie shell.

Press a circle of dampened parchment paper onto the surface of the pie filling to prevent a skin from forming and then refrigerate for 2 hours. Remove the parchment paper. You are now ready to serve it up and enjoy!!

Double Chocolate Cookies

Otherwise known as, the funnest way to spend a Wednesday afternoon!!

50g Benecol Olive spread
450g organic dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 eggs
170g soft light brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
85g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

2 baking trays lined with greaseproof paper

Preheat the oven to 170 C

Melt the Benecol and half the chocolate in a non-stick pan. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract. Pour in the chocolate mixture, beating on slow speed until well combined. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in a separate bowl and then stir in the chocolate mixture in 3 additions, mixing well each time. Then (having roughly chopped the remaining chocolate, add it to the melted mixture. (Remember to keep all chocolaholic friends away from the mixture - and, speaking from personal experience, do not answer the phone while operating the electric whisk - I literally got chocolate sauce all over my kitchen floor, and I might add, myself!!)

Here comes the fun part!! Arrange spoonfuls of cookie dough to the baking trays - make sure the cookies are spaced apart to allow for spreading while baking. Bake for 10-15 minutes. They are ready when the tops start to crack and look glossy. Leave to cool before devouring!!

My Mummy's favourite brownies...

200g dark chocolate
175g Benecol Olive spread
325g caster sugar (half spoon sugar)
130g plain flour
3 eggs

Line a baking tray with baking paper or grease your tray with Benecol spread and preheat the oven to 170 C...

Melt the chocolate and Benecol in a non-stick pan until smooth. Remove from the heat, then add the sugar and stir well. Finally stir in the eggs and mix until thick and smooth. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes.

Be very careful not to overcook. You want them to be really squidgy on the inside.
My Mum says they are the best brownies she has ever tasted!!

See-in-the-dark Carrot Cake!!

100g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch salt
200g light brown sugar
15g olive oil
2 medium eggs
200g carrots, grated
150g ground almonds

175g extra light cream cheese
55g icing sugar
25g Benecol Olive (low cholesterol) spread

Measure out all the ingredients for the filling - grate the carrots (you'll probably need two decent sized carrots; peel and top n' tail) then add the ground almonds. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in another bowl. Then add the brown sugar, olive oil and eggs and mix well. Stir in the carrot and ground almond mixture.

Pour the filling into the pre-greased cake tin (ideally 20cm) and bake in a pre-heated oven (170 C) for approx 30 minutes.

While the cake is cooling (once removed), whisk the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar in a bowl until smooth. When the cake is cold, spread the frosting on top. Yum!!


Trailing on the end of the Cameron band-wagon, I finally gave in to my husband's techniques of persuasion and went to see Avatar. James Cameron's special effects masterpiece combines the outer-body experience of Matrix with the colonial tale of Disney's Pocahontas.

Set in the future, paraplegic former marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is sent to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na'vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. Jake and Na'vi native Neytiri (Zoe Saldana, The Terminal) develop a romance in the face of opposing forces from both the US troops intent on mining and destroying the land in order to profit from the precious materials existing there, and the Na'vi people who are hesitant to accept Jake as one of their own.

Academy Award winner, Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) plays Dr Augustine, the scientist attempting to cultivate a harmonious relationship with the Na'vi people so that she can learn from them and from the land.

Jake initially attempts to integrate with the Na'vi people in order to obtain intel which he feeds back to the military unit, however he discovers a deep, and unexpected, understanding and bond with both his Na'vi avatar and the ways of the people. He breaks down the barriers of race and culture to unite the indigenous tribe and defeat the colonising prowess of the money-hungry Parker and his ruthless military forces.

An epic battle ensues as the two sides fight to assert their needs and like all good tales, good triumphs over evil.

The focus on the way the Na'vi people are attuned to the planet, their respect for all life and their preservation of earth's resources is definitely a nod to humankind to pay closer attention to the needs of our planet and our treatment of all life on earth.

Cameron's message is clear: do unto others as you wish to be done to yourself. If we don't learn to respect our planet and the life it inhabits, the disrespect will in time come back to bite us in the proverbial 'arse'!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Bride does Battersea Park

Second row at a catwalk show, at the Designer Wedding Show in Battersea Park...

Sassi Holford kicked off the show to some mellow rnb beats, showcasing a range of full ballgowns, slinky silky numbers and nipped-in waists. Temperley took to the runway next mixing a 1920s flapper vibe with 1940s detailing and swarovski embellishments. One that caught my eye was a v-neck, empire-line floor-length gown with lace overlay adorned with crystals.

Annette Carey Couture celebrated an eclectic collection combining quirky romance and structured classics. One model stalked the runway complete with a top hat and cane to match the black and white striped bow bringing up her rear!

Heirloom Couture added unique accessories to update traditional designs, from a skinny blue belt to a knee-length ruffle skirt, and 1920s headbands.

Michael Buble's 'Crazy Love' provided the soundtrack for Ritva Westenius's line-up, featuring one of my favourite dresses in the show, consisting of a corseted top and flowing skirt seemingly created out of flower corsages and butterfly wings.

Delphine Manivet experimented with unusual ideas of what constitutes the ideal wedding dress; from a mini dress with an extended bustle and train, to a boyfriend-shirt over a ra-ra skirt, the collection was unexpected to say the least.

A word to Emma Hunt, horizontal stripes do not have a place on a wedding gown, there is a way of doing it right. Having said that, the champagne panelling and floor-length ivory duchesse satin was a knock-out.

Stephanie Allin played with tulle, monochrome and tailoring, combining girlish innocence with delicate shapes. Sweetheart necklines, bell skirts, black tulle peeking out from beneath a fishtail skirt and a long white jacket, made for an incredible catwalk experience.

And last, but most definitely not least, the individual stylings of Miss Vivienne Westwood. Embracing the past season's trend of accuentuating a woman's curves and exhibiting a continuation of the much-famed dress as seen on Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw in the 2008 movie, Westwood served up an array of body-con inspired knee-length dresses, tutu-esque puffball mini-dresses and long slinky evening gowns.

While some of her creations verged on the bizarrely eccentric, Westwood pulled it off with typical flare.

Being surrounded by beautiful bridal gowns all morning filled me with excitement at the prospect of my own date with destiny as I am due to tie the knot in 2 months, 2 weeks, 5 days, 23 hours, 29 minutes and 12 seconds!!!! I'm picking up my wedding dress tomorrow with my Mum and I cannot wait!!!!!

Thursday, 11 February 2010


The current trend with the supernatural, reflected in the TV shows and films we watch, the books we read, the topics we discuss, all comes down to the fact that we are fascinated with mystery and the unknown.

From vampires, to individuals with superpowers we search for ways to enhance our humanity, our mortality. Is it because we are afraid of death, of our human frailty? Possessing our own powers or being shielded by the powers of another sustains those who are looking to have faith in something. Believing we are capable of protecting ourselves and those we love enables us to feel as though we are in control of our destiny.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a witch, my friend and I were obsessed with The Worst Witch books and we would act out the stories during playtime at school, imagining we could fly and cast spells. My parents split up and my Dad moved to the other side of the world and life was hard. My fantasies of witch-craft and the imaginary world I built up around myself was my coping mechanism for all that life had to throw at me.

I would pray and I would tell myself that it didn't matter what happened to me, because my body was only a shell and my soul would survive no matter what. I went to see a councillor, and rather than talk, I drew. I drew pictures of what was going on in my head and I made things that represented my desires. I channelled my pain through my creativity. I am so grateful to my imagination and creativity for helping me to survive - that is my superpower.

When we experience traumas, upheavals and crises it forces a re-evaluation of life. I have experienced traumatic losses throughout my life in different forms and they have all taught me about the strength within myself - the ability to cope, to survive and to support the others I love. I believe that we do have "superpowers", they may just not culminate in teleporting, flying, sorcery or extreme mortal combat talents. The "superpower" we have is within ourselves and learning how to use it for our own good is what makes it powerful.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The nightmares of wedding planning...

Just wanted to vent my frustration out into the ether... Being my own wedding planner, I don't have anyone bar my best friend/Maid of Honour to scream at when I'm feeling frustrated!!!!

I have just got off the phone with my dressmaker who, despite booking me in for a Saturday fitting (the final one, I might add) this weekend, is now telling me that she no longer accommodates Saturday fittings... My mother is finally accompanying me to this fitting, having not yet seen the dress - yes I have attended the majority of my fittings alone, but that's fine - we need to collect it, pay the final installment and transport it back to my mother's house, which is a good hour's drive away! So I now have to wait for said dressmaker to try and fit me in (I used my powers of persuasion - hoping they worked!)...

On Thursday I went bridesmaid dress shopping for my middle bridesmaid, who has already been giving me jip about the dress scenario. When I selected my bridesmaids, two years ago when I got engaged, I explained that I would not be able to pay for dresses, however they would be able to choose any dress they wanted but I was selecting the colours. I assigned the three girls red, cobalt blue and purple. Maid of Honour in red - was no problem, got the dress in Debenhams - beautiful!! And have a shopping trip planned with bridesmaid number 3 in a fortnight and (touch wood) I don't foresee any problems there either. But back to the bridesmaid in blue...

She called me the night before our shopping trip to say she couldn't afford to buy a new dress for the wedding, could she wear a dress worn to another wedding. I asked the colour, and she said: "Green"... I said, "Weren't you the one who said 'green' is bad luck at a wedding, and you personally would never wear it!" She said her previous claims were "Crap" however, we finally settled on a compromise - a £30 budget. Overall I think I handled the whole situation very well. By some miracle, we not only found her a dress but in the exact shade of blue I wanted and were able to use vouchers, so the dress only ended up costing a fiver!!! She is going to look absolutely beautiful!!!! Can't wait!!

Another crisis arose this weekend just gone - we were going out for middle bridesmaid's birthday and she had invited along her toxic friend (we'll call her Tia*). Now, my MoH, bridesmaids and mother have organised a fabulous hen night, which I am not allowed to know anything about, so all details are being kept firmly under wraps!!! Very exciting!! BUT. Saturday night as we are walking to the restaurant Tia*, who is well aware of the secret nature of my hen do, and I are discussing plans for middle bridesmaid's hen night (which I am also organising)and as we are trading ideas, she says, "Oh yes, I heard you were doing xxxx for your hen night"... luckily I had no idea what she was referring to, but I was so mad that she'd even attempted to give something away. I have since had to explain to middle bridesmaid that I want no further contact with this girl, which of course was not met with great enthusiasm but what can I do... Oi!!

I tell you, it's just one thing after another...
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