Fun Fruit Platter for Parties

I love food platters, particularly ones that look beautiful, taste yummy, are quick and simple to assemble, are suitable for most dietary requirements and provide lots of fun at celebrations and dinner parties.

This is one of my favourites – a simple fruit platter that takes no time at all to create, is a brilliant hands on dessert to end a lovely meal and is suitable for vegans and vegetarians (depending on what you choose to use for the dip). I created this platter for The Bloke and I on New Years Eve as an alternative to a baked dessert, mainly because I didn’t want to prepare a complicated recipe, spend a fortune or finish the evening by feeling bloated. It is also perfect for getting your children involved and is great for children’s parties or summer barbecues.

And yet, while it’s almost insulting to write out such a simple recipe idea, it’s something that many don’t even think about until after an event is over… So here is is:

You will need:

A selection of your favourite fruits – I’m particularly fond of things like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, bananas, but I’ve seen lots of other ideas including kiwi fruit, watermelon oranges etc. Pick what you enjoy and what falls within your budget.

A large plate or platter

Wooden skewers

For the dip: this can also be anything of your choice – Greek yoghurt, avocado mousse and vegan lemon curd would be perfect for a healthy dip idea, or you could use things like raspberry coulis, melted chocolate, peanut butter… I (of course) decided to treat myself by melting some Nutella. Because everything is better with Nutella.

Extras: this also depends on how healthy you want to make it. Mini brownie pieces, marshmallows, bite sized flapjacks are great for adding onto the kebabs, nuts, cacao nibs or hundreds and thousands can be used for sprinkling… Anything and everything goes. I decided to add some marshmallows for a change in texture. And because it was a great excuse to eat marshmallows.

Method:

Chop up the fruit and arrange on the plate / platter.

Lay out any extras you want to include around the fruit.

Place dips / toppings into small bowls.

Place a selection of the fruit on the wooden skewers or simply put the skewers on the side and encourage people to make their own fruit kebabs.

 

That’s it. It took me a total of 10 minutes to put it together and I could sit back and enjoy it without having to worry about timings or temperature.

Give it a try – the next time you host a party for people of any age, set out this fruit platter for all of your guests to enjoy!

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Family Birthday Celebrations

imageIt’s been a really lovely weekend.

I received a package from the lovely Hugh in the mail. He had put a picture of his Christmas ducks up on Facebook and I left a comment that asked where I could get some Christmas ducks of my own. A few days later, some arrived in the mail! Thanks Hugh!

After setting off at ridiculous o’clock yesterday morning, The Bloke and I travelled up north. It was my mum’s 60th birthday and I was also meeting up with some old friends from my college years, so we were staying at my sister and brother-in-laws house. It was a good opportunity to spend some time with my sister before Baby Squidge arrives next month. Continue reading

A Wedding in the Cotswolds

I’ve never been married, but after attending many over the years as a guest or as part of a string quartet, I have a decent idea of the sort of wedding I would like.

Picture this: a Christmas theme, held in a beautiful hotel in the countryside, with lots of candlelight, a simple ceremony and beautiful food, celebrated with a small group of our closest family and friends.

It turns out, one of my oldest and dearest friends, Charlotte and her partner John, clearly have similar tastes, and The Bloke and I have just returned from one of the most stunning weddings we have ever attended. Continue reading

It’s Party Time!

imageThis week marks my two year blogiversary, and I decided that the best way to celebrate would be to invite you all to my blog party!

It has been quite a while since I last hosted a blog party, and I absolutely love them, so I’d like you all to put on your best outfits, grab a drink (mine is a Mojito for anyone that’s interested) and get your blog on! For those of you that have never participated in one before, the rules are simple:

1. Choose your favourite post from your own blog. The subject of the post can be anything you like – blogging, food, parenting, life, travel, thoughts, photography… Note: This should be only one post at a time or it will get sent straight to the ‘spam’ folder and I may not be able to find you for a while. I don’t have an issue with you posting another link separately, but please don’t share more than three – spend the time visiting other bloggers instead.

2. Paste the link to your post in the comment section of this post.

3. Enjoy! Relax, pull up a chair, meet new people! Find new blogs, comment on their posts, be polite, courteous and respectful, follow, reblog and share. Let them know that you met them here! This is a really useful way of discovering new blogs, particularly if you have only just joined the blogging world – the general rule that I set myself when I participate is that I check out at least two or  three other bloggers…

You don’t have to follow me to participate, you don’t have to be an established blogger – you could have written just a single post – and feel free to invite your friends!

Want to discover six WordPress blogs without waiting for others to post their links? Check out my sponsors – they’re all fabulous bloggers and they would love to meet you – you can find their blogs in my sidebar, just click on the image for the link! 

You’re welcome to share this post on all of your social media accounts too! You can find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to visit my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

And remember…

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NOTE 1: Don’t forget to join me for #SundayBlogShare tomorrow!

NOTE 2: I’VE JUST FOUND TEN POSTS IN MY SPAM FOLDER THAT I HAVE NOW APPROVED – APOLOGIES FOR THIS!

Two Years? Happy Blogiversary To Me!

imageToday is my two year blogiversary. Two years. While I follow blogs that have been around five times longer, I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown.

Two years ago, I was in a very different place. The Bloke and I were going through some difficult times – he had lost his father and his best friend within a year, we were experiencing major problems with our neighbours and I was finding my job extremely difficult. I was suffering from anxiety and depressed. Writing has always been therapeutic, and The Bloke suggested that I start a blog as a way of being able to exorcise the demons that plagued my thoughts on a regular basis.

It turned out to be the best decision I have ever made. I was instantly addicted – spending hour after hour pouring out everything I could think of into this little space of the the Internet. Within the first few weeks I had written about fifty posts.

Over the last two years, life has continued to be a rollercoaster of highs and lows. We moved house twice in just over six months, my beloved cat died, my other cat was diagnosed with diabetes, I spent a week in hospital with a kidney infection and a virus and I became desperately unhappy at work. On the positive side, my little sister got married, my family and I were able to repair relationships that had been fraught and strained for years, we now have a lovely landlord, nice neighbours and are fully settled into our home, we’ve had many wonderful evenings with friends, seen films, shows, been on visits to London, and after years of being conflicted about my profession I made the decision to finally take the risk and quit, handing in my resignation just a few weeks ago.

The blogging community has been with me every step of the way, and never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined just how much Suzie81 Speaks would grow and develop. With over 390,000 views, 11,600 followers, a successful weekly hashtag party on Twitter, monthly sponsors and lots of comments every day, blogging has become a part of my daily life. I’ve been Freshly Pressed, featured on Mumsnet and The Sits Girls on several occasions, one of my posts went viral on Facebook and I’ve loved every minute of it! It has given me confidence, self-belief and the motivation to change things for the better. Better still, I have met people from all over the world that I would now consider to be my friends. People who have listened, empathised and have gone out of their way to offer support, particularly during extremely difficult periods of my life.

To those people (and I make no apologies for the potentially vomit inducing sentiment), thank you for everything.

As a chance to give back, I am hosting a blogiversary party this Saturday. For those of you who wish to participate, simply check out the link below by clicking on the image:

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Hope you can join me then!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

Looking for new blogs to follow? Why don’t you check out my sponsors – you can find their links in the sidebar of this page

A Party Invitation

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This week marks my two year blogiversary, and in celebration I would like to cordially invite you all to attend my blog party this weekend!

It has been quite a while since I last hosted a blog party, and I absolutely love them! It will start on Saturday (please don’t post anything here), which gives you five days to select your favourite post. For those of you that have never participated in one before, the rules are simple:

1. Choose your favourite post from your own blog. The subject of the post can be anything you like – blogging, food, parenting, life, travel, thoughts, photography… Note: This should be only one post at a time or it will get sent straight to the ‘spam’ folder and I may not be able to find you for a while.

2. Paste the link to your post in the comment section of the party post ON SATURDAY.

3. Enjoy! Relax, pull up a chair, meet new people! Find new blogs, comment on their posts, follow, reblog and share. Let them know that you met them here! This is a really useful way of discovering new blogs, particularly if you have only just joined the blogging world and when I have participated in similar things I have really enjoyed them!

You don’t have to follow me to participate, you don’t have to be an established blogger – you could have written just a single post – and feel free to invite your friends!

Feel free to share this post on all of your social media accounts too! You can find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to visit my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

See you on Saturday!

Selfie Sticks, Chocolate Cake and Ian, the Scary Gnome

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I made a promise to myself last year that Christmas 2014 would be one to remember, and it certainly was. After resolving a few issues over the last few months I was genuinely looking forward to the prospect of celebrating the festive season with my family. Continue reading

Back To Reality After a Wonderful Weekend

imageIt was difficult getting motivated this morning. I sat at my desk this morning, turned on my laptop and almost instantly a reminder popped up: data analysis due tomorrow. Eurgh. I like my job and I work at a good school, but after having such a brilliant weekend I was suddenly brought back down to reality with a big bump.

It was my birthday last Friday, and I’ve had a wonderful weekend of celebrations. My lovely colleagues treated me to Crispy Cremes, chocolate and cinema vouchers and they found it hilarious to all sign a One Direction card when they know how much I dislike them, which made me and my students roar with laughter when I opened it. On Friday night The Bloke and a large group of friends from all different areas of my life joined me for drinks at my local pub. It can be sometimes quite awkward when introducing groups of friends to each other, but everyone instantly connected and there was lots of laughter, some dancing and the odd spillage. I had a warm and fuzzy moment where I sat back and watched everyone as they were talking – I’m lucky to know lots of wonderful people…

Suffice to say, my hangover was of epic proportions on Saturday morning. I had woken up early as The Bloke left for the day to visit his family and couldn’t get back to sleep, so instead of wallowing in my own alcohol – laden filth I decided to make the short journey into Birmingham City Centre and attempt to make a decent start on my Christmas shopping.

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Tip: When attempting to shop in the second biggest city in the country, do so with a raging hangover. I was feeling so awful that I was in no mood for politeness and taking things easy. My headphones were in, my heavy metal music was on, my elbows were out and I was like a woman possessed. I knew exactly what I wanted and where to obtain it from, and I was in and out within two hours. I returned home with everything on my list, and had even managed to buy myself an ‘it’s my birthday and I’m brilliant so I’m going to treat myself’ present in the form of a shiny new iPhone 6, which replaced my old faithful iPhone 4 that went to the electronic heaven in the sky last week.

The Bloke returned home later that day to find me in my jammies and lying on the couch under a quilt. The hangover had subsided a little by that point, and so we spent the evening watching ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and eating pizza.

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Sunday was the day I had been looking forward to all week: The Good Food Show at the NEC. It has become a yearly tradition for The Bloke and I as it always falls on the weekend after my birthday and I love it. We’ve established a routine – The Bloke stands back and pretends that he doesn’t know me as I run around and grab all the free samples that I possibly can, we buy lots of cheese, chutney and products by Crimbles, we watch a show and then go home before it gets too busy to move. This year was no exception – we arrived just as it opened and almost immediately I had a potato on a stick in one hand, some cocktail sticks that had been skewered with different flavours of cheese in another and was attempting to munch my way through different olives laced with beautiful oils, herbs and garlic without dribbling them down the front of myself. Classy.

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We went to see the Hairy Bikers show (who, if you haven’t seen or heard of them before, are essentially two northern and heavily bearded chefs that ride motorbikes and create brilliant cookery programmes for British television), and I was delighted that The Bloke had managed to get tickets right on the front row. They didn’t disappoint, and even brought Louis, a contestant from the recent Great British Bake Off, to help them on stage. The food they created smelled beautiful, they entertained with their usual warmth and cheeky jokes, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In my infinite wisdom I decided to finish off the last of my shopping after we left. It was early in the afternoon by the time I arrived, and it was utter chaos. I managed two stores and came home. Never. Again. I’ve decided to avoid town at all costs from now on unless I can get in early. However, my shopping is now nearly completed, most of my cards are written and all I need to do is put up the tree, torture the cats with their little Santa hats that I force them to wear every year and I’m all set. My weekly Twitter party, #SundayBlogShare was being guest hosted by Gene’O @sourcererblog and he did a wonderful job, and I checked it sporadically to see lots of new participants and hundreds of posts being shared. Brilliant. Thanks Gene’O, you’re a star.

This is why getting out of bed this morning was so tough. I needed another day or two to recover.

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I also wanted to say a huge thank you to all of you who wished me a happy birthday across my social media sites. It was indeed a happy birthday, filled with lots of lovely people and experiences, and I have been thoroughly spoilt with cards and unbelievably thoughtful gifts.

So, back to reality. Anyone got a time machine they would like to lend me so I can go and do it again?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

A Year of Blogging: Suzie81 Speaks

 

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Last week marked the official anniversary of Suzie81 Speaks. Brace yourself, this is going to be a long one!!!

I’ll start with some numbers:

Followers: 5,000

Views: 192,000

Comments: 12,000

Posts: 700 (but this is now 300 as I deleted over half of everything I had written)

Unbelievable.

After years of writing in journals, I followed The Bloke’s advice and set up a WordPress account. This little blog started as simply Suzie81 – my name and the year I was born – and served as the opportunity to share the various thoughts and anxieties that had been swamping my brain for a long time. The response and support that I received was immediate and life changing, and within a year I have not only met some fantastic people (you know who you are), but I have now have the direction in life that I had been so desperately seeking before. I purchased a domain name, changing it to ‘Suzie81 Speaks,’ set up an additional Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and the most exciting thing of all is that I have been asked to write for a monthly online magazine (more on that later)…

In celebration of my year anniversary and to channel my inner narcissism, I posted a competition a few weeks ago. I invited people to ask me any question (within reason), with the winner being awarded two weeks worth of free advertising on my blog. I also promised that I would answer every question and include links to the blogs of every person who took part.

I had a brilliant response. I’ll announce the winner at the end… Here goes!

If you weren’t a teacher what might you be? (Perspiring Poet)

I would definitely be working with animals. If I knew then what I know now I would have gained qualifications in animal care.

If you were stuck on a CD for two weeks, which desert island would you be? (Steve Says)

The one owned by Richard Branson – CD or island. This was the best I could come up with – I attempted to think of a response for two weeks and my brain started to hurt.

If you were writing a novel what would your opening and closing sentences be? (Andrew Seal)

She laughed at the sheer arrogance of his words. 

Maybe next time she’ll ask for more.

How long is a short piece of string? (Fearless Leader)

Infinitely long. I think. My brain hurts.

Who in your life has influenced you the most? How did they do it? (Jolene)

My mum. Of course, it has to be my mum. I haven’t always agreed with her at the time but inevitably she’s usually been right. How did she do it? Sheer persistence, support and large bouts of nagging.

In your opinion, what do women want? (mommyx4boys)

To be happy. I think that’s all what anybody wants. Ooh, and a footrub after a long night of wearing high heels.

What do you find most rewarding about teaching? (Heron There & Everywhere)

When a student is able to do something that they didn’t think they would be initially capable of.

If you won the lottery, what three things would you do with it? (Michelle)

I’d set up a no-kill animal sanctuary for all types of animals, with a vetinary surgery attached.

I’d set up a scholarship programme for under-priveleged kids to be able to go to university without ending up in thousands of pounds worth of debt.

On a selfish note, I’d travel the world.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? (Father At 54)

The father of a girl that I knew as a teenager was in the army and had been sent away to another country. She wasn’t particularly nice to me and after months of standing nasty comments from her I told her that her dad had joined the army to get away from her. I apologised, but twenty years later, I still feel guilty for saying that.

A box of books you just packed away takes a tumble and lands directly on your big toe and you respond by saying: a) ouch! b) f*&# c) BIEBER, you bastard! d) other (please state) (Sandra)

B. Definitely B. Every time. Little Miss Potty Mouth always appears during such incidents.

What has been the best piece of advice someone has given you, and how did it impact your life? (Rebecca Meyer)

Don’t tell anyone anything that you wouldn’t want the whole world to know. There’s only a few people that I trust and I don’t tell people secrets as I’ve been hurt by others in the past.

Mark Twain once said that “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Obviously you have already been born, so my question to you is have you found out why? (adropofno5)

Occasionally I’ll have glimmers of what I know I want to do, but as yet I can’t honestly say why or what my purpose in life is…

Think Dr. Who. If you were able to time travel, (without changing past, present or future) where would you go? (Biker Chick 57)

I’d travel to the Washington Mall and witness Martin Luther King Jr give his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, I’d go to the early 1960’s and watch the Beatles in concert at The Cavern in Liverpool before they became ridiculously famous, I’d go back to 1985 and attend Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, I’d go back to the early 1990’s and spend more time with my Grandfather, I’d go back to the Party in the Park concert where The Spice Girls gave their first concert and this time actually get their autographs (I couldn’t be bothered last time because I didn’t think they’d end up being more than one hit wonders – those autographs would be worth a fortune now) and I would go to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

What has been your favourite moment while working as a teacher? (A Girl With a Piano)

Honestly? There are two moments. The week of the performance of a musical that the kids gave – they were incredible, and the day I left my previous school.

What do value about being a story-teller? (makaedelee)

The opportunity to share what I think and what I believe I know. I love the process of planning what it is that I am going to write, and I love the satisfaction I get when somebody else reads it and enjoys it.

As a teacher, do you think it’s more effective to be lenient or demanding with your students? Or something in between? (Rose F)

New teachers are always told not to smile until Christmas. I think that’s bollocks. Smile, be approachable, friendly and have a good sense of humour, but the most important thing is to have clear, consistent boundaries with sanctions if they are crossed that the students know and respect. There are times when it is possible to be lenient, but I often think that leniency shows a weakness of character with some students. Being fair is more important. Don’t take any nonsense from them.

If you were chosen as leader of Planet Earth what rules or laws would you make or change to help the entire human race? (Phil)

Saying that I would ban religion is against human rights but I do think that religion and religious persecution is an enormous factor in conflicts around the world, and I would prevent religion from being used as a way to discriminate against another. I would legalise gay marriage across the entire planet. I would ban the fur and animal trade, and testing on animals. I would pay women the same as men in every profession. I would enforce fair payment of goods from around the world and make sweatshops illegal. I would have countries near the sea build wind turbines for power. I’d get rid of every countries nuclear weapons.

Oh wow, you’ve opened a can of worms on this – I’m actually going to create a post instead later…

If there was only one book you could take with you to a remote island where you would be for a couple of years and where you would have no access to other reading material of any sort, what would that one book be? (Cathi)

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou. I’ve read it so many times that I had to buy another copy as I wore my first one out. Beautiful book.

Who are your favourite authors? (Tina Bakes Bread)

Maya Angelou, Bill Bryson, Primo Levi, Sue Townsend and, of course, Roald Dahl.

Would you rather travel back in time or into the future (Kim at Awkward Laughter)

I’d definitely rather travel back in time. I like not knowing the future and there are so many events that I wish that I could have experienced.

motivated Thank you so much for all your questions. And the winner?  Steve Says. I couldn’t think of a witty enough response to his question – it was awesome. So, congratulations Steve, you have won two weeks of advertising on my blog starting from the first week in May!

Thank you so much for all your support over the last year – you’ve been a wonderful group of people to meet! Here’s to another year of blogging!

Don’t forget that you can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

An Early Christmas

The Bloke and I are spending the holidays separately with our individual families, so we had our own little celebration yesterday. We started by watching Disney’s Frozen at the cinema, (we have a collective age of 77, but we love a bit of Disney) followed by a trip to the German Market as it was the last day. The film was quite good – it has a little too much in common with ‘Tangled,’ one of my favourites, the fabulous vocal capabilities of the amazing Idina Menzel couldn’t save some of the mediocre songs and I found it a little odd that there isn’t really a main ‘villain’ figure, but it was enjoyable all the same.

When we returned home I cooked us Christmas dinner (I forgot the stuffing), and we gorged ourselves until we felt a little sick. As I come from a family that celebrates excessively with food, I find it extremely difficult to cook for just two people, and consequently our festive spread could easily have fed five or six people.

We then exchanged gifts, and as usual I was thoroughly spoiled – The Bloke bought me several books and a beautiful Pandora charm to add to my ever-growing collection.

We finished the day by watching ‘A Muppets Christmas Carol,’ during which I fell asleep.

A lovely way to finish a lovely day.

You can also find me on Twitter @Suzie81blog