world according to sam

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. Mark Twain

Month: July, 2014

Wrapped up in Spaghetti … all covered in cheese




The worlds easiest meatball recipe …. take one pack of good quality sausages, I like Waitrose own, Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference or Tesco Finest with a minimum 80% meat content …. skin the sausages and cut in half, roll into ball shapes and dust in a little seasoned flour.

Lightly brown in oil, I prefer Rapeseed oil, gives a nice colour and heats more quickly and to a higher temperature than olive oil.  Once brown, remove from heat, drain away excess oil.  Pour on a homemade tomato sauce (onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper and a small tsp of sugar) and simmer gently with a stick of celery in the tomato sauce until the sausagemeat is cooked through.  My grandfather was Italian and there is something authentically Italian about the smell of tomatoes, celery, onions and garlic combined and simmering away – if you forget the celery it never smells or tastes quite the same to me, but you can use celery salt as an alternative.

Serve on top of spaghetti (other pasta shapes are also available:) …. all covered in (parmesan) cheese, if you so desire and a glass of Prosecco is also rather nice  … quick and simple but really delicious, popular with husbands and kids alike (the meatballs, not the Prosecco, do not give your kids Prosecco)




Vitamix – You had me at Hello …..

Steps : 3459

Green Juice Drunk 0 (see below)

HIIT …. no time, too busy blogging and constantly checking my stats




On a Sunday afternoon when we should have been doing more exciting things we found ourselves once again pushing a wonky wheeled outsize trolley around the cavernous Costco warehouse in Reading, purchasing a 6 month supply of discounted high quality triple ply loo paper. Despite only two of us living at home now we still cannot resist bulk buying bathroom and kitchen paper goods from Costco as if there were still the four of us residing there and the imminent threat of  some bowel turning superbug about to do its worst hanging over us!.

The Vitamix sales talk is compelling, presented by one of those cheeky chappies that have fine honed their barrow-boy banter to pull in the ladies and of course their accompanying other halves (and this is where they are clever, flirting with the ladies but even more so with the men, winking knowingly, conspiratorially imparting that look that says YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT!). Onto the demonstration of first, its strength (this bad boy’s 2 litre container is made from Polycarbonate plastic, the same indestructible material used in Spaceships apparently!) The salesman theatrically smashes the container on the side of the demo counter, stands on it, bouncing away while he continues with his crowd seduction,

We stood transfixed by the salesman’s patter – this is how Adam felt when Eve tempted him with the apple – it was irresistible.  This gadget was going to revolutionise our lives.  I am gadget averse, what I mean by that is I don’t like gadgets out on display and I have little space in the cupboards to accommodate anything else.  My kitchen is traditional and without the retro styling of Kitchenaid I just aint’ interested HOWEVER I was slowly being seduced into thinking that this was worth the sacrifice and with one eye closed and head slanted at an angle the Vitamix does look a little vintage, though the styling is more akin to a 70’s TV Space series representation of the Future than my preferred 50’s look!

So as  we filled ourselves with delicious salsa, a hot Thai soup, a green kiwi smoothie, almond milk, cashew butter and  frozen berry yoghurt we stood transfixed, the sales assistant doing a metaphorical dance of the seven veils, revealing the hidden bounties of  The Total Nutrition Center. We were coaxed in closer with a tray of amuse bouche and through each reveal, a little history, a funny anecdote followed by another mouthful of deliciousness.  How to create ‘mock’ lemongrass – an apple and half a lemon whizzed up in the Viatmix with a little water.  Genius.  Then the techie stuff, the explanation of Centrifugal force..the intense spinning of the blades creates friction that imparts heat to the liquid and in less than six minutes HOT SOUP! And you don’t even have to peel the fruits and veg, could this get any better? Mesmerised we swayed to the demonstrators melodious repartee, enthralled and then STRIKE! A One Off TODAY Only Offer Madam, Sir …. blah, blah blah – the rest was irrelevant.  Mr VitaMix sales rep, you had me at Hello …..

The chatter home in the car was full of how we would wake each morning to a delicious green juice full of wholesome fibre and plentiful nutrients, perhaps a high protein snack at lunchtime of a nut-butter spread on crispbreads and then how many times per week we could now go to the gym, straight off the train at 8pm, gym by 8.15, 45 minutes in the gym and home to delicious hot soup full of goodness within 10 minutes of walking through the door. Green smoothies for breakfast, entertaining with home made salsa, soup starter and then frozen yoghurt for pudding … I will be a  Domestic Goddess worshipping at the shrine of Vitamix – and thin and healthier to boot.

Day One of the new us ….. managed to not quite get up early enough to do a green juice and besides it was Monday and there were only 2 apples, a lemon and an ageing plum left in the fruit bowl.  Not to worry, I could pop into Wholefoods in Kensington and pick up some delicious Organic vegetables for the smooth velvety soup I would be making post-gym session tonight.  So at the end of the day, feeling virtuous at starting the week I skipped through  the door with my bag of mixed root and leaf vegetables ready to create.  In they went, carrots, leeks, onions, celery, a little spinach, parsley, coriander, a little salt, pepper and garlic to flavour and cold water.  And GO! The noise of the machine is LOUD, loud enough to require lip-reading skills when in action.  Of course in a Costco Warehouse with its plane hanger dimensions this is not a problem, in my small suburban kitchen it is but we shall presse (presse, geddit?) on.

Six minutes feels too long when you are suddenly ravenous,  four or five minutes into the processing and the machine is beginning to steam and a quick touch of the polycarbonate container confirms the soup is indeed getting hot.  Poured into deep soup bowls we sit to eat our healthy, nutritious, fat free supper ….. bleurgh.  I WAS NOT expecting that …. it is VILE, throat closingly, gag inducingly VILE but HOW? I like ALL those vegetables and herbs and combined they would normally create a delicious, smooth vegetable soup with the aid of my now defunct Braun MultiQuick and 30 minutes softening in olive oil.

By now tired and emotional caused by a massive blood sugar slump I throw the last remaining carrots and coriander into the Vitamix, now everyone loves carrot and coriander soup, right? what could possibly go wrong … so six minutes later we sit down again, less enthusiastic than before but nevertheless driven by hunger, keen to bolt it down.  Well, it wasn’t inedible but frankly Covent Garden Soup Company turns out something far superior than this bitter concotion.  And the texture,  the force used seems to emulsify the liquid somewhere along the line and what is poured out has a strange viscosity that once in the mouth feels  ‘slimy’ and not unlike egg albumen.  But we ate it anyway.

Deflated we went to bed hungry and feeling a little bit like we had fallen prey to a slick sales pitch (again! we have a steam penguin, shirt flip flap folder and numerous miracle household cleansers residing in various cupboards around the house).  On reflection, I suppose when you slowly soften vegetables in oil to make soup in the conventional way, you release the vegetables natural sugars which gives a softer, sweeter taste in the mouth and a quick jooooosh in a blender affords you the texture you want rather than the cloying potage I had created.   Since then I have reverted to peeling and softening my vegetables in the traditional way and of course use my Vitamix to blend it to the texture I require.

Now I am no longer commuting to London for 5 hours a day and have rescinded my gym membership, preferring a brisk walk in the morning to keep me fit I finally have the time to watch the instruction video and read through the manual, when searching for where I had gone wrong, an online forum posted RTFM – Read The Freakin’ Manual, should have done that, I didn’t.  I am determined to master the Vitamix, but until then it is my most perfect, noisy, indestructible …… blender.

Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon

                                                                                                                                       Doug Larson

Dead Dolls Society

Steps Taken  :  1578 (poor)

Green Juice Drunk : 0 (I know, see my Vitamix blog coming up in a few days)

HIIT  :  I mowed the lawn on the Hare setting – does that count?



Some time ago I won a competition to have lunch at a London Pop-Up restaurant – there are two things here …. I have never visited a Pop-Up and I have NEVER won a competition so when I received an email from the team at The Nudge to say I had won lunch for four people I was ridiculously excited, the sort of excitement that keeps you awake at night – at my age I really should get over this level of elation.  The Nudge is a brilliantly edited Guide to Cool London, specialising in pop-ups, unusual bars, restaurants and new launches. When I signed up I just happened to enter the competition …. AND I WON #shrieks …. Sunday Dinner (technically it’s lunch, but the theme was Sunday Dinners, the Nudge website assured me this was a Northern thing)  for four including a bottle of wine (could it get any better?) ….  I checked out the website and this place is Super Cool …. How are we four, husband and two game pals,  going to fit in?  This place is quite obviously for the young and cool Hoxton set.  On a fresh Sunday morning in February we set off, purchasing our group travel South West Train tickets (could we feel any more middle-aged?) and headed to the big Smoke (you do realise real people who have a life never call London the Big Smoke, don’t you?).  Grayshott, Waterloo, Old Street and then on foot to Hoxton Square passing The Breakfast Club with those louche young things who had just fallen from their beds sated and slightly hungover from the previous nights’ revelry, it was lunchtime and the breakfast queue was just starting to snake round the corner. We oldsters with our regimented breakfast, lunch and supper internal dinner bells who must eat within the given time allocation or thence  after suffer various debilitating digestive ailments were primed to take our midday repas at the stroke of Noon.

Dolls House

We had arrived early to the venue, this happens when you reach a certain age, you become anxious that despite having an A-Z, Google Maps and an iPhone that does pretty much everything for you, you are convinced that there is some impending disaster that will halt you in your tracks and you will never find your end destination  in the given time – my travel and eating companions have a few years on me and of course they were the ones driven with anxiety … I was just hungry!  So we arrived at our destination on Hoxton Square EARLY.  It was pointed out by one of my companions that the venue did not look like a restaurant at all and in fact was more akin to “a snuff movie set” …. The Dead Dolls Club moniker did nothing to allay our fears.  So when our reservation time neared we approached the speakeasy door and knocked hesitantly.  In actual fact there was nothing libidinous about the venue once inside – we were just the first to arrive! We were welcomed in by achingly young, hip and beautiful waiters and waitresses and shown to a large community table upstairs in the Drawing Room.

The building itself can best be described as pre-loved. the ‘temporary caretakers’ of this old textile factory have created a magical interior of whitewashed walls embellished with black marker pens to create monochromatic panelling, baroque fireplaces and old style clocks … this is Sharpie art on a whole new level.

As the lunchtime crowd arrived and our table filled, we were joined by varying sized groups, a young couple in love – probably not best placed in the centre of the table as they created an unyielding divide between each end and it seemed rude to try end disengage them from their smooching.  But we were joined by two gorgeous Danish students living in London.  Whilst we all started with our complimentary wine they enjoyed cocktails and so any shyness was washed away as we all imbibed more alcohol on empty stomachs. Conversation was lively and varied, the two girls who were similar ages to our own children were bright, engaging company and in fact 6 months later we are still in touch – we are hoping to drag them out to the ‘country’ and show them just how crazy village life can be! Our topics of discussion included politics, media, religion and the merits of red trousers ….. there is a maritime tradition that red trousers may be worn by those that have sailed across the Atlantic – in which case there are a lot of gentlemen of a certain age residing in the shires that have made this epic journey????

Lunch was a set menu, created by Terry Edwards of Check On who trained under Mark Hix. Priced at £25, and I know we didn’t have to pay, but if we had, this was great value …. Check On Nuggets served in a KFC style box with Bloody Mary Ketchup as a Starter, Egg & Sweetcorn with crispy chicken skin, (infinitely more delicious than it sounds), followed by corn fed chicken breast stuffed with sage, lashings of fresh vegetables and roasties served on huge enamel platters and a lemon pudding plate of cake, verbena marshmallow, curd, lemoncello jus and a sherbert & thyme something, that was all lusciously tart …. Service was bustling and the atmosphere fun, friendly and inclusive.  To not be part of the tables mixed-group dynamic and conversation was to miss out on an important part of the experience.   This is not just lunch, it is very much an ‘experience’ and whilst this particular theme is over, there are always other Eating opportunities.  We ended our meal with divine Espresso Martinis on the recommendation of our two new Danish dining friends – frankly I’d rather have one of these than a pudding if the choice is there! And then bid a fond farewell to the two lovely girls as we all spilled onto Hoxton Square, as the last to leave through the unmarked prohibtion door.


The Dolls House is a Private Club (for which we are too old and too far away to enjoy) with a charming  and novel entry to membership – no fee but instead a carefully selected  gift for the House, a bottle of fine spirits, ie not your average Smirnoff on special at the local Morrisons, but something a little more refined; Silver or Brass Candelabra;  a Cut Glass Decanter or a fine china dog for the Parlour- membership ‘fees’ have increased since our visit in February as I think at the time a bouquet of white flowers could also secure membership  but an increase would be testament to the popularity of The Dolls House.  But fear not non-members can be part of the unique atmosphere by booking  to eat at the Club.  We loved being Hoxton Hipsters, albeit for one afternoon.  You can check out forthcoming dining opportunities on their website The Dead Dolls Club

Attend Hen Party and your four courses will include Check On Nuggets served in McDonald’s-style boxes with Bloody Mary ketchup; Goosnargh corn-fed chicken breast stuffed with sage and rolled into a cylinder; and a lemon-fest to finish. – See more at:
Attend Hen Party and your four courses will include Check On Nuggets served in McDonald’s-style boxes with Bloody Mary ketchup; Goosnargh corn-fed chicken breast stuffed with sage and rolled into a cylinder; and a lemon-fest to finish. – See more at:
Attend Hen Party and your four courses will include Check On Nuggets served in McDonald’s-style boxes with Bloody Mary ketchup; Goosnargh corn-fed chicken breast stuffed with sage and rolled into a cylinder; and a lemon-fest to finish. – See more at:


Have you tried somewhere a little off the beaten track or unusual? Do tell ….

                Good Foods Ends With Good Talk

                                                                                                                            Geoffrey Neighbor


Base Jumping – Garnier Miracle Skin Cream


Steps taken : 3401 (in the absence of a FitBit, Jawbone etc these were manually counted-again)

Green Juice drunk :  0 – still – am building myself up to this

HIIT Mins – its too darned hot


 miracle skin cream


As a more mature (those words actually stick in my throat!!), I have to reconsider my make up on a regular basis as my skin condition changes with the seasons and my own internal ‘seasonal’ changes. I have developed higher colour on my cheeks (for that read RED!) which is heightened when I experience one of those rather annoying core power surges, coupled with dry patches and some congestion around my nose area .


I have never worn foundation other than when I have had my make up professionally done for an event or a wedding. On the odd occasion I have ventured into the realms of bases I find that every wrinkle and blemish (to me) looks deeper and more pronounced. I missed a trick here I think – perhaps I should have slathered myself with full schlap from a much earlier age and remained ageless like the incredible Joan Collins who looks no older now than she did 35 years ago. That really is AGELESS beauty.


So when I have jumped from brand to brand and left my brain addled with the conflicting information from the sales assistants I am still no closer to finding ‘The One’. I have sampled the BB’s and CC’s but the coverage on these seem a little too dense for me– I am wanting to achieve a more even tone but don’t want to have to rebuild every contour and colour tone on my face so perhaps a tinted moisturiser is where I should be heading ?– but I have discovered Garnier Miracle Skin Cream Anti-Ageing Skin Transforming Cream – not sure which part is the ‘miracle’ but fascinating to see a white cream turn into a sheer natural base that adjusts to your natural skin tone.



What the Garnier website says


An innovative self-adjusting formula protected by 9 patents combines the power of advanced optical correction with excellent skincare performance.

At first contact its unique formula with encapsulated micro-pigments transforms on contact with skin to self-adjust to your skin tone. Instantly, your skin looks awakened, more luminous and even, as if corrected.


Everyday, its anti-ageing formula with SPF20 acts to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and age spots. Skin looks younger and feels firmer.

Result – flawless looking skin: your complexion looks more even, your skin texture appears improved. Your skin looks more beautiful as if transformed



A small amount goes a long way, I use a moisturiser underneath as I don’t feel the cream is hydrating enough on its own but it does have a lovely, floral fragrance and does feel light on the skin – a must for me. The cream will certainly not give enough coverage for someone who is used to using a true base or foundation but the sheer colour (which automatically colour matches your own skintone) definitely evens out colour, not sure I achieve ‘flawless’ but good to know there is an SPF in there too. I don’t think I use it regularly enough to comment on its firming properties as I tend to use it when I am applying full make up rather than every day. I do believe if you use any foundation every day people get used to seeing you with it and then you have the inevitable “you look tired” on the days you decide to go au naturel.


I bought the product in Boots when it was first launched at a promotional price – incidentally it is a lot cheaper now on, but didn’t use it for ages as there simply were not enough instructions on any of the packaging (it is a tube sold in a box), to really understand when I should be using the product and how. The information is available online but given that this product is being marketed to the ageless category I don’t think a web based tutorial is necessarily your first port of call for instructions for use. I love a face to face with a well trained sales associate but this is usually confined to the more premium brands and so with the masstige brands I expect clear defined instructions on the product, albeit in a leaflet, on the outer or on the packaging itself – Garnier Miracle Skin Cream certainly retains an air of mystery until you do click through to the product website where there is a demo and a comprehensive guide to the product.


I do like this product but I think after my summer glow has diminished I will probably be ready for something with a little more coverage? Any ideas?


Beauty and femininity are ageless and can’t be contrived, and glamour,

although the manufacturers won’t like this, cannot be manufactured.

Not real glamour, it’s based on femininity

Marilyn Monroe



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