***originally written as part of a 30 piece 30th birthday collection (2012)***

Food is a big deal in my family, and most of my earliest memories are of Sunday Dinners at my Nan’s house – especially my Grandad’s Yorkshire Puddings, with all of us crammed together in excited expectation!

Of course, it isn’t just the food that makes those memories what they are, it’s the people, the sharing of stories of our parents’ pasts, of catching up with cousins, of just being together.

All of these things (and, I can’t deny my love of food!) have made me someone who loves throwing dinner parties – not the pretentious type, but the simple, hearty food that gets everyone around the table eager to eat and share in good conversation and table banter.

One of my favourite recipes, and indeed one of the most requested recipes is for my Sausage Casserole – ideal on those cold, damp Winter’s nights when we want to snuggle up in the warmth of home (or a friend’s home).

The smokiness of the paprika really adds depth and warmth, and the red onion – where there’s a sausage, there must always be an onion, adds a slight sweetness.

I hope you get as much from this dish as I have and continue too! Great for a night in on your own, or with good friends and a good red wiine – especially a Rioja!

Dean’s Delights Sausage Casserole 

Servings: 4 / Prep Time: 5mins / Cook Time: 45mins

Ingredients:

[ ] 12 x Thick Pork Sausages, cut into bite sized pieces

[ ] 800g Chopped Tomatoes

[ ] 250ml Tomato Passata

[ ] 1 x Red Onion, Roughly Chopped

[ ] 1 x Red Pepper, Roughly Chopped

[ ] 2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Chopped

[ ] Handful Basil, Roughly Chopped

[ ] 1 Teaspoon of Ground Paprika

[ ] 1/2 Glass Red Wine

[ ] 200ml Vegetable Stock

[ ] 5 Tablespoons Olive Oil

 

Method:

[ ] Preheat Oven to Gas Mark 6

[ ] Gently fry the Red Onion in a large pan until soft

[ ] Remove the Red Onion and fry the Sausage pieces in the same Oil

[ ] Once cooked remove the Sausage pieces and put to one side

[ ] Now gently fry the Red Pepper & Garlic in the pan

[ ] Add the Chopped Tomatoes, Red Wine & Paprika, stir

[ ] Once combined, transfer to a Casserole Dish

[ ] Mix in the cooked Sausage Pieces, Tomato Passata, Basil and Vegetable Stock

[ ] Place on the Middle Shelf of the Oven

[ ] After 15mins, stir, place lid on dish, and turn oven down to 3

[ ] Leave for a further 15mins, remove lid, and stir

[ ] Serve with Warm Bread or Rosemary Roast Potatoes

 

Today’s song: Broken Stones, Paul Weller

***originally written as part of a 30 piece 30th birthday collection (2012)***

I’ve never been very good at settling, it just isn’t something that comes naturally to me. At all.

In issues of work, I’ve never submitted something that I considered sub-par, sometimes staying at work until I’m kicked out by the Site Manager, all to ensure it’s as good as it can be. Even when working from home, staying up trying to resolve an issue, sometimes until today has become tomorrow, and it’s time to head back into work.

As a child, I remember Ma Newby despairing because I would spend an age working on something, a story or piece of homework, and with one mistake – that in my mind couldn’t rectified, the work would be torn to pieces, and I’d start again. Perfectionist. That’s a word many a teacher & colleague has used to describe me. It’s a good thing, once you work out how to handle it…and deal with things where they aren’t perfect!

In issues of my personal life, I have probably settled a few times – though, at the time, I was unaware of it! Times when I’ve put up with behaviour that I wouldn’t usually, one or two blokes who weren’t at all my ‘type’ but I went out with anyway, but on the whole, I rarely settle.

The most obvious way in which I don’t settle, is that I call people on their/our issues. If I feel that something is going badly, or not the way I want, if I feel that I’m being mistreated, or that someone’s behaviour isn’t acceptable, I call them on it. Not in that attacking, offensive way that some do, but rather by talking to them as an equal, trying to understand the core issues, and most importantly trying to resolve them – unless they really annoy me, then it’s a short, succinct, perfectly enunciated statement, to which they’ve no need to respond.

In a way, I think it’s largely due to my feelings about time, matched by my honesty when it comes to people and relationships. I appreciate my time (and that it is finite), so I don’t really have a lot of patience when it comes to things that could be resolved easily, but are being dragged out.

My point is this: be honest with yourself and those in your life, and don’t settle for less than you deserve – in any area of your life.

Today’s song: Tomorrow, James

***originally written as part of a 30 piece 30th birthday collection (2012)***

Saturday night was the sort of night I love.
Chilled out, fun and full of lovely people.

There were friends & acquaintances
There was laughing and there was dancing
There was the past and there was the present
There was flirting and there was hand holding

It was the sort of night that leaves you feeling that anything is possible, that what lies ahead of you is an open road of experiences and choices, and people – some of whom will stay a while, some for longer or forever, all making some sort of impact on you.

But, we must not only remember the impacts of the past, we must also live in the moment of the impacts being made at the time. We have to appreciate them while they’re being created and while they’re there. Looking to the future is important, but living in the present is essential.

And, above all else, we must take the time to hold someone’s hand.

I’m reminded of a poem I once wrote about a phrase my Grandad would often say, it was about life’s choices and the paths we choose in life, and can be read here: http://www.deannewby.co.uk/?p=61

Today’s song: I Want To Hold Your Hand, The Beatles

***originally written as part of a 30 piece 30th birthday collection (2012)***

As I’ve previously mentioned, there are songs that, when I hear them, I am instantly reminded of something, some time or place, even a scene from my life. This set, or playlist of songs remind me of growing up, of my adolescence, of fun times bonding over music with newly-found friends, going to visit my Nan & Grandad on a Friday evening after school, of the 90’s! …mainly.

This 10 track playlist of growing up is below, and in no particular order:

– Without You, Harry Nilsson (one of my Grandad’s favourite singers, and a great song)

– A Design for Life, Manic street Preachers (probably my quintessential 90’s/song of adolescence)

– Anywhere Is, Enya (a beautiful song, also the CD I bought with my 1st place Christmas Carol Writing Competition prize!)

– The Ballad of Tom Jones, Space feat. Cerys Matthews (this song was everywhere, and I we sang it just as much!)

– Things Can Only Get Better, D:Ream (New Labour. New Britain. Stephen Twigg’s smile. Things did get better)

– Human, Pretenders (this became my walking to Sixth Form song for months – everything about it is brilliant!)

– When a Woman, Gabrielle (the album, Rise, was played to ‘death’ and this song was one of my Summer hits)

– Hands, Jewel (a friend, Ria, introduced me to Jewel’s voice in A-Level Theatre Studies. I’ve been hooked since)

– Say What You Want, Texas (another great female vocalist, I still find myself randomly singing this)

– Good Riddance, Green Day (the song played at the end of our Sixth Form Leaver’s Mass. End of an Era. Brilliance.)

Today’s song: Greatest Love Of All -and- It’s Not Right But it’s Ok, Whitney Houston

***originally written as part of a 30 piece 30th birthday collection (2012)***

There’s a quote from the film ‘Star Trek: Generations’ which I’ve figuratively carried with me since I first heard it 17 years ago! I’ve always appreciated the different parts of it, but I find as I approach 30 and question what has been, is, and will be, the quote and its message are more pertinent to me today than ever before.

Captain Picard sorting through his part-destroyed ready room, tells his First Officer:

“Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives, but I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment because they’ll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived. After all, Number One, we’re only mortal.”

The idea that time is a companion, a positive rather than a negative, something we do not need to be scared of, something that serves as a reminder that our time on this world of ours is finite, is something that I think we would all do well to remember at times. It is too easy to get wrapped up in the smaller, eventually irrelevant and largely unimportant things, allowing us to forget or lose sight of the bigger picture, the picture of which we are all a part.

We need to be more concerned with how we’ve lived than what we tangible things we have and leave behind when we’re gone. The focus when I was a child was on being a good person, helping other people whenever you can (more on that in a later post), and leading as full a life as possible. While I had things, toys, books and the like, and treated them with care (more on that in a later post too!) they were never the be all and end all of my life.

This hasn’t changed in adulthood, well actually it has, in that it has increased. I now care much much more about seeing friends and family, about doing things that can hopefully make a difference to other people’s lives.

…and having sorted through my belongings at least 6 times in my life, I can easily say that the memories and experiences, the living, the people I love, have loved and who have loved me, and the way I have lived and conducted myself, vastly outweigh all of those things…well, with books coming a close second (but that’s more about the stories contained within than the actual tangible book)

Today’s song: Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen), Baz Luhrmann