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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chicken and Pasta

This is a rather simple yet tasty chicken recipe, that I got out of one of my American recipe books. Working full time sometimes leaves little time to really mess around with long winded complicated recipes during the week. It's not that I don't want to and sometimes i'll indulge in something a little more challenging, but if the truth be told by the time I have finished work, done the housechores and tended to the dog. It leaves little extra time so I am always on the look out for quick tasty meals, by quick I mean quick to prepare, cooking time I am not too fussed about as they are inactive times and leaves me with time to get on with other things while it cooks. When time is short it's always good to have one less thing to worry about.


Chicken and Pasta
 
6 chicken breasts
1/4 cup butter
1tsp dry italian style salad dressing mix
1 can condensed mushroom soup
1/2 cup white wine
4oz cream cheese with chives
1lb angel hair pasta
 
1. Preheat your oven to 325F/160C. In a large pan, melt the butter over a low heat then consecutively,  stir in the Italian soup mix, wine and mushroom soup, mix in the cream cheese and stir until well blended and smooth. Warm through but don't boil. Put the chicken into a 9"x13" baking dish or similar. Pour over the sauce.
 
2. Bake for about an hour, about 20 minutes before the chicken is done, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta until al dente (this should only take about 5 minutes). Drain the pasta and serve with the chicken and the sauce.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cupcake Marathon


Just recently I have started to bake more often, I have never been very good at it, rubbish in fact. I have to keep trying though, I'm not the sort of person to turn my hand to something and give up just because I couldn't get it right.

I remember when I was little, maybe five years of age, my father decided it was time I learnt to ride a two wheeler bicycle and removed the stabilisers off my little green bike, much to my horror. I loved my little bike, but try as I might I couldn't get the hang of riding it without the stabilisers, my father refused to put them back on and I refused to keep trying with him shouting at me because I wasn't peddling fast enough or sitting up straight, in the end I opted for riding my tricycle, that is until one early morning, when I got up before anyone else in the street we lived on. I got dressed, went into the garage and got out my little green bike got on it and rode it right off the bat, straight down the street, waking everyone up as I went, it was a little squeaky. This is just one example of my determination, I can't stand to fail.

Baking wasn't going to defeat me either I just needed to be in the right frame of mind to do it. I have been off work, ill for the last eight weeks or so, after a couple of weeks the boredom set in and I started to bake, all kinds of things, biscuits/cookies, brownies of various types, bars and cupcakes and sending my baking goodies with Glen to work.

Last week I sent him in with red velvet cupcakes and one of the guys he works with asked if I could bake 70-80 cupcakes for a christening with a baby blue frosting on top.  I agreed to do it... At the time it seemed like a good idea a proper project to set my mind to but after a few hours of agreeing to do it the panic set in, after all it wasn't just a few cupcakes it was a whole load of cupcakes. I had never really used a piping bag with tips making swirling patterns, sure I stuck frosting in the piping bag and vertically held it over the top of a cupcake and squeezed but that's it, a blob on top of the cakes. Now I was expected to do swirls. I ended up buying four piping kits before I got the right one and spent an evening practicing on baking paper, swirling and swirling then scooping the frosting back into the pot and then into the piping bag again, to start over.






This is my first attempt at trying a buttercream rose (not one I sent off)
Thursday night I made up a big bowl of baby blue frosting - turns out it wasn't big enough and I had to make more. Then on Friday I got up, got myself into the right frame of mind then at 1100 I started to make the cupcakes, 91 in total an extra 10 got added to the list, for someone else. I made classic vanilla, chocolate and red velvet cupcakes, then using my new found skill, frosted them all decorating the tops with edible glitter and little white sugar balls, to be fair although not perfect, for a beginner I didn't do a bad job of them not only that but I really enjoyed making them. So much so that I have bought three cake decorating books, each month I am going to buy a little bit of cake decorating kit and make a proper hobby out of it.



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pasta and Shrimp

My idea of a perfect meal would have to have pasta and shrimp, the sauce is secondary - shrimp and pasta is light and reminds me of one, of my favourite meals we had in the olive garden. You could easily go creamy or tomato - for a sauce or possibly a mixture of both if you preferred, it's another on of those dishes which looks good, tastes good and requires very little effort. I realise that it's not always practical to buy raw shrimp so if you are using precooked I very much recommend, if they are also frozen that you defrost according to package directions. Skip the step which says to cook them and throw them in right at the end of cooking to just warm them through - if you leave them in there too long they will shrink and go rubbery - ewww not nice at all.

 
Pasta and Shrimp
 

2 tbsp olive oil
1 package of angel hair pasta
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1lb raw peeled and deveined shrimp
2 cans of chopped tomatoes with basil
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
salt the black pepper to taste
 
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to package directions, to al dente. Drain and run under cold water then set aside.
 
2. Heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over a medium heat, cook the garlic stirring constantly for about a minute, don't burn the garlic. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, this should take about 3-5 minutes, then take the shrimp out of the skillet and set to one side.
 
3. Pour the remaining ingredients into the skillet and cook until the liquid has reduced by half about 10 minutes, then return the shrimp to the skillet, heat them through. Serve the shrimp and sauce over the pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stirfry

By now my Chinese cooking had really started to take off, I am by no means 'chefy' and enjoy throwing together a recipe with little regard to the ultimate look of the food. To be honest, I like to eat my food whilst it is still piping hot - issue number one. Issue two is that my artistic vision is limited and I struggle to make my finished dish to look artsy fartsy - professionally pretty. I do have some vision it's not a case of having NO vision at all because I do, a little bit. A friend of mine takes some really beautiful pictures of her friend, several do in fact and all of them have given me ideas but my ideas involve spending money which would be better spent else where. For the time being my ideas have to be put on hold, we've had to completely set up home, we had no furniture basically nothing, we had been living in fully furnished accommodation for four years, we had a computer chair and that was about it, which I love it rocks although I could do without Glen rocking it backwards quickly  when I am sat in it, I'm certain he has insured me and trying to bump me off by scaring me to death. We also own a bookshelf but need several more to hold all our books, plus extra ones for all the books we are going to get, and a few other storage units, we had nothing to sit on or sleep on, so extra bits to make my food look pretty are less of a priority at the moment. I do aspire to one day having 'chefy' looking pictures, in the meantime it's very much a case of bish, bash, bosh! If I manage a good picture of my food then all the better, I think the real problem though is that I have really bad eating habits, usually skipping breakfast and lunch, substituting food for coffee and cigarettes, just as well I don't touch the wacky backy, I wouldn't do well with the munchies. Anyway by the time I get home from work and get myself sorted I am starving, spending time neatly putting food on my plate to then mix it all about, before cramming it down my throat as fast as I possibly can, without suffocating myself (by this stage I am dying of starvation and eating like someone who has gone without food for weeks) would be a waste of time.

Beef and Broccoli in Black Bean Sauce

1/2lb beef steak
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup broccoli
1/2 cup spinach
1/2 cup mushrooms
1 tsp fermented black beans
1/4 tsp chili paste
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp red rice vinegar
3 tbsp oil for stir-frying
1 garlic clove minced

1. Cut the beef across the grain into thin strips about 2" long. Add the soy sauce, salt, sugar, cornflour and baking soda, marinate the beef for 30 minutes.

2. Blanch the broccoli and spinach drain thoroughly, soak the black beans, mash and mix with the chili paste.

3. Mix together the chicken stock, dark soy sauce and sugar.

4. Add 2 tbsp of the oil the a preheated wok or skillet, when the oil is hot, add the beef and stir-fry until it changes colour and nearly cook through, remove from the wok and drain on paper towels, add the remaining oil to the wok and add the chili paste mixture, stir-fry for a short time until it's aromatic, then add the mushrooms, spinach and broccoli, then add the red rice vinegar.

5. Add the sauce to the middle of the wok, and when it starts to boil re-add the beef, simmer gently until everything is cooked through.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Steak with Garlic Butter

When my daughter comes to stay I cook a plethora of different things, so far creamy chicken penne is her favourite, but I try to make everything fresh, varied and different to what she is used to. Somethings are too late to change but I can show her when she comes to stay with us that there are other, less limited ways to live. This next recipe is in the "Please don't make it again Mummy" pile, I'm fine with that, I only ever ask them to eat what's on their plate and if they don't like it I won't make it again, I get annoyed when someone looks at food and won't even try it, or puts it in their mouth in a half ditch attempt to 'try' it and then spits it out. I don't believe that one tiny, itsy, bitsy bite is enough to know if you like something or not, especially when you are a child with a limited pallette. I read somewhere that you can train yourself to like something, that 30 bites is enough to change your tastebuds. As such my rule is eat everything on your plate, if it is still gag worthy when you are finished I won't make it again. I don't think you can get a fairer compromise than that? Glen and I love this dish.



Steak With Garlic Butter
 
 
1/2 cup butter
2tsp garlic powder
4 garlic cloves minced
4lbs beef sirloin steak
salt and pepper to taste
 
1. If you are cooking the steaks on the barbecue then preheat it on a high heat, or preheat your indoor grill such as a George Foreman grill, you could also use a griddle/skillet.
 
2. In a small saucepan, melt butter over a medium low heat, with the garlic powder and minced garlic, then set to one side.
 
3. Season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper and cook them until they are cooked to your taste, transfer them to warmed plates and drizzle the garlic butter over the tops, allowing to rest for a few minutes before serving.
 
 
This is not meant to be a healthy dish so be liberal with the garlic butter!!!!!!

Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day, I don't know whether it's just because we are comfortable together or what the reason is but Glen and I are not making that much of a bigger deal out of it, I don't feel the need to go all mushy and lovey dovey anymore, I think it's a nice feeling, I'm certainly not saying that I wouldn't have liked flowers or a card, present of some description, after all who doesn't like 'stuff'? I am saying it's nice that for once, for the first time in my life I know that I am loved, Valentine's Day was previously a chance for my Ex to prove that he loved me, not that it really made that much difference I didn't feel loved, not that I really felt loved in the first place but it was a day you are supposed to feel loved! Now that I am genuinely loved and know it, I don't need a card and a bunch of flowers, I guess for me everyday is Valentine's Day, I have a man who no longer rolls his eyeballs at me when I get another harebrained idea, he doesn't stop me putting flour, food colouring, endless amounts of butter and sugar into the shopping cart, instead he patiently...... Well as patiently as a man can, follows me round the store while I fill the shopping cart with endless amounts of food and bits for more kitchen experiments, then he gets out his little piece of plastic and pays for it, he doesn't look at me with that look of disgust at the latest 150 plus pounds I've spent, he doesn't say a word, he just lets me get on with it. Just as he will hold out the shopping basket, or push the shopping cart closer as I am picking out yet another cookbook, or recipe cards (my latest addition to my collection) which has taken over another shelf on the bookshelf, I had to remove all of Glen's Golfing books and all the books we had on America, places to visit etc. to make room, 12 in total... two Mexican, Glen and I were in a Mexican restaurant the night he proposed, not that he asked me in there but we love Mexican food and I didn't have any Mexican recipe books, one Italian recipe book, two recipe books with 365 recipes, one for each day of the year, 1000 cupcake recipes, one baking book by the hairy bikers, one kitchen handbook, one which has only three or four ingredients, and a slow cooker recipe book. Quite a diverse selection, ooops I forgot the recipe cards, which are totally baking related, 80 recipes in total. I guess that is more than 12 since Christmas then. Tonight we are having the Lemon and Herb Lamb recipe, which we love so much, I have blogged about it before.

So now onto the next recipe in my collection of 'tried and true' AR readers will recognise the term. There are two stories from where this dish may have originated, I had to wikipedia this to find out the information. The first is that it was brought over from India by British colonials - they introduced it as a breakfast dish. The second is that it was of Scottish origin and that the Scottish troops took it to India where it was adapted, the theory is that it then travelled back to the United Kingdom.

Personally I am more inclined to serve it for dinner than breakfast, but as with most things it's about personal preference and mine is to serve it as dinner. I can't get my head round making fish and rice for breakfast - However despite my morning fish and rice hang ups, I do like this recipe.

Kedgeree 

175g long-grain rice
1/4 tsp turmeric
375g smoked haddock fillet
2 hard boiled eggs
4 tbsp butter plus extra for greasing
juice of half a lemon
150ml light cream
salt
cayenne pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley

1. In a medium sized saucepan with a lid simmer the rice and the turmeric, in salted water for about 15 minutes, until tender then rinse with boiling water, drain and keep it warm.

2. In the meantime, put the haddock skin down, in a skillet, cover with cold water and poach for about 10 minutes.

3. Cut one of the eggs lengthwise into quarters and reserve for garnish, coarsely chop the second egg.

4. Drain the haddock, remove the skin and any bones, and flake the fish. Put the fish, rice, egg (not the quarters) butter, lemon juice and cream add the seasoning and stir gently to mix.

5. Grease an oven proof dish and add the kedgeree and bake in an oven at 180/350 degrees, for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally.

6. Stir in the parsley, and garnish with the egg.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Kassler Bake

Sometimes I get some really peculiar ideas. I had some left over kassler from the night before and I always buy vaccum packed bags of grated cheese - makes for quick dinners like mac 'n' cheese, stuffed chicken breast or sprinkled over a pasta bake, the options are limitless. I whipped up a cheese sauce, cooked some pasta according to directions, drained it and put it into a casserole dish, along with the kassler, a small can of sweetcorn because my husband still doesn't like the devils food, poured on the cheese sauce and topped it off with some grated cheese..... Voila another pasta bake.

I don't have a picture of this one for some reason...

Kassler is popular in Germany, Poland and Denmark usually cut from the neck or loin although other cuts maybe used as well including the ribs. It's salt cured and smoked... similar to gammon/ham.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Meatball Subs

So sandwich Friday comes along, and I decided to make meatball subs. I used ciabatta rolls.... These are really good, the perfect end to a busy week and the beginning of a drunken weekend. Talk about a brilliant way to start that booze fest....

Meatball Subs

10 homemade or store bought meatballs
1 Ciabatta Baguette
Jarred tomato sauce
mushrooms
garlic salt
olive oil
shredded mozzarella
mixed salad leaves

1. Cut the meatballs in half, preheat the oven to 200C place the baguette in the oven for 6-8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a skillet add the mushrooms and the garlic salt. Mix the meatballs and tomato sauce. Warm the meatball mixture in the microwave.

3. Split the ciabatta in half cover the bottom half in the meatball mixture, then the mushrooms and mozzarella, return to the oven for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted, cover with the salad leaves, close and cut in half.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Stir Fried Duck

I have made that many stirfry's now that they just come second nature to me. Now I can grab a bunch of stuff off the shelf and out of the fridge, throw it all together and in about 10-15 minutes have a really tasty meal thrown together, it takes longer to cook the egg noodles than it does to do the stirfry! I came up with this one because I had leftover duck and hoisin sauce, throw in some veggies and easy peasy, you have a stirfry, and tasty too. I have started getting more adventurous with ingredients for the sauce, hoisin, blackbean....etc. baby steps though, it's all about baby steps..

Stir fried Duck

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cooked duck breast - shredded
2 handfuls savoy cabbage and leeks
1 scallion roughly chopped
1 handful mange tout
2 portions chinese egg noodles
hoisin sauce

1. Heat a large skillet, add the olive oil, when hot add the duck.

2. Meanwhile cook noodles according to package directions

3. Once duck is lightly crisped add all the vegetables, cook for a few minutes and then add the sauce and the noodles, stirfry for a further two minutes and serve.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Beef Roulade

So I keep saying I'm uncreative and it's certainly to do with self-reproach, I'm very good at putting myself down, I don't know why I do it? I just do. This recipe wasn't about recreating my past, with mine why would I want to do that? But about recreating the experience I wanted to feel, but was never allowed to feel - like with cordon bleu and goulash this was something I was never allowed to make - when we had this it was always pork and it was always pre-stuffed or cook from frozen, yucky stuff. We'd moved back to Germany by this point in my culinary progress. Shopping yet again in German stores, this was not something I was looking forward to. Before when I went shopping, choice seemed limited, I've since discovered, choice was limited because I didn't look, probably because I would never have been allowed to look, besides I wouldn't have been allowed to make it anyway! With my new found knowledge and a husband that was and still is, as enthusiastic as me,as far as my experimenting is concerned, I was amazed at the variety I never knew existed. I saw these beef roulade, unstuffed and knew immediately what to do with them, my only mistake was I cooked them for far too long - they were super tender which is what I wanted but they were also a little dry in places - not what I wanted!

Beef Roulade with
Creamcheese, Spinach and Mushroom Stuffing

4 chestnut mushrooms
handful frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 spring onions/scallions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
large knob of butter
salt and cyenne pepper to taste
100g cream cheese
3 beef roulade/meat to make roulade
vegetable stock to cover

1. lightly fry the first six ingredients, meanwhile beat the creamcheese in a medium sized bowl, when the mushroom mixture is done, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then add to the creamcheese and mix well.

2. Open the roulade and stuff with the spinach and creamcheese mixture, fold as tightly as possible, then pin together using skewers, metal or wood are fine.

3. Next in a hot skillet gently sear the roulade shut, transfer to a deep casserole dish, cover with the vegetable stock. place in the oven at about 180C/350F for about 1- 1 1/2 hours.

Friday, February 1, 2013

My Life Today

At this point I am fast running out of recipes, my heart hasn't been in it. Life seems to have taken a diabolical turn for the worse, in August and I slumped, I can feel myself loosing control and the more I lose the less I feel like doing. I've been diagnosed with clinical depression again. I'm not ashamed, it's not something I have any control over, or help, but I am on tablets for it, it's not forever just until I get over this bad patch, a day at a time. Anyway due to my mental stability nose dive, so took my kitchen antics an even bigger nose dive, hence the reason I'm running out of recipes.
I thought maybe if I blogged about the reasons behind it all, it might help in some way.

Theoretically my parenting is sound, in practice, I never really had a chance. I was only 17 years old when I had my son and 20 when I had my daughter. My ex was 17 years older than me, born to a totally different generation and totally different families. I was a child with raging hormones and a father who made me as miserable as possible. I think because of my age no one took me seriously, my parenting skills, rules and forms of discipline, ignored and disregarded in favour of something else. To me threats are pointless unless you follow through, if you tell a child I am taking your Xbox off you for a week, if you don't stop what you are doing, then that's what you should do. My ex and his mother believe that threatening to take away a toy is enough, said toy never did get taken away, (that said Alex wouldn't really have cared) I also believe that if you put your kid under house arrest that means he should stay in his room until the time is up, not giving in because he decides to scream bloody murder. A week should mean a week! Not an hour, nor do I believe in fake house arrests, because said child is being particularly annoying. There's also little point grounding a child and still allowing them access to the phone, T.V, games consoles and the internet. Everything should be removed, allow them pencils and paper, books and puzzles, that's it!
All my rules and stipulations were ignored, on the few occasions they would humour me, it lasted a matter of hours, most of the time we played by their rules. If I am honest both of the children are ruined. Alex runs amok consistently, he does what he wants when he wants, rarely attends school and speaks to adults in the most appalling way, his attitude is not helped by the fact his father shows wanton favouritism to his daughter who is spoilt rotten. Then because of sibling rivalry she has no shame, and flaunts her goods regularly.

There was and is little I can do, star/merit charts I made up got ignored, rules I put in place pushed to one side and if I dared to discipline them, my ex would belittle my authority by saying something like, "Lay up Rebecca, he's got Aspergers don't forget" or "Stop being so hard on him" and my favourite of all the put downs "What kind of mother are you? Constantly nagging him over the little things" All well and good if it was said after the kids were in bed, or somewhere else playing, instead though he would say it in front of them, Alex had no respect for me at all because of it. He had gotten so used to hearing people excuse his behaviour because of the Aspergers, that he now believes nothing is his fault and he has a free pass to do whatever he likes. Now I am expected to be sympathetic because he is out of control. I don't feel anything of the sort. Why should I? The fundamentals of a child's behaviour are the make up of what's to come, please and thank you, respect your elders and kindness is where everything is built from, then you teach, not to go through other peoples things, table manners, it's wrong to help yourself without asking first etc. etc.

All of the rules and lessons are basic stuff, but to my ex and his mother silly and irrelevant, not so much now though. Children with Aspergers have no social skills, unable to naturally interact with society, they see things in a totally different light. They need to be taught, told and shown how to behave. Alex has a phobia of his peers, opting for either younger or older friends. He learns by example, he is dismissive of women, disrespectful and abusive. He's such an angry young man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. My mother says he is quite formidable, now, standing over 6ft.

I've often wished for a second chance at being a mother, a do over. I feel robbed of it all. I have what it takes to raise a good productive member of society - but I was robbed of that, dismissed because of my age and whilst I did my growing it was unaccepted by my ex and his family who still treated me like the child he married. I recently found out he only married me because I was pregnant and for financial reasons.

My life, my hopes, my dreams, all thrown away because I was young, naive and stupid, 10 minutes of stupidity, followed by a life long commitment. My biggest regret in life is, letting myself get bullied into leaving my children behind, knowing I was desperate to get out of the marriage and away from him, he threatened to fight dirty for the children. I was broke, conned into paying for the solicitor who represented him in court, I had no solicitor. Extra money for a custody battle just wasn't there, to fight. I was living in a room at my mothers, because I couldn't afford a place of my own, not even a three room apartment. Not only that but I would have had to prove that I was mentally fit to have them, about six years earlier I had been put on Zoloft, an antidepressant, mostly because of the way I was treated. In 2005/2006 I forget the exact date, it was documented that I was unable to cope with the kids, I guess essentially saying I was an unfit mother, and not able to care for Alexander, due to my mental health, when in reality it wasn't Alex making me ill. I did it so Alex could get into a very expensive school, for children with autism and ADHD, and other such behavioural issues, to get him in I had to go on record as not being able to cope. In effect I unwittingly signed away my children that day.
At the time I thought I was doing what was best for my son. To be honest at that time, it was the best thing for him, his grades improved, he slowly began to mix with his peers, he was learning to respect others and was thriving in the structured surroundings, timetables, rules, attention and discipline was followed through. For those reasons alone I don't entirely regret allowing my ex, Alexanders social worker and his psychiatrist using my depression as a means to get him into the school. Had I known that I would later find the strength to leave my ex, and that it would have been used against me there's not a chance I would have allowed it.

I kept telling myself after I left that it didn't matter, that as a responsible mother I had done the best thing for my children. Upset and change is not good for a child with Aspergers, in four years I have moved six times and about to move again, Abbygail has severe learning disabilities, her first language is German and she struggles reading and writing that, let alone starting over in a foreign language. It all seemed so logical and valid reasons, not to mention most of their family, Godparents and friends are in Germany, etc. I genuinely believed that it was for the best. I now realise all too late the error of my ways.

Easter 2010 Abby came to stay with us for about 9 days, she broke down into floods of tears, because her Dad makes her do all the house chores, she has a paper round and she has a lot of homework to do, while he sits on his computer, supposedly working, when what he is really doing is playing poker! It all rang too familiar, to how I was treated, my heart broke. Glen and I decided that she should come and live with us, she is a child not a maid or slave, that's no way for a child to live, but she's female therefore it's her job. We didn't want her growing up thinking that it's ok to be treated like that, and asked her if she wanted to live with us, prepared for the ensuing fight that was bound to occur between me and her father. Being with us is what she really wanted. When we asked her she immediately said yes.

I didn't want to con Abby into coming to live with me, no dirty low down tricks. So to equal the playing field for her father, I explained that we would be moving back to England and that she would have to leave all her family and friends behind, that she would only be able to email, phone and occasionally visit. I also explained that she would have to make new friends, in a new school that would totally be in English and that it would be very hard work. Then I told her that the only chores she would have to do were her own, tidying her room, laundry downstairs, putting her own dishes in the dishwasher and a few simple chores, emptying the bin if it was full and she saw it, let the dog out into the garden if she happened to be in the living room at the time. The only other thing that we said was a must, she comes in from school changes out of her uniform, does her homework and then she could go out to play with her friends, and at least two or three pages of a book of her choice, every night before bed.

The problem was her father, when I told him I wanted my daughter to come and live with me, he said over my dead body, with Glen behind me I wasn't afraid of him and told him it wasn't over and that we would be discussing it again. Two days later I got a phone call off Abby she'd changed her mind, school would be too hard, she'd miss her friends and her Dad. I could understand that, I was bitterly disappointed though, then I find out that the truth was, her Dad had told her that if she came to live with me, he would lose the house he was in, using the same blackmail tactics on her that he used on me to get what he wanted.

He then waited until I was out of the country, used his position at work to breach the data protection act and obtain what he thought was my address, legally he shouldn't even have had access to my private information, using the computers to find out how much I was earning. Then he took me to court to fight for sole custody and more child support, when I was working he got money from me, but he told people that he hadn't. First was the custody case, I was shocked all the letters that came to me were in German and I don't read German, I hired a German solicitor money I can ill afford. All I wanted was the right to know what is going on in my children's lives, four times Alex overnighted in hospital and each time I found out days later from my mother, I was happy for him to sign for any emergency treatment they may need, and any minor things like opening a bank account for example, everything else I wanted to know and have a say. As for the child support that hasn't been decided yet, although by the comments on his facebook you'd think it had been. He told everyone that he has 99% custody of the children, not true and he is supposed to inform me of anything important going on, but he hasn't. He also posted on facebook that he has been awarded all the money he wants off me every month (more than I earn when I am on a 45 hour week) that he had also been awarded back payments for all the months I haven't paid and he is saying I never gave him money, he also told everyone that I have to pay compensation for all the anguish and stress I have caused him.
He also made it quite clear to everyone that I don't care about the children. Which couldn't be further from the truth! The point now is where do I go from here?

To be honest I have no idea, I don't profess to know all the answers or to be the worlds best theoretical mother. I do know that I would have done a better job of it than him. His own daughter was saying how embarrassed she feels of him, because he smells bad and has on several occasions called him bone idle. I wish that I could get some satisfaction out of that - his failings as a man and a father, but if I am honest I just pity him, he has the two most precious things in the whole world and he's destroying any chance his son has to succeed and setting his daughter up, to end up marrying a bully. Into thinking it's okay to be nothing but a slave to her husbands every whim. I desperately miss them and I am so worried about them. It's not ok that I am without my children, it's not ok that people think that I don't care and don't want them, because in reality, I cry myself to sleep when I am able to sleep, I feel like my heart is being ripped out of me everyday.

He has managed to do a fantastic job of convincing them that I don't care about them, filling their heads with ridiculous non-sense. I wonder how they'd feel if they knew I was suicidal at the end, or how much their father has hurt me over the past 18 years? Physically and mentally, the thing is I'm not that unscrupulous, I would never try and turn them against their father or stoop to dirty underhand games, one day they will know the truth, until then I have no choice but to keep telling them that I love them.