Homemade Jammy Dodgers

These are my absolute favourite new thing to make. I adapted an old biscuit recipe I had and they have worked a treat! Don’t be worried about the initial crumbly mixture. It comes together well after chilling and rolling. I have tested these on a few people this last week and they have been so popular I’ve made several batches, keeping enough back for my cookie jar too of course, because I think my 4 year old might just be their biggest fan. Well worth a go! Beware though, they are utterly buttery and delicious!20170322_113132[1]

Ingredients for Biscuits

225g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

140g White Caster Sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling

1 large egg yolk, save the white for brushing later on

2.5 tsp Vanilla Extract

280g Plain Flour

Pinch of Salt

1-1.5 Tablespoon Whole Milk

 

Ingredients for Filling

50g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

85g Icing Sugar

5 Tablespoons Strawberry Jam

Food colouring Gel of your choice, we did pink

 

Method

1.Place butter and sugar into a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until combined

2.Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla extract

3.Sift the flour and salt over the mixture and stir. Ideally get your hands in to squish the mixture into a dough, if still a bit flourly use the milk, I found a tablespoon really brings it together without getting it too wet

4.Halve the dough, shaping into two balls, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for one hour

5.Pre heat oven to Gas 5/190c

6.Line Baking trays with baking paper. No need for any extra grease

7.Unwrap dough and roll each ball flat. Not too thin so they don’t crumble. One batch needs to be the solid shape the cutter makes it and the other batch needs to have smaller holes cut out of the middle to display the jam at the end. I didn’t have a small enough cutter so used a piping bag nozzle 😉 Biscuit cutter size will determine how many biscuits this recipe will make. I use a 2.5 inch cutter which makes loads. I got 26 full biscuits out of this mixture, meaning it cut 52 circles with the cutter

Above: Once rolled and cut, scrunch the off cuts back together and roll again to get more biscuits. Place on a sheet of baking paper below and top with a sheet of cling film above, to prevent sticking on either side before rolling

Above: You dont need fancy tools. Use what ever you have

8.Space well apart on baking trays and bake for 6-7 minutes, bringing out after this time. Brush with the leftover egg white then sprinkle with a little sugar, returning it to the oven for a further 5 minutes. They should be lightly golden brown. Cool completely on wire racks

 Above: They do not spread or rise a lot so no need for a mass of space between them, just enough so they do not touch

 

  1. Make the buttercream filling by mixing the butter with the sifted icing sugar. Add a drop of your favourite colour and mix well. Spread over the full biscuit bases (those that will be the bottom of the biscuit) and add about half a teaspoon of warm runny jam to the centre. Place a ring cut out biscuit on top and fill in any gaps in the centre with extra jam. Leave to cool and this will set back into solid form.

    Above: We love a bit of colour inside x

    1. Put the kettle on, sit down and try not to eat them all 😉 xxx20170322_113402[1]

Cooking for the freezer, eating well on a budget and preventing waste!

Hi everyone. I have mostly been hibernating with my little one since the start of the New Year. Keeping busy but being quite lazy (down to tiredness) in relation to what we ate. I have to admit I have been seeing a lot of toast and salad these last few weeks. Quick, easy snacks that take minimal time and effort. Luckily my girl is more of a grazer so has been happy with picnic style nibbles. Everything is fun when you’re three. 20170125_1232071

Above: Love a no cook tuna sandwich but its time to get cooking again!

Lack of motivation is a real killer! Apart from a very generous friend and neighbour who invites me round to sample her yummy food once in a while, I really had lost all my passion for cooking and eating. (If you know me, you know that’s just not right ;-).)Especially having had limited funds to eat well in the first place. The last few weeks (the dreaded after christmas reality check) have been some of the worst for me financially since managing on my own. However, seeing how rough things had become, it was the kick up the arse I had needed to take stock of my freezer situation and general attitude towards meals and planning ahead!

For the first time in ages, my freezer was almost completely bare. No back ups. No handy extra ingredients to make a meal more interesting. Nothing but a bag of frozen spinach and some bread! Dire! When you are having a hard up week as a single mom, to not have a freezer full of healthy meals ready to go is a big mistake. It’s a life saver and saves you turning to a highly salted ready meal or the local chip shop when there’s nothing to eat in the house! It’s quite easy to do too if you change your mind-set and include it into what you’re doing anyway. You always need to eat and cook. It makes perfect sense to cook something that will keep for another meal too. 20170125_2020171

Above: Getting my cook on….

So, with that in mind, I started doing something about it. A little research online and a few helpful answers from mom (who has managed in a similar situation with three kids to keep alive!) I am well on my way. Now whenever I cook im thinking will it freeze? Things now only seem worth making if I can freeze a portion for a rainy day! There are some things that simply don’t taste as good once frozen, such as pasta, and can have its quality damaged. And some things just taste damn good made fresh and that’s how it should be. However, for most of my meals, I am now using the method of eat some now and freeze some for later. With a nearly four year old daughter to feed, who always wants something, it’s the best way forward for me. It also helps on days when she’s at nursery as I don’t want to stand for an hour cooking when she gets in, ive missed her, I want to spend time with her!

Above: Precious time

So here are a few things I have found freeze really well and a few ideas of what I will be doing to inspire you to be a bit more thrifty too ;-).Nothing goes to waste now in this house!

Cake!

Yes, you heard me, cake freezes! How I have not come across this bit of amazingly delicious information before I will never know but cake freezes really well, for at least 3 months. To be fair, my mom had told me this before but I didn’t believe her , thinking the quality would be effected, but its great! Now if im in the mood to bake, I don’t have to eat it all or feel I have to give loads away. I have one slice and the rest goes in my newly appointed cake freezer drawer (honestly) and its there for when people pop round for tea or when Emi wants a bit. It will take less than half hour to defrost at room temperature (sliced) or you can take it out the night before or warm in the microwave. Instant cake! I have tried all sorts from wholemeal fruit tea loaf to orange drizzle to cake full of fresh fruit. It all works well. And it works out much cheaper to make your own. Everyone should have a cake drawer ;-).

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Above: To think I have lived my entire adult life without a supply of frozen cake 😉

Bread!

I love bread. I have always frozen it but usually just buy a loaf and freeze it sliced. I have started teaching Emi how to make bread lately and she loves it. She bashes it about, loves the end result and makes her own labels for them to store them in the freezer. Making your own is also much cheaper as you will get 2 or 3 loaves out of one bag of flour, which is about the same cost as a standard loaf. I agree there’s not always time to make ones own bread (before you snigger) but if you do have a spare hour or two its well worth a try. Fresh bread straight from the oven with real butter oozing all over it is AMAZING! Slice it up and freeze the rest for some rustic eggs on chunky homemade toast or late night snacking at a later date.

Above: Emi making her bread and her homemade labels x

Pasta Sauce!

This is one of the most versatile things to make. You can use any meat, any veg, whatever you want or that is in stock and it is such a handy standby for midweek meals to have in as you can just lift it out and reheat it alongside some fresh pasta which takes minutes to cook. I just made a batch tonight using turkey mince, mixed frozen peppers, spinach and oregano, which took less than 40 minutes and has provided my freezer with three meals for the coming weeks ahead. It’s a  great way to use up cheaper meats too, I bought turkey thigh mince instead of turkey breast mince, which is about £1 cheaper to buy and probably is packed with more flavour anyway. Make it in a big batch in a large pan to go even further and in the long run it will work out even cheaper again. Perfect budget cooking and pure comfort eating to boot. Pack it with healthy ingredients and you’re onto a winner for both taste and health!

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Above: My healthy turkey and pepper pasta sauce x

Stew!

Stew is gorgeous. Such comfort food and an excellent filler on a cold winters night. Its my perfect winter food. I love beef stew cooked down using red wine and loads of onions. Again, with the same principle as the pasta sauce, meat and veg will all freeze very well once cooked. I’ve used cooked leftover chicken to then make a chicken stew, which will then also freeze. Three meals from one chicken. I’ve also sourced the cheaper cuts of beef which are perfect in stews and equally freeze really well too.

Soups!

Any kind of soup will freeze. I have been doing mainly vegetable soups as they are really cheap to make and really quick to defrost. Carrot and coriander, pea soup, mushroom, potato and leek, they are all a great way to full up on healthy produce and get some of your five a day too without really thinking about it. It makes a great accompaniment to your frozen homemade bread too! This is the main way that I use up those scabby last onions or carrots that get forgotten at the back of the drawer. Once its cooked and blitzed, you would never have known it once looked a bit manky.

Stock!

Another way to use up the slightly gone too far manky veg lurking in the bottom of that fridge of yours. Celery, carrot, onions, anything really can be bunged into boiling water with seasoning and simmered to create a lovely stock. I always strip me chicken clean, use the left over meat for soups or stir frys and then boil up the bones with some veg to make a few pots of stock, which will be frozen and then used as the base of a new dish at some point down the line. There is far too much waste in terms of food these days and there are so many things that can be done with all those slightly less attractive bits!

Other Lifesaving tips!

Eggs!

Eggs are amazing! Dont just see them as a cake ingredient. I try to use them as much as I can as they are very cheap to use per person and they last for ages! Dont overlook these beauties! And don’t keep them in the fridge!

You can use them for:

Omlettes (You can vary with the filling such as cheese, mushrooms etc)

Scrambled eggs (On toast, with a fry up, with fresh herbs, with smoked salmon etc)

Poached eggs (on a bagel, with crushed avocado, Eggs Benedict etc)

Soft boiled eggs (With toast soldiers of course, how else?!)

Hard boiled eggs (To cut up on salads, to mash with mayo for egg and cress sandwiches, to eat whole out the fridge as a high protein snack.)

In baking

To make yorkshire puddings (these freeze too!)

To make pancakes (Cook them and freeze some!)

As a binder when making burgers

As a glaze when making pastry

Frittatas (Love a slice of this hot or cold and again can be filled with whatever you have.)

Can you tell I like eggs?!

 

Natural Yoghurt!

Yoghurt is worth so much more than just eating from the pot.

You can use it for:

Eating with honey and fruit as a healthy breakfast choice

Mixing into curries or other spicy dishes to cool down the heat!

Mixing with fresh ingredients like herbs or cucumber to make individual dips to accompany meals.

Blending with fresh fruit and honey and freezing in individual ice lolly moulds for a fun task with the kids and a healthy alternative to pudding.

Mixing into porridge for the creamy version without the cream guilt.

A day or two past its used by date is still fine, don’t waste it, pour a couple of tablespoons into the blender with frozen fruit, milk, nuts and honey to make a delicious smoothie.

Make a pasta sauce. By blending nuts, herbs, cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and the yoghurt, then you have a really healthy and natural alternative to the usual cream laden white sauces.

Above: Strawberry, Mango, Yoghurt, Almond, Banana and Honey smoothies for breakfast. Someone likes to eat the fruit frozen!

Fruit!

Always keep in a good selection of fruit! It is so versatile!

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You can use it for:

Lemons can be used to make drinks, add flavour to dishes or make the perfect pancake topping! You can use the rind and juice and both of these freeze well in ice cube trays.

Bananas can be eaten whole, eaten warm with custard (classic) for an easy pudding, left to go brown and mashed into banana bread, added to smoothies.

Apples can be baked, stewed, grated for cakes, made into apple sauce, chopped over salads, or just make a nice snack for kids!

As long as I have plenty of eggs, some cupboard basics and some fruit I know that we can  make a decent meal or two with dessert too! Hope this has given someone out there a few ideas to stretch out their ingredients that little bit further! xx

 

 

Put your phones down! (Why being a phone addict ruins relationships)

I often ask myself these questions. Who needs to sit on their phones all day? What are they even looking at for all that time? Dont they have more interesting things to be doing? Using your phone is one thing but being on it all the time is another. I have known my share of excessive phone addicts. People who sit on their phones all day and night, especially in the company of others, with that in particular being something that really annoys me at times. It is like people just don’t value face to face communication or time anymore. How are relationships, including friendships, expected to be maintained or grown, if the people within them are mentally elsewhere all the time? Being present physically is not enough. I know people who have brilliant relationships in all areas of their lives and those are the people, not surprisingly, who don’t let technology take over from whats really important. Living in the moment. Building what you have. Not letting recreation time become everything over everyone.

I did some cafe watching a while back, armed with nothing but a yummy hot chocolate and a pair of eyes. In the half hour I was sat there, I was surprised to observe that only about 2 people walked past without a phone. Everyone else was looking down at their screens as they walked by. Not even looking what was in front of them. This was in Birmingham, so you can imagine there were a fair few people to watch during that short time! This is something I wouldn’t have noticed before. Until you think about something within your own life, you can be pretty oblivious to it. I remember when I was pregnant, I swear I had never really paid much attention to noticing other pregnant women before, then suddenly I spotted them everywhere. 😉 Funny how the mind works. is-17

We are, of course, all guilty of doing it to some extent. Over using technology that is. I’m no exception. I am a fan of going online myself. I am an Ebay queen, I occasionally browse Facebook and I text my family and friends to keep in touch. I thought I had a good balance with my phone/home life. I always try to put my daughter first and apart from the occasional text throughout the day that requires a quick reply or a bit of browsing whilst she watches a film on repeat for the 100th time, I thought I had it in check. Sometimes you don’t notice how things start to creep into your life and take over and I am sorry to say I am a little guilty of that lately.

The occasional browse on the news sites went from a few a week to being a morning routine of grabbing my phone upon awakening and making it my first activity of the day. I am guilty of saying “In a minute” to Emi many times, whilst I lay in bed reading showbiz news so utterly unimportant, as she nagged me to get up and make breakfast. It was, I suppose, a delay tactic. I’m fully aware that the minute I get up, my long day as a single mom to a 3 year old starts, who although exceedingly lovely, is very demanding of my time and energy, which is completely exhausting. It’s a shift. So whilst im not going to be too hard on myself , adjustments can always be made to improve things. Another example is my bath. A quick 10 minute dip to clean myself turned into another opportunity to watch meaningless YouTube videos whilst she played in her room. 10 minutes started extending to 40. I always spoke to her and she ran in to see me but it’s still taking away from our time. So I am guilty of that too.

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I’m not here to shame others. I’m not here to say I know best. Parenthood is a massive learning curve. Nobody knows all the answers.We all make mistakes, some of us notice and correct them ourselves, some of us don’t notice anything and never self reflect. The important thing is to try your best. If you can say you are trying, that is the best you can do. I suppose when I needed to lye in, or extend my bath, that was the best I could do on that particular day. I still gave all of myself to my daughter outside of that time for the rest of the day. But I realise if there’s a day I need a break like that from now on, I will go and have 5 minutes whilst she’s busy rather than pushing on towards an hour.

A good parent, in my opinion only, is an honest one. One who is self aware and can admit their faults. I have many. But as long as we try and look into reflecting on things too then it will all work out ok. I still get my fill of showbiz trash headlines. (A single mom needs to dream for 10 minutes about how the other half live!) I just do it when she’s in bed or at nursery now. Our time is too precious to keep wasting.

Some of the best examples of people in my life live by this same premise.

I have a wonderful friend that may not reply for days at a time, which, if you didn’t know her, you may take that as a sign she maybe wasnt too bothered about the friendship or the importance of keeping in touch. Fortunately, I know her well and know that to not hear from her is often a good thing, as it means she’s busy and focusing on work, life, family and her children. She makes them a priority as naturally they come first for her. And that is how it should be. She replies to me when she has time. Sometimes she even surprises me with a swift response or two ;-). It doesn’t matter how long we spend apart, when we reunite its lovely, because we make time for each other in those moments. We value that time and respect that each other has taken time out of our priority lives to be there. So being in the moment with her family and not looking at her phone every night is exactly the right thing to do. Family is everything, especially where young children are involved. Her partner is equally set on making his priorities the children and supporting my friend as his partner and mother to his children. I know many couple like this and they are always stronger for it. Team work always pays off! Being present is a choice.

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I have a group of friends that I see only a few times a year for birthdays etc, however, when together, we will sit and talk for hours, with not one of us sat on our phones or being distracted elsewhere, because those present is all the input and conversation that’s needed and desired. The same goes for another close friend nearby. We often share cups of tea and lunch and just talk to each other about our lives. It always feels good to talk face to face, establishes a greater bond of friendship and makes me come away feeling positive to know that I have a friend that will listen rather than be distracted elsewhere. Time is so valuable. To give your time to someone else is a gift.

My parents are another great example of how to stay interested in each other and make reality where you choose to put your energy. Each night, after spending very different days apart, they come together at the dinner table and discuss their day. Some people say old-fashioned, I think its vital to what makes their marriage a success. Being interested and making time for each other. I find it really sad when people willingly lose good relationships or friends through a general lack of being interested in them anymore. People will always appear more interesting if they are actually listened to, noticed, appreciated and don’t have to compete with a device of some sort. Back to basics.

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A lot of people in this world currently have stopped talking to each other in person, spending far too much time transfixed by liking, following, chatting, sexting, texting. There are so many platforms to entice every different sort of person online, whether that be shopping, playing games, gambling, social media or sex sites. People are too accessible. We live in a society where you can argue with your spouse over something as trivial as doing the dishes and rather than talk it through, simply go into a different room instead and arrange to have sex with someone else at the click of a button. Relationship ended in 5 seconds. There is always someone willing and eager to smooth over a bruised ego for attention and sex. That is truly frightening to me. Does anyone stand a chance? Nobody talks and fixes anymore. Likewise, people can spend more than is in their bank account getting carried away playing poker with other real online players in a different country. The thrill and the risk is what makes the fun. Often though, money is lost and the real friends in physical form are dropped and ignored for players you will never meet on the other side of the world.

I’m not condemning these things altogether, they can be useful platforms to be sociable or spend some down time. But moderation doesn’t seem to apply anymore. There is just too much. Too much opportunity. To much accessibility. It’s up to everyone else how they choose to live. I can’t tell anyone what to do. I do know, however, whats important to me though, especially after writing this, so I will keep reminding myself of that x

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Above: Pointing the camera at the only thing on the screen that matters 😉 x

Love Second Hand ;-)

Today something unexpected happened to me.

I dropped my daughter off to pre-school and one of the staff looked at me and said how much she loved my dress. Usually I would have just said thanks and moved on. Today, instead, I found myself doing something I don’t usually do. Admitting it was second-hand and telling her proudly I got it for £2 from a charity shop. I was delighted when, instead of looking uncomfortable, she beamed and said how much she loved charity shops herself and always shopped around the cheaper ones when she visited family in other areas. This really made my day.

I know loads of people who buy clothes from second-hand stores in Cornwall. There are charity shops on many a high street, more so there, in every third building or so in some cases. However, up here, there is a certain amount of snobbery that comes along with living in a more central location. I am currently in Birmingham, a big city where you have all the high street names in one place, from Topshop to Zara to the more affordable every day clothes stores such as New Look or Primark. A few friends up here I have mentioned my love of charity shops to have given funny and somewhat awkward responses at times, ranging from disbelief that I would choose to venture into these places, to a few plastic smiles trying to hide their discomfort with an idea that doesn’t quite fit with what we have been trained as a nation to do. 2016-08-15_17.03.55[1].jpg

Above: One of my favourite £4 charity shop dresses x

So to get todays reactions really made me feel elated that second-hand buying on the whole is really becoming more accepted and no longer just for niche markets like over priced vintage stores. It’s funny that people see nothing wrong with getting a second-hand bed frame or a wooden piece of furniture off Ebay, yet the thought of wearing a used persons clothes has some feeling a little queasy, if they are honest. My friend used to say to me that she only bought new for the simple reason that charity shops were full of dead people’s clothes and that it made her feel a bit sick. I am sure some are clothes from house clearances, and this was made more apparent to me when we bagged up my Nans clothes and donated them to sell. However, there are people, like me, that have regular clear outs and take bags of clothes round to their local charity shop. Donations are made from all walks of life. I think the point is, it doesn’t matter where it came from, but much like us as individuals, what matters is the purpose it’s now serving.

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Above: Emi in her brand new tags £1.50 Ebay top. RRP £8.00

Some people’s opinions on these shops are downright outrageous though. My Nan told me about a man she once knew, who put all his clothes in his kitchen bin to go to landfill, saying he would rather do that or even go as far as to burn them, than think of someone else walking around in his clothes. His clothes that he didn’t want anymore anyway. It makes no sense to me. Giving your clothes to charity serves several purposes, including preventing unnecessary waste. It also can be re sold, with the money going directly towards a worthy cause. Two birds with one stone right there!

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Above: One of my best finds. Brand new with tag £1.49 swimsuit from Boots Mini Club range. Would have been around £14.00 in store

I have personally found charity shops an eye opener. You can go into one and have no idea what you will come across, I really like the surprise element. It’s like an indoor car boot sale, you know the saying, one persons junk is another persons treasure. It is so true. Of course, sometimes you find nothing and some of it is junk but there are also times when you find a real treat at an amazing price and those times I feel really proud for being both thrifty as well as charitable. I love the buzz of getting a bargain and seeing people’s shock when I tell them how much I managed to buy it for.

Yes I could go to Zara and buy a top for £30, one of 20 identical ones off the rail, wear it a few times and get bored and want something else the next month. Personally, I love the idea of rummaging through a random rail and finding a real gem at a bargain price!

I recently found a lemon print rainmac for Emi from Next for £4.50. It would have cost £30 new and still looks new. Why would I push my budget and spend 6 times what I got it for, just to be able to say its new. In saying that, I have also picked up many brand new with tags still attached items from these shops. People are generally wasteful and I am sure we all have had one item in our wardrobe at some point that we forgot to take back and get a refund on. It’s never going to get worn, so the obvious thing to do is to donate it. There are loads of brand new items to be found, so a lot of second-hand shop stuff isn’t even technically used. Even if you can’t find new, whats the big deal anyway?

Think about it. When you buy something from a shop, it’s always used anyway. Have you ever thought about how many people have tried that particular item of clothing on in the shop fitting rooms or bought it already and returned it? Everything is used anyway! This way at least, you can update your wardrobe far more often and do a good deed at the same time by donating money to charity rather than giving it to another big wig at the head of a major high street brand. Dont get me wrong, I’m not saying I never shop in the high street and buy new.

I do. But always in the sale! 😉 is-4

These shops have also been a bit of a saviour to my budget. As a single mom, it’s often hard to keep up with everything a growing three-year old needs. A smart mamma knows that babies and toddlers don’t get much wear out of their clothes anyway. I think it’s becoming more fashionable to admit to buying second-hand, especially where children are concerned.

A few weeks back I took my girl to the cinema and wanted to buy some sweets beforehand to take in with us (I’m not paying cinema prices!!). We got into the shop and she was randomly sick all down the sweet isle! The staff were great, helping me clean her up and even leant me a dressing gown from the kids department so that I could go and buy her a new outfit (The one day I didn’t pack a spare!) I bought her a dress from Next for £6 to put on immediately as it was the closest shop (And I thought people would think me a lazy mom who took their kid out in a dressing gown if I carried her any further!)But the thought of it happening again made me hunt for a spare set before going to the cinema. Just incase! I headed to our local Cancer Research shop and found her a matching cat outfit (leggings and T-shirt) for the total price of £2.50. My spare budget that week was pretty tied up, so to not have had to go into H&M and spend £10 on a spare dress was a total blessing and she adores her cat outfit! Charity shop to the rescue again! 20160814_174755[1].jpg

Above: Emi happy in her new best £2.50 cat outfit x

I don’t limit it to clothes either. Charity shops are great for books and household items like kitchen ware. Especially if you love all things shabby chic like me. People also make handmade pieces such as knitted cardigans or blankets, and donate them just to help raise money for a good cause, just because they have the time to do so. (Yes, there are still some lovely people in this crazy world.) I personally love that I can pick up one of a kind hand-made items that someone has put a lot of love and effort into and it is completely original. My daughters favourite blanket was picked up for £3 from one of our local charity shops that has a special handmade section we often love to browse in.

Nearly all of my furniture is second-hand too and although you can get some good bits in shops, I nearly always browse locally on Ebay items, as if you bid rather than buy at a set price, you can get them really cheap if you can arrange delivery or collection.

My 3 piece suite and chair were £80 together (they wanted £120, I haggled.) It is from one of those expensive sofa companies and would have cost them hundreds new. I picked up my daughters stacker bed for £21 on auction via Ebay. Of course it helps to have a helpful driver friend to help you collect it. If you can arrange collection, you can get some brilliant bargains. These beds retail for £200 brand new and the mattress was hardly used and thrown in with the cost of the bed!20160909_214315[1].jpgAbove: My second-hand chair and tv unit. Total Bargains x

I’ve also just had a change of colour scheme in my living room and have been looking for some suitable new furniture for ages. I found a tv cabinet I loved advertised for £40. I saw on the listing that the seller was moving abroad and needed a quick sale. Having seen a matching desk and table in her other items for sale, I asked what she would accept for a quick sale and I got all 3 items for £50! She even threw in the paint! Its proper chunky solid furniture that will last for years and I am thrilled when I find things I can really cherish and make my home feel like a home.

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Above: My beloved desk and table, part of a set of 3 I got for £50

You can probably guess that I love car boots too, although I don’t go to many of these. There are so many ways to get good bargains and source different things these days. We don’t all have to pay full price on the high street either!

So, I hope a few people reading this have maybe opened their eyes up to possible new ways of shopping if they had a different perspective of second-hand buying before. It’s really nothing to be scared of or looked down upon at all. There will always be new stuff in the world. But whats wrong with a little recycling every now and again! Happy shopping 😉 xx

 

 

 

 

Free things to do with a three year old!

I know this might seem obvious. But hear me out.

I actually found myself this weekend just gone reaching out to some of the other lovely moms on my Facebook page for ideas on how to entertain my child indoors. Dont get me wrong, I’m not daft, I know the basics and more regarding looking after my daughter. We do it all from baking to crafts to exploring. But sometimes you can get stuck in a bit of routine, and if I am really honest, as much fun as a pre schooler would have going to the park and causing havoc with glue and stickers every day, for the parent, doing the same stuff day in day out can be a bit, dare I say it, tedious.

This weekend was very wet too so I was particularly struggling for indoor activities after filling the morning already with the usual ones! It’s easy to not think outside the box and miss things that should have been a really obvious activity, but sometimes, we don’t see whats in front of us and it takes another parent to point out these things to make you open your creative mind a bit more.

So here is a list of free activities that can be enjoyed with a child of my daughter’s age, a few ideas I have to thank the gorgeous network of ladies from my Facebook, you know who you are, and the rest being things we always do and can often be enjoyed by all the family!

  1. Bake! WP_20150915_10_33_38_Pro[1].jpgThis is probably the activity I rely on the most, as it is my hobby and now my daughter adores helping (and eating!) our homemade bakes too. It’s a great place to get really creative and it doesn’t have to stop at cakes. I let her blend up soups and add seasoning to dishes or tear and throw in herbs. The kitchen is a great place to learn life skills that are not only fun but will set them up for being self-sufficient in the future. Kids of this age really like being involved in the creative process of anything so involve them as much as you can.
  2. Crafts! WP_20160125_16_21_19_Pro[1].jpgWe do something of this form each day, whether it be drawing, colouring, sticking, making cards, or vegetable printing,anything that is messy and she gets to completely put her own personal mark on goes! Kids love messy crafts and I can easily fill an hour on a good day letting her imagination run wild on paper. Messy! But good for her!
  3. The Park! WP_20151228_15_09_33_Pro[1].jpgWP_20160608_10_51_24_Pro[1].jpgKids of this age will almost never turn down a trip to the park. They do not get bored with slides and swings. Fact! And its good exercise for them to run about for half an hour!
  4. Local Sanctuary! WP_20160523_10_40_20_Pro[1].jpgWe go and visit our local donkey sanctuary which is a lovely activity to fill a morning and get some fresh air. It is free entry and these places are usually run entirely on charity and sponsorship, so it wont cost you anything to visit. We decided after a few visits to adopt one of the Donkeys, but even this is a small price to pay at £2 per month, and for that she gets personal close encounter visits and updates. Our sanctuary is set in the heart of a large park so it’s a good excuse for a day out and more fun in the play area afterwards! Especially with a little friend!
  5. Have a Picnic! WP_20140309_051.jpgWe love a picnic. You can get the children to choose what they would like to eat, help prepare and pack it (if you can get a proper picnic basket that’s always more fun!) then choose a spot and stuff your face! We are lucky to have some lovely vast parks around us and my daughters favourite spot is usually under a big shady tree with plenty of ground in front of us to run about, play football and just be three!
  6. Gardening! WP_20160507_13_20_27_Pro[1].jpgWP_20160413_10_41_19_Pro[1].jpgOk, so to buy flowers or seeds it’s not so much free, but you can get these very cheaply now if you shop around. I have been getting my daughter involved in helping me to dig my border, plant flowers and water them regularly. She likes having her own job to do and it gives her a sense of achievement when she has fed the plants she planted herself. I don’t think enough kids know about plants, especially fruit and vegetables, or where they actually come from. It’s another life skill that could be vital to them as they grow up.
  7. Copying! 636014092629701617[1].jpgOk, this sounds like a bit of a nothing activity but it can lead to lots of things. My make up, very basic, can be on and done in about 4 minutes flat…however, my three-year old has taken to coming and sitting on my lap and hogging the mirror whenever I put it on now and she loves experimenting with all the different colours and transforming her face into something new. I wouldn’t suggest doing this with expensive make up as they are very messy creatures but its an amazing way for her to be creative. She does the same with her clothes too, she watches me pick what to wear and she is now going through her wardrobe herself and evaluating what she likes best each day.
  8. Reading! This is so important. For brain strength and learning but also for imagination. She loves to read and we make sure we read at least two books each day, usually around bedtime. It gives her a routine too and I love watching her little facial expressions ranging from shocked to happy to concerned when she is hearing different parts of the story! I also think it’s so important not to sit kids in front of the tv all day and I would much rather she read a book at bedtime than stare with her tired eyes at a blindingly bright screen right before bed.
  9. Water Play! WP_20160518_12_10_23_Pro[1].jpgShe has so much fun with water. A bath can turn into a swimming session. A washing up bowl becomes a make shift paddling pool. They are, really, quite easily pleased at this age, as long as they are allowed a bit of freedom and encouragement to enjoy simple pleasures. A paddling pool in the summer months can create hours of entertainment. If the weather is bad, she will shallow fill the bath and play with her ducks and other bath toys for ages, creating characters with different voices and making them dive into the bath. She has also discovered my sisters hose in the garden and would happily play with that all day given the chance!
  10. Teddy Bears Picnic! WP_20160611_10_57_20_Pro[1].jpgThis is something I hadn’t even thought of before! I had all the props available and yet it didn’t occur to me. So thanks again to my Facebook moms. Once we set it up, she had a good hour of lovely role play, dressing up each of her teddies in her own clothes and forcing our homemade cakes upon them! She loved it and afterwards she decided she would have a party and dance with every bear one by one, so this activity gave us a good 2 hours of fun!
  11. Dress up! WP_20151112_16_10_20_Pro[1].jpgWP_20151031_16_32_48_Pro[1].jpgWP_20160303_07_40_23_Pro[1].jpgKids adore dressing up and role play at this age! If you are willing to go along with them and let them make you over too, even better!
  12. Visit a Beach! WP_20150906_14_21_06_Pro.jpgWe were lucky enough to live by some great beaches in Cornwall and are also lucky that we still have family by some! You can lose hours simply playing, eating, building in the sand and splashing in the water! Its toddler heaven. Throw in an ice cream and its a great day out and something the whole family can enjoy!

There are loads of other things you can do like watch a film, go exploring in the local park and look for different bugs, go blackberry picking. We feel sometimes we always have to spend money on our children with fancy toys or expensive days out but, at this age, the simple pleasures really are the most enjoyable x

 

Best Brownies

I am yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love a good brownie!

This recipe is my favourite. Its reliable, comforting and never fails to satisfy the appetite. Ever 😉

I literally make these once a fortnight, sometimes even once a week if I feel the need. I do always share them out though and give a box to whoever I might be seeing that day. The rest go in an airtight jar and they will keep well for at least a week. My lovely friend bought me a gorgeous pink kilner jar recently and now I have an excuse to make them so I can store them in a pretty place ;-). I love jars! WP_20160605_08_08_16_Pro[1].jpg

Above: My gorgeous new pink addition to my jar shelf. Thanks Liz x

I strongly advise that depriving yourself of life’s pleasures will make you utterly miserable!  Eating only lettuce will not make for a long and happy life! On the other hand, don’t go crazy! It’s very simple when you think about it! A little bit of what you like does you the world of good.

I use good quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids) and unrefined sugar. One small square is enough with a hot cup of tea. I don’t drink red wine but a couple of my friends I had the pleasure of cooking for recently assured me that these are an excellent accompaniment to a glass! So much so, I do believe they demolished about 4 each on the night. And took the rest home the next day. It’s a pleasure to see people enjoying something you have made!WP_20160221_14_30_28_Pro[1].jpg

Above: Birthday brownies for my daughters 3rd birthday!

I made a batch at 6.30am this morning to post off for a friend’s birthday! They make an excellent gift in a lovely tin and I have used this recipe for presents, party’s,dinner guests, every one seems to love them, from the three-year olds right up to my nearly 80-year-old Nan. They are a big hit!

They are very easy to make, the tricky part is timing it just right so that it doesn’t cook all the way through like a dry cake! I have had varied success with this but seem to be on a roll timing it for 21 minutes! WP_20160608_08_42_49_Pro[1]

Above: Batch for friend’s birthday. Just the right amount of squidge!

Ingredients

  1. 185g Unsalted Butter
  2. 185g 70% Minimum Good Quality Dark Chocolate (Aldi do a great range and not too expensive!)
  3. 85g Plain Flour (You could replace this with gluten-free or ground almonds for wheat allergies etc)
  4. 3 Large Eggs
  5. 275g Golden Caster Sugar
  6. 40g Cocoa Powder
  7. Icing Sugar to Dust after Cooking

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to Gas 4.
  2. Break up the chocolate and put into a heat proof bowl along with the butter. Melt in the microwave, checking every 30 seconds until melted. Usually takes around 2 minutes but every microwave may differ! Once melted set aside to cool until luke warm, just so long as it’s no longer hot enough to cook the eggs when combined!
  3. Mix the flour and cocoa powder together sieving into a clean bowl. Set aside.
  4. In an electric mixer (if you have one), beat the eggs with the sugar on the highest speed setting. This will make the mix turn very pale and the volume will increase  almost doubling in size. Do this for at least two minutes. This will add air into the mixture for a lighter brownie.
  5. Once the melted chocolate mix from step 2 is cool enough, add this into the egg mix, folding it in gently to prevent knocking the air back out. Once combined, sieve the flour mix into this and again fold it in, don’t stir as this will make the brownies too dense without the lightness you have whipped into the eggs.
  6. Pour into a tin, you can get good tray bake tins, mine was just a poundshop job! The base of my tin measures 24cm by 18cm and it’s just the right size to hold this mixture.
  7. Cook on the middle shelf until the top starts to crack but inside still looks moist. I would recommend between 20-25 minutes but I have found around 20 works best.
  8. Leave to cool completely in the tin at room temperature. Dont be tempted to cut into it before its cool! Then sprinkle with icing sugar and cut!

I hope you enjoy x

Lemon and Bramley Apple Curd Review

As it’s the weekend again, we did what we do every Saturday, me and my girl. We got into the kitchen and we cooked together. She is only three but she adores helping to prep anything we decide to give a go and I love to watch her exploring cooking methods and trying everything along the way.

A few weeks ago I dusted off a preserves book I have had sat on my shelf for years. I remember attempting this recipe with my then partner and had wonderful funny memories of the handle falling off my pan right when the curd was at its hottest, scolding him, my hands and painting my walls a lovely sticky yellow splodge pattern in the process. Good times. That was a first attempt of course and I am sure if you have a decent pan your first attempt will be a success! The curd worked a treat, what was left of it!

I don’t want to get into the habit of sharing other people’s recipes but this one is tried, tested and tasted and is simply so delicious you must try it, hence why I ma sharing it with you. It’s not at all sharp like standard lemon curd with the addition of Bramley apples making it sweet and mellow. I have made a few slight amendments to the original recipe too as I tend to use what I have got which doesn’t always match the quantities of the original recipe but it still works.

This is my absolute favourite thing to make if I have a quiet moment and doesn’t take too long either. You end up with five jars full, although saying that, it doesn’t last long once you have tried it! I tend to keep two and give three away to family. WP_20160514_08_24_37_Pro[1]

Above: My helper x

Use it on toast, with cream and meringues or experiment like we did straight after making lemon curd cupcakes. It’s very versatile and it keeps for 4 weeks unopened in the cupboard.

You can get these jars from Wilko for about £4 for 12 and I ask family to keep returning them once finishing so its only the initial outlay I have paid and you should recycle where you can!

Original recipe taken from River Cottage Handbook No.2-Preserves.

Ingredients

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons (you need 100ml strained juice)(I had 2 medium lemons which only made 90ml juice so use large lemons or you will end up needing another spare!)

450g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped (Weigh them after chopping!)

125g unsalted butter (At room temperature melts quicker)

450g granulated sugar

4-–5 large eggs, well beaten (you need 200ml beaten egg)(I used 5 medium eggs as that’s what I had in! It still worked out great!)

Method

Put the chopped apples into a pan with 100ml water and the lemon zest. (I did 100ml as suggested but found the water had evaporated a little quicker than the time needed for the apples to soften enough so towards the end added a further 50ml water to finish cooking without them burning or sticking!)Cook gently until soft and fluffy, then either beat to a purée with a wooden spoon or rub through a nylon sieve.(I used metal, use what you have.)WP_20160514_08_18_35_Pro[1]

WP_20160514_08_35_50_Pro[1]Put the butter, sugar, lemon juice and apple purée into a double boiler or heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.(I don’t have a double boiler, a pan of water and a heat proof bowl is just dandy.)As soon as the butter has melted and the mixture is hot and glossy, pour in the eggs through a sieve, and whisk with a balloon whisk.

If the fruit purée is too hot when the beaten egg is added, the egg will ‘split’.(I was terrified about this part but as long as you are simmering the mixture rather than boiling it should be fine, I hae not had a split batch yet!)

One way to guard against this is to check the temperature of the purée with a sugar thermometer – it should be no higher than 55-60°C when the egg is added.(My thermometer is broken so I used common sense and did it by eye and it worked for me.)WP_20160514_09_40_42_Pro[1]

If your curd does split, take the pan off the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth.

Stir the mixture over a gentle heat, scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes, until thick and creamy.(Dont be tempted to stop sooner if you feel it’s getting no where, it does thicken nicely right at the end, it will still be soft enough to pour so don’t expect a thick-set like a jam.) This will take 9–-10 minutes; the temperature should reach 82–-84°C on a sugar thermometer.WP_20160514_09_42_50_Pro[1].jpg

Immediately pour into warm, sterilised jars and seal.(To sterilise your jars wash them in very hot soapy water and rinse, then put them in a low oven, I use Gas Mark 2, for about 8-10 minutes. Use a funnel to pour in the mixture, there’s no mess or wastage!)WP_20160514_10_15_02_Pro[1].jpg

Use within 4 weeks. Once opened, keep in the fridge.

Enjoy finding new ways to use this up. I used my favourite cupcake recipe (see Vanilla Cupcake blog post.) Yum x

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