Monday, 31 December 2012

2012: A Year in Review.

It's safe to say that 2012 has been a pretty amazing year. It has definitely had down points (like starting it unemployed!) but overall, it's been great. 

- WE GOT MARRIED. Yep, it was amazing. The day went as well as we could have hoped for, surrounded by family and friends and I married the most wonderful man ever. 

- Travel - we've been to Italy and Turkey this year, both which were pretty amazing. Italy for our honeymoon as lovely, the food was so tasty, and we want to go back someday. Turkey was busy, hot and the food again was very tasty.

- We moved house in February because we couldn't afford the rent any longer, and then by the end of 2012, we've bought our very own house! 

- I managed to secure a permanent job, for now. I'm so happy. It starts on Monday, and I'm nervous, but very excited about the next chapter!

I have enjoyed lots of walks in the sunshine:

I have baked lots of things:

I have eaten lots of peanut butter:

I have drunk a lot of coffee: 

It's been a very good year. 

Happy New Year everyone! Here's to 2013, I have a feeling it's going to be good. 

N xxx

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Chocolate-caramel layer cake.

So, it has been my husband's birthday this week. Being so close to Christmas, it's always a bit of a rush, but I wanted to make it special, as always. 

Now, I've posted before about making a birthday cake on the same day as the birthday party, without having a practice beforehand. This was the same I'm afraid, but had more potential to go wrong! However.....

May I present to you, my husband's birthday cake:

I must admit, this came out pretty well. It has four layers inside. 

There's a vanilla sponge on the bottom, then caramel sponge, then chocolate-caramel sponge and then topped with a chocolate sponge. Sandwiched together with caramel sauce. 

It was then frosted with this delightful bowlful - this is a mix of melted dark chocolate, milk chocolate and double cream. Did I mention this cake isn't healthy?

Mmm. There were lots of oohs and aahs when the cake was cut into. 

 Slice of cake for the birthday boy!


The recipe can be found here at the Good Food website. I didn't use as much caramel to sandwich the cake together as they suggested, but it didn't matter. I also didn't use all of the chocolate mixture on the outside, but you could use it all and make a thicker layer. It also served a lot more people than 12, as the recipe suggests! 

I can also say that it tastes just as good the second day, just in case you were wondering! 

N xxx

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas.

We're in our new house. There are boxes and stuff everywhere. There is much sorting to be done.

But, not today. Not tomorrow. Not the day after. Now is the time for relaxing and spending time with family, and enjoying our first Christmas as a married couple.  

Merry Christmas to all x

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The calm before the storm.

I went for a long walk on a beach near us today. The sun was shining, the sea was calm, and the mood was peaceful. 

The week ahead for us is going to be stressful - we're hoping to complete on the house on Tuesday, move on Wednesday and be sorted by the weekend. I have one week of term left, and it's pretty busy as weeks go. 

So, the calm before the storm. 

N xxx

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Small comforts and uncertain times.

Our house is looking a bit sad at the moment. You see, we haven't put up any Christmas decorations. We are the only house on our street that doesn't have any lights sparkling outside. In fact, this:
[sorry for the bad pic] 

is the only thing we have in our house that is at all festive. This is because we could be moving house at any point, and don't want to put all the decorations up to them have to take them all down again. But, our house looks sad. 

As always, small comforts make life better. I did stray from my usual porridge and had this:

This is banana cinnamon porridge topped with chopped berries and peanut butter. It was nice, but not as nice as this:

Cinnamon porridge topped with warmed berries and peanut butter. Can anyone else see a smiley face in the peanut butter, or is it just me? The warmed berries and the syrup they produce is just heavenly. I will not stray again any time soon. 

And, a picture in a magazine made me smile, so I took a [poor] picture of it:


Oh, and happy 12/12/12. 

N xxx

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Meal planning and making your pennies go further.

Things I have done today:
- Used a 10p off a litre of petrol voucher that would have expired today, had I not used it, saving me a whole £2.90!
- Went Christmas shopping with my mum and had a lovely time
- Had a posh brunch and tea
- Managed to buy 4 more Christmas presents
- Wrote most of my Christmas cards

A productive day!

I also wrote our menu plan for the week:
Sunday - mushroom risotto
Monday - soup and a sandwich
Tuesday - summer-in-winter chicken with rice
Wednesday - stir fry with noodles
Thursday - pizza
Friday - chicken with mushrooms and rice

Lots of rice this week, but then we've got lots of rice on the freezer. The chicken with mushrooms dish is already in the freezer, so no spends there, as was the pizza. Soup from the store cupboard and the only thing I needed to buy for the risotto was the mushrooms! 

Today has been a good day. How's your Saturday been?

[I love the house in this picture - it looks magical with snow on as well. ]

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Short and sweet.

The weather is getting colder and colder. Apparently it's meant to snow tonight for us. 

I can't believe it's December - where's the year gone!? I need to get organised with Christmas, I feel like I've not done that much so far. 

I love winter. 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Preparation for the new year

As December fast approaches, I am beginning to think about next year. 

I need to think about plans for next year, what do I want to accomplish? What needs to happen so that I can achieve my goals? Am I going to try and push myself, or play safe for a while? 

I have some goals already in mind, and also a couple of things that may push me out of my comfort zone somewhat. I also have to spend a bit of time making sure that my work/life balance is in check. I also want to plan some things to do with my husband, whether here at home or going somewhere else. We have a couple of weekends away planned for next year already, but it would be nice if we could squeeze in another short break somewhere, we shall see!

I feel a list coming on.....

How do you prepare for the new year? What are your aims?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Food for the week and a little treat.

It now seems to be coming the norm, but Saturday is our food shopping day. I spend a bit of time searching through the cupboards/fridge/freezer and then plan what we are eating for the week. Then off I pop to the shops!

Our menu for the week:
TonightChicken with mushrooms served with mash
Sunday - shepherds pie and gravy
MondayMushroom stroganoff served with rice
Tuesday - spaghetti with tomatoes, capers and anchovies
Wednesday - chilli and rice
Thursday - chicken fajitas
Friday - sweet and sour chicken (from freezer) with rice

Trying out a couple of new recipes this week, just so we don't end up eating the same things week in, week out. 

And, because it is Saturday, I treated myself to breakfast out this morning:

This was a very tasty eggs benedict. Yum! 

And also, I bought myself a new mug (definitely didn't need this, have loads in the cupboard!)

I thought it was pretty. Good size too. 

How was your Saturday? What meals are you having this week?

N xxx

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A simple supper.

This evening I made one of the most simple, yet tasty, dishes for tea. 

Spaghetti with tomatoes, anchovies and capers (a modified version of spaghetti puttanesca). 

You need:
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- a tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp of capers
- 1 tin of anchovies, in olive oil
- spaghetti
- big pinch of chili flakes

Drain the olive oil from the anchovies into a frying pan. Add the garlic cloves and cook for about a minute, stirring so it doesn't become brown. Add in the chopped tomatoes, capers, anchovies and chili flakes. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. The sauce should thicken beautiful into a lovely thick sauce. The anchovies will disintegrate into the sauce, leaving a great deal of flavour behind.

Boil some water and cook spaghetti. Then combine sauce and spaghetti, grate on a bit of parmesan if you have some in, and serve.

 This amount serves 2, and I always add all of the anchovies, as both me and my husband like anchovies, and I find if I leave some in the tin, they just end up getting thrown out anyway, so it's better to use them up.  And the best thing? This takes less than 20 minutes from start to plate. Perfect after a long day at work.

N xxx

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Good entertainment.

Last night me and my husband went to the cinema to see a free preview of The Silver Linings Playbook. He got two free tickets from an internet site, and off we went! 

Here's the poster for it:

It was good film, a bit heavy in places but well acted. I loved Robert De Niro as the father, and the two main characters were played well by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Me and DH have also read the book, which we'd definitely recommend - it really makes you think about life and positivity in what we have, rather than what we don't. 

Have you seen any films lately? Anything you would recommend?

N xxx

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Menu planning and the week ahead.

Whenever I mention how much we spend on food shopping, most people don't believe it. They also don't believe that we tend not to throw any food away. One of the biggest things that I think helps when it comes to budgeting is meal planning. 

First thing to do is look at what you already have in - is there anything that needs using up? That could be made into something? Then write a list of what you have that can be used and then think of meals you like to eat and are easy to cook during the week. 

Our meal plan for this week looks like this:
Saturday - out, date night :)
Sunday - Sunday lunch with the in-laws
Monday - Fish fingers, waffles and beans (to use stuff up from the freezer)
Tuesday - Spaghetti Puttanesca
Wednesday - Homemade sweet and sour chicken with rice
Thursday - Shepherds Pie with broccoli and gravy
Friday - Ham and Pineapple pizza with salad 

We have lots of spaghetti in the store cupboard, so I wanted to use a recipe involving that. We also have lots of broccoli in the freezer, so wanted to use some of that somewhere. It's all about thinking ahead, and reducing your food waste.

Our food shop this week came to £31.43, which includes some treats, and a couple of things that will last more than this week ( for example, I bought some more value porridge oats even though I think I've got enough for this week. These will last a month or more in our household!)

Do you meal plan? How do you do your food shopping? 

N xxx

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Nigel Slater and his simple food.

I think I'm a bit in love with Nigel Slater. I love how he talks about food. I love watching him cook on his tv show. I love how enthusiastic he is about combinations of flavours. He's divine. 

On my amazon wish list, I've got a couple of his books, in the hopes that someone might buy me them. Considering how only my parents and my husband have the link, the likelihood of that is slim, but I'm still hoping.

Here's a few of his recipes that I have on my "to try" list:

1) Mushroom and taleggio toastie - watching him make this on tv with the cheese oozing out of the sandwich, made me want to make it there and then. Unfortunately, I didn't have any of the ingredients in! 
2) Compost Crumble - now I absolutely love crumble, and this looked pretty tasty. The addition of seeds and oats to the crumble topping made it look beautiful - I really want to make this soon. 
3) Lemon and Thyme Cake - my mother-in-law makes an amazing lemon drizzle cake, but this one with the addition of thyme sounds interesting and I think it would go great with a cuppa!
4) Flatbread - now I realise that flatbreads aren't supposed to be that tricky, but I'm going to follow his recipe and see!
5) Garlic Mushroom Pasties - garlic mushroom pasties? Enough said. 

He makes me feel enthusiastic about food and makes me think about how I need to be more adventurous about my food combinations. 

Although, to be fair, I bet he doesn't make porridge look as beautiful as this:

Do you like Nigel Slater? What recipes of his would you recommend? 

N xxx

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Fighting the winter blues.

I don't know about anyone else, but when the dark evenings come round, and the weather is cold and miserable, I seem to lose all sense of motivation and ambition, and want to hibernate until spring. When I get home from work, I want to change into comfy clothes, and not move from the sofa until bed time. And there surely must be a law forbidding everyone getting out of bed for work whilst it's still dark? I think that's the worst. 

Does anyone have any tips on how to get some motivation into everyday life when it's cold and dark outside? What do you do on an evening to occupy yourself, apart from watching the tv? I often think about our evenings in, after working all day, and chances are we're both sat on our laptops, watching some rubbish on the tv until bed time, then repeat. 

Any ideas on how to get a bit more umph back in my life would be most welcome! As they say, the difference between try and triumph is a bit of umph! 

N xxx

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Leftovers and comfort food.

I'm a big fan of using left over, using up what we have and making the best out of ingredients that we already have in, before buying any more. 

This lunch is an example of me using up leftovers:

This is roast chicken, with roast veg, both of which were left over from a meal, plus a pear from the cupboard. A very delicious, low cost lunch, made from left overs.

I'm also a bit in love with my new lunch box:

I love the divided sections of this box, which means I can do all sorts of combinations of foods, and don't have to worry about them touching! Watch this space about more ideas with the lunch box....

I was also treated to a hot chocolate from a chain this week - I went with one of their christmas editions - honeycomb hot chocolate:

Tasted a bit like the well known chocolate honeycomb bar with the golden wrapping - very nice!

I've also had porridge:

Cinnamon porridge with warmed blueberries and peanut butter

Banana porridge with warmed berries and peanut butter

It's been a good week.

N xxx

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Lazy weeks and dark nights.

Well, the weather this half term hasn't been that great, but wouldn't expect anything less to be honest! 

I still have indulged in various things, such as:

Peanut butter and blueberry jam on toast

More peanut butter - YUM! 

Healthy lunches that can be savored rather than eaten in a rush whilst trying to do something else at the same time! 

Decadent breakfast that can be eaten as slowly as you like - cinnamon porridge with warmed berries and - you guessed it! - peanut butter

I make this using value oats and these berries:

which are about £1.29 I think? So it's a very frugal breakfast, but tastes amazing. Try it! 

I also popped to our local farm shop and got some tasty wholemeal bread:

which was very nice dunked into some soup. I also got:

a massive jar of peanut butter with no added sugar - trying to watch our processed food intake at the moment and within that added sugar, so this was a good find! 

And finally, I have nearly finished this book:

which has been an enjoyable read - it's light hearted and funny and just what you want as a holiday read. 

Phew! It's been a good week.

N xxx

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Long time no see.

I'll be honest, I did think about deleting this blog. I have nothing to write about - life is not particularly exciting. But then I thought about all the nice things I get to do, all of the things I get to see, all of the things I experience, and I thought to myself that I want to write about it, so I can look back on the good times I've had.

So, the most obvious thing to say is that I am obsessed with peanut butter on toast. 

With some red grapes on the side to add a bit more health to the plate:

And, clearly the best combination is this:

Peanut butter on toast with sliced banana on top is amazing. The peach on the side was just an added bonus...

The blueberries added a nice touch too.

So, to add a bit of variety to breakfast time, I did try another experiment which resulted in this.....:

This is cinnamon porridge, with warmed summer berries on top and a big spoonful of peanut butter. The cinnamon porridge was an amazing base by itself, the warmed berries added a certain sweetness and then the peanut butter melted into it all creating an amazing bowlful of goodness. I'm not gonna lie, I was sad when I finished it!

I have also tried a pumpkin spice latte:

and a salted caramel hot chocolate, which was very nice:

I have also stocked up on these:

as they're currently £1 in a well known supermarket with green writing ;) and as the use by dates aren't until June 2013, thought it was too good to miss! 

I have been reading:

and I've been walking here:

This blog is going to take a shift in direction soon, as I focus on the next stage of our life, so watch this space....

It won't be so long next time, promise!

N xxx