Friday, 27 September 2013

Mmmm, I love the taste of vinegar in the morning...! Apple cider vinegar - Fact or fiction?

Ok, so that's not true. But I have been absent for reasons linked to being EXHAUSTED... all the time... possibly a tiny teeny bit related to having a toddler running amock... is that how you spell it? Oh you know what I mean anyway... to put it simply, with Autumn arriving, it has just cemented my tiredness.

My low enthusiasm for much more than couch-potatoe-ing. And that's definitely not a word but more of a state of being past Toddler-O-Clock. One glass of red wine, dinner, some Greys Anatomy or Breaking Bad episode (one or half a one), and I am dead to the world. What weekend excitement eh.

So, this got me thinking about food, nutrition, exercise etc. Note I said thinking, not necessarily doing...
So as I love research, I researched some of it, to at least get me into the mood of 'getting to' the doing. Actually, all jokes aside, food isn't the issue, it's the thinking time involved! Between work, toddler, my business run from home, and house, and of course hubby, sometimes we just survive the day.

Is that enough?

So the point is, what can I do that's easy, quick, and will boost energy on those hardest days when the sofa is calling?

Drink yummy(ish) apple cider vinegar, that's what. Here are 15 reasons why you should. 

My main faves are:

1) easily regulate your PH balance (ie, that extra Costa coffee you had made your body more acidic, and you didn't know or care).

2) easily gets a selection of good stuff - b vitamins, potassium - which it turns out you need lots more than 1 banana a day to get the right amount (in a top 10 potassium foods list, banana comes 10th, I thought it was top 3 at least but no!!!) You need potassium every single day, because what you got, or had, gets used in a flash. So this vinegar gives you something towards that and other good stuff too. Banana vs Apple Cider Vinegar. - ok so the banana is bigger but will put more weight on if you tried to get all your potassium there...

3) Save a bunch of money cleaning the house, and even as a lovely hair rinse and other beauty uses. Like a (ok slightly smelly) facial tonic, great hair, added to sugar scrubs, cupful in the bath and more.

There is alot of fact vs. fiction out there, old wives tales, wishful thinking, and marketing hype. So what about facts - let's check out some:

Facts you didn't know?

  • Use it as a natural 'personal lady wash' to balance things down there.
  • Rinse with it as a mouthwash to naturally get rid of dental plaque. You may also get rid of romance though. And less enamel.
  • You might lose weight - there's lots of talk out there that this works. Why? Because it helps you feel fuller for longer, and stabilises your blood levels, so less snack attacks hopefully!
  • Give it to your pets - staves off allsorts and they won't notice it in the water supposedly. Less fleas = happy everyone. 
  • Good for diabetics and lowering cholestorol - one of the key facts,
    See here for more facts.

Ok, as you expect, I have got some fab links for you to save you any work in looking into this stuff. 
But let me leave you with this:

  • ONLY buy the apple cider vinegar - regular vinegar or regular cider vinegar won't do.
  • Only buy it if it has the Mother in it. The Mutha baby. This means all the good stuff has not been processed out. The label should state this clearly. I personally buy Biona in the UK, but over in the USA the Braggs brand is popular.
  • Drink it with honey and lots of water. Only other way is neat on salad. Do not take as a shot unless you want painful throat and no more tooth enamel. I love it with water and molasses - that way I get my potassium and my iron for the day in one drink.
  • As with anything, do not overdo it! You still want some teeth, and stomach lining!
Combined with a healthy diet I'm sure it can't help to try, and at less than £3 for a big ol' bottle, I'm sure going to give it a go. I know it's not a miracle food but worth trying as an addition to my salads etc.Let me know how you get on!

My experience so far:

- I do feel more energetic - this could be down to anything, but seems to have helped somewhat.
- As a face tonic, this has smoothed my skin, so I have made a tonic with green tea and apple cider vinegar as per the link below, I'm sticking with that from now for sure, as a bottle of toner now costs me pennies.

Before I forget, a special thank you to Aurora from Freya's Rainbow for your link, much appreciated, and so nice to be in the ethical/green-minded community - thank you!

Youtube links:

Benefits of apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar Toner (skip to around 1m 40 seconds to skip the intro)

Apple Cider Vinegar Facts

Braggs Video (ok so it's self marketing, but interesting to watch. I love that Paul Bragg was a Life Extension Specialist. What a job title!)

Have a great weekend all!


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Summer porridge / refrigerator / overnight porridge - call it what you will, it's a lifesaver!

OK, I have blog jealousy right now, I am addicted to the Yummy Life site. It's really inspired me to look at what we eat and how much easier food could be...

You HAVE to check out this overnight porridge, it will make your mornings so much nicer!

I made a banana and honey version yesterday plus a fruits of the forest version. I love the idea of a pecan and maple or coconut / pineapple (hmmm would the pineapple be too acidic I wonder with th emilk though?). Anyway,Monica has inspired me to think about it anyway and since she's given 14 recipes, there's loads of... food for thought (sorry people, I had to).
I will make these for my toddler too for an easy breakfast that can be made on Sunday and last the week for the whole family.

I guess you could do special naughty ones like chocolate, caramel and nutty swirl... weekend only, mind ;o)

Anyway if that gets you addicted wait till you see the make-ahead smoothies...

Seen anything that inspired you? Let me know! I love Pinterest for these ideas, also love the make ahead salads, I will let you know how I get on when I make one.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Summer food you HAVE to try!

Hi everyone,

Well Summer is truly here and so I was inspired to make some nice food to enjoy the weather, and celebrate our little boys' second birthday with a lovely barbeque.

The dishes I chose were all easy-ish to make, Summery, zesty and flavourful so I definitely recommend you try them if you have never enjoyed them before - and even if you have - these recipes are scrummy and a true staple:

Chicken satay kebabs with real satay sauce

and that includes what I consider The Easiest satay sauce (not requiring peanut butter).
For me personally, I love Thai inspired food and so for extra properness... rather than cube the chicken, I cut it into strips and then 'knitted' it onto the skewers by piercing in folds (I hope that makes sense, the chicken ends up in S shapes on the skewer). Remember to soak wooden kebabs first.  They look amazing when done!

and a general staple for a BBQ or any time you need a dipping sauce that's truly simple yet delicious:

Tzatziki - a refreshing Greek cucumber based dipping sauce, yum yum. For me, it has, has, has to have a bit of mint in there for the true taste of Summer to really pop out and wake up your senses.

For afters? A British classic:

Strawberry fool - After looking at a few recipes, I decided on this one. I first tried fully combining all the ingredients (into a pink fluffy cream pudding), and this was lovely. I then tried a more layered technique like the image above, which I preferred from a looks point of view, but also because you get different textures.

Here's my result - a smaller portion for a more waist friendly treat:

I also wanted to share with you the M&M cake I made for our little ones BBQ birthday party. I found this on Youtube, I am such a YT addict these days, and I knew I had to make it - here's my finished one:

One tip I would recommend is a) do not do this with a nearly 2 year old who when helping decorate nearly eats all the M&M's and devours the (already melting) buttercream... and b) take it out of the fridge a few moments before cutting, it was too hard for me to cut after we sang happy birthday

I followed this recipe on YT to make the cake and it was well worth it - all the kids rushed forward to have a look and get a taste, very excited!

Enjoy the warm weather and do share any BBQ or other Summery recipes that you have been enjoying!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Top 5 Savings Now Posts - Have you read these?

Hi everyone.

I finally got round to tecchy-mode and was checking the stats on my site to see what you folks enjoy reading the most.  So this weeks' post is about sharing the most popular blog posts so that new readers can have a read through and existing readers can perhaps get inspired:

Washing up liquid for £0.10p.
Yup, a whole 10 pennies. Maybe these days it's £0.15 with inflation!

Bagels for £0.05p & Comfort food ideas
Another popular one and bagels can be eaten all year round, so yummy you will never go back to store bought!

Bulk buying bonanza - save on shopping
This is one of the key ways to reduce that shopping bill, try to start in June and see if you can stretch that shopping budget.

Cashback site - Quidco
This is one of the leading cashback sites, have you joined yet? Don't buy a thing online unless you go via the Quidco 'doorway' first.

and by far the most visited page is....

Shabby Chic Kitchen
By far one of the most viewed articles on this blog, I'm glad so many others share my passion of shabby chic and got to see my journey with this kitchen! So much more to be done still.

So there you have it, I hope these articles inspire you in some small or big way, drop me a line if you have any challenges you are trying to beat right now, or have your own blog to share x

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Are you ready for Christmas?? (I did say that, so did it get your attention!)

That's right. The old chestnut of, 'oh it's Summer Christmas is aaaAaaaAaaaAaages away'. Well, it's not! Not when you consider that the average family spends around £300 on the seasonal festivities and gifts.
Where will that money come from when the time hits?

  • How much did you spend last year?Are you still paying it off?
  • Did you eat or drink everything you bought for Christmas AT Christmas? Or was some still being eaten in January or even February?
  • Did everyone enjoy their gifts?
  • Did you charity shop or sell amny of the gifts you got given?

The reason for my post it, if you start planning now both in terms of finances and gifts, you can make Christmas 2013 a much less expensive and more enjoyable experience.

Here are some ideas that might get you started in the thinking-about-it-as-a-minimum-starting-point:

- Start saving now - a regular saver of £30 a month will help massively and be less painful than paying for it all out of November and December wages (and January and February and March....)
- Start collecting ideas - Check out Pinterest and start pinning ideas now that might come in handy - I''m thinking big jars full of goodies like: Christmas flapjacks in one, a 'movie night in' in another (ie popcorn, dvd, chocolate, unusual facts about the actors of the movie), peppermint sugar foot scrub in another (brown sugar, olive oil, peppermint oil, MIX!), a bath salts treat in another (SO easy to make - some bath salts from the £1 store, some aromatherapy oil, mix  - DONE!), some vanilla essence in a bottle (250ml vodka, 8 vanilla pods from ebay, split pods, store in cupboard for 5-6 months, shaking gently weekly). I will blog from Summer onwards with ideas to keep you inspired. What about a jar full of homemade laundry powder? Grated soap, some borax, some washing soda crystals, some baking powder, some aromatherapy oils...  This link even has a lovely printable, too cute - see pic below!

Another would be some homemade eye make up remover (maybe jojoba oil, rose aromatherapy oil. water, witch hazel)

- Make a list - Start adding ideas for presents onto a list. This could be in your diary, on Evernote, on a document on your pc. Just somewhere so you don't forget! I like to take photos when I see a present idea, and Evernote it so I know what to look at around Christmas time.

- Buy now, save later - That's right. How about buying items at boot fairs or on ebay, or making some of the gits now and keeping them to one side? Vanilla essence, laundry powder etc can all be made now.

OK, so that's probably alot to even think about right now.

So how about just two baby steps?
  1. Start a list
  2. Start a regular savings account

Make life easier on yourself - take just these 2 steps now, to save your sanity in 7 months time.

Yes I am mad, but this will hopefully at least get you thinking about the subject and saving your whole family some stress come Christmas time. I will try to think of other ideas as the months go by too so we can all work on it together.

Have a fab week everyone x

Saturday, 20 April 2013

My diary, my colours, my rules!

I'm a stationery addict as I have said many times before, and I think anyone who loves crafts or stationery, probably enjoys having notebooks and/or a diary and the coloured pens etc that go with it.

For me, a Fliofax was ok but just too expensive to maintain, so I wanted to have my own diary that I could custom make to fit how I like to make notes. For example, I might not want to write notes on the same section as today's date, personally I like to keep just my schedule on the date/day of the week. So I bought a pocket sized Moleskine, because I loved how durable they are, and I created a week to a page diary. On the right is the actual days of the week, then on the left is for notes, to do items etc. At the beginning of each month I have a month on 2 pages view. So that way, I can outline what is happening that month, note what days I am working, note any birthdays coming up etc. I also then mark that information on the actual day of the diary.

I can get creative decorating the outside of the notebook, using different colours, materials, quotes etc, and I have a little collection of them now, which has grown over the years. I can go back and check anything I need to, and it just doesn't feel the same when you do that with Google Calendar. I guess I am more of a visual person, so out of sight out of mind, which is why leafing through the diary daily helps me keep on top of to do items.

Youtube and Pinterest have inspired me massively - you can really see how creative people are with their hobbies/arts etc. I think for now I will continue on this line for diaries, as my 'electronic age' seems to have been a few years ago and I am reverting to type!

How do you organise your daily tasks, is there anything you absolutely couldn't live without to keep you on top of things? Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Anyone for coffee? Create a shabby chic coffee bar at home

Hi all, and hope you had a fab Easter!

Now the Easter break is over, and I have finished a bunch of stuff for work and my other business customers, I felt like I could get creative again even if just for a few hours here and there.

In the past few months have discovered a world of interesting videos on YouTube, from making soap to making your own diaries. I had looked before, but not had the time to try out these things properly. Wow, people are amazingly creative!

In my family we have a soap maker, so I was very inspired to try and create some soaps - I have now made a basic castille soap, and in 3 weeks time it will be ready to use, so I will report back here with the results and more info on another blog post.

Anyway, all this to say that with the extra time, I decided to copy an idea I saw on Malitose79s videos (Organising tip of the day), she made a coffee bar and I loved it! Anything shabby chic is great by me, so I thought I would come up with a project to do something similar.

I had already bought some chalkboard a3 sticker sheets and this was the perfect way to use some of them - I didn't even know you could get chalk pens, these are so amazing and much better than regular chalk! My stationery addiction is now 100 times worse, so I think most things in my kitchen are now going to get chalk labels...

I got the green oilcloth from Dunhelm Mill, it's a great vintage cutlery design, and I bought half a metre I think, and have lined drawers with it, done this coffee bar, made some cash envelopes (for the Dave Ramsay Cash Envelope System) and still have loads left. Oilcloth is fab, I will need to get more...

Then I reused my Bonne Mamman jars as I love the lids so much, i think they are always so pretty especially if you have a group of them. You do need to make sure they are sterilised if they are going to store liquids, dry stuff you can be a bit more relaxed with a quick wash in soapy water.

The coffee bar is a great idea, it can be as customised as you like, maybe even a tea bar instead? A very specialised selection of fine teas, perhaps some mini marmalades? I plan to get some sugar lumps, some thin pots to store cinnamon and also some of those coffee syrups like hazelnut, then it will really feel like Costas.

And maybe as a result I will save a ton of cash!

What are your latest projects and where do you get inspiration?

Friday, 15 March 2013

Agh nurseries, tantrums and time

Hi everyone,
Not much to report at the moment as work is taking over my life it seems so this post is more of a rant, or a selection of rants... so much for the work/life balance, as this past 4 weeks AJ has had to put up with lots of calls/e-mails etc. Anyhoo, need must and really it's time for us to look into a nursery for him.

I tried around 6 months ago but it wasn't 100% necessary yet and nothing prepared me for how hard it'd be when it came to properly doing it! Some of these places are scary, and they think you would leave your kids there... anyway, I am sure every parent thinks their kid is the Preciousest one he he, but honestly, it's so hard to choose.

The How To Choose A Nursery Stumbling Blocks I Have Come Across List

Do you go for the place that's closest to work so that if they are ill you can get to them quick, or closest to home (with easier parking) so it's faster to drop off and pick up?
Do you go for the one that's council funded rather than private, so you know staff turnover is low?
Do you choose the one that has the nicest looking toys and is spotless, or the one that offers more different activities and variety but is slightly lived-in/more immune system building?

So many variables. Unlikely I will get a low turn-over, close to work, clean, affordable, varied one... I have tried. SOOOOO I have to compromise slightly, because, he is My preciousest one... and HOW expensive are these places? £45 a day, plus food in some places. Wow. Then again we live daaahn-Saaaf, expensive is de Rigeur.


Also, it's a good time, as he definitely will benefit from seeing other kids more than just playgroup, and he can also learn (good and bad...) from their behaviour. Ok,let's be honest, he'll also benefit because he's starting to have (mini) tantrums, and someone else can deal with them for a bit!
So he will be less frustrated and do loads of fun stuff, and I can focus on work 100%, both of us will be happier at least 2 mornings per week. I still get time with him all to myself and will see so many changes as he learns.

I think I have found The One, the 'right' nursery. Now just to actually be able to leave him there. On his own. Without me. Alone.

Pffffleugh. Tips please on how to get through this stage!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Hello, I'm a Pinterest Addict... and I'm stuck on an idea.

Yes it's true. We've all been there - intending to go on there for a few minutes, and an hour later still on there bursting with ideas, new menus, fashion, decorating projects and more. At the moment my main two Pinterest addiction areas are: Garden and Walk In Wardrobe ideas.

I'd like to do lots more to make the bedroom our haven, as with a busy work life and AJ approaching the Terrible Twos we certainly need a peaceful haven at the end of the day! The theme is purple, silver and vintage-y.

With that in mind here's one of my latest creations:

I found the frame at a car boot sale for £3 and took out the horrible oil painting inside, cleaned it up and bought a metre of crushed purple velvet from Dunhelm Mill. A couple of pins, and then two of my favourite necklaces - done!  Behind it is a scrap of the wallpaper we used in the bedroom, sorry it's not that visible, .but it reflects the light really well in the room.

Now I just need to finish a bigger version of this, a larger and slightly less decorative frame, which will hold all my other necklaces and earrings etc. Well, I say *all*, there's a handful, we don't spend much on ourselves these days. All of this is aspirational - might well cause me to completely revamp my wardrobe! So anyway I'm stuck on how to actually do it, though I have the frame and the velvet...

Apart from that my plan for the (small) walk in area involves this wallpaper at the far end:

Typically just my luck that when I go to Next and fall in love with it, I then discover that although they have the samples, they no longer stock it *at all* as it's sold out. SO then I end up being fleeced on eBay as people have started selling it as 'rare'. Still, I only need one roll hopefully and I do love it. So my tranquil haven is one step closer.

Now just to get wallpaper stripping and roll up my sleeves... think I would rather have a glass of wine!

Can anyone inspire me with jewellry storage ideas involving picture frames, vintage, small spaces?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Toddler food and snack ideas - energy balls and fake pizza

Morning everyone,

Hope you are not too cold today! We are using up one large lamb roast and eating nourishing food / plenty of protein in cold weather has inspired me to make more protein snack balls for AJ (daddy sometimes steals them too).

I just had to share these with you as they are incredibly easy to make and so good you might have to make yourself some:

ENERGY BALLS (click for original site)
1/4 cup finely grated carrots
1/4 cup rolled oats or Granola*
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 Tablespoon honey
3 Tablespoons peanut butter

Mix and roll into balls. Easy carrots in the tummy! 
*Granola makes these Energy Balls more tasty and adds a nice crunch!

They freeze very well and I then take 2 or 3 out in the morning for him to have during that day.

Personally I always like to add grated banana or apple too, plus any dried fruit lying around etc. I also coat them with flaked coconut, wheatgerm or even the odd one in powdered chocolate as a special treat.
AJ loves, loves these and as soon as he sees them stretches his hands out and grabs 2 at a time... I may experiment with courgettes, sweet potato etc as they have natural sweetness and would be a great way to get more veggies in.

Fake Pizza

For my fake pizza you simply take 2 slices of bread. Grill one side. and part grill the other side. Butter the part grilled side, and spread tomato paste on it. Add ham,finely sliced green and red peppers, pineapple, sliced cherry tomatoes and some grated cheese. Grill for around 5 minutes keeping an eye on it until golden. Cut into triangles for the full pizza effect! Cheap, colourful and cheerful and most importantly, quick!  A good way to sneak veggies in too...

We are off to playgroup later and Ive also got to put together a presentation for work tomorrow, hopefully a nice long nap after lunch, and that'd be lovely for me too ha ha...  but next on my list this morning is to check the Approved Foods website for deals and also to start a Shepherds Pie for dinner with our lamb leftovers. AJ is also clamouring for breakfast, so we've got the raspberry porridge from yesterday yum yum.

Friday, 18 January 2013

£0.05p bagels and comfort food ideas for the cold weather

Hi everyone, well happy new year and tut tut to me, what a Bad blogger I am! Christmas and work have literally been huge focuses over the last couple of months, and needless to say one little toddler who just turned 18 months.

I can't go to work today due to the snow - it's worse than the photo below now, which as taken at around 8:30 this morning:

Anyway today I want to show you some of the things I have been making lately. Firstly cinnamon rolls, which hubby loved and I decided I will only make once in a blue moon because they are BAD for the hips:

AJ helped, by making 'Socks A La Mode' for dinner:

Next, I made bagels, which I had always wanted to try out. They are great fun to make and after several recipes and a few not so great results, I finally found a good bagel recipe to follow. The only changes I made to it were to bake at 180C (fan oven), and only for around 18 mins. I also like to add an egg wash to the tops before putting sesame seeds, rock salt etc as it sticks better. Rosemary, chilli and garlic are one of the good flavour combos I found for savoury bagels. For sweet ones, the classic cinnamon and raisin is fab, I also did a Christmas one with dried fruits, nutmeg, cinnamon etc. I also find that adding semolina to the bottom of the baking tray before baking means the bagels don't stick, plus gives them a lovely floury consistency underneath.

Please, please make these - loads of fun and so cheap to make - strong flour, sugar, salt and dried yeast are all you need for basic bagels and a batch of 8 bagels as per this recipe is probably only £0.35p ingredients wise. That's around £0.5p a bagel, insane!

Hubby gave me a lovely book called 'Sweet Tooth' for Christmas, an artisan baker in London wrote it and it's lovely plus explains lots of baking techniques, I made these muffin sized banoffee pies from it:

So as you can see, I've been experimenting lots and learning! I've also signed up for a cake decorating course Monday nights, something non-business like so my brain can relax into something and zone out in me-time.

Anyway have you cooked anything great lately that you want to share?

I'm def going to be cooking comfort foods in this weather - tonight will be chicken pasta bake I think as we have a chicken to stretch out into as many meals as we can. Stay warm and say hello below!