Christmas Cinnamon Biscuits

Christmas Cinnamon Biscuits

These biscuits are great for baking at Christmastime. They are cheap to make, extremely easy to do and make your house smell wonderful.

You Will Need

200g Margarine

150g Caster sugar

400g Plain flour

2 egg yolks

2 tsp cinnamon

For decorating:

Green fondant icing

Red fondant icing

1 tbsp icing sugar

Water

Writing icing (optional)

Method

Mix together the margarine and the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Rub in the flour until you have ‘breadcrumb’ texture.

Lightly whisk the eggs with the cinnamon and add to the dry mixture. Mix together until you have a dough (the dough with be slightly sticky at first – mine always is).

Tip the dough onto a floured surface and lightly knead. Roll the dough out to 5mm thickness.

Cut out whatever shapes you wish to use. We chose gingerbread men, Christmas trees and hearts. Place them onto a baking tray lined with parchment or baking paper.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 4/180c/160 fan for 10-15 minutes or until pale golden brown.

Allow to cool.

Once ready for decorating, roll the fondant out and cut out the same shapes as the biscuits. Mix 1 tbsp icing sugar and water together to make a paste. Brush onto the biscuit and place fondant gently on top.

If you wish you can decorate them further with writing icing.

Enjoy!

Other Ideas

For other festive flavours you could replace the cinnamon with ginger, vanilla or nutmeg.  

To jazz up your decorating you could cut strips of different coloured fondant and line them up to make a festive stripe effect, or let the kids loose with writing icing and see what kind of crazy decorations you end up with.

Decorating with a Difference

Decorating with a Difference

It is officially the most magical time of the year if you’re financially secure and don’t have kids.

If, like me, you are not financially secure, have a few kids and more cousins than you can count, then the most wonderful time of the year quickly becomes the most stressful time of year. Throw in a global pandemic, multiple lockdowns, constantly changing tier systems and 3-degree assignment deadlines and you’ll be well on your way to a festive meltdown.

Now, usually, Christmas promptly arrives in our house on December 1st. The tree goes up, along with garlands, wreaths, ornaments, and heirloom style trinkets that are scattered throughout the house. Generally, we have no fewer than three trees, one in the living room, a second in the girl’s room and a third tree is erected outside to show to the world that we love Christmas.

Each one is decorated with love, care, matching colours themes and is organised to be flawlessly symmetrical. The magic of Christmas really comes alive. Meanwhile, I slowly die inside from stress, anxiety, and glitter inhalation.

Not this year!

2020 has been troublesome, to say the least. We’ve had heartbreak, loss, uncertainty and a whole load of other negative happenings and emotions. So, this year, we are doing December a bit differently.

Towards the end of November, I started to make lists for all the things that we would need to do in the Christmas run-up. What there was to buy, the lights that would require checking, the baubles and trinkets that would need pulling out of storage and dusting. While making these lists and becoming more anxious with each new to do, I had a moment.

A fleeting thought that changed my entire outlook.

 Four magical words.

A question really.

‘What’s the fucking point?’

Now, this sounds negative but stay with me.

What is the point? Why does every Christmas have to be like a military operation? Who is it for? The kids don’t care if the tree is symmetrical. My husband hates all the fancy fuss that comes with my stress quest to have the perfect Christmas. Together they don’t care if the family heirloom decorations are out on show or if the colour scheme of the tree matches the living room décor.

So why does this matter? 

Answer. It doesn’t!

And at that moment, as if by some Hallmark Christmas movie-style miracle, I discovered the true meaning of Christmas. That is to spend time with your family; smile, cuddle, spread love, laughter & joy and most importantly, have fun while you’re doing it.

Now obviously, every Christmas we’ve had as a family has been filled with laughter and joy. Please don’t think that I’m discovering the meaning of Christmas for the first time. We are lucky to be part of a large loving family but if I’m honest, at this time of year, I usually feel more stress than joy.

I constantly worry about how perfect everything should be so that everyone has a good time and, in the process, I end up…not having a good time.

After talking all of this out with my husband I decided that this year we were throwing out the ‘rule book’. If 2020 has taught me anything, it is that you should live your life to be happy.

So, I have made some major changes and have had so much fun in the process.

We decided not to bother with an outside tree this year. Why pay to fit and light something that only your neighbours really enjoy. Unless you are going to sit at your front door and look at your outdoor tree every evening, what is the point? Really?

Our living room tree from last year was in much need of replacing. It was a 6ft one that I had purchased in a B&M sale for £12.99 three years prior. It served us well, but our new Christmas spirit warranted a sparkly new Christmas tree. Luckily, we grabbed a bargain at a local Tesco. I managed to get a 7ft artificial tree for £40. While it was a splurge compared it’s £12.99 predecessor, it was well worth it. The quality of the tree is even better than I was expecting, and I know that this will last us for years to come.

With no rule book for decorating, we decided to put onto the tree only things that will make us smile. After the year we have had, it is the least we deserve. I spent as much as I could spare on ‘tack’, and I mean ‘tack’ in the most beautiful sense. I bought only things that I knew would bring a smile and a giggle to the faces of my children.

These included glitter pizza baubles, an alpaca carrying presents, multi-coloured tinsel, Santa, brightly coloured headphones, glittery cupcakes and the initial of each member of our family, to name but a few.

A traditional angel has been replaced by a Dragonball Z Super Saiyan Goku because WHY NOT?
So. Much. Colour. I love it!
Crash Bandicoot villain Neo Cortex has bagged a cheeky place on the tree.

When it came to decorating the tree, the usual stress fest and echos of “don’t put that bauble there, just wait for me to get it straight, just let me do it!” was replaced with nothing but smiles and giggling. It was, without a doubt, the most relaxed and fun ‘tree putting up’ session we’ve ever had. Ever. 

For many people, the strive for perfection at Christmastime brings with it an immense pressure. I hope that this year, people can relax and find some comfort in the changes that we are facing in what has been a truly horrific year. Not all change has to be negative. We can absolutely find joy and pleasure in little moments, adapt and make new traditions.

Now that the kids are finishing school, we are well into the countdown to Christmas. Keep your eye out for fun Christmas recipes and activity ideas coming over the next week.

Until then….Hannah XO

A Decade of Motherhood

A Decade of Motherhood

Over the weekend, while the rest of the world seemed to be putting up their Christmas trees, we had our own celebration. A decade ago, on a snowy night in November, I welcomed to the world, via forceps, a 7lb 14.5oz baby girl. She had brown eyes and a mass of dark spikey hair sticking up out of the top of her little round head. Across each cheek was a red scratch from where the forceps had gripped her head during delivery. Truthfully, she looked like a deranged baby version of Batman’s Joker, but she was mine and she was beautiful. The day she arrived was the day I understood what love, at first sight, felt like.

I had a 36-hour labour, by the time she finally arrived I was exhausted, but sleep wouldn’t come. Instead, I sat in my hospital bed with this tiny contented little bundle sleeping in a blanket between my legs staring at her. I was a mother. The enormity of that statement hit me all at once. Within that moment, the fear and anxiety I had felt through my pregnancy were replaced with love and fierce protectiveness for the human I had created.  

Fast forward ten years, and we are a million miles from where we started. The small, hairy little baby I had is now a beautiful and sassy girl with more confidence in her cheeky smile than I have had my entire life. I too have come a long way in my decade of motherhood; now a happily married mother of three, I’m worlds away from the newly 20-year-old single mum who still lived with her parents.

I could not be prouder of the sassy and uniquely fabulous kid that my firstborn child has become. These ten years have gone by in what feels like 10 minutes and watching her personality grow has been one of the best things I’ve been witness to. She is and will forever be my first true love, and I am positive that she will do great things in this world.

In celebration of a decade of motherhood, I wanted to share 10 things I have learnt since becoming a parent.

  1. Never compare yourself to other parents. It is a waste of your time and energy. Focus on yourself and how you want to raise your children. I spent so much time worrying that other mums were doing it better than me and comparing the way I did things to others. It caused me no end of anxiety. The day I started to do things my way and stopped caring how others did it was the day I became a better parent. Screw what other parents are doing, if it works for you, that’s all that matters!
  2. Be organised, make lists and, prioritize tasks. This is something I learnt really early on. Don’t spend time and energy trying to do everything, if a job needs doing then fair enough but if it can wait, then let it. Making a list for each day using a planner or journal can really change your time management. This was a huge revelation for me as a parent.
  3. Make time for yourself and don’t feel guilty for it! Self-care is a must for parents. If you’re not looking after yourself, it will affect your ability to look after your kids. Establish a self-care routine, even something simple like setting your alarm ten minutes earlier, having those extra moments to yourself makes all the difference.
  4. Attend the baby groups. I have always been an anxious person and struggled a lot with meeting new people. With my firstborn, I didn’t attend any of the mummy groups simply because I was so worried and nervous that I wouldn’t be ‘accepted’. When I did finally pluck up the courage to go to a baby group with my second child, I found a welcoming community of mums and dads who were just as scared as I was. It was great to talk with people who understood the difficulties of parenting. The new parents shared the same fears I had, and the seasoned parents offered advice. I honestly wish I’d have gone sooner.
  5. Share the load. Whether you are single, married, a first-time parent or have a football team of children, asking for help is never a bad thing. The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ exists for a reason. Being a parent is hard, and the more people you bring into your support network, the easier it becomes. You do not have to do it alone, make sure you stay in touch with supportive friends and family and never suffer alone. If you need help, ask!
  6. Mistakes are how we learn. No parent gets it right every time all the time. If you get it wrong or something doesn’t go as planned, don’t worry. Learn from it and move on. If I had a pound for every mistake I’ve made as a parent, I’d probably be a millionaire. Mistakes are a part of life, so of course, they are a part of parenting. It does no good to fixate on something you got wrong, all you can do is acknowledge where you went wrong and learn what to do differently next time. Cut yourself some slack because none of us really know what we’re doing!
  7. Losing your temper does not make you a bad parent. This is something that I used to get so emotional about. I would never class myself as a ‘shouty’ mum, in fact, I like to think I’m calm and laid back, but even I have a limit to my patience. Losing your temper and shouting when you’re having one of those days makes you human and nothing else. We’ve all had moments where our parenting swings from snow white to evil queen in a single second. I usually have a week of this every month.
  8. Everything in moderation is a positive way to live. I have known parents whose children live on technology, chicken dippers and chocolate sandwiches. I have also known parents who don’t own a television and have their children follow a sugar-free vegan diet. While I firmly believe in the motto ‘to each their own’ I like to think that I do Ok as a parent somewhere in between these two parenting styles. With a little bit of everything in moderation, we have a nice balance between it all.
  9. Try to focus on what you can control instead of stressing about the things you can’t. I have always been a worrier, I classed it as a personality trait instead of something that I could manage. Once I changed my outlook and started to focus on the things I had control of, I found that my worrying stopped. Focus on yourself and your parenting, behaviour, words, ideas, actions, effort and reactions are all things that you are in control of. When it comes to others, you can control their actions, words and behaviours about as much as you can control the weather. So why try? As long as you are focused on yourself and what you can control, you can let go of all the things you can’t. Speaking from experience, from the moment you let go of things you can’t control, you’ll be happier.
  10. Listen to your instincts. This is probably the most important thing I have learnt over the past ten years. I know my children better than anyone else. I know when they are ill, tired, hungry, sad, happy, or excited just from the way they look. You too will know your own child better than anyone, so trust in your own abilities. You’ve got this!

I hope that the ramblings of what I’ve learnt in my decade of motherhood can be of use to someone. I wish I’d have known some of these things earlier on in the game, but I suppose one of the principal parts of parenting is the constant learning that comes with it. None of us really know what we’re doing, and any parent who claims they do is lying.

Until next time…

Hannah XO

No-Go November

No-Go November

So, how is everyone holding up?

Let me start by saying that lockdown 2.0 has hit me hard.

During the first lockdown, I felt focused and on the ball. Some days were tough, but we managed well; we played, we home-schooled, we walked through miles of countryside and spent quality time as a family that we otherwise would not have had.

Second time around, I have felt so deflated, lonely, isolated, and overwhelmed. Anybody else the same? I think with kids still at school, there has been no distraction from the void created in a national lockdown. I’ve struggled to write, study, post, keep up with Instagram. Some days, I’ve even found it hard just being an adult. I had two major deadlines for university assignments which were hard to do with no motivation. The routine at home is gone, mum-guilt is off the charts, and my mood is more down than up.   

The best reference I can use which parents will understand is the ‘Inside Out’ paradigm, which is not a recognised term, just something we say in our house. Inside out is a 2015 animated movie produced by Pixar Animation Studios. It personifies emotions, displaying them as actual people. The main characters are Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. Honestly, parents, if you want to teach your children about emotions while enjoying a family-friendly movie, I highly recommend it. It is absolutely fabulous. So, through lockdown, for me, it’s like Joy has gone missing and Sadness has taken over. I’ve gone from being an optimistic and fun-mum, to a gloomy, grumpy old lady mummy. I hate it.

I’ve been looking through all of the mummy accounts and bloggers that I follow and feel so inadequate. Everyone will tell you that you can’t believe everything you see on social media platforms. Behind every perfect picture, there will be an exhausted parent with their own struggles. Hiding out of sight will be a sink full of pots, a messy drawer (we all have those right?) and crap that is not shared with the adoring public. Still, I have felt that even if these parents have stuff going on behind their accounts, they are better than me in the sense that, at least they are good enough to keep up appearances. Over the past six weeks, I couldn’t even be arsed to fake it. So, I just stopped and been in some kind of lockdown limbo, existing from day to day with little to no enthusiasm or spark.

Enough. It’s time to shape up or ship out, and I’m choosing to shape up (figuratively speaking) I tried starting the couch to 5k not too long ago, and I thought I might actually die. 3 children, 2 caesareans and one severe lack of pelvic floor do not a good runner make.

The point I’m trying to make is that bad days are part of parenting. Trying to find a positive in each day can sometimes feel impossible, but it isn’t. Take this post, for example, this is my ‘there is still a spark in there somewhere’ post. We are all in this storm together, and while some may have mega yachts and others may just have a dinghy, you’re not alone in feeling like you might capsize at any moment. The month of November, hell, the whole of 2020 has been one monstrous no go. The past six weeks for me, have been hell. I’ve not felt myself at all and want to show that in these circumstances, that is ok. If you feel alone or are struggling, reach out. If you need someone to talk to, The Samaritans are available anytime, day or night, just call 116 123. They offer several ways to contact them.

Their website is in the link below. I found their website very useful.

Samaritans | Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy | Here to listen

In the coming weeks, I am hoping to share some positivity. Christmas is approaching and just because it’s going to be a bit different this year, shouldn’t mean it’s any less magical. I will be sharing recipes, ideas and our family’s Christmas traditions. We also have a milestone moment coming up in our house as our eldest Kiki turns 10.

I hope everyone stays safe and well. Keep fanning your sparks guys! The storm will pass.

Until next time…..Hannah XO

This Is Halloween!

This Is Halloween!

Halloween, whether you love it or hate it, is everywhere.

Each year it gets bigger and more ridiculous.

Would you believe I saw a Halloween Advent Calendar in the supermarket last week? The world has gone mad!   

Despite my shock at the items on sale and annoyance at the cost of them, I am usually 100% down for the spooky season. My plans are only ever hindered when my Halloween hating husband steps in. His opinions are firmly rooted in the thought that it is an American holiday, it doesn’t have the same ring in the UK and that trick or treating feels like begging. I can’t say I disagree with everything he says, but to me, it’s a good excuse for a bit of spooky fun with the kids.

Although trick or treating is not something we have ever done (that definitely doesn’t have the same feel where we live), I’ve always found other ways to have Halloween fun. With 2020 going into the books as the year that it all went wrong, we have decided to lean into the spooky season more than ever before.

We have decorated with hanging bats and spiders (which I keep thinking are bloody real!!). We are going to be doing spooky baking, pumpkin carving and face painting. Halloween night (while maintaining our rule of 6) we have invited a little friend of the girls over for a freaky film night.

I honestly feel like this year more than ever, the kids need to have fun at every opportunity. The differing rules in differing areas are keeping us apart from family, we’ve missed birthdays and celebrations. Even school is now different from what they recognise.

So, if you are with me in thinking that the kids need some fun, this post shares a few ideas on how to inject a bit of Spooktacular merriment into your Halloween weekend.

Decorate

We’ve found loads of small, cheap Halloween decorations in places like Poundland and Aldi. Even some of the bigger named supermarkets have some affordable decorations.

Normally I refuse to spend a fortune on decorations; however, my one splurge this year has been a fall leaf garland. I bought it from Amazon for £12.99. I wanted to give the living room an autumnal vibe, and the 2 pack that I bought were beautiful. I was very impressed with the quality, and I love how they look.

To take the house from an autumnal abode to a haunted home I bought some extremely cheap Halloween additions.

Spider Webs £1 (Poundland)
Halloween Sticks £1.49 (Aldi)
Orange Battery Lights £2 (Poundland)
Mini Squash 49p each (Aldi)

Hanging bats, spiders webs, mini pumpkins and something that was literally labelled as spooky cloth have all been purchased for as little as £1 each. You can go as big or as small as your budget allows. I gave myself £8 for Halloween tat. Watching the kids and their giddy reaction to hanging the decorations and spreading web all over the house suggested that it was probably the best £8 I’ve ever spent.

Pumpkins

I have heard so many parents complaining recently about the clean up that comes with pumpkin carving. You are my people. I see you!  

Some parents are so on the ball, they collect the seeds of the pumpkin and roast them for healthy snacks or use them for sensory activities. Unfortunately, I am not that mum! To me, the inside of a pumpkin is sticky, slimy and stinky and while I bow down to those who can utilise every bit of the fruit, this is one thing I am happy to sit out on.

Having personally tried pumpkin and trying to feed it to the family on more than one occasion, I can safely say it isn’t to our taste. 

So, if like me you are a pumpkin waster, fear not because bin bags and masking tape are the answer.

Before you start with the hollowing and carving of the pumpkins, cover the table you are using with the bin bags taping the edges down so that no surface is left exposed. It’ll look a bit like a scene from Dexter, but it makes it so much easier when it comes to clean up. You can just peel the bags off and your table should be pumpkin free. 

Decorating pumpkins is such a good laugh. It is something that everyone can get involved in and I love seeing each of the kids personalities pour into their designs.

Pumpkins can be bought from supermarkets for really reasonable prices. If you are lucky enough to live near a pick your own pumpkin patch, I would imagine that this would make a great day out. Regrettably, it’s something we are yet to experience. Perhaps next year once the world has calmed down a bit, it is something we can finally do. For now, though, it’s little pumpkins from Aldi for us.

Check out this year’s designs.

Bake!

If in doubt, bake it out. Baking is such a fun pass time for children and Halloween is one of the best times to bust out the baking gear.

Cakes, biscuits, krispies and bark are some of the easiest yet most versatile things you can do. The ingredients are cheap and the recipes simple.

Some of my personal favourites for Halloween are shattered glass cupcakes and mud pit bark.

Recipes for a host of delicious treats can be found in the link below.

https://budget-mum.com/category/treats/

Dress Up

There is never a better time of year than Halloween for getting creative with the make-up. Even if you don’t go out, it’s so much fun face painting and turning each other into spooky creatures and creepy characters. Over the years my children have enjoyed being all kinds of twisted things, from a slashed up red-riding hood to a creepy clown. It’s the time of year to let the dark side of your imagination run wild.

So, while we’re talking about ‘fancy dress’ I must ask; does anyone else get frustrated with the cost of the costumes? Or is that just me?

The outfits in the shops are usually priced at £10-£12 EACH! (and that’s the cheaper end)

With three children to include in spooky dress-up fun, the words ‘F that’ are quietly muttered.

To get around this, for the past few years I have made tutus for the girls using a tulle fabric that I purchase for £1.50 per metre and a strip of elasticated ribbon for £1 per metre. The fabrics come in a range of colours so you can match the tutus to most costume ideas.

Simply cut the fabric into strips and tie around the ribbon. So easy, so effective!!

Below are some of the looks we’ve done through the years.

Wicked Witch
Slashed Red Riding Hood
Cracked Doll
Death Clown

Snuggle Up Spooky Style

Depending on what area you live in, trick or treating this year is a no-go. Every year for us is a trick or treating no-go. It’s not something me or my husband are comfortable with, particularly in our area. Where we live is full of retired or elderly country folk. The last thing we want is to be held responsible for scaring dear old Gladys to death. It’s a small village and blame travels quicker than news. We do, however, always buy sweets for anyone who does decide to brave trick or treating.

Every year instead of trick or treating, we have a themed movie night. It is so much fun sharing our favourite (family-friendly) horror movies with our kids. We go heavy on the snacks with popcorn, crisps and homemade treats (see above links). This year we have been lucky enough to borrow a projector. This has made our spooky viewing bigger and better than ever before.

This year, try busting out the blankets and cuddle up together for a family fright night.

See below for our Top 10 favourite (family-friendly) Halloween movies.

  1. Hocus Pocus (in my opinion THE greatest Halloween film of all time! – it’s my favourite)
  2. Wallace and Gromit. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
  3. Coraline
  4. Monster House
  5. The Adams Family & The Adams Family Values (a fabulous choice for a double feature)
  6. The Haunted Mansion
  7. Hotel Transylvania
  8. The Burbs (better suited for older children)
  9. The Witches
  10. Beetlejuice

As a bonus suggestion, you won’t go far wrong with The Harry Potter series (obviously)

So there we have it, some simple and inexpensive suggestions for how to keep it creepy this Halloween. I hope everyone has a spectacularly spooky time while staying safe and following the rules.

Let me know what your Halloween traditions are in the comments and if you try any of the ideas out tell me how it goes.

Until next time..XO

Mud Pit Chocolate Bark

Mud Pit Chocolate Bark

This Spooktacular recipe is great for Halloween. While it looks like a huge pile of mud, I assure you it tastes divine. The quick and easy recipe is cheap to make and will be the perfect treat for your little monsters.

You will need:

4 100g bars milk chocolate (I used the 30p bars from Morrisons simply because they were cheap, whether you choose to use branded or baking chocolate is a choice I will leave up to you)

1 pack Oreo cookies (I use Aldi’s own brand which me and wonder husband have dubbed pooreos – they taste exactly the same and cost a matter of pence)

1 bag fizzy cola laces

1 bag chocolate covered raisins

1 pack munchies

Note: The above listed sweets are simply the ones I chose to use, you can add any sweets in any quantity – which is the best thing about this recipe!

Method

Break the chocolate into a large bowl and melt. I usually melt my chocolate in a heat proof dish over a pan of boiling water. You may choose to microwave your chocolate. If you do decide to microwave, I would recommend 30 seconds to start then stir and continue to microwave at 10 second intervals stirring in between and repeating until the chocolate is smooth.

Pour the melted chocolate onto a sheet of parchment or baking paper and spread evenly until you have a thick layer of chocolate.

Cur the fizzy laces into 3cm strips and sprinkle over the melted chocolate along with the chocolate raisins and the munchies.

Gently grate 1 or 2 Oreos over the melted chocolate.

Allow to cool slightly and then leave in the fridge until set.

Once all the chocolate has set, roughly chop into shards.

Other Ideas

So. Many. Options!

You can literally top your bark with anything. The options are endless. You might want to try using white chocolate with red sweets to create a bloody effect. You can also add candy sticks as bones or draw faces onto marshmallows and use them as ghosts. Be as creative as you like.

Cupcakes

Cupcakes

Cupcakes are such a simple delight. This straightforward recipe is so cheap and easy to do. The best part is that cupcakes are delicious served either with a basic frosting or used as a base taste and jazzed up with extra flavours. Be as crazy as you like!

You Will Need

6oz/170g butter

6oz/170g caster sugar

3 eggs

6oz/170g self-raising flour

1 tsp vanilla essence (for vanilla)

1oz cocoa powder (for chocolate cupcakes)

Method

Beat the sugar and butter together until pale (I use a stand mixer however an electric hand whisk would also be suitable)

Add the eggs and whisk again (careful not to curdle the mix). Once you have a smooth mixture add the flour and vanilla essence or cocoa powder (whichever you’re using) and whisk again.

Place muffin cases into a muffin tin and spoon the mixture evenly between the cases.

Bake in the oven on Gas mark 5/190C for 10-15 minutes (or until springy and golden)

Allow to cool.

Decorate however you like and enjoy.

Other Ideas

Once your cupcakes are cooled, try filling the centre with your favourite jam. Simply cut a hole from the centre, fill with a tsp jam and replace the cut-out piece. Frost over the top and enjoy the flavours of the delicious filling.

These cupcakes are a great base for any flavour of frosting.

With vanilla cupcakes you might try lemon frosting with a curd filling or a white chocolate frosting with a raspberry jam filling.

For chocolate cupcakes you can add chocolate frosting. You can jazz it up even more with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a pretzel.

You may also wish to vary the cupcake flavour altogether. To make a Bakewell flavoured cupcake, substitute the vanilla flavouring for almond, fill with a cherry jam and decorate with white icing and a glace cherry.

Leek and Potato Soup

Leek and Potato Soup

This is by far one of the easiest and cheapest soups to make. It matches my formula of minimal input for maximum output perfectly. A classic dish that has always and will forever remain a firm favourite in our house. Enjoy on a cold blustery day with warm bread and butter. Bliss!

You Will Need

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped (I prefer to use 1 tsp garlic granules)

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (I prefer to use chicken stock for extra flavour)

700g white potato, peeled and diced

2 leeks, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Method

Over a medium heat, lightly fry the onions and garlic until the onions are soft.

Add the stock and bring to the boil.

Add the potatoes and the leeks, lightly season and simmer until the potatoes are soft. (this should be approximately 25-30 minutes)

Once the potatoes are soft, blend the mix until smooth.

Serve and enjoy!

Other Ideas

For a creamier soup you could blend some cream into the mix or for those who prefer a creamy flavour but are counting the calories (as I often am) you can blend through some fat free fromage frais. Be sure if you’re re-heating you do so gently, being careful not to bring the soup to the boil.

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

I love soup season. This soup, with it’s seasonal veg, warms my very soul. ‘It is absolutely yum’ (the Master of Mischief, age 4) and when served up with warm and buttery crusty bread it is always a hit with the kiddies. Even my husband (Mr ‘I’m not bloody eating that’ gave it a thumbs up) Enjoy!

You Will Need

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (I prefer to use 1 tbsp of garlic granules)

1 tsp ginger

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp tomato puree

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and diced

3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

600ml chicken stock (you can use vegetable stock if you want, I prefer to use chicken)

1 can coconut milk

Chilli flakes to garnish, if preferred

Method

Over a medium heat, start by cooking the onion for 1-2 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin and oregano and continue to fry for a few seconds while stirring.

Add the tomato puree, butternut squash and sweet potato chunks and fry for a further 2 minutes.

After this, add the stock and bring the whole pot to the boil.

Reduce to a medium heat and simmer until the butternut squash and sweet potato are cooked. (I usually give it 30 minutes; you may wish to leave it longer or less depending on the size of your chunks)

I also like to give it a stir halfway through.

Once the squash and sweet potato are cooked, add the coconut milk and simmer again for a few minutes.

Using a hand blender (or food processor) whizz the soup until smooth.

Serve with a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a side of warm crusty bread.

Other Ideas

I love the flavours of this soup. I serve it with a sprinkle of chilli flakes to add a dash of heat, but not too much, as I usually serve it up for the kids. If you wanted to add extra kick you could add a deseeded and chopped red chilli at the same time you add the garlic and herbs. If you’re really brave, bung a second one in there.

If you want to bulk up the soup and add some extra hidden veggies (its all getting blended so why not eh?) you could add things such as mushrooms, peppers, carrots and celery with the onions to create a veggie base for the soup.

What Happened to September?

What Happened to September?

Hello again, it has been a while.
I’m going to keep this post relatively short. It has been a funny old month; I keep thinking about the Green Day song ‘wake me up when September ends’. I feel like I should have asked someone to wake me up when it started.


I have had a lot of confusion around my returning to classes. This, coupled with the kids heading back to school, new work placement and the ever-changing distancing rules, have meant that I’ve missed an entire month! I have absolutely no idea where the days went. I had so many beautiful plans for posting about seasonal changes, exciting September crafts, school transitions, recipes, the whole she-bang. I missed it all.
In light of my missing month, I thought I would do a roundup of my September highlights before getting my ass in gear and diving headfirst into October (which we are now well into)


So, my top September moments.


Firstly, the kids are back to school! Let’s all have a mini Mexican wave for that! It was a bloody long time coming. Seven months, to be exact. Their return to school has had a happy ripple effect on so many other areas in our home. My shopping bill is back down to a reasonable amount, the cupboards are full for longer than five minutes, and we are back into an established routine. Although I’ve been stressed and hella busy, it has been nice to settle into a ‘new normal’ (even though I despise this saying, anyone else with me on that?)


On another happy note, the master of mischief has taken to school like a duck to water. He even bagged a certificate within his first week. Regardless of the fact every child got one, it was a milestone moment for him, and he was so proud, as were we.


As well as the kids, I too have returned to classes. I am now a 30-year-old second-year degree student. I still can’t believe I get to say that. The second-year has seen us dive straight back into it. I am only three weeks in yet somehow feel like I am a month behind with three assignments already looming. The classes are socially distanced, so although we are physically in class, the risks are managed. It’s been strange adapting to the new procedures, but it is definitely nice to be back. Wonder Husband says I’m a superhero for juggling classes with three children, placement and keeping the house running smoothly. However, I feel slightly more like a glutton for punishment. I had another wacky idea that in amongst everything that I already do, I want to learn Makaton. I really feel like it will open more pathways and benefit me in both my career and personal life in a variety of ways, so watch this space.

Another event in September for us was the packing away of summer. Does anyone else go through their wardrobe and bag up all the clothes they won’t wear in the coming season? I do, and I take so much pleasure in it. I particularly love going into the autumn/winter season. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I bloody hate summer. I am, shall we say, of a curvier nature and hot days and sunshine do not agree with me. I much prefer to layer up than strip down. Bagging up summer dresses, shorts and vests give me a sweet sense of relief.


The fall is by far my most favourite time of year. There is magic in the changes.

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall….”

Oscar Wilde

There are so many special things about fall that I love. . the unboxing of winter jumpers, scarves, boots, and hats means that it is the season for layers. Preferable mainly because layers hide a multitude of sins. Not washed your hair? Stick on a hat. Can’t find your bra for the school run? Big jumper, big coat. Salads are swapped out for stews. Light nights are replaced with cosy evenings, while pyjamas & fluffy socks become life. Most of this year has blown by in a blur. With this, I am making a solemn vow to slow down and enjoy what’s left of 2020.


Throughout the rest of the season, I am excited to share some delicious hearty recipes, fun and creative craft ideas, spooky Halloween ideas, and so much more.

Keep your peepers peeled for more posts coming.

Until next time…XO