Coffee Loaf Cake with Mocha Fudge Frosting

I think you’re supposed to make simnel cake for Easter, but that’s always seemed terribly un-chocolatey for such a chocolate-filled occasion to me.

I am without an oven at the moment, owing to the ongoing kitchen renovation, but I thought it might be fun to post this cake from last year, which never made it onto the blog, in case you’re looking for a recipe full of chocolately goodness for this Easter weekend.

ND5_0661The recipe comes from Olive Magazine (here). Generally I thought the recipe was pretty good although the frosting was a little generous in quantity and perhaps a touch too sweet. I think you could probably reduce the quantity by 25% and it would still be delicious. The recipe also didn’t include the mini chocolate eggs, which are a must for Easter!

Coffee loafI’ve started using loaf tin liners from Poundland (£1 for 25) when my baking needs to be transported and they’re so much easier than faffing around with greaseproof paper.

Mocha frosting

Decadent and delicious… enjoy!

PS for previous Easter chocolate fun… see 2016, 2015 and 2014

Kitchen Reno Ready Meals Review

Since we ripped out our old kitchen, ready to do the various DIY tasks required for the new one, we’ve been living a bit chaotically.  Once we’re straightened out a little more (i.e not washing up in the bath) we’ll be able to try out the oven function on the new microwave, but for now, it’s all about the ready meals. Firstly let me say straight off that ready meals are far from thrifty. At full price they’re eye watering. Even at half price like all of those featured in this post, they still cost a pretty penny, but needs must!

I thought it might be fun to do a few little mini reviews of the meals I thought were the best bang for my buck. This week, I shopped at Sainsbury’s, so everything below can be bought there. I try to stick to a low saturated fat diet so all of these meals are from the ‘My Goodness!’ range.

Sainsbury’s My Goodness! Creamy Haddock Risotto, £2 – 4/5

This was pretty good and creamy as promised. My only criticism was that it could have done with a few more peas, otherwise this was very satisfying.

Sainsbury’s My Goodness! Chilli Prawn Linguine – 4/5

The pasta tasted fresh and the tomato sauce was full of flavour, It was a shame that the prawns were a bit rubbery, otherwise this was pretty good!

Sainsbury’s My Goodness! Tasty Mediterranean Vegetable Risotto – 4/5

This was a good balance of veg to rice and was well flavoured; I’ve been impressed at how none of the meals are bland, but this is the only one that manages that with a salt content that still falls into the ‘green’ category.

Sainsbury’s Katsu Chicken Curry – 5/5

This was my favourite of the range, the curry had real flavour to it and tasted creamy and like it ought to be bad for you! The chicken was tender and the rice wasn’t completely plain and generic as I’ve found some ready meal rices to be.

I have a big appetite and the portions of these meals are relatively small, but they were surprisingly filling, given that they all have under 450 calories. I’ll definitely be heading back to Sainsbury’s to try out the rest of the range.

Here’s hoping that if you’re having ready meals this week, it’s for convenience reasons, rather than chaotic ones!

Spring Reset – Kitchen Planning

It finally feels like Spring and, much like the polar bears in this video, I feel like I am emerging from hibernation. Only it’s safe to say, not nearly as cutely as a polar bear and into a mound of DIY, not snow.

As I mentioned in my first post of 2017, we had an appointment with a kitchen planner in January. One thing led to another and somehow we ended up ordering a kitchen a few days later, in the January sale.

Tiverton Slate

Image Source

We’ve gone for a Wickes kitchen after reading lots of positive reviews and having eyed this one up in store every time we popped in for screws/paint/skirting board etc etc (which was pretty often!) It’s called Tiverton Slate and, like everything else in our house, is grey! We’ve opted for a natural oak worktop and white metro tiles, with integrated appliances.

Despite being half price in the sale, the kitchen will be the most money we’ve ever spent on anything (aside from the house itself!) and some of it has gone on interest free credit from Wickes to allow us the cashflow to get the work done that we need to prior to it being installed in April.

As a reminder, this was how the kitchen was when we moved in:

Kitchen before

Until we started this project earlier this month, we hadn’t really changed anything since this photo was taken, other than scoring a bargain second hand dresser to fill the gap to the left of the doorway.

We are now T-4 to the installation and this is a quick update on progress:

Kitchen wall

We’ve ripped out the old bathroom and knocked down the wall separating the kitchen and downstairs bathroom.

Terracotta floor times

We’ve removed several hundred very badly laid, but still beautiful, terracotta floor tiles (looking for a new home on eBay if anyone is interested!)
Studwork wall

We have built the studwork for a new wall to even out this little corner (as units will go on this wall eventually).

There’s lots still to do to make this room ready for the new kitchen included laying a new floor, moving the boiler, re-routing all pipework, fixing the holes in the ceiling, blocking in a doorway, plasterboarding and plastering, re-plumbing the radiator to name but a few! We’re doing most of the work ourselves to save money, so will check back with a progress update soon 🙂

 

 

Never Judge a Blind by its Cover

Our bedroom blind had suffered as a result of the damp back wall and didn’t really go with the overall scheme (it was a bargain buy before we decorated when we just needed something to block the light). I wanted a dark grey blind to replace it, but didn’t want to spend much money.

I found this John Lewis blind on eBay for £10.59; a bargain because it was damaged, but in the spirit of never judging a book by its cover, I realise it’d work perfectly with a little bit of TLC. I initially planned to replace the buttons, because as you can see, they were either missing or broken.

JL blind JL Brompton Steel blind

Removing broken buttons

N thought that buttons were a bit fussy for our simple, Scandi style bedroom and I realised that I could just cut remove the buttons, cut the blind off at the level where the buttons had been and remove and replace the rod in the higher slot.

p1020402 p1020403This worked out nicely and we now have a blind that is far more harmonious in the bedroom:

Blind before and after

Now we just need it to get a little warmer so that we can get on and paint that window!

2017

I always think 1st January is a funny day. It’s a day to look backwards and forwards, so I’ll start by checking back on my 2016 goals:

1. Use it or lose it – this went pretty well, I embraced Oxfam’s Tag Your Bag and regularly cleared out, maintaining a strict ‘one in, one out’ policy on clothes and new kitchenware, which has kept the chaos at bay

2. Cosy up – progress has been made with all new radiators (as just about seen here), but this is a work in progress as we’re currently awaiting Listed Building Consent to replace the front door with a massive draughty gap underneath and some secondary glazing

3. Get outside more – the allotment has definitely given us a reason to be outdoors more (sadly not yet documented on the blog), but I ended up in the gym and not exercising outdoors, so one to work on in 2017. I’m hoping that the purchase of some new reflective gear in the Nike sale will help 🙂

4. Save up for a new kitchen – this didn’t go so well as we got distracted by all sorts of other projects in the house. 2017 will be the year of the kitchen and we’ve already booked an appointment for next weekend with a kitchen planner

5. Learn to say ‘no’ – this one is harder to judge, but I definitely think I made progress with more to be done

I will carry these goals into 2017 and add on a couple more for good measure:

6. Be gentle. With myself especially, as I’m too quick to blame or put myself down, but also with N as sometimes I let my competitive, ambitious, impatient self get the better of me

7. Take more photos of progress on the house. It’s easy to forget how far we have come

8. Try to be more green in any way, big or small, that I can

2016 was a funny old year and one I think I’m ready to move on from. So here’s to 2017, may it be a happy and healthy one for you and your loved ones!

Thank You Card

Do you need some inspiration for Christmas thank you cards? If so, it’s time to whip out the glitter glue.

Thank You Card

I’m keeping it simple with a stamped ‘thank you’ (stamp from Hobbycraft, with Versafine ink) on a piece of card cut from an old file divider. Then for the fun bit with some glitter blobs!

Thank You Stamped Card

 

Christmas Eve – Advent 24/24

Joyeux Noel with £1.50 Bunting – Advent 23/24

Day 23/24 – Chalkboard bunting

Chalkboard bunting

We’re putting the final touches to the living room for Christmas. One of my favourite buys this Christmas was chalkboard bunting. I’m sure with a bit of patience, you could make your own – this tutorial looks good and uses chalk cloth, which I never knew was a thing!

Mine is 5 metres long and purchased for £1.50 in R&J Supplies in St Ives, which is a goldmine of a place if you’re ever in the area (which, in my opinion is one of the nicest places you could possibly be!) You have enough triangles to write Joyeux Noel (not quite enough for Happy Christmas), but I didn’t have enough room to hang the ‘Joyeux’! The best thing is that the letters rub off so you can keep on reusing all year round.

Noel bunting

 

Damaged Packaging Bargains – Advent 22/24

Day 22/24 – Perfectly Imperfect Gifts

Paperchase mug

For last-minute gift shopping, it’s time to broaden your horizons. This mug was originally £8 (although you can’t quite see the sticker on top that says so, only the one where it was then reduced from £6 to £1.75). Take it out of the tatty box et voila, a perfect mug!

Outlet mug

Wrap it up nicely and it makes a beautiful gift and nobody will ever know! I find the best places for bargains are outlet stores – our favourite is Swindon, where this Paperchase mug was found amongst many other Christmas presents this year!

Christmas Card Display – Advent 21/24

Day 21/24 – Christmas Cards and a Christmas Monkey

PG Tips Christmas Monkey

My favourite way to display Christmas cards is on a string hung from our beam and what better addition to this than an abseiling PG Tips Christmas monkey? Of course, my thrifty little monkey was free with PG Tips and although there are no Christmas monkeys to be had this year, you can still pick up an all-year-round-monkey at B&M.

Festive Monkey