This is what life looks Leighland...

Friday, 2 August 2013

And the cupcakes continue

My Corona cupcakes went down so well that I was experimenting in the kitchen again within a week!

I'm really loving the idea of boozy flavours so to continue with that theme and on raiding my drinks cabinet (ok so the fridge and a box at the back of the cupboard under the stairs!!) I decided to try Baileys this time and boy am I glad I did!!

Makes 12 large cupcakes                           
250g flour, sifted
1/2 tbsp baking powder                                 
100g room temperature olive spread
1 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil
100g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
120mls chilled Baileys
2 tbsp milk

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees
Mix flour and baking powder in a bowl and put to one side
Beat olive spread and sugar until light and fluffy
Beat in eggs one at a time
Add 1/3 flour mix then 1/2 chilled Baileys, 1/3 flour mix, 1/2 chilled Baileys, oil and milk then last 1/3 flour mix and mix until fully combined
Spoon into your cupcake cases and bake in the middle of the oven for aprox 18-20 mins or until a cocktail stick comes out clean
Allow to cool completely before frosting

100g unsalted butter
300g icing sugar
1/2 tsp coffee essence
2 tsp chilled Bailieys

Dice the butter, add the Bailieys and coffee essence then combine with a spatula
Add icing sugar a bit at a time

I only took 6 of these cupcakes into work and gave some to friends when they called in for coffee, they went down so well that every one who got a taste commented that I should leave work and start making cupcakes for a living...if only it were that easy, LOL!!!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Delightfully light boozy summer cupcakes

Boozy summer cupcakes...??  Nom nom nom yes please!

We're really not very big drinkers here, but there is nothing better than cracking open an ice cold Corona on a hot summers day!

Like most days, I was feeling cupcakey but I wanted something other than my now signature caramel flavour (I can't remember the last time I made a different one!!).  So I went scouring through my cupboards and fridge and spotted a few bottles of Corona and remembered a Cinco de Mayo cupcake recipe I'd pinned a while ago which used Corona as a flavouring!!

As usual, it was nearly midnight by the time I'd decided I was going to start baking so rather than working with a new recipe I decided to adapt my favorite cupcake recipe to incorporate the Corona and combine it with a light lime frosting...this is what I did:

Makes 16 large cupcakes                          
250g flour, sifted
1/2 tbsp baking powder                                
100g room temperature olive spread
1 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil
200g caster sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
240mls chilled Corona
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp lime zest

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees
Mix flour, baking powder and lime zest in a bowl and put to one side
Beat olive spread and sugar until light and fluffy
Beat in eggs one at a time
Add 1/3 flour mix then 1/2 chilled Corona, 1/3 flour mix, 1/2 chilled Corona, oil and milk then last 1/3 flour mix and mix until fully combined
Spoon into your cupcake cases and bake in the middle of the oven for aprox 18-20 mins or until a cocktail stick comes out clean
Cool completely before frosting

70g unsalted butter
190g icing sugar
1 tsp lime zest
2 tsp fresh squeezed lime juice
2-3 drops green food colouring (I only wanted a hint of green)

Dice the butter and soften with a spatula
Add food colouring, lime juice and zest and beat into butter until fully combined
Add icing sugar a bit at a time

When the cakes are ready, I usually turn the oven off and leave the cakes for a further 3 mins or so to make sure they don't drop - especially if it's a particularly wet recipe like this one!

Well goodness me they are simply delish!!  Using olive spread instead of butter and a really good drizzle of oil really seems to give a moister crumb - I used sunflower oil as it's what I had in my cupboard but any oil will do as long as it doesn't have a strong flavour.  As for the lime frosting...OMG it tastes like green Starburst so I've already found inspiration for my next new flavour!!!!!

I hope you guys enjoy making and eating these as much as I did!!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Best Teacher gifts the Leighland way

I've been working loads of overtime (still trying to pay my credit card bill off from Egpyt!!) and have had a very poorly lil Monster to take care of so time has been pretty restricted recently to say the least!

There's light at the end of the tunnel though, there's been no more vomiting since 8am this morning (It's now nearly 2am - oh the joys of working a late shift!!) so if she can make it through another 6 hours she'll be allowed back to nursery school!  She's desperate to get back, especially because not only is she leaving nursery to move on to reception class but her nursery teacher is leaving the school so she's desperate to see her teacher before she goes!

With only a matter of days left, it means some serious last minute gift what do you do when you need to 2 last minute gifts and are already over your monthly budget?!  Well I'm pretty sure I got the idea from this Pintrest pin but couldn't really think of anything to write (and didn't really have time either if I'm honest) so I googled how to make a shape with words and found this amazing website!

All you need to do is fill in 1 of the 6 fields, chose your shape and direction for the words, pick a font and a theme then click submit and et voila!!  You can even edit the font, colours and themes before saving your final image!

Once I had my image, I opened a word document and pasted it in the middle.  I cropped the image to remove the copywrite border then added a couple of text boxes to make the document a bit more personal.  I had chosen the Duality font when creating my shape so for continuity, I downloaded the same font here for free and this is what I ended up with:

I'll nip to Ikea tomorrow and pick up 2 of their Ribba frames and there you go...a cheap personalised gift for both the teacher and her TA (and yes...I remembered to change the name on the TA's picture!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Preperation in Leighland...

So there's only a matter of weeks left before the schools close for the summer...and until the 'Lil Monster graduates from Nursery eeeeeeeeeeeeekkkk!!!!!  I can not believe my teeny tiny baby is preparing to start school!  Where have the last 4 1/2 years gone?!

While sadly, I did not marry a rich man and so need to work to help pay the bills, bills oh and er...more bills....I am lucky that my sucky job allows me to work evenings so I get to be a stay at homeish mummy (yep, only in Leighland!!)  While I can not wait to have a whole entire 6 weeks one on one time with my Monster, I'm dreading the expense of keeping her entertained for so long!! I'm also dreading the seperation anxiety that will come at the end of those 6 weeks - especially when it sinks in that she's not just going to be away from me every afternoon, but that we'll be apart all day!!

So what can I do to both keep her entertained all day and prepare her for full time school??

Well, I'm arming myself with an arsenal of mostly free summer activities and school prepping exercises.  In the run up to the holidays I'm going to get the 'Lil Monster to help me make a diary which we will use to know what activity we will be doing on which days.  As usual I've been pinning away like mad and keep coming across free printables for meal planning and monthly calanders etc so I decided to make my own A5 sized daily planning printables  - which can be downloaded here should you wish to use them - then we're going to fill each day with 1 or 2 of the activities, at least 1 school prep activity and as the 'Lil Monster is the worlds fussiest eater and going to be staying for packed lunches, I'm going to start introducing her to nice healthy snacks etc...

I've started buying bits & pieces of coloured paper, sticky letters, googly eyes etc and Key Stage 1 work books etc so we'll have quite a bit of stuff to mess about with on rainy days!

I'll be starting Halloween & Christmas preparations soon - maybe even a garden party towards the end of the summer if we get nice enough weather so watch out for my handy hints, tips and printables coming soon!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

How to make the best EVER Caramel Cupcakes!!!

Ok, so maybe second best ever....

On Wednesday, the 'Lil Monster wanted to bake cakes.  To save time and mess I usually use a boxed cake mix when baking with her and I had a Betty Crocker Caramel Cupcake box, so we whipped them up and boy were they good!!!

I'e never really experimented with flavours before, I usually stick to either chocolate or vanilla but the caramel flavour inspired me to find a way to make them from scratch and I'm soooooooo pleased that I did!

I'm not a big fan of fruit so I usually have a squeezey bottle of Sainsburys own toffee sauce in the cupboard.  Drizzle that over sliced apple and/or banana and there's not enough fruit in the tastes amazing but more importantly not too sickly, so I knew it would make a perfect substitution for vanilla in my go to cupcake recipe!

Basic cupcake recipe:

Makes 16 large cupcakes                            
250g flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder                                
100g olive spread (room temperature)
1 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil
200g light brown sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
100mls almond or hazelnut milk
3tbsp toffee/caramel sauce

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees
Mix flour, baking powder and sea salt in a bowl and put to one side
Beat olive spread, sugar and caramel sauce until light and fluffy
Beat in eggs one at a time
Add 1/3 flour mix then 1/2 milk, 1/3 flour mix, 1/2 milk and last 1/3 flour mix and mix until fully combined
Spoon into your cupcake cases and bake in the middle of the oven for aprox 16 mins or until a cocktail stick comes out clean
Completely before frosting

Once the cakes are ready, I prefer to turn the oven off and leave the cakes in for a further 3 mins to ensure they don't drop.

75g unsalted butter
175g icing sugar
2 tbsp caramel sauce

Dice the butter and soften with a spatula
Add caramel sauce and beat into butter until fully combined
Add icing sugar a bit at a time

Monday, 3 June 2013

Death and Distruction the Leighland way...

Yep, I'm sorry to say that while away on holiday, I was responsible for a death.
R.I.P. my dear digital camera.  You captured many beloved memories during out time together and you will be sadly missed!

Luckily I was able to salvage the memory card!

So we've just not long since gotten home from 2 weeks in Nabq Bay, Egypt :'-(
Nabq Bay is a short drive from Sharm El Sheik airport, just beyond Sharks Bay and like both Sharm and Sharks bay is a town built solely for the tourist industry.

We were going there to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary!  We were planning to roll the celebration, the 'Lil Monsters first international holiday and some scuba diving into one holiday and celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary by booking it!  As our anniversary falls in May, it was booked before my accident last August so we weren't actually able to go diving, but we still had a blast!

We knew the 5* Jaz Mirabel Beach resort would be 100% perfect as we'd been before.  The last time we were there was New Years 2007/08.  As it was winter, we only ventured to the beach once for about 30mins, it was really windy and the coral sand kind of sandblasted you so we knew to avoid it from then on!  It's a shame too as when we went this time, in May 2013, we expected to walk in to the sea from the beach and snorkel.

When you're walking out you are straight on top of a coral reef which stretches about 1 1/2 miles out to sea.  The majority of the top of the reef is clear enough to walk on without causing damage and the sea is only really deep enough to tickle your bum!

Here you can see the 'Lil Monster watching waves crash over the edge of the reef on the horizon!
  There's not as much to see in this part as there are when walking in from Sharks Bay, or Taba (Northern Sinai Peninsula) but we met  puffer fish, lots of sea porcupine and even a sea snake!! 

The sad part, is that on one of the days that I walked out towards the end of the reef, my Dad and I came across a fishing net about 100yrds long.  We hadn't seen it before and didn't see it again and no one was able to tell us anything about it so we don't know if it had washed up or if it was there intentionally, but it was gone the next time we walked out.  Dad and I were able to rescue a pair of beautiful yellow Angel fish!  Unfortunately, the fish had sharp spines in their dorsal fins and the shock of a prick made me drop and kill my camera :-(

Saturday, 27 April 2013

What I've learned so far....

Well, we're over a quarter of the way into 2013 and I thought now might be a good time to reflect on what I've learned on my journey into frugality and organisation....

Er....not a lot to be honest!!

I'm still paying off a debt on my Mum's credit card - we usually take part in a Christmas savings club though His Lordships work, but they decided not to offer it last year.  We decided to just save the money ourselves, but as we had easy access, we dipped into it a little too often so there wasn't much left by the time we needed it for Christmas shopping!

We're still in a better financial position now compared to January and it kinda goes hand in hand with the weight part of my New Year resolutions...4 weeks ago, I dared to get on the scales and was devastated to find that I weighed more than ever!  In sheer desperation  I decided the only thing to do was start a meal replacement diet.  4 weeks on, I've spent a total of £130 on 6 weeks worth of porridge and shakes - thats £21pw and our weekly shopping bill is down from £50 - £60pw to around £20 - £25pw and better yet, I've lost a total of 20lbs!!!

As for making 1 dream a reality - I've decided on the dream, but its an expensive one so goodness only knows when I'm going to be able to start trying to make it happen!  One of my hobbies is making natural body lotions and potions and I would love nothing more than to start selling my concoctions on Etsy, but it all takes money!!  I would need to get certified and insured and although it's ok to prepare skincare products in the same kitchen that you prepare food in - it's not ok to use the same tools so I'd need to buy all new pots, pans, utensils etc then I'd need to buy ingredients and finally I'd need packaging.  I reckon at least £1,500 - £2,00 which I just don't have!

I have recently been referred to the Chronic Pain Clinic and one of the pain management techniques they use is teaching you you to pace yourself.  To do this, you need to make a plan.  you need to list the jobs that need doing then you break them into manageable segments allowing significant breaks through out.  In case you hadn't noticed, that's the organisational part of my New Year Resolutions taken care off....haha, ok so it would be a little more accurate to say that I have started to organise my day and hopefully it will make my life easier!!!!

Did you make New Year resolutions?  Have you stuck to them?