8 February 2015

Why Everybody Needs An Apron, and an Easy Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe


Whether you're four or forty four, there's nothing more pleasurable than shoving your hand in a bowl of sweet smelling, sticky cookie dough. 




This is why children need aprons.



Yes, I realise I should have rolled their sleeves up...



But why does everybody need an apron?

Surely as an adult you can keep yourself clean?

Hmm. Maybe. There are three reasons why I need an apron:
  1. I have, erm, a large shelf on my front that collects drips and crumbs from whatever I'm eating, and I eat while I'm cooking... 
  2. I have two children who enjoy baking, and cookie dough and Nutella will transfer from them to me, even though they deny touching anything with mucky hands.
  3. These beauties, designed by Henry Holland and worn by yours truly, are available from Home Sense or online and are raising money for a good cause, for Comic Relief.



I now wear my apron from the second I start cooking, until I've loaded the dishwasher and washed up the bits that aren't allowed in it. It's no exaggeration to say that it has changed my life and saved my clothes.


Easy Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

125g Butter, at room temperature
100g Sugar (any soft brown sugar will do, you can even use caster)
1 Egg, beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
225g Self Raising Flour (or Plain Flour with 1tsp Baking Powder)
200g Chocolate Chips

Method
  1. Heat the oven to 160 fan.
  2. Mix the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon (or your hands, if you're four).
  3. Add the egg and vanilla essence, mix.
  4. Add the flour, mix.
  5. Add the chocolate chips (some may fall into your mouth at this stage).
  6. Form the cookie dough into small balls by rolling a lump around in your hands.
  7. Place on a baking tray, leaving room for the cookies to spread.
  8. Bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown.



We decorated ours with Nutella and white chocolate stars, but you can use anything you fancy or just leave them plain. Either way, they won't last long.




Disclosure:
This is a sponsored post, although I will be giving my fee to Comic Relief for Red Nose day. The Comic Relief Danceathon is only one month away.

If you would like also to sponsor me for the Danceathon, that would be amazing. I will be dancing for six hours to raise money that really makes a #LastingChange.



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21 January 2015

The Comic Relief Danceathon




The first ever Comic Relief Danceathon is taking place at Wembley on 8 March 2015, and I'll be there as part of the mighty Team Honk.

This will be the third year that Team Honk have raised money for Comic Relief. Remember the Relay and Damini the elephant?

It's slowly beginning to sink in that I'm going to have to dance non-stop for six hours. Six whole hours. Of dancing. Oh my. I've been going to a Zumba Dance Class in preparation. That's just one hour of me galumphing around like a red-faced, sweaty, uncoordinated gnu. How will I manage six? There's a different dance to learn every thirty minutes at the Danceathon, from Ballroom to Bollywood.

I always thought I'd be a good dancer. I've watched Strictly and wanted to have a go, but now I realise I'd be the John Sergeant, the Judy Murray or the Ann Widdicome (God forbid). People would vote to keep me in for comedy purposes. The gits.

Still, it's going to be an amazing day AND I know I'll be raising money for an awesome charity.

What you can do

Join me
There are still some spaces available. You and your friends can join Team Honk. Find out how and pledge to raise £150.

Sponsor Me
If you can't make it, and want to donate to Comic Relief, please sponsor me.

I'm aiming to raise £150. If just 75 of my gorgeous readers gave £2 I'd reach my target. If 15 of you (can I just say, that is a smashing blouse you're wearing) gave £10, I'd reach it even quicker. Thank you.

The money you donate goes, as always, to charities at home and abroad.



Red Nose Day is 13 March.

Thank you and keep dancing...  





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4 January 2015

Back on the Treadmill




This is not a metaphor for the daily routine of work, school and the rest, I literally got back on the treadmill at the gym and I couldn't be happier.

I felt so at home, so relieved, to be back exercising again.

I got a cold in the middle of November, that lingered until the week before Christmas, then ho ho atchoo, I got another cold on Christmas Day. This was on top of a few months of an asthmatic chesty cough (that required an x-ray and CT scan to rule out the Big C - that was a scary few weeks).

So I haven't exercised for eight weeks. I'm still not feeling great, but I knew I had to get back to looking after myself.

Having the longest cold known to mankind left me feeling very sorry for myself. I'd been struggling at Slimming World too. I found that unless I stuck to the plan 100% for the whole week, I gained weight. One week I had just one evening off the plan and put on 4lbs. This was demoralising and I'd got into the old diet mentality of thinking that the diet was ruined and then having a few days off. Of course this meant weight gains, so I began yoyo-ing. By the beginning of December I was feeling pretty hopeless. I needed a break and decided to forget about eating healthily. Things would have been different had I still been out running four times a week, but I wasn't well enough. As is traditional with the emotional eater, I comforted myself with food. After all, it was Christmas.

Enough is enough. As of today I am back eating healthily, exercising and taking care of myself. It was a big and difficult step, but already I am feeling happier and lighter. I have the euphoria of having been for a run, albeit on the treadmill at the gym. Like anyone who lived on fancy biscuits, mince pies, cherry brandy, cheese and Gaviscon over the festive season I am now craving simple fresh food.

I'm also in training as I've signed up for the Comic Relief Danceathon at Wembley on 8th March, as part of the mighty Team Honk. That's six solid hours of dancing with the goddess that is Claudia Winkleman. I can't wait.

I'm a little annoyed with myself for putting on a bit a lot of weight over Christmas, but I understand why it happened. It may happen again from time to time, but the most important thing is that I know I can lose it again. It's also a relief to know that I'm still nowhere near the weight I was in October 2012 (when I started at Slimming World). In the meantime, thank goodness for forgiving leggings and Phase Eight over-sized knitwear.

Happy New Year, friends.



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22 December 2014

Ho Ho Ho




I love Christmas. I try to enjoy the run up to the Big Day. After all, shopping, wrapping, decorating, crafting and baking are fun things to do. Sadly, when I put them on my daily to do lists they blend in with the other stuff on there: 'make wreath' sits between 'clean windows' and 'take car for service', and 'make gingerbread' gets buried somewhere in the PTA mountain.

What I am doing is spending less and less time online. I value the friendships I have made, particularly with other bloggers, and I love to see what's going on in Facebookland, but it's a massive distraction from my family. I want to spend the next couple of weeks with my husband and children. I don't just want to be in the same room, I want to be present. This means no laptop and no phone.

I'll set aside some time to shop the sales (if there's anything left), but the rest of the holidays will be devoted to fun, food, friends and family.

Wishing all my readers and online friends a spectacular festive season and a peaceful and healthy 2015.


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3 November 2014

20+ Home Made Hamper Ideas





Last Christmas I made my 87 year old step-dad cry when I handed him his present. I'd made him a hamper of all his favourite food and drink. There was a bottle of wine, dark chocolates, shortbread, jams, chutneys, crackers and even cheese (kept in the fridge until the last minute). I wouldn't have been able to afford to buy a ready made hamper like this, but making my own was fun to do and super easy and affordable.

If you're making up a food hamper you won't notice the cost if you add one item a week to your shopping list. Look out for special offers, BOGOF's and sales too to reduce the cost even further.

If you like to make your own presents, as do a lot of my clever blogger friends (ANA Mum Diary, Being Mrs C, Bug Bird Bee, Cat's Yellow Days, The Crazy Kitchen and Me and My Shadow), how about a home made hamper? Start now and make syrups, flavoured oils, damson gin, sweet jams, spicy jamsjellies, chutneys, festive chutneys and preserves. Nearer the time you can add crackers, biscuits, fudge or mince pies to your hamper.

Helen at the Crazy Kitchen has made loads of flavoured alcoholic drinks. You may want to make batches of Malteser Vodka, Toffee Vodka, Cherry Vodka and Cranberry Vodka, and put them all in a hamper. I know a lot of my friends would LOVE this.

All you need to make up a hamper is a cardboard box or basket, some wrapping paper to cover it, and cellophane and ribbon to wrap it. For a Christmassy touch, add bells or baubles to the bow, or even Pinkoddy's salt dough stars. You can also line the box with scrunched or shredded tissue paper or bubble wrap - this stops the contents rattling around. Collect boxes of all shapes and sizes throughout the year. Here's a great tutorial on how to wrap a basket in cellophane.


Image credit

Another option is to buy a cake board (79p in Asda) and stick your goodies to the board with double sided tape, then wrap with cellophane and ribbon.

PTA's: a cake board and cellophane are a brilliant option for displaying raffle prizes. Put together hampers for men, women, children and babies from items donated for your Christmas or summer fayre. This year we noticed several people had donated Gruffalo items, so we made a Gruffalo hamper.



I make mini hampers for my children's teachers at the end of each school year. I fill a new mug with fancy tea bags, hot chocolate sachets, marshmallows, mini muffins, cookies and sweets, wrap it in tissue paper and cellophane, all finished off with a bright ribbon. These went down very well, one TA still mentions hers every time I bump into her.

You could go to an old fashioned sweet shop and fill a (sterilised) jar with sweets of all colours. If you're making similar gifts for several people you could split giant packs of pick and mix sweets. This way you also get to sample the sweets at the same time...

Make a lolly bouquet by sticking lollies on a polystyrene block, with tissue paper in between. Wrap the block with more tissue paper and cellophane and finish with a large bow.

To counter the Christmas excess, I know I'd appreciate a good old fruit hamper. Go nuts and add nuts and dates too - after all it is Christmas.

If, like Kids Chaos, you know someone who likes stationery, then make them a hamper. You could even fill a large pencil case with gorgeous bits and pieces and wrap it up with a pretty notebook. Likewise, if you know someone who is crafty you could fill a box with ribbons, buttons and other embellishments.

Pamper hampers are a great gift. You could easily and cheaply put together soap and talc with some slippers for an older relative, or a shower gel, shower puff, body scrub and body lotion kit for someone younger. Pick the items to suit the person. You can also buy a pashmina for pennies on Ebay, use this instead of tissue paper to add colour to your hamper - or make it part of the wrapping.

You could easily get a relaxation hamper together, including a lavender eye pillow, Rescue Remedy and camomile tea.

Nail varnish, remover, cotton wool and emery boards would make a great hamper for a friend. Include hand lotion and cotton gloves for the full manicure experience.

A lot of girls would love a make up bag full of hair accessories. My boys would be over the moon with a party bag style hamper, full of little bits and bobs (balloons, cars, balls, etc.).

Bakers would adore a pudding bowl full of muffin cases, cookie cutters, wooden spoons and sprinkles.

You could make someone a car cleaning kit, wrapping up a sponge, chamois leather and car shampoo in a brightly coloured bucket. If someone gave me this I would cry, but some people may appreciate it.

Gardeners would love a hamper full of seeds, twine, seed markers and some new gloves, perhaps wrapped on a kneeling pad.

Sports fanatics can be easily catered for. What about a football supporters pack, including a scarf, hand warmers and a travel mug?

Bloggers, I should add that hampers are an excellent way to recycle your goody bag stash. The recipient will not know where you got their gifts from (unless they're marked as a sample - do check) and you can appear super generous.



If you know someone who likes owls you can find a whole section devoted to them at one of my favourite online shops, the Dot Com Gift Shop. This is my entry to their blogger competition. I have not been compensated for this blog post, I'm doing it for the love... and the chance to win an iPad Mini...

Other fabulous hamper ideas:
12 Movie Night Gift Hamper Ideas by Me and My Shadow
Christmas Eve Surprise Box by Imagination Tree
Alternatives to the Traditional Christmas Hamper by Domestic Goddesque
10 Hamper Gift Ideas by Red Ted Art
Themed Hampers and Gift Ideas by Kids Chaos

I could go on all day, the possibilities are endless. Personalised hampers show the recipient that you have put a lot of thought and care into their gift. You never know, they may cry with happiness on Christmas Day.

Edited to link up with the fabulous Thinly Spread Festive Friday



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