2015 Resolutions

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Happy New Year!

Time to think of the ole’ resolutions.

I know a lot of people think NY resolutions are bollocks, but i kind of like the idea of them; listing all the things you want to change this year just seems to make sense to me. I’ve come up with 5, without having to resort to the usual healthy eating or getting fit ones.

My boyfriend has also asked if i can have one that involves me chucking old clothes to clear up space in the wardrobe, but that ain’t happening…

1. Remember birthdays and generally get better at keeping in touch with people. (Facebook doesn’t count!)

This is the main one because I SUCK at this. I am always the person sees you post the (now mandatory) “Thanks for the birthday love guys, I’ve been very spoilt” Facebook post, waits 20 minutes then writes a happy birthday message so it doesn’t look like I only remembered because YOU mentioned it. Don’t look at me like that, we’re all guilty of this.

I’m generally just quite bad at keeping in touch with people. I tend to refer to everyone I know or used to be close to as my friends, to which my boyfriend always patiently asks “Are they really your friend? When did you last see them?” which I think is a little rude, but I also think he’s got a point. I partly blame social media. I use Facebook and Twitter constantly so I therefore know what’s going on in most of my friends and acquaintances’ lives; I know when they’re seeing someone new, what they cooked for dinner and even (if they’re an over-sharing Susan) when they last went to the doctors. I comment on statuses and say congratulations when big things happen, so I feel like I’m still in the loop and socialising.

But I’m not really socialising. All my (real!) friends and I are very busy now, with boyfriends and babies and weddings and increasingly stressful jobs, so we see each other less and less. We are in our 30s, after all. I talk to people online and email occasionally but I probably physically see my friends maybe once a month, once a fortnight at the most. I’m lucky I’ve got a boyfriend at home, close friends at work and a twin sister and mum that I talk to all the time, or I would truly be a hermit. Remember when you said “When we all move out and get our own places, we can just go round each others houses and see each other all the time. We’ll probably save loads of money, too.”? Did that come true for anyone??

SO, I’m going to try and keep in touch with my friends better! It’s not as simple as announcing “You’re seeing more of me from now on, I’ve signed us up for a bowling league!”- as I mentioned, my friends are busy people, but I’m definitely going to check my calendar for birthdays, make an effort to text, email and send cards more, and just try and see people more. I did a kind of ‘soft launch’ of this by actually writing and sending out Christmas cards and I’ve downloaded a birthdays reminder app, so wish me luck!

2. Make lunches for work and waste less food

Speaks for itself really, but spending up to £5.00 a day on lunch when I have the food to easily make sandwiches or salad at home, honestly makes me feel a bit disgusted with myself. As does the constant ‘forgetting to freeze leftovers, so having to throw away half a pie’ situation. No more!

3. Look more groomed and glamorous

In my natural state, I am scruffy, curly-haired and honestly, a little spotty. I look alright when I put the work in, but I can’t always be bothered to make much of an effort beyond the exact same makeup every day and a quick hair straighten.

I would like to look more glam and grownup though so I’m going to make a conscious effort to improve myself in the following areas:

  • Care for my skin by taking my makeup off at night moisturising properly
  • Use all the colours in my new makeup palettes and not just the nude champagne one every day
  • Moisturise my legs everyday
  • Wear perfume more
  • Look after my hair and grow out my crop (although my boyfriend pointed at Shirley in Eastenders the other day and said “That’s just what your hair’s going to look like soon”, so looking forward to THAT)
  • Finally stop biting my nails

That’s actually quite a long list when you write it down, isn’t it?

4. Blog more

I do really like writing this blog, I just have a hard time actually getting round to it, or thinking of stuff to write about. I want to try and post things once a week, or at least once every 10 days if only because it makes me try and think of new things to cook.

5. Read more

I love reading and I did read quite a lot last year, but I would like to get through more books in 2015. I just find sitting reading a book quite anti-social when I’m not on my own so my boyfriend and I tend to watch TV together instead.

I’ve been reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson for MONTHS so I want to start by finishing that and then reading at least one book a month. I would like to put book reviews on here too, but my critique of books tends to be simply ‘hate, like or love’ so I’m not sure they’d be too long, but I might give it a try, which would add to Resolution 4! It’s all coming together!

I’ve kind of started on all the resolutions, except the reading and 5 days in, it’s going well! Has anyone else made any resolutions? Please let me know in the comments if you have.

I also saw this http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/im-so-im-so-proud-of-you#.sue51KK4do on Buzzfeed which is sweet but very ‘Pinteresty’ . It also has the worst name ever (The REMEMBERLUTIONS JAR!!) but I might give it a go.

I hope everyone had a great NYE and here’s to a top 2015!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

UPDATE: On new year’s eve (A super-fun night of Chinese, drinking and board games) my friends and I decided to start going to our local quiz night once a month. We shall see if this actually happens, but I’m hopeful!

ZIGGY UPDATE: Our little cat is now so friendly that he was referred to a ‘needy’ the other day! He follows me everywhere from the moment I wake up, demands to share all our meals and sleeps on the sofa, flat on his back like he’s sunbathing. I’m so pleased we got our water-loving weirdo, he’s a brilliant addition to our home. I’ve also found out that just before we got him, Ziggy got his old housemate pregnant and she’s now had 4 kittens. #PLAYA

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Blueberry & Lime Drizzle Cake

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When it’s cold and rainy out like it is now, I really just want to stay in and eat cake.

Actually, even when it’s gloriously sunny out, I still just want to stay in and eat cake.

This is one of my favourite cakes, it’s a Lorraine Pascale recipe, ripped out of a Sainsburys magazine years ago. It’s very easy to make and decorate, but looks quite impressive. It’s a bit of a “village fete” cake, looks pretty in a rustic kind of way and because it’s a drizzle cake, it slices really cleanly. That’s important to me! It also lasts longer than other cakes because it’s so moist.

I made this yesterday without checking if I had all the ingredients and obviously I was missing some bits, so I had to make a few adjustments. I used half caster and half soft brown sugar, and the butter was a mixture of Stork, Lurpak and actual butter. It turned out just fine. This cake is so hard to get wrong!

Lime & Blueberry Drizzle Cake

Makes about 12 slices

For the cake:

  • 225g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 200g blueberries
  • zest of 1 lime

For the drizzle:

  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 100g icing sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric hand whisk, or in an electric mixer, until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between.
  4. Fold in all but one tablespoon of the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt.
  5. Toss the blueberries in the remaining flour, then fold these and the lime zest into the cake mixture.
  6. Spoon the mixture into a tin, and put in the oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the thickest part comes out clean.
  7. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes or so.

To make the lime drizzle, mix together the juice of the two limes and of icing sugar. Poke holes in the top of the cake with a skewer or thin knife and then pour over the mixture. Leave for a few hours or overnight for the drizzle to sink in.

I iced the cake really simply by mixing together about 125g of icing sugar and 1 and a half limes, so the icing is thick and white but still runny. I then let it run off a spoon to make stripes across the cake and sprinkled over some lime zest to decorate.

According to MyFitnessPal, this cake is about 345 calories per slice. Not too bad! Keep it in a tin and it’ll be good for about 4 days. Enjoy!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

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Birthday Cake

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At work I have a reputation to protect. Not for being tough, or speaking my mind or even being particularly good at my job. Without even trying, simply by turning up one day in a big skirt with a satchel, I am the office girly girl.

I have a pink lunch box, Hello Kitty tissues and once announced that I always used limes instead of lemons because limes are ‘a prettier colour.’ I run to the window whenever we hear horses outside (always for a funeral, so I must look like a death-obsessed goth to the offices over the road). I have also been limping for over a week because I chose pretty, spotty trainers instead of actual, functional running shoes. See, not particularly clever but definitely girly.

So when it was my birthday last week (thirty-one, thank you very much) I had to a make a cake that lived up to my girly reputation. I decided to make a big, traditional lime (obvs) sponge with a buttercream and lime curd filling, using a tried and tested Nigella madeira cake and a curd recipe I found online.

Lime Madeira Cake (Adapted very slightly from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess)

Double the amounts to make the 2 cakes

  • 240g unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • Grated zest & juice of 1 lime
  • 3 large eggs
  • 210g self-raising flour
  • 90g plain flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC/gas mark 3/325ºF.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar, and add the lemon zest
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, with a spoonful of flour for each
  4. Gently mix in the rest of the flour and lime juice
  5. Pour into a cake tin and bake for about an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean
  6. Cool in the tin before turning out onto a cooling rack

I baked the two sponges in springform tins and when the cake was put together it was ENORMOUS. So big that when there was a wedge left it collapsed under it’s own weight and had to be thrown away. So maybe use regular Victoria Sponge tins?

Lime Curd (Taken from BBC Good Food website)

  • 112g plus 1 tsp golden caster sugar
  • 25g cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Freshly grated lime zest of 1 lime

Method

  1. In a heavy saucepan cook the sugar, butter, eggs and lime juice over a moderately low heat. Whisk frequently, until it is thick enough to hold marks of whisk, about 12-15 minutes.
  2. Immediately pour the curd through a sieve into a bowl. Stir in the zest of one lime and cool.

I think I scrambled my curd quite badly but once it went through a sieve it was absolutely fine, but I think I’d do it over a bain marie when I make it again just to make sure it stayed smooth.

But how to girly up such an enormous cake? I saw a beautiful cake on Instagram made by Emma from A Beautiful Mess and decided to base it on that. The main thing that went wrong with this plan is that the cake I was copying had frosting all over and piping on top, but I only bought one tub of buttercream so could only do a layer inside with the curd and some on top (as I’ve mentioned before, I DO NOT make frosting). I decided that the filling showing and the curd oozing out looked a bit country-cottage anyway.

To make the cake look really Disney-princess, I scattered heart sprinkles and pink sugar around the edges of the cake and then dotted Love Hearts randomly. I finished with some edible glitter and put it on a pink cake board. Finished!

I text a photo of the final cake to my mum and she described it as the “campest thing I’ve ever seen.” She may have a point.

You might notice that there’s no photos of ingredients or the making of the cake. This is because all the lights in the kitchen died at once and we’re now cooking by lamplight like squatters, which is annoying. But that doesn’t matter because we are moving! To a house with stairs! As much as I love this flat; it’s the first place I’ve lived properly alone and I really love the big rooms here, it is exciting to be moving to a new place. But it does mean the next couple of weeks will be full of cleaning, polyfilla and paying out lots of money, it seems. Moving house is expensive! It will definitely be worth it though.

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Apple and Oatmeal Biscuits

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I don’t exactly keep it a secret that I love Chelmsford market.

It’s based under a huge (terrifying) multi-storey carpark and it’s a proper old school market that sells everything you’d expect: second-hand bikes, plants, fake perfume, pick & mix sweets, haberdashery and a surprising amount of people willing to thread your eyebrows for a fiver. There’s also a great cheese stall and a butchers where last weekend I got shoulder of pork and some extra crackling for just £7.50. Market shopping is just friendlier than normal shopping and not just because it’s usually full of chatty old people (the elderly love me). Another big plus is that it’s SO CHEAP.

My absolute favourite stall is Steve’s Wholefoods, right at the back between the pet stall and the key cutters (see? Everything!). This stall sells any spice, grain, seed, nut or dried fruit that you can think of, as well as extras like manuka honey, green teas or super-hot tomato ketchup. It’s all much cheaper than a supermarket and as you buy in weights, you can get as little or as much as you want.

And now Steve’s Wholefoods has got even better- he’s started to put out free recipe cards, for cakes and biscuits using ingredients that you buy on the stall. They’re even laminated. Great idea!

I grabbed a card the other week for the recipe below, Apple and Oatmeal biscuits.  I made these on Tuesday night to eat during the Great British Bake Off (team Kimberley) and they went down a storm. I followed the recipe exactly, except I added a cup of sultanas in with the apples, because everything is improved with sultanas, don’t you think?

Apple Sultana and Oatmeal Biscuits

  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup white caster sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar (I used soft light brown)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2  plain flour
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups porridge oats
  • 1/2 cup dried apple, chopped finely
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • ingredients

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, then stir in the egg and vanilla.
  3. In separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon and baking powder.
  4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, mixing well.
  5. Stir in the porridge oats and dried fruit, making sure it’s properly mixed in.
  6. Arrange small dollops of batter on a lined baking sheet, making sure the biscuits aren’t going to touch when cooked. I got 9 to a sheet.
  7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, then take out and move to a wire rack to cool.

These are the first successful biscuits I’ve ever made, I think the trick is to take them out as they’re just starting to colour, but still seem a bit raw in the middle. They should last around a week in an airtight container (or pretty biscuit tin!) but, as they’re pretty soft to begin with, a little staleness won’t hurt them.

A few points:

  • These are really cheap to make, I bought the sugar, apples and sultanas in the market, which came to about £2.00 for the lot.
  • About 125 calories a biscuit.
  • This recipe makes LOADS of dough; I made about 25 smallish biscuits and I had dough left to keep in the freezer for next time.
  • Dried apple is really hard to cut with a normal knife, either try and buy it already chopped, or maybe cut them with a demi-lune knife?
  • Don’t get your eyebrows threaded at the market, go to Superdrug on the High Street instead.

Enjoy!!

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