Monday, December 31, 2012

Three Things I'm Looking Forward to in 2013

  1. Having a family of four.
  2. Learning the character and personality of our fourth family member!
  3. Getting to grips with entertaining two children whilst maintaining a tidy house, a nutritious and on-budget meal plan, social life, creative adventures, honest & vulnerable friendships, real marriage, meaningful bloggings and all other of life's responsibilities!

(and even more pictures to prove my lack of blogging over the last few months has not been unfruitful..)

Sticky Stem Ginger Cakes that I made for my family Christmas hampers.
Dark Chocolate & Stem Ginger Fudge - after many failed attempts at fudge I made this foolproof version which uses condensed milk - I'll post the recipe one day in 2013! It's got edible sparkle dust on top!
Inspired by Mister Maker from CBeebies who made a paper- mache pineapple using newspaper, foil and tissue paper; I decided to make my own baubles. I finished them on Christmas Eve!
Eben helped and made a tissue paper star.
Bauble No.1
Bauble No.2
Bauble No.3 and Eben's tissue paper star. 
Eben got some great colouring pens for his birthday, I limited him to red and green and he made all our wrapping paper!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Five Things I’m thankful for From 2012

  1. My family; near, far, old & new.
  2. Seeing Eben become the most adorable, adventurous, compassionate, delightful, extrovert, hilarious, musical, talkative little two year old.
  3. God’s abundant and timely provision - there have been times this year where I've prayed in secret for very specific things and they’ve turned up the following week!
  4. Friends who love me, know me, challenge, inspire and motivate me.
  5. A husband who has given me time to write this blog, obsess over the price of groceries (for my blog), made room in the budget so I could have an iPhone, given me lie-ins for goodness knows how long, spent his birthday money on Eben and I, held me to account on the goals I set myself, loves me and finds me funny and beautiful!

(and some more pictures to prove my lack of blogging over the last few months has not been unfruitful..)

This is the chocolate cake I made for Eben's birthday, soon to have a makeover.. 
.. and become a hippo!

My sister drew the hippo design and I turned her drawing into a cake - team effort!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Twelve Things I learnt in 2012

(In no particular order)

  1. Setting myself measurable, achievable, exciting goals for the year is very helpful and gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  2. Making time to read the bible is good for me.
  3. Enjoy my children
  4. Do something I enjoy at least once a week
  5. Dare to dream but remember that I have a whole lifetime for them to come true
  6. Don't spend my entire month’s allowance in the 1st week of the month.
  7. Quality time with family means turning my phone onto flight mode.
  8. Save the free loyalty card coffees I’ve earned for when I have spent my whole allowance and a coffee really would be a treat
  9. Always stand at least two foot away from the bathroom mirror - my skin will be much better for it
  10. Don't borrow money from next month’s budget, save this month’s.
  11. Ask for opportunities, don't wait to be asked.
  12. Do my pelvic floor exercises (carrying this one over to 2013 - still haven’t..) 

(and some pictures to prove my lack of blogging over the last few months has not been unfruitful..)

My colourful Christmas Cake fruits - I couldn't decide which recipe to use for Christmas Cake so I got six contenders from Nigella through to Mrs Beeton and came up with my own!
Eben helped and it is gluten free too!
Having made a blue hippo cake for Eben's birthday I only had blue icing left to decorate my Christmas Cake..
.. more Christening than Christmas but pretty none-the-less!

I'll provide the recipe before October 2013 as long as I haven't decided to keep it a family secret!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Foodie Penpals October Reveal

It feels like a long time since the September Foodie Penpals reveal post, so much so that we almost have nothing left to show for the parcel we received earlier this month. My penpal this month was Heather Tucker whose life and accomplishments fascinate me! Heather is from the US but lives in Rotterdam so I was very excited at the prospect of a parcel full of Dutch treats and that is indeed what we received. Heather, amongst a long list of other exciting things, writes a fantastic blog over at

So here's my parcel, it was full of surprises and Heather had catered very well for Simon's gluten intolerance!

Sausage, chocolate, cake, sweets - you can't go wrong with a box like that!
I was excitedly studying the contents of my parcel to find Eben (left) had already tucked into the Chocolate 'Zwarte Piet' (right) and pretty much demolished it!
The 'Hagelslag & Vlokken' (boxes of chocolate & fruit sprinkles) were one of the most exciting things in the box - they are traditionally eaten on a piece of bread for breakfast. Most chocolate sprinkles taste nothing like chocolate and are just like dressed up sugar but these sprinkles, they really taste like chocolate - it was like my toast turned into a pain au chocolat! 
So then I put some of the fruit sprinkles on my 'OnbijtKoek' - its an amazing dutch spiced cake that's sticky and delicious and also traditionally eaten for breakfast.
Heather bought us a nice lot of dark chocolate and some cinnamon, I'd literally just finished my jar of cinnamon so that was super handy. She gave us a recipe for Cinnamon Chocolate Mousse which I made for friends on Friday night and it went down well!
I can no longer find either of the items above in our cupboards which implies to me that Simon has claimed them as his own.. On the left we have 'Drop' which are licorice sweets, they're like those milk bottle sweets you get from the sweet shop but licorice flavour. The chocolate 'S' is meant to be for 'Sinter Klaas' but being that it is Si's first initial he has decided the 'S' stands for Simon.
This 'S' is for sausage - Eben's favourite. I made a really easy risotto with this Dutch Smoked Sausage and Eben loved it!
The 'Stroopwafel' on the left is possibly the item I am most excited by. I usually buy these in Starbucks and sit them on my latte to go all gooey, now I get to do it at home! I'm just waiting for a quiet moment when I can enjoy a cup of coffee and delicious waffle! The 'Old Dutch' sweets on the right served us very well on a recent long car journey, they are really unusual flavours but went down a treat!

I think we did extremely well with this month's Foodie Penpals parcel, thanks so much to Heather who sent us such an exciting and enjoyable box. If you're interested in Foodie Penpals I really would recommend it, just have a look here at how to get involved.

If you're wondering who I sent my parcel to, I am delighted to reveal to you Fiona Potter who doesn't have her own blog at the moment so is guesting on my blog today:

Foodie Penpal October Reveal - Fiona Potter

This was my first month of taking part in Foodie Penpals and what a good first month it has been!

I received a beautifully packaged food parcel from the thoughtful Carly. Carly had chosen an autumn theme for my parcel, so had filled the box with some autumnal treats. As you can see Carly had wrapped or put the food goodies into cute little jars all with hand written labels on them.

The box contained some tasty homemade items such as a loaf of Sticky Stem Ginger Cake, which as you can see from my photo didn’t last long. You can get the recipe from here.

Other homemade items included Slow Cooker Pear and Apple Butter , which as explained in the letter she had put in the parcel was picked as Apples and Pears are at their best this season. I also followed her suggestion and spread some of the butter on to some crumpets for a weekend treat and it was delicious!

There was also a jar of spiced cocoa which really did taste of Autumn and was perfect for a cold day. The cocoa was a combination of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Carly had kindly included extra marshmallows and cool stripy cups to use on bonfire night which is a brilliant idea and a really nice touch.

Lastly, Carly included a fig and almond wedge that she had chosen as figs are also in season. She had suggested that the wedge went extremely well with some cheese. I was adventurous and as it was from Spain, I tried it with some Spanish cheese called Manchego. It turned out to be a great combination as they went beautifully together.

I have really enjoyed being part of this scheme and definitely recommend it and thank you Carly for such a great introduction to Foodie Penpals.

You are welcome Fiona! I'm going to take a break from Foodie Penpals in November as I'll be putting the money towards making a Christmas cake instead but I hope to join again in December as long as I'm on top of my Christmas gift making!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What Comes Next?

The first line is always the one I struggle with, if it’s in my mind before I put pen to paper then generally it’s much easier to write the whole post but if I don’t then I might just waffle on..

After an absence of far too many days, I return to writing feeling the need to list my excuses but I’m pretty sure you would find that boring and why am I trying to excuse myself anyway? You see what I have really been doing over all this time is making very important life changing decisions such as, whether to use Kirstie’s recipe for Christmas cake or Delia’s, or whether to make one at all or whether to buy a double buggy because we are in fact having a SECOND child in just ten weeks (or less? or more?)..

As part of my CARLYwrites anniversary celebrations I did some exciting things; I gave away over a kilo of FairTrade chocolate, I introduced you to some of my nearest and dearest in the form of a guest post, I made my first ever recipe video, I revealed the topfive most-read posts AND.. I forgot to tell you what’s coming next for CARLYwrites (mainly because I hadn’t/haven’t decided yet..)

The reality is that not writing my blog for twenty days may in fact become a bit more normal, I may not be able to supply you with as many inspiring recipes because our current staple is fish fingers and chips and I may not have as many wise offerings to share because my baby is using whatever wisdom and intelligence I have to form tiny fingers and toes and then poke me with them.

I want very much for my blog to inspire and motivate you to be resourceful and wise with your finances, time, gifts and skills and make you laugh now and again too. For now I need to look after the resource that I am to my family and be wise with myself, this means:

I will probably blog maybe once a fortnight and sometimes it might just be to show you something that has caught my eye over the last few weeks or to tell you that ‘All Day Long’ coffee from Sainsbury is in fact the nicest coffee I’ve had in a long time or I might share something that saddens my heart like the fact that parents in Thailand are so enslaved to materialism that they would sell their children into sex slavery to get them a new TV or mobile phone..

In the intervening weeks I want to reveal more guest posts, show you what I’m cooking up for Christmas gifts and tell you about my Foodie Penpals parcels.

Thanks for reading my blog and supporting I’m really thankful that I’ve been able to start this and I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything and everything, just email

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Top Five.. In First Place!!

Here we are at last, the Number One spot in my Top Five!..

I still feel that there is more work to be done when it comes to the particular issue I write about in my Number One post but for now I have resolved, and my research resolved that Asda is the cheapest supermarket to shop at. I still convince myself every now and then that really Sainsburys is cheaper but then have a dreadful feeling at the pit of my stomach every time I leave the checkout knowing that I could have saved even a few pence had I gone to Asda. It's like there's a big 'Should've Gone to Specsavers' sign just as I exit the checkouts except it says: 
'Should've Gone to Asda'. 

So here is 'Price Wars at Asda, Lidl, Aldi & My Green Grocers' which has occupied the number one spot since I wrote it back in January!

Here are some price comparisons I have come across lately that might help you with your weekly shop:

Bargain of the month:
  • 150g bags of Kettle Chips are currently 'two for £2' in both Tesco and Waitrose until 09/10/2012.

For your Christmas Cake:

  • 1kg of Icing Sugar costs £1.80 in Asda and £1.89 in Sainsburys & Tesco

Fruit & Veg - Loose vs Packets:

  • In Asda their 4 pack of Jacket Potatoes are cheaper than loose Jackets:
    • £1.30/kg if you buy them loose but a pack of 4 costs 85p and always weighs at least 1kg!
  • In Sainsburys their loose FairTrade Bananas are cheaper than the pre-packed ones:
    • Loose cost 68p/kg and a pack of 8x Basics FairTrade Bananas costs £1.25 but usually weighs at least 1kg

I hope you find that useful!

I was so worn out by the number crunching when I wrote that post back in January that I didn't include a recipe so why not take another look at my FairTrade Brownie video if you've not seen it already!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Foodie Penpals September Reveal

Does Foodie Penpals sound familiar? I hope so, I've been banging on about it for the past few weeks and today is the 'Reveal' Day!! Today every Foodie Penpal (wherever they are in the world) will unveil what they received in their foodie parcel! If you love what you see get involved here..

A shoebox full of mystery delights!

I received my very first Foodie Penpal parcel from Gill Holland and it happened to be the very first parcel she had sent so we were both novices. Not only is it exciting creating a box of goodies to send, the anticipation of what you might receive in your box is even more exciting! As part of the process your penpal has to get in touch with you to find out if there's anything that you're not supposed to eat or don't particularly want to eat. I wanted to be really straight forward but unfortunately had to list the gluten intolerance and the pregnancy related intolerance (smelly cheese/pate etc) but Gill was totally obliging and I loved that she asked if we had any events/milestones coming up that she could bear in mind, the only thing I could think of was our holiday.. So here's what we got:

A lovely letter to accompany the items in my parcel which included a list of a few fruit & veg currently in season, some of which made an appearance in my box, the first of which..
The cutest little beetroots right from Gill's Dad's allotment, complete with a delicious recipe for Hot Smoked Salmon, Beetroot Salad and Horseradish Creme Fraiche..
A lovely box of 'Calming Infusion Tea' plus some homemade and gluten free Fig & Apricot Tea Loaves. And I'd been craving fruit loaf the day I received these!
And a delightful little cake stand perfect for a cupcake or two mini tea loaves!
I mentioned to Gill that my favourite tea is liquorice & peppermint but didn't mention that Si's is camomile and this lovely box of 'Calming Infusion Tea' is Camomile, Limeflower, Lavender with Peppermint & Liquorice Root - perfect! I just love sticking my nose in the box and taking in the warming fragrance!
Gill put a lot of effort into my parcel and I loved it, it was seasonal, gluten free and had relaxing tea which was perfect for our holiday. Here's what I did with my new ingredients!
I had to use the beetroots before payday so couldn't make the exciting recipe Gill had suggested but did make delicious roasted beetroot with maple syrup and orange! 
I love these colours together.. Just chop up carrots and beetroot..
Add maple syrup, orange juice & zest, olive oil and roast in a hot oven for about 45mins-1hour until tender.
So there you have the unveiling of my first ever foodie penpal parcel. To find out more and to see the parcel I sent to Carol Anne, go to Rock Salt, or to see all the Foodie Penpal 'reveal' posts go to The Lean Green Bean.