Sugar-Free March

27 February 2015

Guys, I am quite excited.

I have set myself a challenge to go sugar free in March.  If you know me then you know this is a HUGE thing.  I bake on an almost daily basis and I really struggle to go a day without chocolate, cake and/or biscuits.  Especially since I have started back at work again, I find myself grazing on rubbish throughout the day.  To clarify - when I say sugar free I am talking about the processed, refined sugars not natural sugars (found in fruit, honey, dates etc.)

I have gotten into a bad habit of having chocolate after supper.  I crave something sweet with my cup of peppermint tea and a few blocks of chocolate often turns into half a slab or if I have brownies then I have a HUGE slice as well as some ice cream.

So this is going to be interesting!!

It is all just habit - I often don't even think about it anymore and that is why I wanted to do a sugar-free month.  To break the habit as well as set myself a challenge.  Because I do love a challenge.  It is fun and it gives me something to work on as well as the opportunity to try new recipes.

I have seen many of my friends do this - not only go sugar free but totally change their diet and I have always wondered if I could do it.  I also contemplated doing Whole30 but phew that is a whole different ball game and I just don't think I am ready for that.

One thing that also got me interested in this is the opportunity to try different ways of baking - so I can still bake loads of stuff but just without the sugar.  I have found SO MANY different and delicious recipes that I cannot wait to try.  And they are all sugar free.

In March, any recipes I share on the blog will be sugar free ones.  I cannot wait to share these with you as well as see what they are going to taste like.  To give you an idea and a sneek peek - I will be trying some chocolate caramel cups, carrot cake and baked banana custard as well as a few other things.  So basically I can still get my sweet fix but these recipes will contain all natural sugars from honey or fruit.

I am prepared and have been warned that the first few days of March are going to be tough.  I will most certainly get headaches, be very tired and a teeny bit crabby.  But I will push through.

Wish me luck!


How I stopped drinking

26 February 2015

Yesterday something happened to me.  This incident really struck a chord deep in my heart and I came home and couldn't get it out of my mind.  I even had an ugly cry.  You know the one - where you have fluids pouring from every opening in your face.  You have no control over your mouth or muscles in your cheeks and when you are done your eyes are an angry pink and swollen.  You try to stop crying but with that comes the strangest, awkward type of sound and in the end surrender and just start crying all over again.  But God you feel so much better afterwards.  Like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.  A few minutes later the weight might be back again but you feel cleansed in a way.

I was walking home from work, I had just left my building and was walking down a side street.  Around Jericho, on the outskirts of Oxford city centre there are quite a few homeless people around.  It is depressing and I often feel for them.  I see one particular man and his loyal dog most mornings and afternoons.  Yesterday afternoon I came across him crouching on the pavement of a side street.  He had drool coming out of his mouth and was trying his hardest to stand up and simply couldn't.  He was drunk.  Well, probably beyond drunk.  He was absolutely wrecked.  He was staring blankly onto the cracked tarmac.  His hands filthy with dirt and his fingernails black.  His dog was next to him, trying to nuzzle into his arm and body to help him up, whining and crying, aware that his master was not with it at all.

My heart dropped to the floor.  I felt this huge urge to go to him, pick him up off the floor and tell him it was going to be OK. Instead I walked past him.

I kept looking back and after about 10 metres I stopped.  He was still trying to get himself off the ground.  I  sighed and turned back and asked him if he was OK.  He slurred that he was fine, that he had to get off the drink.  I said to him that it was probably a good idea.  I saw a sandwich lodged into his jacket pocket.  I mentioned to him that he might want to eat it as it would make him feel a bit better.

"I have to get off the drink", he said again.
"Yes my dear man.  Yes, you do." I said to myself quietly.
After he was back up on his feet and had taken a fair few steps I walked on.

But still he stayed on my mind.

You see -  I stopped drinking 3 years ago in May.  And I often wonder where I would be had I not stopped drinking.  I know I would be in a very bad place.  Maybe not as bad as this poor man I saw on the street but trust me I would be a sight for sore eyes.  Seeing things like this really affect me.  It makes my heart so sore.  I wanted to shake him hard and say "What are you doing?  Why are you wasting your life?  Make a change - you CAN do it.  Just stop drinking."  But I don't know him or his story or the hand that life has dealt him.  We all have stuff to deal with.  Some deal with it better than others.

This just made me realise once again that stopping drinking was the BEST decision I have ever made in my life.  I have control of me and my actions.  I do not rely on a bottle of alcohol to make me feel anything or in many cases, not make me feel anything.  So many people ask me - but how did you do it?  How do you stop? My dear friends - it is actually so simple.

You have to want to stop.  And then you do.  You simply stop.

You have to want to stop so badly that you have this yearning deep in the pit of your stomach.  You have to want your life back.  You have to want the real you back; that person hiding behind all the bottles of booze.  You have to want to deal with shit.  You have to face up to the music.

And you can.  You can do ANYTHING you want in this world.  And with doing this - you will be able to do so many other things.  It is so uplifting.  It is such a relief when you make the decision.  And you have to make this decision yourself.  No one else can do it for you.

For anyone reading this - or if you know anyone who needs to read this.  It will be OK.  Just stop.  It is as simple as that.  And slowly things will become clear again.

One day at a time.


11 ways to entertain your 1 year old

25 February 2015

There are some days when I really struggle being a mom.  Especially if I am tired which is quite often because Jack still hasn't mastered the art of sleeping through.  It has become easier now that I am back at work - writing that makes me feel so guilty but it's the truth.  Jack is at an age now where I can't entertain and stimulate him like I used to.  He needs to be with other kids for longer periods of time plus I need some time to do something with my brain and also have the social aspect of my life back without him & have a coffee without holding a toddler on my hip.

On the days when the afternoon seems never ending, it's too cold outside to go for a walk and my enthusiasm to play peek-a-boo or crawl through his pop-up tunnel has waned, these are my go-to activities which allow me to sit on the couch with a cup of tea and a HUGE wedge of cake, uninterrupted for about 10 minutes.

Hope they help.

P.S.  I take no responsibility for any of your children being injured during any of these activities.
P.P.S. These activities probably aren't your traditional toddler activities, but hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Jack likes to eat anything in tissue form, he doesn't so much eat it as chew, swirl around in his mouth and spit out leaving me with little wet balls of tissue all over the house.  But this works everytime.

This is when your tissues have run out.  Huge waste here as he literally can empty a pack of wipes in under a minute so this is if you need about 1-2 minutes of shut eye.  This is saved for a horrendous day where you take any peace you can get.

This I usually do if I need to cook/bake or take photos of my creations.  It means he can sit on the kitchen floor, be in sight and make a hell of a lot of noise with tupperware and wooden spoons.  But it works equally well in the lounge with me sprawled on the couch.

While this is lovely and allows me to lie on our bed for a "power nap" (power nap meaning me lying on the bed with one eye open) this does involve having to tidy up afterwards.  But if you are desperate it is worth it in my opinion.

I'm not sure if it is the colours or the feel of it but he loves walking around with it and bonus, you might get some dusting done for you.

It needs to be filled with clothes and place them at the washing machine.  He spends AGES unloading, loading, closing the door, unloading, loading, opening the door.  I just need to teach him to turn it on now and he can be in charge of washing.

Ours is BRILLIANT - the Gazillion Bubble Machine; it costs a few pennies and is actually quite zealous (A LOT of bubbles come out so don't sit them too close!) but it is awesome. 

Jack loves to sit at the back door and post things through the catflap.  Lately, his colourful plastic play balls are always strewn outside!
Warning:  Do not give child items which you do not wish to get wet/muddy or damaged as they will end up outside.

This needs to be food which is NOT messy as he will be walking around with it so rice cakes everytime.  I do not recommend anything that melts in the mouth like puffs or biscotti otherwise this requires cleaning up afterwards = more energy.

Jack LOVES them.  I was so frightened of him biting them and popping it but his little teeth can't actually reach the balloon so I got over it.  And he had quite a few long sessions of play with them. Plus you can lie on the couch and kick them with your legs and bat them with your hands.  So technically you are still playing with your child.

It is quite scary as Jack is swiping the screens already and knows which is his favourite app.
I do recommend it although turn your volume down if you need peace.

Any Moms out there have any go-to activities which give them 5 minutes peace?  I am always in search of something different!


Beautiful business cards with Goodprint

24 February 2015

I was in desperate need of some business cards - not that I am a business but it is so nice to be able to give out a card with my details to old or new friends as well as restaurants or places that I plan to review or share on the blog.  It allows people to know you, put a name to a face and it makes it personal.

Goodprint have been going for a long while, but their website has been recently refurbished and it is super fun.  I knew I wanted a bold and simple design and it was so easy to find it.  I love the pop of colour and I had plenty of options to choose from.   They have something to suit everyone's taste and for £9.99 for 200 cards including 1st class delivery you can't go wrong really.

The website is user-friendly and I love the way they get you to fill in the blanks and that brings up relevant designs.  Sometimes you don't want to trawl through hundreds of options, you only want to see what is relevant to you.  Finishing wise - I chose a matt finish with square corners and a double-sided design.

The quality is outstanding, from the packaging to the actual business card - I was very impressed.  I loved the tips on the box for handing out your cards and I also love the little boxes they package them in - 50 per box.  Perfect to pop in your handbag when you are going to a function.

From ordering to delivery took 48 hours.  Now that is impressive.

Yay for super fun, awesome business cards.
Thanks Goodprint.


Dark Chocolate Fruit & Nut Bites

23 February 2015

 I found the recipe for these on Pinterest yonks ago, actually, while I wrote this I popped onto Pinterest to have a look and I pinned it a year ago.

And finally I am making them.  (That's what happens when you have a baby...)

And I so wish I had done it earlier.  Oh these are so perfect for the on-the-go snack or the late afternoon snack or even the 9am snack.  Bottom line - they have fruit and nuts in with a bit of chocolate so you can pretty much have them any time of day in my book.  Plus, these take minutes to make.

Makes 12-15


100g dark chocolate (I used Sainsbury's 72% Taste the Difference)
A handful of each of these:
Brazil nuts
Dried cranberries
Chopped walnuts

All you need to do:

♥ Break up your slab of chocolate into smaller pieces and pop into your microwave for 30 seconds at a time, mixing in between until your chocolate is smooth and melted.
♥ Dollop teaspoons of chocolate onto wax paper, swirling it until you get a neat circluar shape - about the size of a £2 coin (R5 coin) - repeat until you have used up all your chocolate.
♥ Immediately top with your dried fruit and nuts.
♥ These don't take long to set at all.  Store in a cool place in an airtight container or in the fridge.

These are SO perfect for lunch boxes and as a quick pick-me-up snack.



The many faces of Jack

20 February 2015

I just had to share these photos of our nunu.  He is so gorgeous and is totally the boss in our house.
Everyday he makes us smile.  Everyday he is learning something new.  And when I didn't think it was possible, my heart overflows with even more love for this little human being that we created.

Spring has sprung and some challenges for you

19 February 2015

So while Spring will not officially arrive until 1st March it really feels like it has made an appearance these past few days.  When I open the curtains in the morning the sunshine comes pouring in, the sky is crystal clear blue and it is SO lovely and bright.

One thing I continue to struggle with in England are those dark, deary, grey days that seem never ending around this time of year.  So it is such a welcome sight seeing the sun shine bright and have the sky so blue.  Bulbs are popping up everywhere, birds are singing and making their nests and the first blossoms are appearing.  It is really the BEST time of year and I feel more energised and motivated.

Loads of bloggers and IG friends are sharing inspiration for decluttering, cleaning, organising and minimising.  It is one of my goals this year to declutter and minimise.

We have too much stuff: clothes that sit forgotten in our wardrobes, unused shoes and bags, old electrical items, old linen, worn out towels, LOADS of craft stuff, forgotten kitchen utensils and don't get me started on my husbands cupboard filled with tools, screws, nails, tape and DIY stuff.

So here are some challenges you might want to look at.  Make it fun, make it a challenge or a goal. Make yourself accountable.  You get more shit done that way and there are less reasons for excuses.

The Everyday Spruce with Growing Spaces and Lapinblu

40 bags in 40 days with Ann Marie

I have loved trying to do this 30 day Minimalism Challenge with Into Mind

Super inspired with Tracy's handbag organisation.

Start small, start big but just start.  It is the only way.

Happy Thursday!


Be a Brochure Cover Star with Thomas Cook

18 February 2015

Guys! I came across this fun and pretty awesome Thomas Cook competition today and as soon as I saw it,  I knew exactly which photo I wanted to use.  I am so chuffed and it has reminded me how much I ADORE this photo.

All you have to do is follow this link and upload your favourite holiday photo onto the brochure template.  Then add some blurb (i.e. what favourite things did you do on holiday, key words that make you think of the awesome times you had etc.), holiday location and your family name.  Then enter your personal details and hit submit.  Share it with your friends, I really love how ours turned out.

Who knows, you could win and all inclusive holiday to Cyprus.  Fingers crossed!

Making Memories indeed.
Real Good Times.


7 things to do to brighten your day

So we all have those days where we need a bit of brightness.  A bit of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel and a HUGE cup of tea which makes us feel good.  This Sunday just passed it got to about 3pm.  I was getting a bit tetchy, Jack was niggly and I needed something to brighten my day.  We put our wellies on and we went for a walk.  I have always wanted to take a picture of me jumping (yes I am weird like that, once I get a photo idea in my head,  I have to try it) so I asked Mani to take a few.  Guys, I was in hysterics doing this, as was Mani and Jack.  Jack was giggling away, it was so funny.  Day=brightened.

Here are 7 things you can try to brighten your day.


A walk in the fresh air always makes me feel better.  I never feel like going for a walk particularly but nothing gets those endorphin's going like a bit of fresh air and some (very gentle) exercise.  We are lucky as we live in the countryside so I have the added advantage of beautiful surroundings but no matter what your location; getting out, breathing in the outside air will brighten your day for sure.


Go outside. Stand there in the silence.  Look up at the sky.  And contemplate how amazing this life really is. Above you are clouds, stars, planets, planes, birds.  I mean, really think about that.  It is pretty darn amazing.


If getting outside is just too much to ask, go boil the kettle.  Use your favourite mug and pour yourself a hot cup of tea.  Tea is medicinal, its soothes the soul.  Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world.  It will revive you.  Better yet - have your tea with a huge wedge of cake or a couple of biscuits.  Day = brighter.


What makes you happy?  Really think about it.  Go and do that. 
Bake, exercise, watch your favourite TV program, have a hot bath, chat to a dear friend, create or take some photos.


Yes, you read correctly.  Put on your favourite CD or radio station, and DANCE! Really let your hair down, jump on the bed, on the sofas. Throw your hands in the air and dance.  You will smile and laugh without realising and you cannot say singing out loud isn't good for the soul.
My favourite feel good songs include:

In the Middle by Jimmy Eat World
So What by P!NK
Tubthumping by Chumbawumba
All the Small Things by Blink182
Stronger by Kelly Clarkson
You Only Get what you Give - The New Radicals


Too often the humdrum of everyday life can really get us down.  Gosh, I mean going to work, making supper, cleaning the house, looking after the kids on repeat all day everyday can get monotonous and it is too easy to forget how much we really have in life.  So get out a pad and a pen and write those 5 things down. You will end up with a longer list than five, trust me.


We all have people in our life that we just could not live without.  Friends, family, husbands, wives, children. And you cannot tell these people enough how much you love them and appreciate them.  So write them a letter, send them a text or pop them an email and tell them.  Tell them you love them dearly, that you love the way they laugh, or that their support is invaluable and their laugh is infectious.  It will make them feel good and appreciated and it will make you realise even more how lucky you are to have such wonderful people in your life.

Anything you do in particular that you know will help brighten your day?
Please share it with me, I would genuinely love to know!


The joys of feeding a toddler

17 February 2015

Recently, most meal times are becoming a bit of a chore for us.  Guaranteed if I make Jack something for supper like sausage and mash or pasta or similar (i.e. actually put some effort into a meal) I will put it in front of him or try and spoon feed him and he will flatly refuse it.  He shakes his head vigorously, pushes the plate and spoon away or if he is feeding himself he will look up at me and while maintaining eye, contact drop each piece of pasta or blobs of food one by one on the floor.

Plop, plop, plop.

He then leans over the side of the chair and just stares at it.  Then back at me.
He also likes to smush and rub the food all over his tray using his hands and then touch his ear, rub his hair and eyes and end up with more food on him than in his tummy.  Another favourite is to have a spoon in each hand, scoop up some food from the bowl and then flick the spoons so the food lands all over the wall behind him and often all over me too.

Fun times.

Yesterday this really got to me.  Maybe it's just because I'm tired and having one of those days.  But sometimes I feel like I am totally failing if my child doesn't eat well.  I know I am not a failure but knowing your child is fed and content is a good feeling.  And when they don't want to eat you know that either they are going to get hungry later on and be grumpy or that maybe they aren't 100% and another bug is on the way. 

Jack will however eat porridge, yoghurt or banana no matter what time of the day it is, so often if he won't eat supper I will give him a combination of these and can put him to bed at least knowing he won't wake up hungry in the middle of the night.  But then I worry if I am creating a rod for my own back by giving him something I know he likes instead of teaching him that what he gets for supper is what he should eat.  All this worry and stress and speculation is pretty tiring.

Anyways, after a cup of tea, a huge chocolate brownie and a conversation with my mom I realised there is no point stressing over it.  She also reminded me that he goes to nursery three times a week where he will devour all three meals given to him so at least he gets a well balanced, nutritional diet three times a week.

I don't want to make meal times a "thing".  If he won't eat, I am not going to get upset or stressed. I will lovingly smile at him, put the lovingly homemade meal in the compost bin and get some porridge for him.  Because these phases soon pass and before you know it he will be eating us out of house and home. 

Last night I put a bowl of chicken and sweet potato in front of him and he proceeded to eat the whole thing - whilst this is THE messiest meal time ever he ate the food quite happily.  HOORAY!


The BEST EVER chocolate brownies

16 February 2015

A dear friend brought some chocolate brownies to Jack's birthday party a few weeks back.  I swear within half an hour the plate was empty.  Everyone came up to me saying how delicious they were, luckily I got to have one and they were VERY yummy.  I'm talking fudgey, chocolatey, moist, rich, chewy and moreish.  So basically everything you have ever wanted from a chocolate brownie.  Plus there are bits of chocolate in it, so when you think you are just getting brownie - BAM, you get a piece of chocolate and your day gets even better.

And folks, it's your lucky day because I am sharing the recipe with you.

It is unbelivebaly easy, you get a bowl, you dump all the ingredients into it, you mix it up, you pop it in the oven for 40-45 minutes and that's it.

Seriously, best ever.  Hands down.
You won't ever look back.

You're welcome!

Makes 24

275g butter
375 caster sugar
4 eggs
75g cocoa powder
100g self raising flour
100g plain chocolate chips or a chopped up bar of chocolate

Grease and line your tin - I used a 30 x 23 x 4cm baking dish.
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees.
Measure all your ingredients and pop them into a large bowl.
Mix it all up either using a hand held mixer, or like me, do it the old fashioned way, by hand.
Scrape the mixutre into the tin, a spatuala works really well.
Bake for 40-45 minutes until your brownies have a crusty top and a skewer comes out clean.
Store in an airtight container.

Make these whenever you can, they are so easy and just perfect for any occasion!


Easy Chocolate Truffles

13 February 2015

We don't do Valentine's Day really - we have given each other cards over the years and for our first Valentine's Day I think Mani gave me a rose but that's it really.  We aren't that fussed and to be honest everything costs a fortune - even the cards.

I thought this year I would try my hand at making my own truffles - not to give to Mani necessarily but just to have something sweet to nibble on after supper tomorrow night.  They are surprisingly easy to make and oh my gosh they are so delicious.  The butter makes them smooth and so soft on the inside. They just melt in your mouth.

I rolled some in dessicated coconut, some in ground almonds and others in cocoa.  You could have them plain too but I thought fancying them up would be fun.

Makes 25


150g good quality dark chocolate, at least 70%
150ml double cream
25g butter


♥ Finely chop the chocolate and tip into a large bowl.
♥ Put the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts.
♥ Remove from heat, then pour over the chocolate.
♥ Stir the chocolate and cream together until you have a smooth mixture.
♥ Cool and chill for at least 4 hours.
♥ To shape the truffles, dip a melon baller in hot water and scoop up balls of the mixture and drop onto a plate.
♥ Coat your truffles in your desired flavours or leave them plain and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Perfect to devour by yourself with a large cup of tea or with your soul mate, on the couch, under a blanket.


Thoughtful Thursday

12 February 2015

A friend of mine shared the most awesome quote the other day and I keep coming back to it.  It is from a book called The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents and it goes like this:

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”  

Beautiful isn't it?  I love the ordinary, everyday things.  The smiles, the hugs, the giggles, the cries, the bathtimes, the commutes.  I love appreciating the everyday stuff because these ordinary moments are what we look back on.  We realise on reflection that these ordinary fleeting moments are what makes life so awesome.

So go enjoy them.  Love the ordinary.  Appreciate the everyday.


Being more mindful

11 February 2015

Recently, as I have not been 100% health wise for about 8 weeks now, I find myself just going through the motions of life.  Tiredness and not feeling great gets me down some days.  Plus having gone back to work part time, it has been all change in our routine and getting to grips with sitting at a desk again.

On reflection, this has made me realise that 2 months have gone by and I haven't really felt present in life.  I have had social outings, conversations with friends, seen family and spent precious time with them, played with Jack, watched his first steps, spent time with Mani and done all my normal day to day things I do without really doing them.  I have been there in these moments but not present and not really conscious of my surroundings and enjoying the moments.

Mindfulness is focusing on one thing, being fully present and really enjoying it.  I am terrible for trying to get a million things done in the shortest time possible.  I think this comes from being a mom with a young babe and knowing you don't have a lot of time to get stuff done so you cram as many tasks as you can into nap time or your evenings as possible.  But this I find wears me out eventually.  I mean, you can be productive but I miss just sitting and doing one thing at a time at a slow pace and doing it mindfully.

So I need to do less.  The only way I can get stuff done properly is to look at my to do list and figure out what is really important and letting go of the stuff that simply isn't.  In the past, as soon as Jack went down for a nap  I would get my to-do list out and start doing stuff straight away including doing a quick tidy, as well as stuff a piece of toast down my throat, wash up, check instagram, take some photos, start cooking supper and hang up the washing.  Now, I boil the kettle, make some toast (or cut a big piece of cake!) and sit on the couch.  I eat. I enjoy my tea.  I sit on the couch and I just, well, sit.  I sip my tea and I enjoy the quiet and the peace.  I relax.  I breathe.  It revives me.

So, today, make it priority to be more mindful.  Listen.  Relax.  Savour your food.  Think about this moment and not what you have to do tonight.  Enjoy the task at hand, even if it is a menial thing like washing up or tidying. Go outside, hear the birds singing and the leaves rustling in the breeze.  Hear people, listen to what they are saying.  Observe.  Smile.  Slow down.  You will be surprised, how after a bit of practice, being mindful can help you really enjoy life and live it to the fullest.


Loving my 50mm lens

10 February 2015

For Christmas I only wanted one thing.  A 50mm f/1.8 lens.  I have had my big girl camera, a Canon 450d for 3 years now and I have never looked back.  I bought it off ebay for £250 second hand and got the 18-55mm kit lens with it.  The kit lens is awesome and can take beautiful shots but all my photography friends raved about the 50mm and said it should be my next lens.

I love the way it captures people, the light and the sharpness of each of my photos.  I am NOT a professional photographer and hardly know anything about photography.  I have a very simple understanding of aperture, shutter speed and ISO etc.  All the photos I take are mostly on manual mode and I play around a lot with different settings.  I love it and photography has become my favourite hobby (along with faffing and baking of course).

Here are a few recent photos I have taken.  I hope you like them.
Can you recommend any lenses?  I am thinking a wide-angle lens might be my next buy!


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