Tuesday, 20 January 2015

You Need a Budget

Seriously, you do.

Organising your money and making a budget might sound boring, but honestly, it brings freedom to your spending in ways I could not have imagined. Before YNAB I used to think budgeting meant that you had to eat 8p packs of noodles and never go out with friends. Now that we actually budget, I've realised that it means assigning every penny a job, so when I see that gorgeous new top for Lila, or that lego set for Will, I can look in the 'clothing' category, or the 'spending money' category, see if we have room for it in the budget.

It means that when the dog impales himself on a piece of scrap metal, I don't flinch at the vet bill and don't even bother with the insurance because we have money in the 'dog' category.

It means that when the dishwasher breaks down and we need a new one, I can just buy that. I don't need to wait and discuss with Matt whether we can afford this, because it's in our 'household emergency' category; if it's in the budget, we already agreed to set that money aside for things like this. I can see in real time what's been spent and what hasn't and Matt can see what I'm spending too. It's given us a level of accountability that we just didn't have before (adding up receipts at the end of the month when you can't remember what things were for is not always helpful!) and discussions at the beginning of the month, were we can plan spending are so much more helpful than at the end of the month were all you can do is look on at your bank balance in disappointment.

I've often heard people in church say, 'let me see your bank statement and I'll tell you what you worship', because where we spend is usually where our hearts lie. YNAB's reports at the end of each month are both horribly convicting and empowering. Seeing a large pie chart telling you what you spent in each category makes a great visual, and has certainly changed our spending over the last year.

If you're local and you want to chat YNAB, come on over. I'm passionate about it.

If you're not local, you should check it out on YouTube, they have tonnes of tutorials.

If you sign up with this link, I can give you a bit of a discount, and in exchange YNAB give me a little thank you too. 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Coconut and Almond Cake

Photo Credit
My friend Sue made the most amazing Blueberry, Lemon and Almond cake for another friends birthday recently, with cream cheese frosting. It was amazing.

I wanted to replicate it at home, but I didn't have all the ingredients, so we ended up making this recipe up loosely based on hers.

Will wasn't sure about it at first, but after a few bites it was a hit.

For the cake you will need:
4 cups almond flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
4 large eggs
juice and rind of 2 lemons

For the frosting you will need:
1 cup fromage frais
1/2 cup raw cream
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup of raspberries

Mix all the cake ingredients together and bake in a greased, lined tin at 160c until an inserted skewer comes out clean (about 45 minutes).
Remove from the pan and allow to cool.
Mix up the frosting and spread over the cake.

I'll be honest, we didn't wait for it to cool. It was delicious warm, even if the frosting did melt a bit...

Friday, 16 January 2015

Children and Exercise

This is not a post about childhood obesity. I'm actually perfectly happy that my kids get loads of exercise.

No, this is about me and my lack of exercise since having children. It's about my desire to not become unfit and unhealthy, but my total lack prioritising to actually do something about that. I go through fits and spurts where I finally manage to arrange some child care and get in a bit of a routine; or I set alarms stupidly early so I can go for a run at 4:30am and be back in time to shower and get everybody's breakfast before they wake up - but it's not sustainable. At least not for me.

The sun stops rising early enough for me to run, or I just get too exhausted with it; one of the kids is sick and they just need cuddling; child care can't make it anymore... there's always something, and once I'm out of the habit it's so hard to get back in.

This week my husband had some free time during the day to work from home and the kids were still both asleep (late night) so it was the perfect opportunity to take the dog for a run by myself - but then the youngest woke up. She wanted to come on the run with the dog.

I could have said no, but it seemed so mean.

The beginning of the walk I resented how slowly we were walking. I think the dog did too, but then I decided that if I wasn't going to run, I needed to make some form of exercise, and that's when I noticed someone had started building a stick shelter in the woodland. There was loads of big heavy sticks around, so I convinced Lila to play house in the shelter whilst I built it even bigger and better for her. The dog ran circles around us.

Twenty minutes later I was exhausted and aching, Lila was happy that we had played together and even the dog was panting.

That's when it hit me. As mum's our lives need to look a bit different. Swimming by myself, cardio classes and long lonely runs might not be viable. My exercise needs to look different now. It needs to be exercise with children, but honestly, getting fully engaged with playing with them, is exhausting. It definitely counts as cardio. Playing tag, wrestling, building a stick house, it all burns calories, builds relationship and creates memories.

Being a mum can sometimes feel like dying to yourself and putting other people's needs first all the time, but actually you can meet your own needs too; you just might need to be a little bit creative about how you do it.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Spice Mixes

Image source

I've been chatting to a few people recently about how you get children to eat vegetables. It seems to be a common theme amongst my friends, but I honestly think the main problem is that NO ONE even adults likes to eat flavourless, limp, boiled veggies. Bleurggh.

There are a few vegetables you can get away with just lightly boiling, but 9 times out of ten lightly steamed is nicer, or better yet roasted.

My children LOVE peas. It's one of there favourite things to eat. I cook them in butter with garlic and sea salt.

Carrots get butter and salt too, maybe a little bit of lemon and thyme.

Chestnuts are roasted with garam masala.

I mean seriously, vegetables ALWAYS taste better with garlic as a bare minimum.

If you want your kids to eat veggies, get some nice healthy fat on there, some good quality sea salt and then start experimenting with the herbs and spices.

The cheap plastic salt and pepper grinders from your local supermarket are usually refillable, so once you've found a combo you like, load up one of those and you have a handy mix ready for next time. A lot of mixes contain many of the same herbs and spices, but with something else, so this can be a frugal way of stopping you getting stuck in the same rut of always doing the same thing (eg. it's lamb, we have to have rosemary).

Here's some inspiration to get you started; I haven't included quantities because everyone has different flavours they want to sing out, so adjust to suit your family. Also, for a lot of these mixes to be truly authentic they would include things like chilli, but I keep mine kid friendly by omitting anything spicy. 


Lime zest

Smoke paprika

Garam masala:
Star anise
Bay leaves


Pumpkin pie spice:

Lemon zest

Fennel seeds
Star anise

Sesame seeds
Bonito flakes

Go forth and conquer vegetables!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Peanut Butter Cup Pie

I came across the most incredible recipe this Christmas, and it's so good I've made it twice this year already and it's only the second of January.
Image source
I don't care though, because this is sugar free, grain free goodness that is amazing. Meet Peanut Butter Cup Pie. The original recipe is on Detoxinista and is just fabulous, but I've made a few tweaks that I personally think take this from a 10 out of 10 to off the scale incredible. 

image source

Even my non-paleo sugar eating friends liked it.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Pie by Detoxinista - edited by me
  • 1½ cups almond meal
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/2 cup creamy all-natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup cashew butter
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup raw honey
Chocolate Topping:
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  1. Line an 8-inch springform pan or pie dish with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. To prepare the crust, combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well to create a uniform dough. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the lined pan and set aside.
  3. To prepare the filling, combine the four ingredients in a blender, and blend until completely smooth and silky. You may have to stop and scrape down the sides a few times to get the batter very smooth and evenly mixed. Pour the filling over the top of the crust, and use a spatula to smooth the top. Place the pie in the freezer to set until firm, about 4 to 6 hours.
  4. Once the pie is firm, prepare the chocolate topping. Combine the butter, honey, and cocoa powder in a small bowl and whisk well to combine, creating a smooth chocolate sauce. Use the parchment paper to easily remove the pie from the pan, then drizzle the chocolate over the top. When the chocolate touches the cold pie, it should solidify pretty quickly-- like a "magic shell" topping you'd use on ice cream. Allow the pie to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, to make it easier to slice and serve. Store any remaining pie in the refrigerator for up to one week. (If you freeze the pie, it will be too firm to serve right away.)

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Leek and No Potato Soup

I love autumn.

For crunchy leaves and blustery days and Thanksgiving. 

Today didn't feel like autumn though. Today felt like winter. 
It was so freaking cold. 

When we got back from parkour class (it's brilliant by the way) it was definitely time for some snuggling on the sofa. 

Once the kids were settled with a blanket I went to make us some soup and came up with this little gem. I want to call it peppercorn soup, because it tastes like peppercorn sauce (the best thing about ordering steak, no?) but after looking online, it turns out my recipe is almost identical to every leek and potato soup recipe (minus one ingredient) ever written, so leek and no potato soup it is. 

Here's how you make it:

2 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk (use raw if you can get it)
3 cups chopped leeks
4 cloves of garlic
Lots of butter
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the leeks and garlic in butter on a low heat until they are a melty mush.
Add one cup of warm chicken stock and blend.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients and warm through gently. Do not boil after you've added the milk or you will get a curdled mess. 
Add a bit more pepper on top to serve (it's pretty). 


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Girls Day

Matt has taken William and a friend camping for Exeat weekend, so Elisha and I have some free time. After running a few errands in town we decided to have a day of kitchen experiments (don't you just love those?).

Today we have made Kezia's delicious crepes, but we didn't have any arrowroot powder, so tapioca flour was subbed in. Turned out great anyway (phew!). For those still on full GAPS, these are NOT legal. Tapioca flour and arrow root are both off the list, but as we've completed two years now, I felt that the small amount in this recipe would be fine for our family.

Then we went on to make cauliflower hummus, but... no lime, so we used food grade lemon essential oil in water - good news, it was delicious! We used onion salt too, and subbed the olive oil for avocado oil. I have no idea what the original recipe was supposed to taste like, so I can't tell you if this is better, but it was great. 

We made some more elderberry Kombucha, which is fast becoming one of Lila's favourite drinks and I topped up a bottle of lacto-fermented apple juice I'm culturing for William. 

Finally we made chocolate soup (because this is a girl's weekend and we need something sweet to go on our banana ice cream whilst we watch the Tinkerbell movie).

It was all so quick  and easy, and my little helper was so interested and genuinely helpful (apart from eating all the butter...) because without her big brother to play with I think she was feeling a little needy. 

In other news, my new white curtains finally arrived so I got to put them up in the school room. 

Now I'm trying to debate whether I should use Lila's bed time to relax and have a bath, or finally paint the ceiling....

I do so love a productive day!

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