Thursday, 31 January 2013

Marriage Is Not Like The Movies...Or Is It?

Following yesterday's Gallery post - Bond, I received a lot of feedback. People were very positive and left me some lovely comments and I received a couple of really sweet emails. The majority of people understand that long term relationships are not always a bed of roses. No person is perfect, conflicts are inevitable and problems will sometimes need to be dealt with. Difficulties in a relationship can either break you or make you stronger as a couple.

I'm not talking abuse. That's a whole other subject and one that I'm not qualified to discuss. I'm talking about everyday rows,  money problems, work issues, family problems and even infidelity. Sometimes these things can mark the end of a once loving, happy relationship, but if confronted and worked through, you can begin to rebuild what you thought you had lost forever.

As I mentioned yesterday, Me and Hubby have had our fair share of marital problems. Sometimes it was his fault, and sometimes it was mine. We played equal parts in the breakdown of our marriage and neither one of us were to blame. The grief of losing my Mum, was just to much for the marriage to cope with at the time. I was so wrapped up in my own grief that I forgot that he was grieving too. He loved my Mum so much that he looked at her, as if she were his real Mum. You see, he didn't have a happy childhood and has never really felt that he was loved by his own parents. As a 16 year old boy, my Mum welcomed him into our family with open arms and she loved him as if he was one of her own boys. They were good friends. 

I forgot. I was selfish and was so consumed by the pain of losing her, that I ignored the pain he was also feeling. This led to resentment and anger, which forced me to push him out. He cried as he left, the suffering evident in his eyes. I was in the wrong, but if it wasn't for our separation, we would not be as happy as we are now. 

Our separation forced us to re-evaluate our lives and what we had become. We were obsessed with work, money and material things, so much so that our lives had become detached from one another. We had simply drifted apart and had become unhappily married. 

These days life is very different for us. We are crazy in love all over again. We appreciate every day we have together. We still bicker occasionally, but I now stop and remember all the lovely things he does for me. How he brings me coffee in bed, cooks me delicious meals, works hard to support me, and how his main goal in life is to make me happy. I thank my lucky stars every day.

I Love this...

If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. 
You shield it and protect it. 
You never abuse it. 
You don’t expose it to the elements. 
You don’t make it common or ordinary. 
If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. 
It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by.

- F. Burton Howard

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Gallery - Bond

We have been married for 23 years. It has sometimes been a rocky road... a very rocky road. We were teenagers when we met and have been totally obsessed with each other ever since. We loved, We fought. When we loved we really loved and when we fought, we really fought. We separated for twelve months, the year we lost my Mum. I fell apart and asked him to leave. He was devastated. I was angry, grief stricken and lashed out at him. I was relieved the rows had stopped but I missed him. I spoke to him on the phone almost every day. He told me he missed me too. We were still obsessed with each other. After a year apart we fell madly in love with each other all over again. We started a new life together. We changed. We realised that we needed to part in order to repair our marriage. We are now a very different couple. 

We have a bond that will never be broken. My Husband, My best Friend. The one and only love of my life.

The Gallery 

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Cooking On A Budget - Low Fat Minted Lamb Burgers

Papa Syder and I are watching what we eat. We are calorie counting and Ive lost 11lb in the first three weeks, so my cooking on a budget recipes will now be all low fat meals as we continue to lose weight. Just because I'm trying to lose weight it doesn't mean that I can't enjoy a burger every now and then, I just do it the low fat way. This weeks recipe is a very tasty, low fat minty lamb burger, and it works out approx £1 per burger.

Ingredients - Makes 8 Burgers, Calories per burger 237, Fat 7.8g - Cost £8.00
  • 600g Lean minced lamb
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 4 tbsp dried wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint chopped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 wholemeal rolls
  • 2 large tomato's
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • 4 tbsp low fat natural fromage frais
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • cucumber very finely chopped
1. In a large bowl mix together the mince, onion, mint, bread crumbs and season with salt & pepper.
2. With your hands mould the mixture into small round shapes. Put on a plate and leave to chill for 30 minutes.
3. In a large fry pan, spray some fry light or use some water to stop the burgers sticking to the bottom of the pan.

4. While they are cooking, make up the relish in a bowl, by mixing together the yogurt, mint and cucumber.
5. Flip the burgers over and continue cooking until browned on both sides. Make sure they are cooked through.
6. Serve inside a wholemeal roll, with sliced salad and relish.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Magpie Monday

I didn't get much from the charity shop this week, although I was really pleased with my mini haul. I picked up a couple of fab books.

A low fat cook book to aid my weight loss. I keep looking out for good low fat cookbooks and I'm really pleased with this one, Rosemary Conley's, Step by Step, Low Fat Cookbook. Its a large hardback, full to the brim with yummy recipes. A bargain for £1!

My 13 year old is home schooled and she wants to be a writer, so she reads a lot and her favourite books at the moment are autobiography's. When I spotted this Ant & Dec one I knew she would love it. Only £1!

So, did you manage to pick up any bargains this week?

Me and My Shadow

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Cervical Cancer - The HPV Vaccine And Smear Tests

As it has been Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, I've seen a few posters publicising it and it has got me thinking about my own experiences of cancer, how it touched my life and the resources available to us, that aid the prevention of this devastating disease.

Since 2008 there has been a national programme to vaccinate girls aged 12 to 13 against the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is thought to be behind 99% of cervical cancer cases. That is a shocking statistic and potentially, this vaccine could prevent 70% of the 1,120 deaths that cervical cancer claim every year.

The moment I heard about this jab my ears pricked up. I lost my Mum in 2006 to Endometrial cancer (Cancer of the womb), She was only 56, a woman in her prime, full of life, a beautiful, hard working, strong woman, who's death has devastated our family.

I will never get over losing my Mum, and nothing will ever bring her back, but there is something that can be done to possibly protect my daughters from getting the same disease, a disease that took the life of their Grandmother, they adored. So, my Girls are vaccinated.

My 12 year old recently had her HPV jab. They are routinely given in schools, but as she is home schooled, I had to make my own arrangements for her to get the jab. It was very easy to organise. I rang my local doctors surgery and they put me in touch with the Mid Essex HPV Vaccination team. They were marvellous, and as we live rural, they even came right out of their way to my local clinic. No wonder they were rated 2nd in the country! The vaccine consists of three jabs given to girls, over a period of 12 months. All three are needed for the vaccine to work, so it is important for the girls to finish the course.

I spotted the above cervical screening poster on Facebook this morning and its no nonsense approach really grabbed my attention, especially as I have lost my own Mum to Cancer. These are the type of campaigns that I like, the posters and TV campaigns that tell it, exactly how it is. When I gave up smoking 5 years ago, it was a graphic TV advert that encouraged me stop. At the time lots of people disagreed with the disturbing images but I bet I wasn't the only person who gave up because of it! 

The above poster has proven to be equally controversial. It has received criticism because of its hard hitting approach. People argued that it holds a very negative message and that Mums who may have just received a an abnormal cells result, will be terrified. Thing is, I disagree. I think this campaign is positive in that it will prompt a lot of women to attend their smear test appointments and I also think it is pointing out that the age for cervical screening needs to be lowered once and for all. 

Young Mums have no choice but to wait until they are 25 before they can get a smear test. By the time I was 25, I had three kids under 5 years old, but I was lucky because we were offered smear tests after we had kids back then. So, I had peace of mind. Back in the early 90's a close Friend of mine had an abnormal smear test result, before she was 25 and had to have lazer treatment which probably saved her life. What would have happened to her if she was born a few years later and had to wait until she was 25 before she had her smear? It doesn't even bare thinking about. If this poster urges just one woman to go for her smear then it is worth it.
As for the women who can get their smear tests done and often miss their appointments, then I urge you to book yourself one today. It only takes ten minutes, and that is no exaggeration because I timed mine the last time I went,  from the minute I walked in to the nurses room to the minute I walked out. It doesn't hurt, and even if it pinches a little, the pain of Cancer is much tougher to deal with, not just for you, but for everyone who loves you. That ten minutes could save your life!

So, what are your views on the HPV vaccine. I personally think that this immunisation is a step forward in the fight against combating the 2nd most common cancer in younger women. Will your Girls be having it like mine or do you have a different opinion? And what are your views on these hard hitting campaigns. Do you think they are a good idea or do they just give people a negative message?

Friday, 25 January 2013

I've Had Four Caesarean Sections - My Birth Story

I had all four of my kids via Caesarean Section, three elective and one emergency, two under general anaesthetic and two with a spinal block. Here is my birth story and some tips for a more comfortable C- Section.

It was 1989 and a week after my  nineteenth birthday that we discovered we were expecting our first child. I had been with Papa Syder just over a year, and being twelve months younger than me he was only eighteen at the time. 

I was a bit nervous when it came to telling my Mum as we were still only teenagers, and in the weeks leading up to my pregnancy, we had been making plans to go back packing around Europe, working as fruit pickers as we travelled. I had even started packing our bags, and Mum was excited about us going off on our adventure, so I thought she would be disappointed that our plans had to be put on hold. I needn't have worried though, because Mum was fine about it, she even organised our church wedding and arranged it to take place in eleven weeks time, before my bump was showing.

The pregnancy went well with no problems, apart from being slightly anaemic and I was so excited to meet my baby and to become a Mum. I was still living at home, and everyday me and Mum would talk excitedly about my birth plan. 


We had decided on a home water birth, and Mum had made arrangements to hire a birthing pool. We talked about how lovely it was going to be, how gentle and relaxed the birth would be, being at home with my new Husband, Mum and all my younger Brothers being close by to meet their Niece or Nephew (it was quite rare to discover the sex of your baby back then) as soon as he/she was born.

Then at 32 weeks during a routine antenatal check, the midwife gave me an internal examination (a routine procedure back then), She was an old fashioned, stern midwife and she told me off for not relaxing enough while she examined me. I felt relaxed, so I couldn't understand why she was reprimanding me. In a huff, she stormed out of the room and twenty minutes later come back with a doctor " I told the girl to relax, and she wont so I had no choice but to call for you doctor!" the midwife grumbled.

The doctor very quickly realised that the problem was not my relaxation skills but that I had a small  pelvis, "This young lady will never give birth naturally, her pelvis is far to small for a vaginal birth, she will need a C-Section!". The face of the grumpy midwife was a picture, and I thought I would burst into tears as my beautiful, home birth dreams were dashed. I cried, and cried all the way home. I felt devastated and terrified, but as my Mum pointed out to me "As long as baby gets here safely, does it really matter which way he or she arrives?" As usual Mum was right.

I bought every book that I could get my hands on (no internet then), to research all I could about  C-section's and what I was likely to expect. I must admit there wasn't an awful lot of resources, and I didn't know anyone who had, had a C-section, so I went into hospital really not knowing what was going to happen. 

As it was a planned (elective) C - section I was asked if I would like a spinal block or a general anaesthetic, basically would I like to be awake or asleep for the operation. I immediately opted for a general anaesthetic because I was horrified by the thought of being awake while being operated on.

At 38 weeks I was booked on to the maternity ward and the night before the C-Section I had to fast after 8pm, so no snacks after dinner. The midwife took routine bloods and ask me to provide a urine sample for testing. She then shaved me, yes shaved me. I wasn't expecting this and I felt really embarrassed, wishing I had done it myself before I got there. I was given a medicine which reduces the acidity in my stomach. At around 10 pm I was offered a mild sedative, for my nerves. I was told that it was very important that I get plenty of sleep, ready for the big day ahead of me.  I was so frightened that I happily swallowed the sedative and I fell straight to sleep.

The next morning I was asked to sign a consent form, was given a rather sexy (not!) gown to put on and a catheter was inserted. Hubby & my Mum stayed with me on the ward, until I was taken down to theatre. As I was having a general anaesthetic Hubby wasn't allowed to be with me and he had to wait outside.

When I came round from the operation, I felt really drowsy and not quite with it. I was handed my baby, and it all felt a bit surreal, like it wasn't really happening. The baby was handed to Dad for his first feed, and then my Mum had cuddles with her first Grandchild.

It took me two days to fully recover from the anaesthesia. For the first twenty four hours I was given morphine for the pain, my catheter was left in and I also had a drainage for blood (which drains the wound, not everyone has this - only if it is necessary). Also, I was given regular jabs in the top of my thigh to stop blood clotting, I warn you that these do sting a little and left me a bit bruised.

 Back in those days, they kept C-section Mums in hospital for ten days after their op (nowadays it is about 3 days), and it felt like ten weeks. It dragged, really dragged. As I lay in the hospital bed, I felt in quite a lot of pain and I felt envious as I watched the vaginal birth Mums, come and go. They were up and about within hours of giving birth, whereas a c-section recovery takes a few weeks before you feel yourself again. 

My second C-Section was an emergency operation. I had moved house, so was under a different hospital from my first. The doctors at this antenatal clinic told me that although my pelvis was small, a scan revealed that it was a perfect shape for a vaginal birth. I wasn't really convinced, but I trusted the consultant and agreed to a trial labour. As my due date, came and went I became more and more anxious, mainly because an elective C-section is usually carried out at 38 weeks, just to ensure that you do not go into labour. I was more at risk because surgeons also worry that an old C-section scar could rapture during labour. In hindsight, I should have pushed to have been induced early, or never have been encouraged to try a vaginal birth. 

Two weeks overdue, I had a show, (a plug of mucus sealing the cervix comes away - a sign of labour), So as I was down as a possible Caesarean, I needed to make my way to the maternity ward. Two days later, I had a slight tummy pain, (like a period pain) and I asked the sister for a pain killer. "Lets have a look at you first, pop up onto your bed" As she examined me internally, she gasped "Good God Girl, You are eight centimetres dilated! I'm going to have to break your waters!"

I must admit, I had a relatively painless labour and all I needed was gas & air. After a few hours, I wouldn't dilate any further, baby had become very distressed, so I was rushed down to theatre. As my labour had been manageable, I didn't have an epidural which meant that I needed to have my emergency C-Section under a general anaesthetic. Baby number two entered the world safely.

My third and fourth C-Sections were a completely different experience, as they were elective for obvious medical reasons and I decided to stay awake for the operation by having a spinal block. The whole process was so much more positive. The worst part for me was having the spinal, I shook so much with nerves, that a nurse had to cuddle me while the needle was being inserted into my spine. 

It literally took about 15 minutes, then I was guided into a comfortable position onto my back, a drip with fluid was inserted into the back of my hand, a drape was set up across my chest so that I couldn't see the operation and the radio was playing quietly in the background. Hubby got dressed up in theatre scrubs and sat in a chair by my head. At first, my head felt a bit strange, as if it was in a vice. I later found out, that sometimes happens as blood pressure lowers.

I felt some pulling and tugging, then baby (a girl) was born and Hubby cut the cord, She was then wrapped in a towel and after getting weighed and having the once over. Baby was then placed next to my face so I could give her a kiss and Hubby held her as we both studied her intensly. While cooing over our new addition I was being stitched up, which takes about 20 minutes. The time does go really quickly and before you know it you are back on the ward.

My Top Ten Tips for a Caesarean Section:

1) Help - Anyone who says that a C-section is the easy option, is mistaken. It most definitely doesn't feel like the easy option afterwards. Recovery can be quite uncomfortable and frustrating because you can't be as mobile as you would like. Make sure you have someone at home for at least a fortnight if you can, to help you with chores, bathing baby, and shopping etc. Don't over do things no matter how tempted, you have had major surgery and need to concentrate on your recovery.
2) Big Knickers - Make sure you have at least five pairs of big stretchy knickers instead of your usual bikini ones. Just remember your wound will be right where the top of your bikini undies sit. They will rub on your scar and will be very uncomfortable. The best ones are like a tea bag material. I was told by midwives that they are great for letting the air get into your scar.
3) Shave - Shave or wax your bikini line the night before you are admitted into hospital. Shave it as low as possible. It is embarrassing if the nurse has to do it.
4) Peppermint Water - After your C-Section you will experience chronic wind. It is really uncomfortable, so pack some peppermint water (available from health food stores, often in a powder form). This really worked for me.
5) Be the first one down to theatre - On the morning of your operation, ask the nurse if you can be first in line down to theatre as your nerves wont take the wait. Waiting all day, drives you crazy and you will usually be allowed down first if an emergency doesn't come in.
6) Pillow for Feeding - I found it easier to feed baby by placing a pillow across my lap, and laying baby on top. It lifted baby up a little which I found to be a much more comfortable position, as it meant baby was raised, slightly away from my scar.
7) Pack a nightie - Pack a nightie instead of PJ's, because it wont rub on your scar like PJ bottoms will and it is easier for when the midwife wants to check your wound etc.
8) Move - I couldn't feel my legs for the first few hours after my C-Section, because of the spinal block, but after about 24 hrs you should be able to get up. You dread it and you feel like you wont be able to walk but you can. It makes it easier if you hold your hand gently over your tummy and try not to hunch, stand as straight as possible. 
9) Shower - Go for a nice warm shower as soon as you can because it totally relaxes all your tense muscles and makes you feel 100 times better. If there is a bath on the ward, do not be tempted to soak, at first. I did and I got stuck! I had to pull the emergency cord and be rescued - Very embarrassing.
10) Pack a CD for theatre - I was happy with the radio, but you might prefer to take in an album that you find relaxing, to play during the operation.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Reasons To Be Cheerful

It feels like ages since I last joined in with Michelle's #R2BC over at Mummy From The Heart, so here I am, back sharing my cheerful reasons with you.

1) Weight Loss - I bought a treadmill, that is huge and takes up nearly the whole of my lounge and I have been counting calories which has resulted in me losing 8lbs over the past 2 weeks. I'm chuffed, but still a long way to go. I've taken my 'before' photos and I'm hoping that within six months my 'after' photo's will be pretty dramatic, fingers crossed for me.

2) Snow - I love the snow, I really really do. We were one of the last people in the Country to get it and as I saw my friends putting up their snowy pictures one by one, I was envious that I didn't have any to share. Then the snow fell and I was very happy.

3) Hen House - The hens have a new home. It is cosier than their last one and easier to clean out, as it has a slide out base. It will make life much easier and the hens seem very happy with their new pad. 

So what do you feel cheerful and grateful for this week?
Why not join in with Michelle's linky.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A Winters Tale

"Of winter's lifeless world each tree now seems a perfect part; Yet each one holds summer's secret deep down within its heart."

Charles G. Stater

 "Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed
slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again."

Bill Morgan Jr.

"Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things,
but just look what they can do when they stick together."

Vesta M. Kelly
Winter Morning
Winter is the king of showmen
Turning tree stumps into snow men
And houses into birthday cakes
And spreading sugar over lakes
Smooth and clean and frosty white
The world looks good enough to bite
That's the season to be young
Catching snowflakes on your tongue
Snow is snowy when it's snowing
I'm sorry it's slushy when it's going.

 Ogden Nash

"Winter is the time for comfort, for
good food and warmth, for the touch
of a friendly hand and for a talk beside
the fire:  it is the time for home."

Edith Sitwell

Monday, 21 January 2013

Magpie Monday

I ventured out in the snow this morning to my local charity shop, half thinking that it would be closed due to bad weather. But, no its doors were open and the usual friendly old lady was behind the counter, chatting away as she always is. As I entered the shop, my eye was instantly drawn towards some retro tall glasses. £1.50 for four and perfect for summer BBQ's.

Then I had a browse through the book stand and spotted a guide book (complete with map) for Bruges. We are planning a trip there this year so I snapped it up for 50p. Then I picked up a great BBQ book for 50p, full of tasty ideas that I will use this summer. I also got a new packet of origami papers for my 13 year old Daughter, a bargain at 50p.

Me and My Shadow

Friday, 18 January 2013

Thrifty Things To Do With The Kids On A Snow Day

Did you open your bedroom curtains this morning to a blanket of snow? It hasn't reached Essex yet, but it is on its way and by the end of the day we are promised that the whole country will be affected. The country is slowly coming to an absolute standstill, but lets be honest it doesn't exactly take much snow to do that does it. I guess most of you are reaching for the radio and switching it on, eagerly waiting for your kids school to be mentioned. And, Just as you thought, the school is closed. The buses and trains have been cancelled and the kids are running wild, driving you crazy to get outside and have a snowball fight. If you could do with a few frugal ideas to keep them entertained today, then read on.

1) Of course the obvious is to wrap up warm and get outside, enjoy the fresh air and build the best snowman ever. Dust off the toboggan and get sledding, make snow angels, have a snowball fight and enjoy the snow with the kids while its there. Create some memories, get the camera out and capture some pretty snowy shots that you will treasure forever.

2) Get those wet gloves and clothes off and warm yourself up with a hot chocolate, if you have any snowman soups left over from Christmas then now is the perfect time to make them.

3) Change into your PJ's, curl up on the sofa and watch your favourite snowy movie - Jack frost or Polar Express are good choices.

4) Make a cardboard box house or fort. Get out the coloured pens, pencils and paints and be creative. This simple, cheap idea can keep the kids entertained for hours.

5) Make some dippy egg and soldiers. You are never too old to enjoy dippy eggs with your kids!

6) Start a creative journal/scrapbook. Ask the kids to write about their favourite memory, holiday, day trip. Print off a photo of that memory and stick it in their new scrapbook.

7) Create a colourful montage by cutting out random pictures from old magazines, comics and catalogues. Run out of glue? Then make your own by mixing together, in a saucepan over a low heat - 1 cup of flour, 1.5 cups of water, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1tsp vinegar. Once thickened leave to cool and use.

8) Get in the kitchen and teach the kids how to cook a new recipe. You could bake some fairy cakes, cookies or how about a homemade pizza. Kids love to cook.

9) Get the board games out. Forgotten how much fun Monopoly or Uno is? Or been meaning to teach the kids how to play chess and haven't got round to it? A snow day is the perfect time to spend playing traditional games.

10) If all else fails - Play Sleeping Lions, whoever keeps their eyes closed the longest is the winner ;-)

Enjoy your day off!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Top Three Tips For Taking Photo's Of Your Kids

My Camera is always around my neck. Hubby gently ribs me, by constantly telling me "You look like a tourist in your own town, with that camera hooked around you!" Thing is, he is right but I don't care because I always go home with at least one photo that ends up great and worthy of hanging on the wall.

Lots of people ask me how my photo's of the kids turn out so good, so I'll share a few tips on how I  capture that perfect shot.

1) Get real close. Switch your camera to macro, get down on their level and point the camera as close as possible. This can sometimes be quite difficult as kids tend not to stand still for very long. It will often take several attempts to get that perfect shot, but when you do it will be worth it, especially if you manage to capture the colour of the eyes. I often practise taking shots of eyes, it drives everyone mad but after a bit of practise, focusing on the eyes becomes easy.

2) Use Props - It doesn't take a lot to get my Granddaughter to dress up in her favourite characters costume and when I made some colourful toadstools for the back garden, the first thing she did was change into her Alice in Wonderland costume. Out came Nanny's camera and I managed to capture the lovely shot above, that I now have blown up as a canvas on my wall.

3) Catch them unaware - Some of the best shots I have are of the kids when they are not even looking at the camera. I especially love to capture them pointing towards something, it captures their childhood wonderment and curiosity and tells me a story of intrigue.

Last month I entered the Zulily December cuties competition on Instagram and at the moment they have not only a January comp for the cutest grin, but they are also running a blogger photo competition. So if you want to practise your photography skills and/or show off some existing ones and give your readers some tips for fab photography then pop over and join in, for the chance to win a £100 Zulily voucher or a runner up voucher for £25.

Since I have been introduced to Zulily, I am always over there checking out their daily offers. Zulily like to think of themselves as 'Mum's helper'. They offer very carefully selected products, with discounts of 30 - 90%. As a penny pinching Mum, that is the kind of helper that I love. Each of the offers last around 72 hours and lots of the products are selected from independent boutique brands, that would not usually be too easy to find. They work a bit differently than other sites and to be able to get the larger discounts, they have longer times for delivery 10 - 14 days. 

The winner of the Zulily Blogger photo competition will be selected by Zulily's lead photographer and he’ll be looking for: creativity, an interesting angle or simply how you might deal with a short attention span of a child model. They will also feature some of their favourite entries on the blog through the month, with links back to your site.
The competition closes on Thursday 31st of January. Zulily will be shortlisting on Friday 1st of February and if you win then they will contact you via twitter or your email contact on your blog. The winner will be announced no later than Tuesday 5th February. Zulily’s Ts&Cs are here. If you haven’t already joined zulily, click through here and give it a try!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Cooking On A Budget - Millionaire Shortbread

As you know I'm always looking for ways to make savings and cooking on a budget is essential for me with a large family like mine. Most meals in our home are on a budget, but we also like treats too and one of my most favourite treats that my Mum used to make was Millionaires shortbread. I always enjoyed making it with her and it is still one of my most favourite biscuits.


The Base
  • 55g Caster sugar
  • 115g Softened Butter
  • 170g Self raising flour
The Caramel centre
  • 397g Tin of condensed milk
  • 115g Butter
  • 115g Caster sugar
  • 2tbsp Golden syrup
The Chocolate Topping
  • 200g Plain Chocolate
  • 50g White chocolate
Method For Base
1. Line a baking tray with some grease proof paper and preheat your oven to 350/180/gas mark 4.
2. In a bowl cream together the base butter and sugar until it is nice and creamy. Gradually add the flour and mix with a spoon until it sticks together and forms a dough like consistency.
3. Using your hands spread the dough over your baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes or until it looks a light golden brown.

Method for Caramel Centre
1. In a saucepan empty the condensed milk, butter, sugar and golden syrup.
2. Bring to the boil on a low heat, stirring continuously.
3. It will start to thicken and turn a darker brown. Let it bubble for about ten minute's. Keep stirring.
4. Pour over the cooled base and spread.

Method For The Topping.
1. Melt the dark chocolate and pour over the cooled caramel.
2. Sprinkle the white chocolate over the dark to give a pattern.
3. Once cooled, cut into square pieces and enjoy.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Magpie Monday - A Bit Spicy In The Bathroom

Thought that might get your attention! 

Sorry, but I mean spicy as in spice rack. I found a really large spice rack in my local charity shop before Christmas. It was pine but I gave it a fresh coat of white and it fits perfectly in my bathroom. Our bathroom is really small, infact it is more like a cupboard under the stairs, so I can't have a big cupboard to store our toiletries. This is just perfect and was only £4.

Just got to fill it with some new smellies now!

Me and My Shadow

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Downshifting Our Lives - Has It Been Worth It?

I've had a lovely break over Christmas, it was busy and I was exhausted, but it was nice to have a bit of a break from blogging for a few weeks. The pressure of writing daily blog posts can, sometimes feel a little intense so a short blog holiday is great for refreshing my creative juices. 

I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and New Year, have any of you made New Year resolutions? I don't make them anymore, instead I spend January, reflecting and looking at the areas of my life that I would like to change or to make improvements, rather than making promises to myself that I often can't keep. 

When we made the decision to 'downshift' our lives, we knew it would be quite tough sometimes, as the lure of material possessions can be quite overwhelming at times. I find that the festive period puts a lot of pressure on us as parents to provide our families with all the latest toys, gadgets and fashion items. I, myself even received expensive hair straighteners from Papa Syder, and in turn I bought him a luxury item as a gift. The kids all got what they had asked for and everyone was happy.

As a thrifty Mum, it isn't the material things that make me happy, although a luxury gift is always a lovely surprise. What really made me happy, as I watched the kids open their presents was the fact that we didn't get into any debt to pay for our lovely Christmas, unlike in the past before we downshifted. Our penny pinching ways have really paid off, as we have managed to enter the New Year with money in our pocket to pay for our family holiday deposit for 2013.

We haven't got it perfect yet, so a few more tweaks here and there are needed this year, but the pressure and worry we previously felt as Christmas approached has disappeared. Downshifting has worked for our family and I would even go as far as saying, it has probably saved our marriage as we no longer have a wedge between us, that I think sometimes, money and stress can create in a relationship.

As we enter our 5th year of adopting a slower lifestyle, I look forward to discovering even more ways to save money and live a life, eventually completely stress free. I have plans this year to make improvements to our home (like a new kitchen on a budget), some great ideas for our thrifty garden and Bertha our retro caravan. I hope you will join us on our journey as we continue to downshift, and we look for more ways to save money and to de-stress our lives.


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