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Sunday, 25 January 2015

Organising a Desk Space for a Teen

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

Every new year, as soon as the Christmas decorations have been packed away, I start on the annual declutter. So far furniture has been moved around in the lounge, wardrobes have been cleared of unwanted clothes and a plate rack has been bought to house some of the kitchen sideboard overspill. I have to admit that decluttering is not one of my favourite pastimes and I can always make excuses for not doing it, but when a cupboard or a room has had some magic worked on it I feel so much better.

At the weekend I ventured into Hanna's bedroom, which is something that I need to take a deep breath before doing. You see, she seems to have inherited the family 'hoarding' gene, something that has been passed down through generations of females in our family. My Mum is a huge hoarder, but she's lucky as she also possesses the tidy gene. Everything has a place and she knows exactly where that place is, whether it be a ribbon saved from a gift in 2001 or some bubble wrap that she's picked up on a visit to ours. I, on the other hand, like to keep things just in case they might come in handy one day. Unfortunately when that one day comes along I can't usually remember where I've put it. Thankfully I remembered where some small ingredient pots that I saved a year or so ago were, as they did come in very handy recently when Sam started cooking at school - what else would I have put 1 tsp of baking powder and 1 tbsp of olive oil in!

Hanna has definitely inherited the untidy hoarder gene, and she has drawers full of 'stuff' - what 12 year old keeps a stack of old tv guides next to her bed or uses a tissue box to keep pens in? She also has lots of trinkets which all have a little story behind them - she likes to call them her 'memories', whether it be a pencil or eraser bought on a school trip, or a shell or keyring from holiday.

Creating a Desk Space for a Teen Creating a Desk Space for a Teen Creating a Desk Space for a Teen Creating a Desk Space for a Teen

There is a small desk next to her bed, but until recently it was cluttered with ornaments, papers and a disused tv and dvd player. I decided to clear the desk and make it into a place where she would want to sit to do her homework, rather than on the floor. I ventured into WHSmith to see what I could find to pretty up her desk and keep it organised.
whsmith stationery whsmith stationery

Despite the downstairs of our local store not being particularly large, they have a really good selection of stationery and office supplies. There are loads of pretty themes but you really need to look around the whole shop to see everything as there are so many different displays and offers.

whsmith stationery whsmith stationery

I found a small area towards the back of the store that had some items for half price, where I picked up a lovely set of drawers. Although one of the back corners of the drawers was damaged it wasn't in a place that was noticeable so I snatched up the bargain. I also found a magnetic wipe board, a half price magazine file, some pencils, a cupcake notebook and 3 for 2 on other stationery items. I noticed that the drawers had a 'buy one get one free' sticker on so I went back and picked up a Laura Ashley magazine file for myself, for free!

 photo magfile_zpsf5c4f574.jpg

I couldn't wait to get everything home and set up the desk as I knew Hanna would love the items I chose, and all for a bargain price of £22 (including my freebie magazine file).

Creating a Desk Space for a Teen Creating a Desk Space for a Teen Creating a Desk Space for a Teen Creating a Desk Space for a Teen Creating a Desk Space for a Teen Creating a Desk Space for a Teen Creating a Desk Space for a Teen

Decluttering and organising your home is often not as bad as you think, and it makes for a happier home. Do you plan to organise your home in 2015?

Friday, 23 January 2015

Meatballs in Coconut Milk Gravy

Leading a busy life and cooking full meals from scratch every night isn't always easy, so I like to have a few staple items in my freezer to help me out on those days when I'm in a rush, or just feeling a little uninspired. Along with the usual sweetcorn and garden peas I like to have ready chopped onions, sliced mushrooms, peppers, cooked chicken strips and meatless meatballs or mince, which can be used to make bolognaise, chilli, curries and pasta dishes in minutes.

I also like to freeze my fresh herbs in a ziplock bag which makes it convenient to then add them to dishes - once the herbs are frozen they can be scrunched up in the bag, so no need for chopping.

A couple of weeks ago I made some meatballs and discovered that a very tasty 'Ikea-like' gravy could be made using a beef stock pot and a can of coconut milk. Making the meatballs from scratch takes a bit of time, but ready made meatballs from the freezer are really convenient, and these meatless meatballs from Asda are great for a vegetarian dish (substitute the beef stock pot for a tbsp Marmite).

Meatballs in Coconut Milk Gravy

Meatballs in Coconut Milk Gravy - serves 4

tbsp olive oil
1/3 bag of frozen chopped onions
1/3 bag of frozen sliced mushrooms
bag of frozen meatless meatballs
1 beef stock pot
1 can of coconut milk
  • Heat the oil in a pan
  • Add the onions and fry until softened
  • Add the mushrooms and meatballs and fry for 5 minutes
  • Stir in the stock pot and coconut milk
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for approx 15 minutes until the gravy has thickened

This is great served with mashed potato (which can also come straight from the freezer) and peas

 photo COOLCOOKERYINGREDIENTS_zpsde7066c5.jpg  photo coolcookerycooking_zpsc4e3e6ea.jpg Meatballs in Coconut Milk Gravy Meatballs in Coconut Milk Gravy Meatballs in Coconut Milk Gravy

I’m working with BritMums and highlighting the versatility, economy and nutritional benefits of cooking with frozen food. All opinions are my own. For recipes and ideas visit

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Sugar & Gluten Free Apple & Almond Cake

The husband was diagnosed with diabetes just over two years ago, and since then he's cut down on biscuits and other sweet things, lost some weight and taken more exercise. His sugar levels then went back to normal for a while, but he started to get a little complacent, and whilst he didn't turn back to the custard creams completely, he perhaps ate more of the sweet stuff than he should, which ultimately led to a rise in his sugar levels. Being the good wife that I am, I experimented with recipes that use natural sweeteners rather than added sugar and came up with a cake that's sweetened with dates and Bramley apples. I also decided to use ground almonds instead of flour, which also makes this suitable for those following a gluten free or Paleo diet too.

The almonds and fruit make this a very moist cake, and whilst it's not as 'cakey' as one made with flour, it is very moreish.

Sugar & Gluten Free Apple & Almond Cake Sugar & Gluten Free Apple & Almond Cake Sugar & Gluten Free Apple & Almond Cake Sugar & Gluten Free Apple & Almond Cake

you can find the full recipe here.

This recipe has been commissioned by Great British Chefs

Monday, 19 January 2015

Bramley Apple Crumble Slices

Since the new year there hasn't been much baking going on here. That way there are no temptations to sabotage my diet, but of course, the blog starts to suffer. I'm currently waiting for my new oven to be fitted, which I'm hoping will be this week, so this could be my last bake in my old oven. I have no sentimental connection to my old oven, and can't wait to get my long awaited new and shiny model fitted.  The old one has done well though, and has been put through it's paces for the past 11 years, despite being a bit crooked, hotter on one side, not having a functioning light & worn away temperature controls. The main difference will be my hob, as I'm getting rid of my gas one and having an induction fitted. This is going to make a huge difference in terms of speed - the gas hob takes an age to bring water to the boil - as well as giving me an extra work surface and be easier to clean. I'm just a little bit excited..

Onto the Bramley apple crumble slices, which were a Sunday morning bake, eaten as an afternoon snack after working on a fence in the garden (husband & Jack) and going for a run (myself & Hanna), as well as dessert after a big roast.

Bramley Apple Crumble Slices

Bramley Apple Crumble Slices

shortbread base
150g plain flour
50g caster sugar
85g butter

apple centre
2 medium Bramley apples, cored & peeled
tsp cinnamon
handful sultanas
tbsp caster sugar

crumble topping
100g plain flour
50g butter
25g demerara sugar
tbsp cinnamon
30g almonds
  • Make the base by adding the flour, sugar & butter to a food processor.
  • Pulse until everything starts to come together
  • Press into the base of a greased & lined tin (28cm x 17cm)
  • Slice the apples into wedges and then slice thinly
  • Scatter the apple over the base
  • Sprinkle over the cinnamon, sultanas and then the sugar
  • Make the crumble topping by adding all the ingredients to a food processor & pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs
  • Scatter crumble over the apples & press down
  • Bake in a preheated 180C oven for approx 30-40 minutes, until the apples are softened and the topping has browned
  • Allow to cool fully before slicing 
Bramley Apple Crumble Slices Bramley Apple Crumble Slices

Bramley Apple week is 2nd-8th February 2015


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