Friday, 23 January 2015

Raspberry Traybake

Here we are three weeks into Operation Clawback and those sweet cravings are still creeping in! Luckily with Sion's birthday last weekend there was good reason for dusting off the mixing bowl and making baking magic.

As in lots of workplaces, Sion's colleagues bring in cakes to mark their birthdays. Unsure as to how successful Sion's baking would be I offered to make up something for him to take in. His request was a raspberry traybake...squares of soft goodness, with a little mouthful of sharpness every so often. I think the fact that people were still coming to find him on Wednesday to see if there were any cakes left, meant these were a winner.

Ingredients - to make approximately 24 squares

275g unsalted butter, softened
275g golden caster sugar
400g self raising flour
1.5tsp baking powder
5 medium eggs, beaten
zest of 1 large orange
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4-5 tbsp milk
250g raspberries
100g roughly chopped chocolate - I used white, but dark will work well too.
40g flaked almonds

For the icing

150g icing sugar
2 tbsp orange juice

Preheat the oven to 190C, gas mark 5.

Grease and line a 30cm x 20cm baking tin.

Put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then add the remaining wet ingredients and beat together until light & fluffy. (Note - I started mixing everything by hand, but quickly turned to my mixer to finish the job! If you are mixing by hand , I would cream the butter and sugar together first before adding the other ingredients.)

Using a metal spoon fold in the raspberries and chocolate. Spoon into the prepared tin, level out and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until springy to the touch. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then lift out to continue cooling on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool mix up the icing until smooth and runny and drizzle over the cake. Leave to set for 30 minutes and then cut the cake into squares to serve.

Recipe from Good Housekeeping Cookery Book

This weekend, baking will take a back seat - I'm off to London for a cookery class and a posh afternoon tea (the diet is on hold!)


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

When pictures of boobs are a good thing...

Another week and another story has again put boobs at the forefront of the nation's thoughts.
I want to talk about pictures of boobs for a different reason though. Boobs are amazing. They feed and nurture, they fascinate, they come in all shapes and sizes. In the words of my niece "you'll make a great mummy because your boobies are squishy and soft...mmmmm"
But sometimes boobs can harbour something sinister, dangerous, and scary. The most recent statistics show that 15% of all diagnosed cancers are breast cancer, over 500,000 women and men are currently living with breast cancer in the UK today.
For some, thankfully an ever increasing small percentage, treatment doesn't work. The cancer can't be beaten. Our family knows though our own gut wrenching, cruel, memories how horrific this time can be. Dad had treatment for his prostate cancer in hospital before coming home, where he passed away a short time later. Cancer took hold so quickly we had very little opportunity to use the services of our local hospice or support centre, but for lots of people these places are a beacon of hope, care and love.
I recently came across a local campaign led by the ARTsalon, in support of The Haven Breast Cancer Charity called the Snapbreast Campaign.

The Snapbreast Campaign is hoping that lots of wonderful, amazing people will take photos of their boobs - covered, uncovered, men's, women's, big or small, to be included in an incredible sculpture being put together by Rose Eva. This sculpture and other art work will then be auctioned at Avington Park, Winchester in March.
The Haven is opening a new support centre in Tichfield, Hampshire (close to my home) in 2015.
This Haven Centre will offer over 30 complimentary therapies to breast cancer patients and their families, along with individual programmes of care to help people cope with the challenges of living with breast cancer.
Sounds pretty blooming amazing hey?
And each and every one of you can help - all you need to do is to take a photo of your boobs, in whatever guise you feel comfortable - dressed, undressed, close up, in bright daylight or in shadow, the choice is yours. Then upload it, anonymously, using this link.
There are a few important rules to be aware of - Chest area only (no faces please!) and over 18s only.
My boobs are winging their way now - hopefully I'll get the chance to see if I can spot them in March! I'd love it if some of you could join in about uploading your own "breastie"?!
Linking up this week to:

Super Busy Mum

Monday, 19 January 2015

What my week was...week 3

Another chilly, grey January week done - it'll soon be Summer (or at least Spring!). How was last week for you? We were reminded that even the best laid plans can sometimes fall apart, we still managed a healthy, gym-filled week though topped off with a Birthday weekend for a very special man...

I went...almost to Alton for a rock climbing tasting session. My car sadly had other ideas when the scary knocking noise reappeared. Unfortunately we had to turn around and limp home. All fired up for a bit of physical exertion we found ourselves working out in the gym at 8pm that night - what have I turned into?!! With the session rebooked for this week, we treated ourselves to a birthday lunch in The Crown at Bishops Waltham. Such a beautiful pub and lovely to see more unusual dishes on the menu. I went for pheasant with wild mushrooms and Sion enjoyed a perfectly cooked duck breast. Definitely a place to re-visit I think!

I enjoyed...watching Sion's face when he was presented with his Minion birthday cake on his Birthday Eve. Sion's younger sister made it for him and it tasted amazing! Sadly we were all too stuffed after the indian takeaway, despite choosing a health option (cooked with fry-light and reduced sugar) to have some on Saturday night, but there was no stopping us on Sunday!

I made...a huge paella for Sion's birthday dinner that needed two pans to cook everything. We've now got enough leftovers to have as lunches for the next couple of days! I also made a raspberry & white chocolate tray bake (recipe coming this week) for him to take into work.
This week we will be remembering my Dad on his birthday, re-attempting our rock climbing session, having a professional cookery class and walking off a chocoholics afternoon tea in London - I'm so lucky!
Joining in this week with Magic Moments and What's the Story?


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Guilt Free Chocolate Muffins

It's all well and good to say that you will have a no fat, no sugar, no alcohol January, but after all the Christmas gluttony you still occasionally have a craving for something "naughty", especially in the evenings after your steamed fish & steamed vegetables dinner (or is that just me?).

And so I bring you....

Guilt free (almost) chocolate muffins. These come in at about 180 calories per muffin, 10% sugar and only 4% saturated fat...perfectly acceptable as a healthier treat when those sugar cravings hit. You can experiment with reducing the sugar content even further. I slightly increased mine by adding a little drizzle of icing on the top.

So how come these have a low fat content? By the added secret ingredient of courgettes! Don't worry, they add nothing to the taste, only moisture and bulk, reducing the need for extra oil. The added courgette is also a great way of upping veg consumption...try swapping for carrots for a sweeter cake.

Ingredients - Makes 12 large muffins

280 g Self raising flour
2.5 g (half a teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda
10 g cinnamon
45 g unsweetened cocoa powder
100 g dark brown sugar
350 g courgettes, unpeeled and finely grated

1 medium egg
100 ml unsweetened coconut milk (or skimmed milk)
10 ml vanilla extract
50 ml vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 200C (gas 6)

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a jug. Add the wet ingredients into the bowl and combine until all the flour is incorporated. Spoon into 12 lined muffin holes and bake for about 20 minutes or until the top of the muffin springs back when gently pressed.

Leave to cool completely. If you wish combine 2 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar with one level tablespoon of water and drizzle the icing over each muffin.

If calories are not your enemy...add 100 g of chopped chocolate or chocolate drops to the mix and decorate with butter icing or cream cheese icing!

This recipe was adapted from this Delia Online reader submission


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Happy Birthday

Today is the birthday of a very special man, Sion.

On Mothers Day we thank our mums, on Fathers Day we thank our dads and so today on your day I give thanks to you.

Thank you for not being embarrassed by my klutz-y, clumsy moments.

Thank you for giving me the confidence to continue to write this little blog of mine. I get a warm feeling inside every time you mention that you've read a post.

Thank you for understanding that even ladies get a little trapped wind and that generally speaking it really is better out than in.

Thank you for encouraging me to get fit and healthy. I'll never be a super model or an Olympic athlete but you notice every effort I make, gently pushing me to try a little more, a little longer. 

Thank you for trusting me enough to show your vulnerability. This last year has at moments been the darkest of times, but we got through each of them stronger, more connected than ever before. I promise that I will always be fighting your corner.

When I went to our friend's house that sunny Sunday afternoon, I never once imagined that I would meet a man.

I don't think I fell in love with you that night, despite showing your prowess (or not) of drinking Jagerbombs and providing me with a very special lap dance...I think it was on our first date. Sat in the bus shelter like a couple of teenagers, waiting for the taxi after being kicked out of the restaurant by the owner (everyone had gone home and he wanted to lock up). We had chatted for the whole evening and you turned to me, looked at me with your beautiful eyes, smiled and kissed me. That was the moment I felt "it", something telling me that you were different, special.

The last two years have been far from perfect, but there have been many more laughs than tears. I hope your birthday brings you all you wish for, you truly deserve it xxx

Operation Clawback: January Update

Well those two weeks seem to have flown past in some respects, although when I'm sat at my desk willing the working day to finish, time seems to take forever to tick tock through the minutes!

As we're almost at the mid point of January I thought I would quickly update my progress on Operation Clawback and January's Challenges.


I'm religiously updating my food and exercise diary into my tracker app of choice - My Fitness Pal. I'm finding that it really helps guide me in my food choices, for instance we had a home cooked roast dinner on Sunday - my roast potatoes came in at a whopping 550 calories, but the long walk and gym session earlier in the day meant that I could enjoy them guilt free...I did decide to not hit the biscuit tin later in the evening though - moderation is the key!

I've probably taken a lunchtime walk at least 3 out of the 5 working days. I've walked every day that I haven't been to the gym to make sure I get at least the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day.

So far I haven't tried any classes - although we are having a session of indoor rock climbing on Thursday. I think I want to get more stamina and lose a little more weight first before starting classes.


I've really got back into my blog writing. I want this space to be more of a diary than a consumer magazine and while stats may fall my posts will mean far more to me. I really need to get back cooking and posting recipes, with a healthy slant so that I can enjoy eating them.

I am looking into some volunteer work with local elderly residents, Age UK have lots of different ways you can help in your local area, as have the Royal Voluntary Service. I am also adding my contribution to the ARTsalon #snapbreast work of art, to raise funds for The Haven breast cancer Support Centres which is opening a new centre in Tichfield, Hampshire this year. This weekend will be the weekend I donate all those clothes that "maybe I'll fit into again one day"!


There have been no extra food shops outside of our weekly one (except for bread...and mushroom soup!). We're spending quite a bit on things like chicken and fish as part of our healthy eating but we're not really throwing any food away.

I'm also sticking to my weekly budget - in fact I spent £10 to change my gym membership, saving me £20 a month.

I know we're only two weeks in, but I'm still motivated and can already see results. Now I need to start thinking about what I want my February challenges to be!

Linking to:

Super Busy Mum

Monday, 12 January 2015

What my week was...Week 2

How was your weekend? Hopefully you managed to dodge the showers and stay safe through all the gales. We were pretty lucky with the weather. Other than a downpour just as I was loading the shopping into the car (always the way!) it stayed cold but dry for Saturday and Sunday.

So here's what I have been up to the last week.

I watched...The first episode of the new series of Broadchurch. It was a long wait after the first series finished, but oh my word what an opener. The new characters look to be interesting and the story has been opened up completely. Just a few questions to ponder though - Ellie's son now lives with his Auntie, I'm pretty Ellie fell out with her because she asked for money in return for information? And the big question for me - If Broadchurch is supposed to be in Dorset (backed up by an addressed envelope *how observant am I?*) then why was Joe's trial held in Sussex County Court?! I will be watching carefully tonight to bring you more questions next week!!

I went...for a lovely, blustery walk yesterday along the seafront from Boscombe towards Bournemouth. I'm trying really hard to keep my daily step count high, especially having an office based job, so the weekends are a time for getting moving rather than vegetating from now on. It seems to have worked - I've started to lose weight and I'm feeling fitter than I did before the Christmas blow out! We stopped off at the Bournemouth Vintage Emporium for a cream tea - although I ended up having just the tea after they sold out of scones. Probably a good thing considering we had a huge Sunday roast when we got home!!

I Christmas jigsaw of London that Sion brought me. Annoyingly it was missing two pieces and it was from a US company so I'm not hopeful of getting a replacement, but luckily they are from a corner so it doesn't affect the overall picture. Now I've just got to decide on my next one to do.

I planned...Sion's birthday present. It's his birthday on Sunday and while we are both on a kind of detox we've decided to have a quiet weekend and celebrate his birthday properly in February. I'm pretty sure I'll be on breakfast duty at the weekend and he's already requested paella for dinner on Sunday!

This week we will be rock climbing, aiming to run for 15 minutes without walking, working out what is the healthiest curry on a takeaway menu and singing "Happy Birthday" off key!

Friday, 9 January 2015

WOTW - Determined

Having made a firm decision and being resolved not to change it.
Possessing or displaying resolve.

Don't worry - I'm not determined to become a hammer wielding God (dess), although that could be kind of fun.

No this week I'm determined to stick to the plan. I've spent a lot of time at the start of this new year, trying to work out things I can do to better myself and as we head into Week 2 of Operation Clawback this is when fatigue traditionally sets in.

My legs ache, my right knee particularly makes a funny noise every time I walk up stairs. 
My Buddha belly seems even more wibbly wobbly than it was over Christmas.
I keep finding things on line that I'd love to buy.
It has been seven days since I last enjoyed a cold glass of wine.

It would be so easy to slip into old habits; what will it matter if I sit out this one gym session, eat this one (bar of) chocolate, buy this one cool thing that I don't really need?

But you know what? I WANT TO SUCCEED

I want to fit into the clothes that I spent so much money on. I want to have a strong, healthy perfect-for-baby-growing body, I want to make smart purchases, meaningful purchases.

And you know what else? IT'S WORKING

I'm losing weight, I'm running rather than walking, I'm eating healthier, snacking sensibly. This week I have spent nothing, zero, zilch. No lattes, snack van buys, quick food top ups or magazines to leave unread.

And despite the aches and pains, in between the moments of self doubt, it feels good. I will keep going - I AM DETERMINED.

The Reading Residence

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Finding my inner Scrooge...

As part of my general New Year, new me overhaul that you can read about here I've been spending some time looking at my finances.

As an accountant I am shocking at keeping track of my own money. Ask me to find a missing 20p on a bank reconciliation or find the mistake on a balance sheet and I'm on it like a bloodhound. Ask me how much money I have in my own account and I wouldn't have a clue, although it would be safe to say that I would always over estimate my spare cash rather than under estimate.

I am getting better at planning for the future though. I am paying into a work based pension scheme, I have a life insurance policy and I have a savings account which we have used to pay for most of our incredible holidays and restaurant trips.

The fact remains however, that despite my outgoings only needing 60-70% of my monthly take home pay, each and every month without fail I spend the last 10 days stretching every last penny to stop going overdrawn.

I am completely aware that we are both in so much more of a fortunate position than many other families all over the UK, but I can't help feeling that I should have more to show than photos of holidays and a half decent car.

To better understand where my money is going I decided to properly look at my bank statements for the last two months and this is what I found;

Despite having a separate "food fund" I spent an average of £200 per month in supermarkets and food shops, generally on alcohol, meal deals and impulse buys.

I spent an average of £150 per month eating out and drinking coffees.

I paid £125 each month for gym membership, beauty treatments & clothes

I withdrew £100 each month - I have no idea what I used this money on...mostly the sandwich van if I'm honest.

I know November & December are not the most realistic months to choose, but I wanted to see the worst "devil-may-care" spending habits and I must admit I'm shocked. Mostly by the extra food (wine) and eating out. Perhaps this explains why I am the lightest in my pocket and the heaviest on the scales right now?  

So fresh year, fresh start.

Each week I will allow £50 for car fuel and "pocket money". If at the end of the week I have spare money that will go in my baby fund money pot.

Instead of driving to the shopping centre at lunchtimes I will go for a walk instead, saving £s, losing lbs.

My gym membership will be changed from the most expensive level to the level I actually need.

Eating out will be seen as a treat, rather than the weekend norm.

I'm not expecting to stop spending money. I don't want to mark down every penny that I spend. What I do want to do is spend more consciously, more sensibly, wisely.

If you challenged yourself to review your spending what would you like to save on?

Linking to:

Super Busy Mum

Brilliant blog posts on

Monday, 5 January 2015

What my week was...Week 1

Week one...let's see if this gets all the way to week 52...or even week 2...

I found last year that it was difficult to know what to blog about, I'm not a parent, I don't really do fashion and my food posts are dependent on time and inclination - I'm sure you'd be as bored as me after the 5th slow cooked casserole post, but that's pretty much all we eat during these winter months.

So here it is - my solution...a weekly round up of what I got up to in the past week. I'm not saying it's going to be any more interesting than the slow cooker recipes, but it should be a good record of all the little things that we do throughout the year, and it'll encourage me to make the time to put up at least one post a week too!

I watched...

Netflix - finally! We've had a month's free viewing since we moved in March, but never activated it. Now we are trying to have a dry January (who's idea was that anyway?) we need something else to occupy us. Like all good Netflix virgins we watched an episode of Breaking Bad before anything else. My problem is there is so much choice I have no idea what else to watch.

I went...

On a lovely walk along the Itchen River from Eastleigh up towards Twyford on Sunday. It's a chalk bead river so the water is incredibly clear and clean. Supposedly otters and water voles live along the banks but we didn't see any - although we did spot a beautiful salmon in the shallows. We rewarded ourselves with lunch at a local garden centre, a pub would be too much alcohol temptation this early in the month!!

I drank...

And ate far too much over the last few days of Christmas and the New Year. So much so that the tub of chocolates have now been banished to the top of the cupboard until our holiday in February. The Christmas tree chocolates even ended up in there. You always know you've eaten too much when you have to go to bed with chronic heartburn...lesson learnt!

I exercised...

On both Saturday and Sunday at the gym. Yep I'm now a smug person who went to the gym in between Christmas and New Year too. Admittedly it was because we got free passes to our local Virgin Health club, but I did have a decent swim at least. My Christmas present to myself was a Fitbit, I'm already finding that I am obsessively checking to see how many steps I've completed in a day - so far my best total is 19,057...oh yeah!

This week I need to get back into the routine of full time work, battle with the Christmas tree (our house looks so dull without the lights twinkling away), fit in some gym sessions and find some new healthy, but quick recipes.

What are you up to this week?