Saturday, 28 January 2012

Easy french bread recipe.

300g bread flour / high protein flour
1tsp honey
1 and 1/2tsp instant yeast
1tbsp Olive oil
200ml water
1 and 1/2tsp coarse sea salt

Some yellow cornmeal, for dusting and sprinkle over the pan
2 cups boiling water, for baking

I have wanted to make proper french bread for ages and had almost given up when I came across this full proof recipe. You can dispense with the cornmeal if you wish. This made delicious bread loaves at the fraction of the price of shop bought. I used Tescos instant yeast to save time . It is important to allow the proving ie dough rising in order to get the right texture but when you have mastered this it is amazingly easy. Here is the recipe. Voila.
1. Mix olive oil, honey and water together in a bowl.
2. Put flour, instant yeast and salt in the mixing bowl, whisk to combine.
3. Slowly add in water mixture (No 1) into flour mixture(No 2), knead till elastic dough. Keep aside to rise until double size.
4. Place a baking paper or silicone baking mat over a sheet pan, or use a French bread pan, sprinkle with the yellow cornmeal.
5. Divide the dough into 3 pieces.
6. Roll into balls and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
7. Press the ball lightly and shape into a long oval, do the same with another ball.( I dusting the worktop with yellow cornmeal too)
8. Use the side of your hand press the center of the dough, and roll again (do it 2-3 times until you get a desired length )
9. Place the shaped dough over a prepared pan.
10. Let the dough rise until almost double in size, about 30 minutes.
11. Preheat the oven 220°C and place a roasting pan in the lowest shelf of the oven.
12. With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of each loaf. Put the bread into the oven and pour the boiling water into the roasting pan, bake for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Now all you have to do is eat and enjoy! Great with almost anything especially a glass of red! 

Sunday, 22 January 2012

How we saved £2500 and how you can too!

The results are in and since we have started this blog we have saved £2500 ! Follow our blog to find out how we did it. Here are our money saving ideas that really work.

1. Check your bank statements and find out what you are actually spending your hard earned cash on. This can be painful but necessary. Also find a bank that sends texts to you when you have so much left. Again boring but very useful.

2. With these results plan a budget and stick to it. Ask yourself where you can cut back and where your money is really going. The results might surprise you. We found direct debits for old phone insurance, magazines etc and cancelled all the unnecessary ones.

3. Draw out cash for purchases. It feels much more real then passing over a card for payment.

4. Swap gas guzzling 4x4's for diesel cars. I saved £50 per week on fuel by buying a diesel estate which does 50-60 mpg that could still tow a trailer to meet our family's needs and was much roomier too.

5. Don't be snobby about food shopping and go to Aldi, Lidl and other more basic supermarkets. Write  a menu and shopping list and don't shop with the kids otherwise you'll end up with costly purchases such a sweets, pop and dvd's .

6 Learn to cook family meals and treats. This is healthier, much more economical and fun than buying ready meals and take aways. Dig out your slow cooker. They are on offer for £12 in Tesco and can create lovely meals ready when you walk in the door.

7.Get creative and use crafts to make individual and unusual gifts. Persevere with the basics of knitting,crotcheting or sewing if your initial efforts look ready for the bin. We made fab items with practice that friends and family were delighted to receive. We cut out Christmas shopping by half and had a lot of fun in the process.

8.Recycle clothing and upcycle to make individual items. By adding some unusual buttons, braiding you can really alter the appearance of an item.

9. Set a realistic amount you can save each month for holidays, big purchases and try to stick to it. This way you'll start to see the money mount up and avoid extra loans and credit.

10. Ban the tumble drier except in emergencies. Instead of piling wet clothing on radiators use an airer situated upstairs and take advantage of heat rising to dry clothing.  If properly arranged this can save on ironing too. When the weather improves rig up your washing line and dry clothes the old fashioned way!

Follow our blog for many more money saving tips throughout the year. What have you got to lose?

Friday, 20 January 2012

Beating the post christmas blues!

Its post christmas and dark and cold.Feeling down? How to beat the blues. Here's how.

Make a plan

After the excitement of Christmas, going back to a regular, mundane routine is enough to lower anybody's spirits. A good way to alleviate this feeling of ennui is to create something to look forward to. Depending on your budget and lifestyle, this could be anything from planning a night out to booking a holiday. 

Exercise your funny bone

Laughter has been proven to be an extremely effective mood booster; releasing endorphins which instantly raise spirits and give a feeling of wellbeing. To help raise your spirits, grab a funny DVD or book and spend a few hours exercising your laughter muscles.

Brave your fears

If you are feeling listless and uninspired following the Christmas period, there is nothing guaranteed to energise you so much as stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a few risks. Make a commitment to doing one thing a week (or day) that makes you feel scared and takes you out of your comfort zone.

Get active

Although feeling glum is unlikely to put you in the mood to exercise, getting up and active is actually one of the best things you can do. Exercise not only releases mood boosting endorphins, but if weight gain is one of the things getting you down following Christmas it will help you to quickly shift those excess pounds. 

Watch what you eat

While it may be tempting to bury your sorrows under piles of junk food, a healthy diet is actually much more effective at helping you feel good. Some mood boosting foods to stock up on are those containing B vitamins (which help the brain produce serotonin) such as pulses, whole grains such as oats. It all else fails then try the supplement st john's wort.

Be selfless

If you find that you are fixated on your mood post Christmas, it is a good idea to distract yourself by putting the focus on to others. Take some time out to do some volunteer work, or if you are short of time make a commitment to doing one small act of kindness a day such as listening to a friend's problem or smiling at a stranger. 

Perk up your social life

Spending time with others can be one of the greatest mood boosters, but you can't always rely on everybody else to make the plans. If your social life could do with a boost following Christmas, it's time to get proactive. Pick up the phone and give someone a call or arrange to visit someone who lives a long way away. 

Get your finances in order

One of the reasons many people feel blue after Christmas is because they have worries over their finances - and the damage Christmas has wreaked on them - hanging over their head. Rather than worrying about it, sit down and sort out your financial situation. See what shape you are in financially and, if necessary, set yourself a budget for the next few months or so. 

Ring the changes

If the thought of going back to your regular routine is really depressing you, perhaps you should see this as a sign you need to make some changes. Although everyone feels a bit down about returning to work, if the thought is really making you blue then maybe it's time to think about changing your job. Alternatively, perhaps you need to think about ditching another aspect of your lifestyle that is making you unhappy; your partner, perhaps, or those extra pounds in weight.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Slow cooker- delicious and economical meals!

It may be worth considering investing in a slow cooker for heart, healthy and economical meals ready and waiting when you come in from work. At present there are loads of good deals on slow cookers and you can buy a pro-line slow cooker for as little as £14.99. With a little preparation in the morning chuck in vegetables, chickpeas, seasoning and meat of your choice for delicious, economical meals. They are great for cheaper cuts of meat as the meat becomes much more tender due to the length of time spent cooking. For recipes go to for a fabulous range of recipes perfect for winter. Why not give it a go?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Easy vest top to knit!

I came across this lovely knitted vest from It is basically a knitted rectangle, knitted in garter stitch on size 6 needles using 74 stitches and forming arm holes by casting off in the middle.I finished mine in three evenings and its great fastened above with a large pin. I used three 50g balls of double knit and it cost in the region of £3.50. This is a great easily knit item which can be whipped up in no time and provides reasonably priced, stylish fashion. Visit the blog for more info.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Healthy snack box!

If like most of us you have gained a few pounds over the christmas season and one of your New Year's resolutions is to lose weight why not try a health snack box? If your office is anything like mine it is all too easy to buy unhealthy snacks for the  traditional low spots of 3pm onwards and ruin you diet plans. By buying a range of snacks such as those above plus fruit, seeds and nuts you could manage your diet more effectively. If you were so minded you could charge an extra 10-20% for each item and  allow other to buy items and make a profit at the same time. Remember you would have to keep a good track of items and have a money tin and replenish the box on as weekly basis so make sure you have the time to undertake this task. However, you and your colleagues would reap the rewards from a health point of view and you may make a little profit as well!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy new year to you all!

If you feel like you are constantly juggling money and robbing Peter to pay Paul ,why not make 2012 the year when you tackle your debts once and for all. Here's how. One in four British workers spend a massive 40% or more of their wages repaying unsecured debts such as those held on credit cards and loans, according to new research.

But many of these debt-ridden consumers could slash the amount they repay simply by changing the way they borrow. 

New figures from price comparison website Moneysupermarket show that the average consumer with unsecured debts makes repayments of £322 a month – that's 25% of the £1,288 earned each month by a typical adult.

Tim Moss, head of debt at Moneysupermarket, said: "It's worrying to see such a high number of people needing to use so much of their income just to service existing debt."

His advice includes setting up a direct debit to ensure that you pay off at least the minimum amount required each month.

"Setting up a direct debit helps consumers avoid missing payments and forking out significantly more than expected in interest payments and fees," Moss said.

Before doing that, you need to find the cheapest way to borrow, though. After all, consolidating your debts on to a low-rate credit card, loan or overdraft will not only reduce the amount you pay overall, it will also help you to better monitor their progress towards becoming debt free.

And the good news is that there are some great credit card and loan deals out there at the moment.

The Barclaycard Platinum Credit card, for example, offers 22 months at 0% on balance transfers, subject to a 2.9% fee (as long as you switch your debts within the first 60 days).

And Halifax's Balance Transfer Credit Card offers the same period – 22 months – interest free on debts of up to £3,000, with a fee of 3.5%.
You need to ensure that you can clear your debts in full, or switch again if necessary, before the introductory offers come to an end, though, as the standard interest rates on the cards are a whopping 17.5% and 17.9% respectively.
Why not tackle your debt head on and look out for these deals and begin to save? What have you got to lose?