Friday, 29 March 2013

Bunny bunting with pom pom tails

I have not hidden my love of pom poms from you and Easter is the perfect time to use pom poms in your crafts.

The boys and I have been busy making lots of pom poms and have made pom pom bunnies and pom pom chicks over on The Mad House  and this Bunny Bunting was the result of having left over pom poms to use.

Materials

  • Pom poms (or you could use cotton wool balls)
  • Bunnies cut from thin card
  • Ribbon
  • Hole punch
  • Glue

Method
  1. Print out the two templates below (click on them to enlarge)
  2. Trace on to card and cut out
  3. Stick pom poms on bottoms
  4. Punch holes in the ears and thread through the ribbon





Thursday, 28 March 2013

My top ten tips for saving money

The somewhat fabulous and rather wonderful Miss Thrifty (I am allowed to say that as I have met her) is hosting a competition for Money Supermarket who are compiling a list of tips called The Ten Commandments of Saving.




Use cash 


This completely changed the way that I looked at our finances and I even made some cash envelopes  to help me with it.  We use a cash only system for incidentals, fuel, groceries, lunches etc though the month.  This means we draw enough cash out after pay day to cover the expenses (just, if we have enough) and then use the cash through out the month.

Second Hand is not Second Best

Why buy new products when you can get something second hand.  Yes you may not always be able to get the exact thing you needed at the exact time, but often you can get something of a better quality for a lower price.

Meal Plan

Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan.  I can not say this often enough.  On average a family of four will through away £600 plus of food a year.  This is shameful in a society where half the world goes hungry and is financially like burning money.  Yes it can be a chore and yes people will think you are a bore, however, my boys adore having a look on our chalkboard wall and knowing what is for Dinner and helping to plan and cook the meals too.

Never Automatically renew anything!

Always take the time to compare costs when something is due for renewal.  Weather that be your home, buildings or car insurance or even your breakdown cover.  We got a £42 reduction from our current breakdown supplier just for the cost of a phone call.  I have a dairy which has all the dates when things are due for renewal and the annual charges in it.  At the beginning of each month I check and dedicate some time to getting quotes.

It does not pay to be a loyal customer

Do not become stuck in a rut with your energy suppliers.  Make sure you compare costs on a regular basis.  

Look to the past

It often pays to look at the things our grandparents used to do to save money.  Line your curtains, use draft excluders, wear layers, use a hot water bottle,  use a tea cosy, repair clothes, batch cook, cook from scratch.  Why not have a chat to the older generation and ask how they used to save money and mend and make do during the war and in times of hardship. 

Repair not replace

One of the best things we did was to find a reliable and good repair man for our white goods.  He is much cheaper than paying for an extended warranty and has saved us hundreds of pounds over the last eight years.  Rather than replace our washer, dryer and dishwasher all have been repaired and some more than once!

Learn the value of something

Sometimes it pays to work out a cost per use for an item.  It does not always pay to buy an inexpensive item if it is not going to last and you end up having to pay out again.  LED bulbs are a typical example of this for us, they cost more initially  but the savings over a year are massive and the cost per use a lot less than other bulbs   

Why pay for something when you can get it free

Why buy books when you can use the library?  I am finding more and more free online magazines, so why but them?   

Do not give in to pester power

By teaching your children the value of money you can help reduce their spending and set realistic expectations with them.  When I was small toys were for Christmas and birthdays, not for being good when you went round the supermarket   

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Will You Change Your Life In Order to Go Green?



There are some fantastic ways to live a more environmentally friendly life these days and it is simply a question of picking the ones which best suit you. If you look into the subject on the internet you will find lots of ideas for leading a greener life and some of them might grab you right away.

In some cases you might want to change your life in order to do this but will this be the ideal solution for you?

Work from Home

If you have the option of working from home then this is a fine way to cut down on your travelling. It is especially useful if you currently travel a long distance to your place of work in a car. Working from home is a big change in anyone’s lifestyle and isn’t right for everyone. However, it can make it a lot easier to live an environmentally friendly life so it is worth investigating if you ever have the chance to do so.

Get a New House

Will you be tempted to move into a new home which has better green credentials? Environmentally friendly homes tend to be more expensive than non green ones but you will, of course, expect to save money on your energy and water bills over time. The other option is to gradually implement some changes in your current house to make it greener. This will mean that it takes longer for you to see the end results but it will probably be more satisfying in the long run.

Take Different Types of Holiday

Anyone who is lucky enough to go away on holiday each year tends to view it as a hugely important part of the year. This means that the thought of losing out on trips to their favourite holiday spots could be hard to take. The good news is that you can change your life in a less drastic way and still enjoy an annual trip. This can be done by looking at greener and more sustainable holiday ideas. For example, instead of jetting off to a foreign beach you could travel less and explore your own region. Throw in lots of walking or cycling and you have a green holiday which should be enough to keep most people happy.   



 Keep It Simple

Obviously it isn’t always necessary to make such big changes to our lives when we want to be more environmentally friendly. You could also make a positive difference by doing simpler things like fitting new windows, planting more shrubs in your garden or getting a new boiler installed from your local boiler installer such as help-link.co.uk. Anything which helps you waste less energy or contribute to a better environment is to be encouraged.

This guest post is published in association with www.help-link.co.uk, the boiler replacement specialist in the UK.

Save money with LED lights with Panasonic and Simply LED

I love saving money and when it comes to saving money on our energy bills I am all for it.  So when both Simply LED and Panasonic got in touch with me to discuss reviewing LED bulbs I thought why not.

For those of you that don't know LED bulbs can save you up to 89% energy when compared with halogen or incandescent. They also last 25 times longer and therefore don't need replacing constantly. 




In our kitchen we have three lights which each have three bulbs in.  Simply LED sent me nine replacement LED Bulbs, which retail at £11.99 each.  So yes the initially outlay is more expensive, however, using their online calculator I worked out that using them would save me £45 a year for the life of the bulbs (they can last up to 25 years) and this was a conservative estimate   I opted for warm white and we immediately noticed that the colour was much truer to daylight once the bulbs were installed.

Panasonic sent me a couple of their screw in LED Bulbs and I have been using it in my task lighting.  I have to say again I am really impressed with the colour  and the fact that I can save money year on year using their product.

Panasonic also have an online calculator so you can work out how much you would save when you come to convert.  

The only downside to LED builbs is the initial cost of them, however  you save that and more over the first year of use and then continue to make savings year on year.

With energy prices increasing and energy becoming such a scarce resource I see no reason why everyone shouldn't be using LED bulbs.  They are great for the pocket as well as the environment   




Monday, 25 March 2013

Financial Manifesto - Spring 2013

It is so nice to see the days lengthening.  The springtime certainly fills me with more hope and joy and this Spring, I am looking to try and make some more cash and also cut back on the amount we spend.  Spring is an expensive time of the year for us with car MOT's, services, Car Tax and other major household expenditure. My focus will be:



  • Declutter in the hope of doing a couple of car boot sales once they start again after Easter
  • Look for a part time job whilst the boys are in school
  • Check out car insurances as out policies are due for renewal
  • Hold a budget friendly birthday party for Maxi who turns eight
  • Make not buy cards.  In addition to Maxi's birthday we have mothers day and our wedding anniversary in March.  I have lots of craft things, so me and the boys are going to have a card making session
  • Arrange to have the boiler serviced
  • Have a spend free April - only buy what is essential.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The value of a mother

I made a choice when my children were born to take time out of going out to work to become a stay at home mum.



We decided that rather than go back to work and pay someone most of (if not all) of my salary to someone to link after my children, that I would remain at home with them and become a stay at home parent.

This was a choice, however, I appreciate that not every parent has this choice, that people have to work.  But we have little to no support and if the children were ill I would need to take time off work to be with them.  We both felt that I could not have committed to am employer at this time in mine and my families life.

However, we are being penalised more and more by the government for being present in our children's lives. I do not want to go in to the rights and wrongs of the latest ConDem budget, but I do wish that any government could put more of a value on bringing up children.

We have made many sacrifices so that I can collect my children from school, go to their Nativity plays and their assemblies.

I believe by not giving families where only one parent works the same tax benefits on childcare as a family where both parents work shows that this government really doesn't not value stay at home parents or parenting in any shape or form.

I found the transition to motherhood really hard.  I went from being a valued member of a team, who got appraisals  rewards and recognition to being an invisible "mummy", who had no job at all.  When in fact parenting is the hardest job I have ever done.  There is no manual, no job description and often no help.

So I say we need to start valuing ourselves and celebrating mothers everywhere and hopefully the government and others will start to see the value of a parent is much more than they could ever compensate is for.

The question is how do we do this and where do we start?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Paper Mache Tissue Eggs


This is a really simple Easter craft, that is great for children of all ages.  It can be quite messy, so it pays to have a sink full of warm soapy water for washing hands at the ready.  


Materials
Egg shells
Paper Mache Glue (or wallpaper paste or even flour and water)
Tissue Paper or Newspaper
We have been collecting eggshells from cooking for the last month or so.  So rather than being whole egg shells they are cracked eggs and I wanted to have a go at using them for decorating, rather than just putting them in the compost.  


The boys chose to use green and pink tissue paper from the pound shop to decorate the eggs, so we ripped it in to small pieces ready for gluing.

For the glue I used some paper mache paste we had in the cupboard, but you can use wallpaper paste or even flour and water,
The boys then used the tissue to cover the eggs and hold them together.  Due to the amount of glue and paper the boys used it took two days to get our eggs dry.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Crochet Project - A FREE Online Ezine

Those who know me well will know that crochet is my kryptonite   I have tried and failed a couple of times to get hooky.  

But oh how I wish I could crochet, especially when I was introduced to this brand new ezine The Crochet Project which is a collaboration from the ever creative Kat Goldin  and Joanne Scrace.



The Crochet project is a seasonal online collection of downloadable PDF patterns. The aim of The Crochet Project is to promote beautiful, modern crochet patterns to the online market.

So any crocheters out there fancy making me some socks?......................

Monday, 18 March 2013

Standing By for Spring: Plant Bulbs in Your Brain and Your Garden Should Follow

So how does your garden grow this spring? Whether it’s a small herb bed outside your back door or a sprawling allotment, chances are it’s had about as much love as a freezer full of suspected horse-meat lasagne. 

Like traffic tailbacks and supermarket shelves barren of bread and milk, this year’s delayed start to the growing season is down to one culprit: the snow. Even if frigid temperatures aren’t an impediment to getting those seed trays on windowsills, the sight of flurries flying isn’t exactly conducive to the growing process.

This time last year, green shoots were already well established and the seed potatoes were all eyes. Soil had been turned, compost dug in, chickens set free to scrabble around and clear out any weeds brash enough to get a head start. Today? Nada. Even the chickens look disaffected and winter-weary.

My wake-up call came when the last bag of runner beans was unearthed from a freezer drawer. For months, I’ve been planning meals according to what was stashed away after last year’s harvest: roast dinners replete with root veg, bubbling crumbles packed with rhubarb the shade of my red range cooker, soups, stews, quiches and cakes. The beans, languishing and unloved as they were, signalled it was time to face the snow head-on if I want to have a well-stocked larder come next winter.

We would all like to hope we’ve seen the last of 2013’s snow but even if it hasn’t upped stakes to Siberia yet, the garden doesn’t have to wait. The ground will loosen up eventually but in the meantime, you can start thinking about what may or may not have worked in last year’s veg patch, anything you’re curious to try and where to plant once the soil and temperatures cooperate. If you have young children, get them involved in picking out seed packets and planting things such as cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins and squash (their little fingers are the perfect size for drilling holes into soil-filled seed trays - any excuse to get dirty should get them interested.)

As tempting as it may be to hole up with your kettle, even a few minutes of digging, weeding or just mentally marking out where to plant will get you limbered up and ready for those sunny days when it’s a joy to be in the garden. At the risk of sounding too New Age-y, getting out in the garden is good for mind, body and soul, even if you’re just standing around with a flask of tea discussing the merits of purple sprouting broccoli vs calabrese.



If flowers are your thing, it can be difficult to see past grey, stubbly wasteland and imagine a perky cottage garden or well-mannered border. But the key is to beat the onset of nettles and bindweed for these will obscure any vision of floral loveliness. Even if it does make you look like a cheap Grim Reaper, the sickle is your friend for jobs like these. 

If all else fails, see what ideas you can harvest from the bounty online. I’m a devotee of Sarah Raven’s easy-to-follow gardening advice and especially her straightforward but impressive recipes for seasonal cooking, but equally River Cottage, the Royal Horticultural Society and even organic box-scheme pioneers Riverford Organic Farms have shedloads of free, useful, inspiring tips and advice.

And if anyone knows a good way to mask the taste of freezer-burned runner beans, I’m all ears. 

A one-time journalist for metropolitan daily newspapers in the USA, Laura Potts moved to England in 2005  where she is a writer and editor.









Friday, 15 March 2013

Red nose day cakes

It has become something of a tradition for the boys to make cakes for Daddy to take to work to raise mummy for charity.



So last night we set to making some chocolate cakes for Comic Relief.

Basic Fairy Cake mixture (makes 18)

6 oz of butter or marg
6 oz caster sugar
5 oz of self raising flour
1 oz of coco powder
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 eggs
half teaspoon of vanilla extract
3 tablespoons of milk

Method.  

Cream together the marg/butter and sugar.  Then add the rest of the ingredients in and mix well!

Put in the cake cases and an oven preheated to 180 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Allow to cool.

Sorry, I don't have a recipe for icing, as I just bung the ingredients in together until they taste fine, but it was icing sugar, butter, milk  coco powder and vanilla extract.  The key is to give it a good mixing and then pop it in the fridge.  We also use a piping set from Lakeland and it is so easy to use that Maxi iced most of the cakes.

The noses are Renshaws pre-coloured icing, which Mini just rolled in to balls.  Oh and no cakes are complete without icing!



Thursday, 14 March 2013

3 Ways to Get Your Washing Extra Clean Without Breaking The Bank

 When it comes to washing our clothes, we would be lost without our washing machines. However, the development of this essential everyday product is relatively recent.

Only 50 years ago it would have been common in the UK for families to have mainly hand-washed their clothes. Many people were still using old-fashioned methods such as a hand-driven 'mangle' to squeeze the water out of clothes in order to help them to dry.

But despite all of the new technologies and biological detergents in use today, is there any information that can be gathered from the past for those who want to make sure their washing is extra clean?

Soaking

Although most washing machines have extended programme 'pre-wash' functions, these often go unused because of the extra time they take to complete the cycle. Sometimes there can also be concerns about how much extra energy they might consume in the process.

However, letting any kind of washing soak in a water and detergent solution is the best way to remove stubborn or ingrained stains. This includes grass or oil, meaning a ‘pre wash’ can be particularly useful for work clothes or sportswear. Leaving an item to soak overnight in the sink or bath means there is no inconvenience. It also gives enough time for the stains to be dislodged before a good run in the washing machine.

Bleaching

The use of bleach on clothes has gone out of fashion recently because most washing machine manufacturers warn against its use in their machines. However, bleaching can be the best way to get whites looking as good as new. However, sufficient care must be taken to avoid getting splashes of bleach on other coloured clothing, whilst also being aware of the potential health hazards that bleach can present.

Of course, bleach is also useful for making sure that any potential infections or bacteria are killed off. In this sense, it can be extremely effective when needing to wash bedding or clothing from someone who has had an illness of this nature.



Hanging on the line

Before washing machines incorporated fast-spinning drums, there used to be separate 'dryers' for this process. Most modern domestic appliances, have spin speeds of 1,600 revolutions per minute. This means that clothing is relatively dry when it comes out of the machine.

Those people who have a garden or a large enough balcony or terrace, will often still swear by the idea of hanging washing on an outside line. This is not only because it means that there isn't a smell of slightly damp washing drying around the house, but also that it actually makes clothes look and feel that little bit cleaner.


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Free quarterly LEGO Magazine

Rather than a magazine for adults, today I being you a free paper magazine for Children who love LEGO.  It comes out five times a year out five times a year in January, March, June, September and November.


Both the boys get LEGO Club Magazine through the post.  Mini gets the Junior version and Maxi the regular version.  It is something they look forward to and today the regular one popped through the door with a free DVD which has two episodes of LEGO Chima on.

The magazines are really good reads too, as good as one you would pay for, they include puzzles, build instructions, comics, quizzes, sneak peaks, competitions and stories which are age appropriate.

Plus it is great for the boys to get mail through the post too.  A real treat.

It is a super FREE club for LEGO lovers.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

What to do in the event of your home being vandalised



Vandalism is, thankfully, not a common problem in the UK. 

Although the 2011 riots have given it a higher profile recently, most homeowners never have to worry about vandalism, and what few incidents there are tend to be focussed in the cities.

Nonetheless, if you are one of the unlucky few to experience problems with vandalism, making sure that you follow the right procedure in dealing with it can be the difference between having to foot the entire bill yourself and getting some help from your insurance company.

The first thing to remember, even if the damage is relatively minor, is that vandalism is a criminal incident and the police should be notified. From an insurance standpoint a police report acts as another piece of proof that the damage actually did take place to the extent that you say it did. Additionally, if the culprit is caught and dealt with not only do you get peace of mind, it also makes it less likely that there will be a recurrence.

Once the police have inspected the damage, the next thing to consider is the agreed excess in your buildings insurance policy (vandalism usually falls under buildings insurance as the damage is done to the fabric of your property rather than any of its contents).

The excess is the amount of money you have to pay up front on any claim that you make. If you have a large excess and the damage is minor you may have to foot the entire bill yourself, if you have a small excess or the damage is significant, the insurance company will pay anything over the level of the excess.



It is always worth talking to the insurance company straight away. The temptation may be that if the damage is small, you can get it fixed yourself and not notify your insurer – after all, you're footing the bill. This is not a good idea as there's always a chance of finding yourself the victim of vandalism, and the insurance company are likely to take a dim view of not being told of previous incidents. In fact, you may find that it invalidates your policy.

Call your insurance company and explain to them what has happened. The process for each company is slightly different but the best thing to do is to be open and honest from the start. They may pay up on your word, or they may wish to send out a claims inspector to take a look at the damage themselves. They will inform you how they want you to proceed.

Although you will probably want to get the damage fixed straight away, it's important to remember that you can't do it immediately. Many insurance companies will have tradesmen that they feel give a fair and honest price and will do maintenance work up to an appropriate standard. Make sure that you only use someone from their list, or who meets their criteria, otherwise you may find that they won't pay out when it comes to settling the bills.

At the end of the day, most insurance companies will be happy to pay out, that is, after all what you have insurance for, and most insurers are very helpful. Remember, though, if you're unsatisfied with the treatment you get you can always take your business elsewhere, and if your insurance company is being difficult, there's no harm in reminding them of that!

This information was provided to you by Allianz Your Cover (www.yourcoverinsurance.co.uk).  

Monday, 11 March 2013

Mending and making do

Part of being frugal for us is the ethos of repairing things.  The whole mend and make do philosophy that was prevalent in earlier generations.

Sometimes this is really hard, not because I don't want to mend things, but due to the fact that I lack the skills, tools and experience to mend things.

Usually we will find a trades person that can help us, or someone that knows to help or pay (we have paid to have our dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer to be repaired in the past and need to get the tumble drier fixed again when finances allow).



Take this globe that the boys have.  They love it, not only does it have the countries on, but also animals and it is bright colourful and perfect for them.  However, in the past it has been dropped and the base damaged.

We have tried to repair it, but something about the type of plastic always meant that it was weaker and prone to breaking in the same spot, which it did again this weekend.  Queue tears from Mini as he was busy trying to locate Honduras!   We had tried a number of glues, which are expensive and none of them lasted any length of time.

But I had seen something about Sugru on My Mend and Make Do Year and had decided to buy some for those "just in case moments" and mixed up some blue and yellow to make green to give repairing the globe a go.

I am amazed.  It has dried really well and is really strong and the base has already been dropped and is still in once piece.

What do you do when you do not know how to mend things?

Thursday, 7 March 2013

N.E.E.T Magazine - A Free online Magazine

I have another free magazine for you today.  This time N.E.E.T which is a showcase for grassroots creativity.  It is online, free and packed with everyone from a crafter creating from their kitchen table, to a fashion design graduate straight out of college, to a team of people doing it for the love of it. N.E.E.T. Magazine is the brainchild of Stephanie J. Everything in the magazine is handpicked, designed and organised by her, the editor. N.E.E.T. Magazine is an eco-friendly, grassroots style bible for the digital age.




Other free magazines include 91 and Morrisons 

What to consider when taking your child to a live concert


My children adore music and there is something quite magical in experiencing live music, however, it is important to introduce your children to this fun activity in the right way.  Both my boys have been to concerts aimed at adults and families, in addition to live acts which are specifically designed for children such as The Wiggles.  I also know that Maxi would love tickets to see Eric Clapton  and have the time of his live watching him with his Grandad.


Considerations to make
    1. How long is the concert?  Can your child sit though that length of time.  You need to be considerate of other people who have paid to watch the concert too.
    2. Remember to factoring the travel time either side of the concert.  My friend Cass at Frugal Family went to an Olly Murs concert this week and they didn’t get out of the car park till 10ish and Master Frugal actually fell asleep during the concert.
    3. Does the artist have a matinee.  One Direction often do as there target market is tweens and teens.
    4. Is the band Child friendly - remember lyrics are not censored when live! Use your common sense.
    5. Talk values.  Explain that you love the music, but do wish that the band wouldn’t swear and that often the flamboyance is put on for the stage. Your child needs to be mature enough to understand the difference.
You also have to bear in mind that artists can be temperamental and timekeeping is not their number one priority, which was highlighted this week when Justine Beiber was over 2 hours late on stage.  Concerts can be a great experience for children and I know that Miss Frugal had a blast seeing Olly Murs last week but the whole night would have been spoilt if he had been two hours late, especially on a school night.


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Washi tape magnet tutorial

Hello I am Jen and I have a stationery fetish.  I often feel that there should be a self help program for people like me.  I just love all types of stationery!  So I have something of a stash of washi tape!



This is a really simple project and a perfect way for using up any magnets that you get free. 
  • Firstly. carefully peel off the label
  • Cover the magnet with white paper in case your tape is translucent in places  
  • I then took a selection of my tape and stuck it to the paper on the magnet.  As the tape is adhesive no glue is needed.
  • I used my guillotine to cut between the strips of tapes and then used scissors to make the ends look as though they have been torn.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Would you book a last minute holiday?

Did you know that you could save up to 70% on your holiday by booking it last minute with Latedeals?

I have not been one for booking late in the day and do tend to be an early bird, which also gets you some great deals.  However, at the moment Latedeals have a great competition on the Latedeals facebook page (on the trivia tab) to win £500 towards one of their breaks, which would certainly make me consider booking later if I won!


Have you got holiday plans for this year?


Monday, 4 March 2013

Top 3 child-friendly digital cameras


It is usually the parents' job to take photographs and carefully track each stage of their child’s development. After all, memories last longer when the moment is saved using a digital camera. However, it could be a great idea to see the memories of your child through your child's point of view.

They might not be the best at framing a photograph, but nothing will quite store their memories as arming them with their own digital camera and letting them loose on the world.

Vtech Kidizoom

Vtech have created the perfect blend of fun and practicality with their Kidizoom Plus camera. This 2.0 megapixel offering also includes a 2x zoom for your youngster to play with and it is capable of storing up to 500 photos before you need to backup the shots.
The camera includes games for their entertainment during family holidays, with editing effects that may teach the little one to be the fashion editor of the future. Coming with everything your child needs to connect their photos to a computer, this can be had for around the £50 mark.



Kid-Tough digital camera

Fisher Price know full well how destructive kids can be towards toys so they have designed the Kid-Tough with exactly that in mind. It can be dropped and stepped on – at least on occasion – and has the nice feature of having two viewfinders: an easy way for young children to see through the lens like a binocular.
It has dual grips for easier control and a snazzy 4x digital zoom for the professional kids out there. At the end, connect it to your laptop and see what they have snapped.

Fujifilm INSTAX MINI

This quirkily shaped, sleek coloured offering brings quality photography to the little ones. Photographs are printed immediately, allowing kids to tweak their technique on the go. It is lightweight and durable – ideal for children learning the ways of photography.
Of course, once you’ve got your child their own camera you’ll need to think about their photography skills. Thankfully, there are plenty of children’s photography workshops available so you needn’t worry about overexposed holiday snaps!




Sunday, 3 March 2013

How to clean your dishwasher without chemicals

Just like cleaning the washing machine and tumble dryer, I think it is important to regularly clean your dishwasher without chemicals.  This is something I do once a month, so ensuring that I do not have detergent build up or a mucky dishwasher and I never have to use a dishwasher detergent either.



I just do not see the point in trying to clean dishes in a dirty dishwasher.

Now I have to admit that I am unsure if it is not frugal to have a dishwasher or wash by hand, but I do always ensure that we fill our dishwasher before using it and set it on overnight using the ecological wash.  We also never use rice aid or salt, but that is due to the fact that we live in a soft water area.
  1. Empty the filter of your dishwasher (mine simply twists and pulls). You can find how to do this in your instruction manual or on your washer manufactures web site.
  2. Wipe down all your seals and around the door with a solution of 50% white vinegar and water with a lint free cloth.
  3. Place a cup of white vinegar in the top of your dishwasher and run it on a hot cycle (60 degree, this helps shift any greece accumulation or cleaner gunk)
  4. Once cycle has completed sprinkle the bottom of your dishwasher with bicarbonate of soda (which will deodorise it).
  5. You do not have to rinse this from your dishwasher and can fill and use as usual.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Chocolate Simnel Cake


I love baking and as neither MadDad or the boys are keen on fruit cake I have made a chocolate Simnel cake for Easter for the last four years.

However, if you are not a keen baker then you can always keep an eye out for Easter Offers  and Easter Chocolates & Treats using My Supermarket's special Easter shelves.  It is like being in a seasonal aisle in the Supermarket and you can see all the best offers for Easter in one place, sorted by each participating supermarket.


Ingredients
100g/4oz dark chocolate, broken in pieces 
100g/4oz caster sugar 
100g/4oz softened butter, plus extra for greasing
3 eggs, separated 
50g/2oz ground almonds 
50g/2oz self-raising flour 
1 tsp baking powder
Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4/fan oven 160C. Butter an 18cm/7in deep round cake tin; line the base. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. 
2. Beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the yolks, one at a time. Stir in the almonds and chocolate. 
3. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form (see tip). Fold a quarter of the egg white into the chocolate mixture, then sift in a quarter of the flour and baking powder. Repeat three more times until the egg white and flour is evenly mixed in.


4. Pour the mixture into the tin. Bake for 35-40 minutes until risen and firm. Cool for five minutes, turn out on to a wire rack, peel off the paper and cool completely. 

I then add homemade marzipan and melted chocolate to decorate.

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