Live Lagom – an introduction

Lagom.  Not too much and not too little. Just enough.

I’m part of a program run by Ikea called Live Lagom.  It’s all about sustainable living by having just enough to make you happy, not too much so you are cluttered and dare I say it…greedy and not so little that you are living without the things you need to feel cosy, content and at home.  It’s about reducing waste, loving our wonderful planet, being respectful to each other and only taking what we need.

As part of this the Live Lagom Southampton group have met a couple of times now, we’ve been treated to delicious fika (which is Swedish for a time to sit and chat with friends over a hot drink and delicious food … possibly my favourite bit so far ?) and learnt how to make draught excluders from spare textiles.  Just before Christmas we were allocated some time to do a personal shop.  Ikea gave us an allowance to spend on a selection of products to help us with our sustainability at home.  It was hard to decide what to buy…Ikea has so many wonderful things! In the end I chose to replace all the light bulbs in the house with led bulbs, some boxes to sort all our shoes and korken storage jars to sort out my food cupboards. It was hard to choose and looking back I probably wouldn’t have chosen the boxes as they don’t really work for what I wanted them for.  The light bulbs are great and I’ll be intrigued to see any difference in next year’s electricity bill!  My favourite choice for immediate improvement to my home are the Korken glass storage jars…I finally got around to sorting my dried food cupboard yesterday and it’s great to be to see at glance what I have and when I need to buy more bread flour! My next goal is to start meal planning so I buy less each week! 

Apologies for the less bouncy than normal post – I needed to get this one written so I can start talking about the rest of the exciting projects I’m working on! I’ll post again soon but in the meantime you can enjoy this photo of my tidy cupboard ? 

The next chapter.

The parenting books attempt to prepare you for all that being responsible for a brand new human entails. They warn you about growth spurts, teething and sleepless nights.  They talk you through weaning, biting, tantrums and tears.  They then try to tell you that everything will work out and that your precious, vulnerable and often noisy tiny human will fill you with love from the moment they are placed in your exhausted arms.  And they do.  An unending and immeasurable amount of love.


What these books, experts and professionals forget to tell you about is that moment when your baby flies free.  That moment you realise they are ready to find their own way in this beautiful, scary life.  That moment ABBA starts singing inside your head and your baby is slipping through your fingers…  Damn you ABBA.  How do you cope with that?  How do you let go? I wish I knew.


All I know is that we have to, that these tiny humans are their own people.  May be once my youngest reaches this stage it’ll be easier.  I don’t think it will though.  We just need to reassure ourselves that we’ve done our best to equip them with the skills to grow, be happy and find their feet.

I love my children.  They’ll be good adults and in the meantime there’s gin to cope and tissues to dry tears…for all of us.

5 Minutes Peace (or one simple change).

I’m having my usual coffee and almond croissant before work.  It’s my time to stop, reflect and gather myself together before a busy day in customer service.  I used to go into work early to catch with all the little jobs I thought I should be doing so I didn’t let anyone down.  I also used to work through my lunch breaks as I told myself I needed to be hyper-productive.  Over the past few months I’ve been changing that.  I go for a walk at lunchtime, I take 20 minutes to myself in the morning and the overwhelming result of this simple chamge is that I’m (mostly) happier, calmer and ready for my working day.


What simple change can you make to improve your day to day life?  It doesn’t have to be a huge change at all, just a small adjustment that has a huge effect.  Think about the fluttering of butterfly wings…

I look forward to hearing about your changes!

Ali ?


As children we feel that life is ours to keep. That we are invincible, that love is easy to find, that living is easy, fun and carefree. Our minds are inquisitive and full of wonder.

As adults we find that living isn’t easy, fun and carefree, that love doesn’t find us at a click of our fingers and that people are definitely not invincible.

But we have to be strong and be there for those who need us in whatever form they want because that is living – sharing yourself when the chips are down, loving unconditionally, being there.

Living isn’t about material haves. Living is about those things you can’t touch but feel in your heart.


Expect to see more in future!

IMG_20150403_153340LOOK, look what I have been given for my birthday! Yes, I’m 40 next month and to ease the pain my lovely mum has bought me a Kitchenaid stand mixer!

Mingo The Mixer arrived 2 hours ago and so far I have made brownies and now a white bloomer is kneading.

Diet?  What diet?  If Nigella can rock her curves then so can I!

What shall I make next?  Do I need the mincer attachment,  what about a different whisk? It’s all so exciting!

Ali x

Well, Shazbot!

I imagine most of the western world has heard of the untimely passing of the great Robin Williams by now.  It’s so sad and hard to believe that someone you grew up laughing with has now gone. He made us laugh, made us cry and now he has made us think.

Depression is a cruel disease, stripping away your joy, your love of anything and everything. Taking away your life. You tend to exist, not live when depression takes hold, everyday tasks become huge obstacles and if something unexpected should happen, something as small as a friend knocking on the door, it throws everything off kilter.

I spent 15 years on antidepressants. At some points in these years I was doing just fine and no one would know, at other points during this time I wouldn’t leave the house, answer the phone or socialise at all.  Being alone and hiding from the world was my way of living with the black dog.

6 years ago things started to change for me, I became involved with helping new mums breastfeed their babies. Through this I started to see how I could make a difference, that I wasn’t worthless, that there was a purpose to everything.

I stayed on the tablets though, not ready yet to let go of that safety net, besides my life was about to go through some huge changes and I’m not sure how I would have coped. Slowly I started to live again, something that wasn’t actually welcomed by a few people. I started going out and doing things for me. Things that made me happy, like dancing, meeting friends, smiling again.

More life changes followed, including the breakdown of my marriage and moving 140 miles back to the south coast which has always been home.  I was still taking the tablets, again I wasn’t ready to feel or deal with my emotions.

18 months ago I stopped taking the Prozac, don’t know why.  I can’t think of an out and out reason for knowing I didn’t need them anymore. I just knew I didn’t want to feel numb, that I could now cope with my emotions, that I wanted to be me again.

I’ve not looked back, I love my life. I have an amazing family and the most wonderful friends that I could wish for. I’m meeting more and more fabulous people and seeing the beauty in everything.

Depression sucks. You can’t ‘snap out of it’ or ‘pull yourself together’ as gets suggested so many times. Some people are lucky, they can unchain the black dog and let him run far, far away and know he won’t come back. Others cannot. If someone you know reaches out to you and tells you how they are feeling, be there for them.  Ask them what you can do and avoid the clichés.

RIP Robin Williams, thank you for the giggles.

Simply Cook – A Review

cookboxThere’s a new thing on the home delivery food scene … recipe boxes.  They come with all the spices, oils and condiments you need to make a delicious, easy and exciting meal for 1-3 people (or 5 in my case as I added extras to bulk it up for the family).  Having seen Simply Cook advertised on Facebook I thought it sounded interesting.  I’m always a sucker for anything new to do with food! The £10 price tage seemed quite high so the 50% discount code was the excuse I needed!

The box was delivered 3 days after I ordered, it wasn’t small enough to fit through the letter box so that could be an issue for those who work outside the home.  Inside you get 4 individual boxes, each containing 3 little pots of spices, oils, and stocks/condiments.  You also get 4 recipe cards which have a handy tear off bit with a shopping list on.  The impatient cook in me wanted to open all the little pots to sniff and taste but I managed to hold back!open boxThe first recipe I tried was the spiced butternut squash risotto.  Not a new recipe for me, but I wanted to start with something familiar, something that I had a frame of reference for.  Usually I would roast the squash whilst cooking the risotto, this recipe asks you to cook half the squash in with the rice, and fry the other half with proscuitto ham and pine nuts. You get a spice mix, garlic paste and vegetable stock in the kit all of which smelled amazing separately and out of this world together … all I could hear was ‘mmm, that smells great’ and ‘When is tea ready mum?’!pumpkinrisotto cooking

I followed the recipe to the letter, wanting to give it the fairest test.  However once the rice was cooked, the squash was still too al dente for my liking … so I spent 5 minutes fishing out the squash and newked it in the microwave to finish it off.  Next time I would definitely roast it as usual.

Finishing it off with butter and parmesan made for an unctuously creamy and flavoursome risotto.  The salty proscuitto and sweet pine nuts add a wonderful depth of flavour and fabulous mouth feel as you eat. A crisp, cold white wine would have complimented it perfectly too. pumpkin risotto cookedI was very impressed with the obvious care and attention that had gone into developing the recipes, the blend of flavours is sublime.  Easy to cook and very satisfying to eat.  If my 4 food critics enjoyed it then it must have been good!

Tomorrow I’ll comment on the next recipe from the box – Cajun chicken and sweet potato mash.

Happy eating!


Warning: This entry may make you drool.

I’ve got my foodie mojo back and it’s great.  But not so great for my waistline which I’d quite like to keep as it is, please and thank you.  It’s also not good for my kitchen fairy who has to do all the tidying up (me).  I’ll never be a tidy cook.brownieingredients

It’s been a while since I’ve had a foodgasm.  You know, when you bite into something so deliciously edible that you are willing to forego all other pleasures just to take another mouthful … OH. MY.

This recipe had been floating around Facebook land this morning and it just spoke to me  –  ‘bake me, eat me, love me’ … I had to do it and I wasn’t disappointed.  Absolutely no disappointment involved in these brownies whatsoever.  You’ve broken up with your boyfriend? Make these.  You’ve been sacked? Make these.  You need to do housework? Definitely make these instead.

Using the instructions on the above link I began to construct the pretty layers of gooey mixture and crunchy pretzel.  Lots of little hearts all wrapped up in chocolatey lurve! However, there wasn’t enough mixture for the size tin I used so I had to whip up some of my own brownie mixture using this recipe. 

I used a tin of condensed milk to make the dulce de leche topping.  I boiled the unopened tin in a saucepan of water for about 3 hours and let it cool before using.  I think 2.5 hours would have made a slightly softer caramel sauce.


Because the dulce de leche was quite firm I spread it on the brownie slab before it had cooled and then sprinkled with Maldon sea salt. It really is a taste explosion.  First the incredible sweetness from the caramel off set by the sea salt.  Then you get the crunch of the pretzels wrapped up in the soft, comforting blanket of rich, dark brownie.  You need to make these.  You really do.


I did worry slightly that the pretzels would soften, and they do when warm but as the cake cools they crisp up again.  Such a clever recipe and one I’ll be making again, and again, and again.



Still waiting

My oven is still broken, I’m getting antsy now. I need to bake! Ah well, at least my starter is getting super active with all this feeding.

I’ve been reflecting back on the last year of living in this house over the past few days.  What a year it has been,  full of ups and downs – much like a rollercoaster. However you can either scream when you hit the bumps or hold your hands up and enjoy the ride!

I don’t want to come across as a militant single parent. Yes it’s tough at times but parenting is. Whilst I don’t love being the only adult in the house, I am extremely proud of how my little family are turning out, all of us are growing, changing, adapting.  I love how we are very similar yet so very different. These differences are what make us special. We should embrace them, allow them to develop.

I hope I can bring a sense of belonging yet individuality to my children. I want them to know that it is ok to be different.  I hope I’ve shown them how to respect the opinions and beliefs of others when they differ to theirs.

Being a parent is tough, fun, rewarding, exhausting, loving and hard work. It’s the best job in the world and I feel very privileged to have been given this chance.

What does every baker need?

Yes, that’s right. An oven, preferably one that works!  I had such plans for this week but my oven had other ideas.  Currently waiting on the landlord to repair (prefereably replace with an Aga but that’s just me dreaming again) the said appliance so I’ve been breadless for the past few days *insert sympathetic comments here*

So what can I do with all this spare starter that I carefully remove before feeding the remainder? Make pikelets of course!  Do you remember them, those soft fluffy uneven circles of Sunday teatime happiness?  A cross between a crumpet and a drop scone, these little treats are easy to make and even easier to eat … (yes, the diet will have to start again soon)

2014-03-20 12.30.48I poured off 300g of my starter and to that I added 3 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder and a splash of milk.  Whisk it all up and it starts to bubble straight away.  I put a little vegetable oil in my frying pan and was able to fit 3 spoonfuls of mixture in at a time.  The pikelets are ready to flip when they look like this …

2014-03-20 12.34.00How did I eat them?  We had them with a little bit of butter dreamily melting into the holes and drizzled with copious amounts of maple syrup (me) or honey (my daughter).  You have to ensure that you have enough butter and syrup on them so you end up with a buttery sticky mess dribbling down your chin 🙂

2014-03-20 12.49.00


I cleaned my starter jar the other day too, it doesn’t matter that it gets gunky and a bit dry around the top of the jar but it irritates my very very mild baking OCD.  It made it easy for me to be able to show the best point to feed your starter.  This photo shows you how the starter looks just after feeding with fresh flour and water …2014-03-20 14.35.13You can then watch the starter bubble and rise in the jar … it’s quite fascinating really (yes, I’m becoming a bread geek. You don’t need to tell me, I already know). When the starter has finished feasting it will slump back down and look like this ~ 2014-03-21 13.28.11See how the level has dropped back down? This is when you know it is time to remove half and reresh with more flour and water.  You can use the starter you’ve removed for your recipe, use it to start another batch of starter,throw it away or make pikelets, pancakes, bacon, maple syrup, butter, cream.  Oops, went off on a little foodie daydream there!

Tomorrow I’m planning a day of juicing and experimenting with flavours.  I shall let you know how I got on.