Saturday, 22 October 2011

My frugal (gluten-free) wedding cake...

I decided to make my own wedding cake for two reasons.  Firstly, wedding cakes are so expensive and I was confident I could save a fortune by making my own; secondly, I wanted to have a gluten-free wedding cake, so I could eat some myself!

I made the cakes using vanilla sponge in three tier sizes - 11", 9" and 6".  I baked these a couple of weeks before the wedding and stored these in the freezer.  I defrosted the sponges and iced these two days before the wedding, which gave the icing enough time to dry out but ensuring the sponges were still fresh.

Here's the finished article, which I must say I was rather proud of.  I'd never attempted a wedding cake before, and it was far from perfect - but I was really pleased with how it looked and the fact it appeared a bit "home-made" didn't bother me!  Plus, it went down a treat with the guests at our wedding.
The top tier - 6" vanilla sponge with jam and buttercream filling

Each tier was covered in marzipan

I nearly ran out of space when rolling out the icing!

Each tier iced with white fondant icing

The dowels and finishing touches added, ready for transportation to the venue!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Cakes from the archives...

The first "novelty" cake I ever made
I've always loved baking, since the very early days of making cakes with my mother - licking the spoons afterwards.  As an adult I mastered creating delicious, fluffy sponges and enjoyed teaching myself different decorating techniques. 

In 2009 I was diagnosed with coeliac disease and suddenly I needed to learn all about new baking techniques in order to work with flours made without gluten.  I was determined to overcome the issues that gluten-free baking can bring and since then I have only ever made cakes that I'm able to eat myself!

Here's a selection of some of my creations from over the last few years.

Football shirt cakes were really popular

Another football shirt cake

An Iggle Piggle cake for my daughter

Squidgy chocolate cake

Coffee cake with Minstrels

You can't beat fairy cakes!

My daughter loves pink icing

My husband's birthday cake - which I made him 2 weeks after we met!

My first Christmas cake - gluten-free too

My first Christmas cake

Sometimes I let the kids run riot with the decorating!

My daughter's 4th birthday cake

Christmas cake 2010

A vanilla sponge with buttercream filling - Christmas 2010

Vanilla sponge with raspberry jam and buttercream filling

Another vanilla sponge (well, it is my favourite!)

You guessed it - vanilla sponge!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Winter's on the way...

Armed with a snow shovel... Bring it on!
My winter preparations are nearing completion.  I'm now the proud owner of my very own snow shovel and really couldn't be happier about that - we missed having one last year!

It's a rather fresh 4 degrees here at the moment; we lasted all day without any heating on, but once it got dark the house was starting to feel chilly so we've had the heating on for an hour or two.  Now I'm cosy in bed with a fleece blanket on top of the sheet and the laptop on my knees - get a nice heat from that!!

The October holidays are drawing to a close and it's back to work and school for us on Monday.  I'm thinking I'll make Friday the day for making my Christmas cake - gives me plenty of time to get it nice and boozy by the time Christmas comes along!  My husband isn't keen on alcohol in cakes, so this year I'm planning to make two fruit cakes - one with brandy and one without.  I love the way the fruits soak up the brandy and develop a really rich flavour, so I don't want to leave it out! 

I made my own wedding cake in the summer and still have marzipan and icing left over so that will take away a lot of the expense of the cakes.  I had also thought about making mini christmas cakes and giving these as gifts, individually presented in clear cake boxes. I must have seen the idea somewhere so I'll get on eBay and see if I can find what I am thinking of!

Christmas preparations will soon begin in earnest - I bought aida band in the sewing shop and I am planning on cross-stitching bookmarks to give as gifts this year.  My daughter is in love with books at the moment so I am going to make her one too!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Free toiletries...

I love to collect free samples, hotel toiletries, sachets from magazines and freebies from online survey sites.  It gives me the chance to try all sorts of different products without paying a penny for them.  When my husband and I were on our honeymoon in the summer, each day I would tuck away any unused hotel toiletries in my bag so that the housekeeping staff would leave out fresh supplies.  We joked that my suitcase was heavier on the way home than on the way there due to the dozen or so bars of soap in my toiletries bag!

I've been having a bit of a clear-out this last week and I thought I'd try and "collate" all my samples and freebies together to see just how much I have.

My stash of hotel toiletries
This is just a small selection of mini bottles I've accumulated.

In an effort to reduce the clutter and space taken up by all these fun-size treats, I have made a pact with myself that I'm not going to buy any more shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap or similar for the rest of the year, using up all of my samples before replenishing stocks.  To be honest, I usually get toiletries as Christmas gifts and these keep me going for quite a while.  Any Boots vouchers I receive as gifts I tend to use to stock up on essentials and then I can steer clear of these aisles in the supermarket for the rest of the year!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

In the frugal kitchen this week...

This week I've been batch cooking and stocking up the freezer.  The good thing about the move into the colder weather is that it's time to start making all the yummy comfort foods like casseroles and stews.

Chilli con carne and spaghetti bolognese
I portion up the meals before labelling the containers and stacking these in the freezer.  At the moment I am enjoying the school holidays but when I go back to work, it's so much more convenient to have all the week's meals cooked in advance; I usually get something out in the morning and by tea time it's defrosted and I just need to re-heat and cook potatoes/veg/pasta to accompany whatever we're having.

The ingredients for beef casserole added to the slow cooker
I dug out my slow cooker last week too and made a delicious beef casserole using some discounted Aldi cubed beef.

Beef casserole on the table at tea time

Yesterday I picked up a bargain in Tesco - 2kg of lamb shoulder, yellow stickered to £2.19!  We don't by meat for roasting very often as it can be expensive - but for £2.19 I thought it was worth it!

I cooked the lamb, sliced it up, bagged it and put it in the freezer.  I've a feeling lamb curry will feature in next week's meal plan...

Back on the Value potatoes...

This year saw our first attempt at growing our own vegetables.  Well, I say "our" - I actually mean Mr Frugal, as it was really all his hard work and effort that produced the vegetables.  I just cooked them!

Mr Frugal, harvesting potatoes

We didn't do too badly and in particular, our potatoes worked out really well and we've managed for the last 3 months on homegrown potatoes.  Sadly now though, they've come to an end, so we're back on the Value potatoes until next year.

Our homegrown potatoes

In addition to potatoes, we grew carrots, spring onions and lettuce.  These all grew really well but we grew them in containers rather than in the ground, which resulted in some fairly stubby carrots!  Still tasted delicious - but next year the carrots will go into the "patch".

Our homegrown carrots and spring onions

This year was really our "experiment" year; I'm hoping that next year we'll do much better.  The children loved being involved in the planting, watering and picking of the vegetables.  When it came to digging up the potatoes, they LOVED it!

The children loved helping with the harvest!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Thrifty spending (and not so thrifty spending)...

Yesterday I had the pleasure of a trip into Edinburgh, which is always a treat.  I had an exam to go to (not the pleasure part) but the street I needed to walk down is lined on both sides with an array of charity shops, so I'd been looking forward ot a mooch round them once the exam was over. 

I love a spot of charity shop shopping!  I keep a list in a wee notebook in my bag of any things I need to look out for on my travels and if I spy them in a charity shop then I feel it's a great way to get what I need at a reduced price!  It's also a way for me to get a "shopping fix" (I am a woman after all) without spending a fortune or dusting off the plastic.

Here's my purchases from yesterday:

A roll of wrapping paper, still sealed (99p)
A small photo album, still sealed (£1)
A Mr Men book (50p)
A muffin tray (£2)
A gold ceramic bowl (£1.50)
A wicker basket (£1.50)

The wrapping paper was needed for a birthday present; my daughter is going to a boy's birthday party on Saturday and all the paper in my stash was too "girly".  The present, incidentally, is the game Operation which I picked up on another charity-shop hunt last month - £4.50 for brand new, still sealed.  Bargain!

The photo album I've been after for a while - I plan to fill it with photographs of all the cakes I've made over the years.  There have been some fun creations!

The Mr Men book was a gift for my daughter - she has about a dozen of these and doesn't mind that they are second hand.  She can now read them herself and she loves Mr Men books.

The muffin tray I have been after for a while.  Why I don't have one of these in my collection, I seriously do not know - I have everyother kind of baking tool/equipment you can think of!  I feel cupcakes coming on today...

The gold ceramic bowl and the wicker basket are for craft projects that myself and my daughter are working on for Christmas gifts.  We collected a huge bag of pine cones and the plan is to spray paint them gold and dip them in glitter.  We'll fill the baskets with pine cones, gold chocolate coins and other wee treats, then wrap with cellophane and give as gifts to aunties/grandmas at Christmas.

All that thrifty shopping for £7.49!  Result!


The budget was blown in the evening and all my good work was undone when daughter and I went to the cinema to see The Lion King in 3D!

Normally we go to the cinema with the kids once every couple of months as a treat - the children love it.  At the weekends, the Odeon run a "kids club" where the price is £3 entry for children, and adults go free.  So we can go the four of us for £6, which is a very inexpensive way to go to the cinema.

However, full price tickets are extortionate, so we never go.

On this occasion though... I gave in.  Perhaps it was my sentimental reflection on my own childhood - I remember going to see The Lion King at the cinema when I was a child.  I really wanted to do so again.  So, we had Odeon vouchers for 40% off, and we stashed my handbag full of crisps and chocolate from the supermarket rather than paying cinema prices, and for the price of £13.46 we spent a very enjoyable evening together at the movies.  We laughed, we cried, we sang.  And we Hakuna Matata'd all the way home in the car.

It's nearly 8am and my daugher is still sleeping - the late night and the excitement must have taken it out of her!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Orkney Isles...

I've been avidly following The Wind and the Wellies, detailing simple living in Orkney.  I love this blog; I've been to Orkney a couple of times and it's breathtaking.  Here are some Orkney photos from my visit earlier this year.