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Friday, 8 January 2016

Nutella and Almond Bread Maker Rolls Recipe

2016 is set to see a huge strain on our finances as I have just started maternity leave!  In an effort to save money I am operating a zero waste policy in the kitchen.  After rummaging in cupboards the other day I realised I had not only an almost full jar of Nutella that was just sitting there, but also a small amount of powdered almonds left over from the Christmas baking.  Something had to be created from these two wonderful 'leftovers'.

I am a huge fan of cinnamon rolls and a bread maker version had been on my pinterest wishlist for ages!  I'm also quite in love with an amazing chocolate brioche that Aldi sells and was wondering if I could come up with something in the same family to squash my craving.  The lightbulb moment came when I decided to combine two recipes; the breadmaker cinnamon roll recipe and one I found for Nutella and almond rolls!

The process for this is super easy and only involves about 20 minutes of actual work, the bread maker does the rest!  If you don't have a bread maker you need to get one in your life!  Read about how much money you could save with one here.


Makes 12

For the Dough

250ml (8 fl oz) warm milk (45 C)
2 eggs, room temperature lightly beaten
75g (3 oz) butter, melted
600g (1 1/3 lb) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
100g (4 oz) caster sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons quick yeast
2 teaspoons almond extract


For the Filling 

1 jar of Nutella
50g ground almonds


For the Icing

90g icing sugar
4 teaspoons whole milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 



Place the dough ingredients in the bread maker in the order specified in your manual (mine is always wet ingredients first, followed by dry and then yeast, sugar and salt on top). Don't worry too much about getting your milk to the perfect temperature.  I measure mine into a microwavable mug/jug and place it on high for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until it is warm but not hot.  Select the dough cycle and press start. 
After the bread maker has finished, the dough should be doubled in size.  If it isn't place on a floured surface and cover until doubled in size (about 10 minutes).

Roll the dough out on a well floured surface to measure 40cms x 50cms.  It will be very springy and pliable, so do not force the dough with the rolling pin, just roll gently.  Make sure that you measure the dough and that it is in a rough rectangular shape.
Using a large spoon and either a knife or spatula carefully cover the dough in the jar of Nutella.  Once you have an even layer, sprinkle on the ground almonds.

Starting with the longer end carefully roll the dough into a spiral shape.  Make sure that it is tight enough that the Nutella was stick the dough together and it won't loose it's shape once cut.  Then divide the long sausage into 12 pieces and arrange cut side up on a well oiled tin (or 2 tins if required).  The rolls should be touching.

Cover with a piece of clingfilm and place in a warm setting for 30 minutes, they will double in size.  Whilst you are waiting for this step pre-heat the oven to 200c / fan 180c / Gas mark 6.
Once the buns have risen remove the clingfilm and bake in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes.  Keep an eye on them after 12 minutes as they will quickly catch, they should be a light golden brown colour.
While the buns are cooking mix all the icing ingredients together in a bowl.  You may need to adjust the icing sugar and milk quantities to get a nice runny paste.  Once the buns have been cooked, remove from the oven and drizzle over the icing whilst still warm.

After 10 minutes, carefully transfer the buns to a wire rack to prevent soggy bottoms!
These are best eaten warm, but can be re-heated in a cold oven (not pre-heated) at 160c / fan 150c for 5 minutes.  These also freeze well to ensure you always have a batch on the go!  Just defrost by placing on a wire rack for a few hours and then re-heating as usual

Friday, 1 January 2016

Save £667.95 in a year, 1p at a time!

So it's January and a lot of us are feeling the burn from a big Christmas money splurge.  Every year we say that we will save throughout the year and every year some unexpected event or bill clears out any plans that we had to put money aside for Christmas.

What if I told you that you could pay for Christmas by putting aside a few pennies a day?  At first I thought that there is no way that you could save a reasonable amount in this way, but the figures don't lie.  The basics are on the 1st day of the year you save 1p, on the 2nd 2p, on the 3rd 3p, on the 4th 4p and so on.  The most you will ever put away is £3.65, and at the end of the year you will have earned a cool £667.95 (£671.61 in 2016 as it's a leap year!).  In fact it's only part way through April when you will need to start putting away more than £1 a day, plenty of time to recover from last years Christmas over-spend.

There are a few people out there that prefer to start the money challenge backwards and so put aside £3.65 on 1st January, £3.64 on 2nd January £3.63 on 3rd January, £3.62 on 4th January and so on.  It depends on whether you feel you will be able to put a little more aside in January or December.

There are two main ways in which to do the challenge;
  • A physical jar that you fill with change
  • If you have access to internet banking it is easy to transfer the required amount to an ISA or savings account.
Both have their positives!

A physical jar means you have the added motivation of seeing the coins rising, you could also add any spare change you may have to make your total even higher.  An ISA or savings account will also have an interest rate which means you should see a small return on all those pennies too.

If like me you have an appalling memory, the wonderful bloggers over at A Damn Good Life have created a printable sheet that you can tick off daily to ensure you don't lose track of where you are on your savings.

 Be sure to head directly over to them and download a high quality version, their blog is a great read too!

For those of you that are using a template on a leap year, remember to add in £3.66 at some point to cover the extra day!

Why not let me know how you get on in the comments?

Happy 2016!

Well 2015 is over and today we are enjoying the first day of 2016!

2015 was certainly eventful and although I lost my much beloved Nan, we have come through the year being thankful for all that happened too.  I am currently 8 and a bit months pregnant and we finally moved into our forever house a few weeks ago.

As we move into the new year I'm in a quandary about what to do with this blog.  Trying to conceive has been such a huge part of my life for over 5 years, but that chapter is about to come to an end.  My blogging and crafting hobbies helped enormously with regaining a sense of self that our miscarriages and struggles robbed me of, but at the same time I don't know where my new role as a Mother will leave these priorities.

Most importantly I am all too aware of the lovely people that read this blog that are still trying to achieve their dream of parenthood and I don't want them to have to read about the new baby and have it feel as if it's being rubbed in.  I have been there and I know that no-matter how happy you are for the new parents, there is always a bubble of resentment beneath the surface, the 'why not me?'

So as I move in to 2016 I am left with two options;
  • Call time on my beloved Ramblings of a Baby Making Addict blog and start anew
  • Update and re-name the blog to focus on our new chapter
Both have pros and cons and it is a decision that I have been pondering for some time.  I know however that with only 3 and a bit weeks to go until D-day I need to make it fast!

I wish all my readers a very happy and prosperous 2016!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

In progress video walk through of the house over-haul!

Since getting the keys to our home 10 weeks ago so many things have changed.  At one point the house literally looked like a building site!  Walls were knocked back to bare plaster, dado rails ripped out, doors removed, carpets torn up, fixtures and fittings gutted and the cloakroom suite completely ripped out.

Thankfully we are now on the final stretch (under 6 weeks until we hopefully move in!) and I wanted to do a video walk through to document just how far we have come in our renovation journey.  In hindsight, shooting in landscape would have been a much better idea, but sorry folks you'll just have to put up with the scaled down view!

If you can't remember the condition of the house when we moved in, I featured it in a blog post here :)

Our home is definitely one built from love as it is thanks to amazing parents, friends and family that we have achieved so very much.  The Mr and I have sadly had minimal input with the physical side of things (joys of ill health for the Mr and pregnancy ailments for me!) but we are so very blessed to have such an amazing support network.

As the video says, let me know what you think in the comments!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

A Happy Announcement!

It occurred to me a few days ago that I haven't technically announced my pregnancy on here!  Sure I may have mentioned in passing in a few recent blog posts that we are decorating the nursery etc, but seeing as I am 24 weeks along tomorrow, I guess I really should be making the formal proclamation!

Well we had IVF/ICSI back in May (2015) and although it almost killed me (I WILL post my scary OHSS stories over the next few days) we were successful!  I am almost a Long Term Trying To Conceive Graduate, and although we are a matter of months from having our baby, I still don't think it has sunk in.

Junior will be due on January 25th 2016 and of course we are over the moon!

Like most things in life, we never get the easy ride.  Firstly I was hospitalized for just shy of 3 weeks immediately after our IVF egg transfer as I'd managed to develop Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS).  It doesn't sound all that scary, in truth most cases are mild and just severely uncomfortable, but I opted for severe.  So severe that my kidneys shut down, my lung collapsed, my liver started to fail, they found fluid on my heart and I had to be fitted with a abdomen drain.  I gained just under 2 stone in fluid in a matter of days (not great for a petite build like me!) and was kept on the high dependency ward (with one scary instance where a particularly militant doctor was trying to transfer me to ICU due to the 'severity of my condition').  You bet I was scared, but I secretly knew our IVF had worked, ironically it's the release of HCG (a hormone created during pregnancy) that had pushed my OHSS to mild to severe.  My OHSS initially declined until (presumably) implantation occurred and then it began to sky rocket.

Secondly we had the side effects of the OHSS to contend with.  Myself and the baby were at a huge risk for clotting (due to all fluids being stripped from my blood and pooled in my abdomen) and so I was on daily injections for blood thinners until 20 weeks.  My blood tests also showed that my liver had suffered severe damage and in the first few months following hospital discharge there was some question as to whether it would fully recover, luckily it has!

Thirdly I opted for combined screening at our 12 week scan as one of my gorgeous cousins has Downs Syndrome and (although this wouldn't have effected our decision at all) we like to be prepared.  We are very low risk for downs syndrome, but we had an awful call from a midwife to tell us that we were high risk for markers of Edwards and Patau syndrome (Trisomy 18 and Trisomy 13).  Naively we had never heard of this (or read the literature in our pregnancy pack!) and so when we were told it is ultimately a death sentence for the baby, we were obviously devastated.  What followed was 5 weeks of torture, we opted out of an amniocentesis (although we were strongly being advised to take it by the NHS healthcare team) as I was convinced it would cause a miscarriage and that the results would then back as clear.  We found out about a private none invasive blood test that has a high percentage of success called a Harmony Test.  The local NHS midwife was advising the foetal medicine centre in Harley Street, London to carry out the test and the travel expenses and private blood tests were pretty costly.  We had to travel to London twice as the first blood test failed and sadly the second blood test was unable to pick up a result either.  It's not all doom and gloom though as part of the testing fee included two very in-depth ultrasound with a technician trained in picking up physical markers for these abnormalities.  The first ultrasound technician found now physical abnormalities and told us he would be very surprised if the baby had Edwards or Patau syndrome.  We took great comfort in this, however our midwife dashed our hopes when she told us it wasn't definitive enough and to strongly consider opting for amniocentesis.  When we went back to London the second time we saw a different ultrasound technician and when we explained what the midwife had said he re-scanned and told us categorically that there is ALWAYS a physical marker that they see and that in his opinion our baby does NOT have Edwards of Patau, in fact he said that we didn't really even need the second blood test as the scan was so clear, which was pretty reassuring as the second blood test failed too.

Fourthly both our 12 week NHS and private scans revealed I have a weak placenta.  The bit of research I have done shows that the OHSS could possibly have been a factor in causing this, but in truth we will never know.  Basically it means that the baby will eventually outgrow the placenta before the standard 37 weeks.  I need growth scans at 28 weeks and then continuously to make sure baby is not being deprived of vital nutrients which will affect final growth.  If baby does seem to be in difficulties then I will be induced early, scary! 

Our 20 week NHS anomaly scan was consultant led and an absolute dream!  The consultant was over-joyed at baby's progress and said all growth was textbook.  The sonographer did pick up that baby was on the small side, but our lovely consultant waved this comment away with a 'So is Mummy'.  We were treated to almost an hour of scanning and as we had a trainee in the room were given a running clinical commentary too!  Our local hospital had just been fitted with a 3D scanner and we were asked if we minded being guinea pigs, free 3D scan and photos, yes please!

We have our next growth scan in 3 and a half weeks and I have a sneaky suspicion that baby will be staying put for a good few weeks after that as Jr has grown a huge amount recently!  Which is pretty lucky as we have been living with the in-laws since I was 11ish weeks and our house isn't going to be ready until I'm about 30 weeks, please stay put baby!

For now, I will leave you with our pregnancy announcement picture for facebook!  It was posted pretty late at 17 weeks, but with all the testing drama we wanted to keep it to ourselves until we were feeling more positive about the whole outcome :)

Saturday, 29 August 2015

House Quirks - Part One

So, last week I shared our initial moving in house post and I promised to share some of the more interesting house quirks (or bodge jobs as the Mr calls them), so here we go!

The first thing I noticed when we stepped through the front door with the keys in our hands was that the previous owners had left a lot of random things attached to the walls.  There were coat hooks, childrens plaques, mirrors and strangest of all two notice boards in the kitchen.

A bit of closer investigation to the notice boards revealed that the previous DIY novices had left it all behind as it was attached with no more nails!  I mean seriously, who sticks a light weight cork board to the wall with a heavy grade adhesive when a simple frame hook will do?  What were their magnets made of, lead weights?!

For those of you that are fortunate enough not to be familiar with this god awful invention, when you try to remove anything that is secured to a wall with it, the damage is so severe that great big chunks of plaster are taken with it!

The problem with no more nails is that the damage it causes extends far beyond where it was applicated.  By the time I had removed all the surrounding blown plaster I ended up with this huge area of disaster.

Sadly the damage caused isn't minor either, as you can see it runs pretty deep and is going to need a lot more than the two seconds required for filling a frame hook pin hole, if the boards had been hung correctly.

I know it is a personal taste thing, but I hate dado rail.  At some point, one of the previous owners thought it would be a great idea to put dado rail in the hallway, lounge, stairway and upstairs landing.  In some places this had been secured with the correct pins, but in some places an adhesive had also been used.  More damage to the plaster.

3 weeks in to our project and we are still filling and sanding the bloody plaster!  We've used just over 11kg of ready made filler and I fear the end is still not in sight.  There is no way we could have afforded to get a plasterer out to rectify all the damage caused by no more nails!

This is probably my favourite bodge of all, just because of the sheer comedy value!  The previous owners actually managed to attach the tap upside down.  Not just content with that, but they then layered it with hard curing putty to make it near impossible to fix without replacing the whole bloody thing.

If you are aiming for more than a dribble of water from the tap, then you are out of luck.  The water pressure is so high that it arcs out high over the kitchen window and helpfully waters our flowering tree in the garden.  Try filling a bucket from that!

 In some areas of the house, they decided to screw heavier items directly into the wall from the front.  What mirror isn't complete with a set of 4 screw heads poking through the wood?

When you have children, you want to personalise the house with all their crap and make it accessible to them.  Children grow at quite a speed and perhaps someone should have pointed out that securing a cute animal wooden coat hook at their children's height with no more nails is a bad idea.  Not only will they not be able to easily change the height as their child sprouts up, they also can't easily remove the thing when the child decides that animal coat hooks are for babies.

If the paint on the wall starts to crack and blister, surely it indicates that something is wrong?  Perhaps it would be wise to find out if it was just lack of preparation on the last decorators part, or something more sinister like damp?  Or you could just paint over it (including the bits that had flaked back to bare concrete) and hope for the best!

This is confined to one area of the master bedroom (the corner of the two external walls) and at some point it looks like there has definitely been a damp issue (although it has resolved or been rectified).

The problem with just ignoring an issue like this (or just painting over it) means that when the poor next owner comes to try and rectify another bodged job, the damage has extended well beyond the initial point.

The internal walls of the house have been so damaged by no more nails and lack of general house maintenance that in all honesty we need a professional plasterer to come in and make good.  Sadly the thousands that this will cost is well beyond our budget.  This means the walls all have to be stripped back by us and filled/sanded to an acceptable level.  Unfortunately we are not skilled plasterers (although coincidentally I was considering signing up for a course just before we found out I was expecting!) and so 95% of the house will need to be wall papered to hide any blemishes.  Eventually we may be able to stretch to having one room plastered at a time, but right now this is the most sympathetic and cost effective approach to rectifying the damage.

I've called this post part one as I am sure we will have plenty of other 'bodges' to share with you along the way!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

New House!

Well it has taken almost 5 months, but we finally completed on our new house!

Previously we have always been lucky enough to rent or own new build flats and so purchasing a property almost as old as me and the Mr has taken a huge dose of adjustment! We purchased our house on the shared ownership scheme and although it is far from perfect (and admittedly very over-priced!) we know we were lucky enough to be accepted as the scheme is highly sought after with huge waiting lists.  For us (like most), it was the only way we would ever be able to buy our very own home.

The major drawback with viewing shared ownership homes is that only the barest of details are listed (both online and with the estate agent/housing association) and you are lucky to see a photo of the outside of the property, it is almost never that a listing will feature interior shots or floor plans.  This means that you get into the habit of booking to view and having to keep an open mind when it comes to figuring out if this mystery house could be your dream home.

We had spent a total of 10 minutes viewing the house and although we could see it was tired and needed a lot of work, we knew we had to register our interest anyway as securing a house on the shared ownership scheme is a rare thing indeed.  We were initially told that the house had been offered to someone else, however a few days later we received a call to advise us their funding had fallen through (told you it was over-priced!) and were we still interested.  We jumped at the chance and were pleased as punch to finally be on our way up the housing ladder.

There were a lot of niggles with buying shared ownership that I will address one day in another post, but for now let's just focus on the awesome house!

Because the buying process dragged on, by the time the completion date rolled round we had mainly forgotten about the exact layout of the house and argued a lot about where things would eventually go!  As I mentioned before shared ownership property photographs are rather thin on the ground, BUT with a bit of internet detective work I did manage to find a 2008 listing for the property in the rightmove archives, complete with floor-plan!  Now we knew from our viewing that this was massively outdated (the latest owners were not a fan of domesticity and it really showed!) but it was better than nothing.

As you can see from the floor-plan, it isn't a mansion but it does have some nifty storage and a slightly bigger than average (for the house size) garden.

The outside looks pretty much the same, just even more tried!  A definite lick of paint is needed on that woodwork.

A perfectly functional kitchen

The garden is quite a good size and was at one time low maintenance but looked after.

I quite like the layout of the dining area as although it is attached to the living room, it still feels separate and has the bonus of the kitchen door being opposite the table area.

We are lucky enough to have two bedrooms and this is the master, a good size.

When the current owners moved out, they were inconsiderate enough to leave the house in quite a mess (I spent hours cleaning our flat making it welcoming for the new owners).  In fact I was so shell shocked at how severe the dirt and damage appeared (since our 10 minute viewing 5 months prior) that I forgot to take photographs until we started working on it!

We are actually lucky enough to have a hallway off the front door, a rarity in todays newer builds!

Just off the hallway we have a downstairs loo, essential in any home!  This room was probably the dirtiest in the house.  I usually have an iron stomach, but it took me a few days to steel myself against the filth to tackle it with bleach, gloves and a mask.  The wall tiles actually turned brown when I started wiping, it was months (if not years of filth) and yes that is a plastic cistern you can see, definitely original to the house :)

This poor sink was so old/dirty that all the metal work has corroded and not even the wonders of cillit bang can bring back it's sparkle, it definitely needs replacing.

The lounge isn't a bad size and although we aren't a fan of the dado rail, the work needed is mainly cosmetic.

I am slightly worried if our leather beast of a sofa and huge cuddle chair is going to fit, but I'm being optimistic!

We know just how lucky we are to have patio doors that go straight from the dining area into the garden and it is something the dogs will love!

Just off the living area we have this under-stairs cupboard with full size door.  It is a great area for storage and I have my heart set on converting part of it for pantry use!

The under-stairs cupboard isn't huge, but I think I can give it a makeover so the hoover can live in harmony with the pantry part.

 According to the latest owners the kitchen was updated two years ago.  In my opinion it was trashed two years ago!  Plug sockets were replaced at wonky angles and since the 'new' kitchen went in it has suffered major damage from improper use.  We have missing handles, broken cupboards and drawers, holes in cabinets, cracked floor tiles and the dirt is unbearable to think about.  The kitchen in our old flat was almost 6 years old and I am proud to say looked almost as good as new thanks to our careful ownership.

The old owners also left us with an unusable sink as they had bodged removing their washing machine and couldn't find a waste pipe cap to replace the part they removed.  A quick trip to wickes luckily solved this.

The kitchen isn't huge, but it's definitely bigger than my last one.

The stairs are actually off the hallway which is the preferable alternative to having them in the living room

Because they are so enclosed the stairs are quite dark, a light colour is definitely going to be needed.

The upstairs landing is tiny and windowless meaning like the stairs it is pretty dark unless all the bedroom/bathroom doors are open.

We do have the old airing cupboard where the heating tank used to be housed.  Although that curtain has to go!

Plenty of storage for towels and bedding in here!

When we first moved in, there were no bedroom doors attached to either room.  Quite annoying but I'm sure the previous owners had their reasons.

The master bedroom once belonged to children and so like the rest of the house it is worn and filthy.

Admittedly I am a little worried about painting over the areas where the vinyl has been, I just hope it doesn't take too many coats to stop it peeking through.

This room is a good size and definitely bigger than our old master bedroom.

When we tried re-hanging the second bedroom door, we realized what a bodge job it was.  There was a good 2 inches difference in height between one end and the other, with a wonky connecting line to boot!

We are lucky enough that this is a double bedroom too, we just need to decide if the baby or the business gets it!

The bathroom isn't a bad size, yet again it's just been poorly finished.  The toilet has a huge lean to the right and so far no one has been brave enough to use it!

The garden is beautiful and sunny!

Although it definitely needs some TLC, it definitely has potential!

We have a nice flowering tree in the corner

As the house is semi-detached, we are lucky enough to have side access from the front straight though to the back, this will be invaluable I'm sure!

The current owners put these weird trip hazards randomly dotted around the garden and my lovely mother in law is terrified I am going to trip (clumsy, me?) and squish the baby, they have to go!

One of the nicest surprises about the garden was this double shed.  Although it's been placed in a very awkward position (the middle of the garden!) it is going to be perfect as a work studio once water proofed and insulted.

I have to admit that I think the house looks very smart from the back!

In truth I am itching to move in, but we have owned it for two weeks now and the list of work that needs to be completed before we can finally start moving our items in seems to be growing.

Next time the make over will begin and I will reveal some of the slightly odder DIY quirks that our new house seems to possess!