University: Keeping Warm and Reducing Your Heating Bill

Throughout university I’ve always had bills-included housing packages – whilst they probably turn out a little more expensive it’s often easier. This year I’m pay quite a big proportion of my rent as bills due to living in an old style house with massive dodgy windows (there’s a gap in mine that takes nearly half a roll of toilet paper to block up!). With that in mind I couldn’t not share this infographic from RapidOnline;

heating your home

What are your top tips for cutting down your bills?

Baking: Peanut Butter Jam Muffins

 photo 2014-08-03153439_zpsb87ffac8.jpgAnyone know what the difference is between a cupcake and a muffin? I always thought muffins were bigger, but it seems the pans in the shops (well, Wilkinsons, I’m not made of money!) are all the same size. I’ve decided cupcakes are iced, and muffins are appropriate breakfast food!

 photo 2014-08-03153516_zps2bb22f2a.jpgThese muffins would definitely back fabulous breakfasts…in fact I know they do as that’s exactly what I had this morning. A cup of tea (or three), a banana, and a muffin. Yum yum. I seriously enjoyed getting my bake on over the weekend, I’ve recently moved into new accommodation for my placement year and was itching to play with the cooker! A huge improvement on student accommodation I have to say! Back to the muffins, and these do make relatively acceptable breakfast fare – especially good for one the go when I’ve snoozed turned off all my alarms. Went down well with the office too, though I’ve made a mental note that my boss is allergic to peanuts!

 photo 2014-08-03133923_zps750492ea.jpgI made these with another of the hand-stirred conserves I received from Mackays* – this time the raspberry one. Again I’m not 100% convinced this has the fruity flavour I’d want from a jam, but unlike the bakewell recipe it doesn’t matter too much here. You just want a nice fruity sweetness against the peanut!

I’ve moved towards cup measurements recently, as I’ve found it a lot easier to make up my own recipes using these quantities – the mathematical-geek part of me loves the ratios involved with baking…

Ingredients.

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup peanut butter – I used crunchy which added a fab texture
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp oil (which I forgot to add, hence mine were a littleeee dry)
  • Jam*

This is such an easy recipe; I love muffins as they really are throwing things into a bowl, a little mix, then bake. Couldn’t be simpler!

 photo 2014-08-03134622_zps1f5c7468.jpgMix your flour, sugar and baking powder together in a large bowl. You should probably sieve them, but I’m lazy and lacking in the sieve department right now…

 photo 2014-08-03134856_zps7d8ee533.jpg photo 2014-08-03135401_zpscc1a6e07.jpgAdd your peanut butter, and mix until it looks bread-crumby. This is probably the hardest part as p-butter is so sticky – I’d recommend using a knife and chopping motions.

 photo 2014-08-03135735_zps72a4188c.jpgMix together your egg, milk and oil in a jug, then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

 photo 2014-08-03140134_zpsc0db9850.jpg photo 2014-08-03140142_zpsed85ee81.jpgHalf fill twelve muffin cases (in your tray, of course!) with the mixture, then top with a small teaspoon of jam. Top with the rest of the batter mix, and smooth over so no jam is visible…or it bubbles up and burns…

 photo 2014-08-03142041_zps1cbd3aa6.jpg photo 2014-08-03142048_zps28b9e2e9.jpgBake at 180C for 15 minutes – they should be risen, golden, and give when pressed. And they should smell delicious too!

 photo 2014-08-03153439_zpsb87ffac8.jpgLet cool completely, as hot jam is not something you want to bite into. Enjoy for afternoon tea, or breakfast; hide them away for yourself, or leave unattended in the office – and enjoy the classic ‘peanut butter and jelly’ flavours in a muffin. Yum…

Have you baked anything recently?

 

Recipe: Homemade Pizza

Pizza. Definitely one of my absolute favourite foods, and one which I’ve not let my tomato allergy stop me from enjoying. White pizzas are just as popular over in Italy, and in my opinion just as delicious (plus you get extra cheese – why wouldn’t you want that?!). The lack of tomato sauce really lets the freshness of ingredients shine through; my favourite combo is a simple courgette, fresh basil and goat’s cheese mix, but adding broad beans and prosciutto is also insanely good…

 photo Pizza Dough_zpswwofx8v6.jpgPlease note that this recipe has now been updated (and, to be honest, much improved!), and can be found here along with some rather yummy topping suggestions.

Are you a fan of pizza? What’s your favourite topping?

 

What’s Cooking Wednesday (#10)

Cooking

I can’t believe this is the tenth post of this series! Last week’s menu is all fully updated, so its time to decide what I’m cooking this week…

Wednesday – Cottage Pie

I batch-cooked a load of this tonight – I always add loads of veg to bulk it out, so managed to get four meals out of 200g of mince. I never remember to take photos when I’m cooking with mince (it always looks so unappetising!) but I will aim to get this recipe on the blog too as it’s just great.

Thursday – Sausage Casserole

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Another vegetable based meal – I’m going to add celery and carrots to the casserole for extra yumminess!

Friday – Tomato-Free Bolognese

I’ll be serving my homemade slow cooker tomato free bolognese with spaghetti and garlic bread.

Saturday – Mushroom Risotto

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This is one of my favourite dinners, and (sad I know!) I’m really looking forward to it.

Sunday – House Dinner

It’s Libby’s turn to cook, and I’m excited to announce she has brought Ham & Chicken Pies from the butchers!

Monday – Toad in the Hole

I’ll be prepping my batter in advance, then cooking this up after lectures. Yum yum!

Tuesday – Curry

This will either be one of last week’s lentil curries from the freezer, or a vegetable Thai green curry.

What are you eating this week?

Fun Fortnightly Finds (#2)

This post was really well received last week, so I’m hoping it’ll be a regular occurrence. I really enjoyed writing it, as although I always read LOADS of blogs (it helps pass time in boring lectures…) I find noting down what ones to include made me pay a lot more attention!

I have, however, decided to only do this once a fortnight, just to prevent my blog from getting samey. Plus I do have some studying to fit it! So, what am I loving this fortnight?

Christmas

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My boyfriend picked up an order in Cath Kidston last week (a birthday present for me apparently, looking forward to it!) and I persuaded him to give me the bag it came in, as it’s so damn cute and festive. I am normally a bit of a bah humbug about Christmas, and being an early-December baby I like my birthday first, but this year I’ve been getting very excited about Christmas already!  I still have three weeks left of this university term, so it’s a long way off, but I’m already planning outfits and festive baking! I have have a few budget gift guides scheduled for posting, so keep an eye out for those!

Shopping

Related to the last post, I’ve been getting out and about doing little bits of Christmas shopping lately, and last weekend we headed out of town to do a mammoth present shop. A new dress may have slipped in the basket too! There’s been some great bargains around already this year, which I’m hoping to blog about soon.

Saving Money

2013-11-20 15.58.25As a student, I’m often on a tight budget, so saving money where I can is a must for me. I realised this past fortnight that some of my methods have saved me a ridiculous amount over the last term, and I’ll definitely be sharing these ideas with you soon! Not only do I feel smug, I’m also able to treat myself. That new dress feels more justified now…

And now to the blogroll – what I’m loving from other blogs:

  • I know I link to her quite a lot, but I really do love Rosie’s posts (plus she’s probably my favourite blogger, end of!). This Mac’n’Cheese sounds just up my street, gloriously unhealthy and easy. Plus as it’s made with less milk than normal, it should agree with me more (dairy overload does not agree with me!). I’ll definitely be adapting this recipe to my student budget soon!
  • I should stop reading beauty blogs, as I’m becoming a sucker for high-end products that I really, really just cannot afford. I’ve fallen in love with Naked 3, with the best preview I’ve seen being on Vivianna Does Makeup. If anyone wants to treat me to this (my birthday is next week, it could be a joint birthday/Christmas present!) then please feel free…
  • I’ve been reading Miss Budget Beauty’s gift guides with great care recently, as I’m on a very tight budget. Check out her Under £10 guide here. However I saw these vintage-style brush rolls and fell in love. I know I’m getting lots of make-up brushes as a gift this year, and something like this would be perfect for me! I’m now browsing that website and wishing I’d never found it…love so much of their products!

Baking: Mayonnaise Brownies

Remember this brownie post, where I compared some of the brownie recipes I’ve tried? And this one, where I made amazingly good peanut butter brownies? Well tonight I whipped up some healthy-ish brownies for a friends birthday treat, using her favourite food – mayonnaise. I’ve made these multiple times before, and they are a pretty fail-safe recipe. As long as you don’t overcook them (a hideous crime to brownies!), they always seem to work well.

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I’ve based mine on this recipe, but made it a little more budget friendly – what student really has several types of sugar (even though I do quite a bit of baking, I only ever buy cheapy cheap granulated and soft dark brown types) and buttermilk. You can make your own buttermilk by ‘curdling’ normal milk using lemon juice but (1) I’ve never tried it, (2) it doesn’t really appeal to me, and (3) I’m trying to avoid *too much* dairy at the moment.

If you are a brownie addict and looking for a less-sinful version to snack on, look no further. If you have mayonnaise to use up, try this. If you just want an easy no fuss, no beating with electric whisks (as in my all time favourites) brownie recipe, then this is definitely one for you. Let me know if you try it!

Ingredients

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  • 100g of (preferably dark) chocolate
  • 80g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 80g granulated sugar
  • 60g soft brown sugar
  • 1/3 of a mug of coffee – made black, and very strong (I used two teaspoons)
  • 1 egg
  • 100g of mayonnaise (I bought  big jar of Aldi’s own brand for 40p)
  • Extras – chopped nuts, or chopped chocolate (or anything else you fancy) – I went for chopped milk chocolate as that’s all I had, but white chocolate works very well

Turning these rather odd ingredients into yummy brownies…

Preheat the oven to 180C. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, then leave to cool slightly. Weigh out the other ingredients whilst it cools, or do some of the reading you’re meant to be doing.

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In another bowl, mix together the flour and cocoa powder.

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By now your chocolate should have cooled! Add the sugars to the chocolate, mixing well. It will look gritty and not particularly pleasant.

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Gradually add the coffee and it should look something like this:

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Then add your beaten egg and mayonnaise. Mix in your extras at this point too. Mmm chocolate…

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Gradually sift in the flour/cocoa mix. In between siftings, fold the mix together gently. Eventually it will look all fudgy and yummy;

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Put the mix into a baking tin I should have told you to prepare earlier (it needs to be greased/lined). Ease into the corners and smooth down the top. I recommend NOT licking out the bowl in this recipe – you will taste the mayonnaise in the raw mix.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes (there should be a slight wobble in the middle). Then turn the oven off, and leave to cool in there. This works perfectly for me everytime when making brownies, especially with a temperamental oven.

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Once completely and utterly cool, remove from the tin and cut into pieces – I got 12 good size pieces out of this amount of ingredients, but this recipe is excellent for scaling up. I’ve made it for parties before and it’s gone down very well!

Now all that’s left is to enjoy, and feel slightly smug that you’ve made a healthier version of something totally yummy.

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Do you have any tips for making ‘naughty’ recipes healthier?

What NineGrandStudent Takes to “School”

I was just sorting out my bag for tomorrow (organised much?!) and decided I would do a similar repeat of this post, and show you what day-to-day things my satchel carries. You will remember from a post way back at the beginning of the year that I was really worried about getting a bag that would fit my university essentials in. Unfortunately all over summer I have been secretly worrying that whilst my beloved satchel is pretty big, it wouldn’t quite be big enough. I’m pleased to report that I was worrying about nothing, and it is perfectly fine!

All of this stuff, everything I need to have with me on an average day, fits in (plus an umbrella if necessary)…

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So, what do I have. Firstly, I’ll go over all of the berry/burgundy shades in there. I’m sure you can guess from the amount of products I own in that colour (in particular my satchel!) that I love it. I know it is one of the ‘in’ colors for this season, but I have loved it for years, it really suits me, and so I’m loving being able to buy everything. I’m definitely making the most of it being fashionable and stocking up for years to come!

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Anyway, I have my beloved Vintage Pink Personal Malden Filofax, which carries my whole life around. Literally. It has everything in it, diary, calendar, important details, important contacts, spare cards, everything. I’d truly be lost without it. There is a big post on my new Filofax layout which I will post soon, so keep your eyes peeled!

Then there’s my new J by Jasper Conran purse. I decided to replace my Monsoon purse (seen here) as it did not last well at all, and looked decidedly tatty. This one matches my bag almost perfectly, is a lot smaller, and the coin compartment is far roomier. I must say though that this doesn’t always make an appearance in my day-to-day bag…

…I generally try and just take my ID and bank cards out, and I do so in my card holder from Filofax, which matches my organiser perfectly. This is a huge space saver, but also completely necessary when travelling on trains as its so easy to throw in your pocket and retrieve tickets when you get to a barrier laden down with stuff.

Also in the same colour scheme is my new pencil case…I bought it cheaply from Wilkinson’s as it was thin and smaller than all the others I can find:

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I say it is thin and small, but I can still cram an awful lot in!

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Lunch stuff now! I was really concerned about being able to fit a lunch box into my bag, but this one fits perfectly alongside everything else, and is the perfect size to fit a ham cob (I am a Leicestershire girl at heart!), a packet of crisps, biscuit bar and some fruit. My general lunch at least!

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Speaking of food stuff, I have to mention this little biscuits that my boyfriend bought me as part of my anniversary, aren’t they cute?!

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Now onto the important bit – everything I need for some studying. You know from this post that I use a big four-ring binder from Elba to carry around my ‘in use’ notes for all my modules. I then always carry around my Actuarial Gold Tables around with me, as I need them for a lot of my modules.  Finally, as a mathematical science student, you’ll never find me without a calculator!

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And so that’s everything that I squeeze into my satchel – as you can see from the next photo it does take a bit of arranging, but it does fit really quite easily, and the bag isn’t toooo heavy with it all in!

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Oh, and finally I have to tell you about my purchase of today that will be featuring in my bag tomorrow. My lovely housemate has had me wanting a snood since the weather turned colder, and today I finally found one in New Look in my perfect colour. Here it is!

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And so that is everything that fits into my lovely satchel.

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Also, here’s a quick reminder: follow me on Bloglovin’ for easy-to-read updates! And don’t forget to enter my Giveaway Competition!

What do you have to carry around on a day-to-day basis?

Review: Stationery Haul from Elba & Oxford Campus Notebooks

Over my summer break I was contacted by two lovely ladies who offered me a range of stationery items from Elba and Oxford. I obviously squealed with excitement, and waited patiently for the postman to arrive…which he duly did with a very large box. Here’s what was inside…

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As you can see, I have a lovely big haul there! I’m a stationery lover, but what really appeals to me about these brands is the functionality of their goods. Much as I do enjoy looking at it, I’m not one for really pretty stationary. For one I’d be too scared to use it, and quite often it is out of budget. If that is your thing though, I recommend you try out Wilkinson’s, as they always seem to have a great range.

Here’s what the lovely ladies sent me:

 

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A Campus Notebook from Oxford. As a lot of stationery-lovers will know, this is a brand well known for its thick and good quality paper. I personally have never used it – I HAVE to use narrow ruled and so I will be gifting this to my lovely housemate and blogger Libby (check out her blog here, and the amazing amount of make-up I get to borrow!). I also have an issue with spiral bound notebooks being left handed – it’s refill pads all the way for me!

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There was a couple of these in the box (one in a lovely sunny yellow, the other a vibrant red). They are nice and sturdy document holders, secure but still extremely lightweight.

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As all sides of anything inside is protected, these are slightly better than the cheap ones you can buy on the highstreet, and so I would definitely recommend these.

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Next up is one of my favourite products, or at least the one I needed immediately. This is again a pretty generic product, but with an Elba twist. Here is is the usual plastic folder with plastic pocket inserts, but the addition of an elastic closure just keeps it looking neat and professional. This will be used to hold my CV, exam certificates, and all other things I may need for an interview.

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Very similar to a previous product, this blue folder actually takes the form of a box, closed by elastic. I would definitely not recommend this for carrying around stationery, but for storing things in the home I find it useful – it currently housing my spare plastic wallets perfectly!

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Then there was a couple of again pretty generic items with a twist. First up is the black ringbinder (above, the blue one on top is from WHSmiths). As you can see, it is a good deal wider than regular ring-binders, and so it easily accommodates the extra wide dividers I love so much. A word of warning; if you wish to use dividers with plastic pockets you will need extra wide ones, or to make your own as I did last year. Comment if you want a tutorial in this!

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Next up is a lever-arch folder. Again pretty generic (not extra-wide this time!) but with a twist; the side is curved, making it easier to grab off your shelves. An interesting innovation, perhaps not something I would pay extra for (unlike the extra width), but it does seem to make things easier. Again, I will be donating this to one of my housemates for their use, as it upsets my folder colour scheme…more about that in another post!

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Next up is a prettier folder; this has become my everyday to-uni folder. I’m a little disappointed it isn’t extra wide, but it is still a little wider than regular binders. This is nice and strong, very sturdy rings (beats WHSmiths by a mile!), and the two sets of rings close independently of each other, which does take some getting used to.

 

Now, a little word about the promotions these companies are currently running (exciting stuff hey);

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First up there is the free cinema ticket, with two qualifying purchases. All you do is peel back the sticker to reveal the code, plug into a website and off you go (after a bit of waiting obviously). As the cost of two products will be less than a cinema ticket, it really will save you money!

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Finally there is the Oxford Big Project. Unfortunately entries have now closed, but you can still view and then vote (from the 15.10.13) here.

 

And that is my little review of my lovely stationery haul. Thank you so much to Elba and Oxford for sending me your items – I highly recommend these companies as the products really are of a fantastic quality, and with little twists are actually a lot more functional than items which are readily available. Check them out on Amazon!

 

If you liked this post, check out my post previously on student organisation. Any stationery loving readers out there? What brands do you recommend?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow me on BlogLovin’

After a few weeks of serious technical difficulties (in which I may or may not have forgotten my password to this account!) I believe I have finally set up my connection on Bloglovin. I use Bloglovin’ a lot to read blogs I enjoy (more about that in a second), and I think it is a really good reader-orientated platform, so I do suggest following me on there, particularly if you are a smartphone user.

Here is the link, and you’ll also find one taking a permanent place on my side bar!

 

Now, I thought I’d be ultra-lovely and show you a guide to some of my favourite blogs of the moment:

  • Lottie’s Little Kitchen – this is one of the blogs that actually inspired me to become more active in my blogging when I began university as a little Fresher last year. Some of her recipes look amazing, and the Treacle Tart is on the menu for my house Sunday lunch in a few weeks!
  • Philofaxy – the source of all things Filofax related. I have a big post coming up on how I am using both of my Filofaxes over my second year at university, and I have to say this blog and the people behind it have helped me hugely!
  • Handbags and Cupcakes – I just love this girl’s writing style, and her taste in Handbags!
  • Life of Libby – this is the blog belonging to a lovely housemate of mine, it’s only four months old and I think it’s wonderful! And it means I can easily work out what she has in her make-up bag for me to try!
  • The Sunday Girl – wonderful make-up reviews, incredibly professional style!
  • A Girl Called Jack – full of amazingly cheap recipes. She has inspired a lot of posts that are coming soon to my blog, and which I hope will be handy for students on a serious tight budget! I’d had to adapt a lot of her recipes, but please check this blog out.
  • The Londoner – probably the most well known blog on this list, and the source of my Nutella and Banana Oaty Muffins. Just take a look at these beauties, and then get baking with my recipe here.

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The Long Road To Recovery

Hello again! I did warn you here that posts were going to become potentially a little sparse, but I didn’t really anticipate quite how sparse. The recovery from my operation has taken a lot longer than I anticipated (and indeed it is still continuing) and to be honest I haven’t felt up to switching my laptop on, yet alone being able to actually type something reasonably coherent.

All in all, my operation was deemed to be successful, but it wasn’t as straightforward as expected. I ended up with more invasive bone restructuring, resulting in external swelling and bruising, reacted badly to the anesthetic, resulting in an overnight hospital stay, and then have suffered with pain and a slight infection within the stitches. So not a pleasant week really…especially considering my grandmother decided to attempt to paddle in a rock pool, slipped and broke both wrists. It ended up being like an episode of Casualty in my house as my parents took up the task of nursing us both. Bless them.

 

Anyway, I have some exciting news. I have been asked to write a series of guest posts for Kent University’s Employability blog, the first of which will be posted there at the end of next month (and reblogged here a few weeks later). These posts will detail my journey into applying for an Actuarial placement year, which I will hopefully obtain and begin next summer. The first in the series will focus on CV writing, so keep an eye out if this is something you need a hand with!

I’m also planning and drafting a lot of other posts at the minute too. I aim to do multiple posts on learning to cook, and on thrifty recipes (for instance, how to stretch a standard pack of beef mince into at least six meals). And of course, all of these will be specifically tomato-free – I’m excited to announce that I have now perfect tomato-free chilli, tomato-free bolognese and even a decent tomato-free pizza. There will also be more guides on shopping for starting university, especially as I know how I struggled with that next year (for now see this post) and a few generic posts. I have a lot of ideas for this blog! But for now I’ve exhausted myself simply typing this, so I think it is nap-time for me!