Cassiefairy – My Thrifty Life

Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog – Saving money every day with DIY crafts, sewing projets, low-cost recipes & shppping tips

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Pieday Friday – The Hairy Bikers’ coffee cake for Red Nose Day

Today’s recipe post comes directly from The Hairy Bikers, who have shared this recipe in aid of Comic Relief. The fundraising spectacular takes place on 24th March this year so you’ve got plenty of time to perfect your sponge cake before the big event! Without further ado I’m handing over to Si and Dave  to share their recipe – enjoy!
A deliciously moist, old-fashioned coffee and walnut cake is one of our very favourite treats and we like to make it with Camp chicory and coffee essence. If you can’t track this down in your local stores, use very strong black coffee instead. Make sure the walnuts you use are nice and fresh.

SERVES 12 – 65g walnut halves, 225g softened butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing, 225g caster sugar, 4 medium eggs, 225g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp Camp chicory and coffee essence

Icing – 150g softened butter, cubed, 300g icing sugar, sifted, 4 tsp Camp chicory and coffee essence,12 walnut halves

Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5.

  1. Butter two 20cm loose-based sandwich tins and line the bases with discs of baking parchment. Put the walnut halves in a food processor and blitz them into fairly fine crumbs, but don’t worry if there are a few larger pieces remaining. Tip the walnuts into a bowl.
  2. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and coffee essence in a food processor and blend on the pulse setting until well combined and creamy. You may need to remove the lid once or twice and push the mixture down with a rubber spatula. Take care not to process for too long or you will end up with a heavy sponge.
  3. Add the blitzed walnuts to the batter and mix until just combined. If you don’t have a food processor, finely chop the nuts, tip all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, then beat like hell!
  4. Spoon the mixture evenly into the greased and lined tins and smooth the surface. Bake on the same shelf in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes or until the sponge is well risen and just beginning to shrink back from the sides of the tin.
  5. Remove the tins from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the cakes and turning them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the baking parchment and leave to cool completely.

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Pieday Friday – 12 days of Christmas recipe round-up

I thought I’d share round-up of my favourite festive recipes this Pieday Friday. The idea was to get you in the mood for all the Christmas baking to come but, in fact, I’ve actually started craving most of these recipes now, so I’m sure I’ll be whipping up some tasty this weekend! Below you’ll find links to my top twelve “12 days of Christmas” recipe blog posts, starting with these snowy dark chocolate cookies and cream-filled snowball meringues – enjoy!pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-13 Recipe for snowball meringues Christmas pudding dessert-18It wouldn’t be Christmas without gingerbread. Last year I made a gingerbread sleigh but the recipe can be used to make traditional gingerbread men or decorations to hang on your tree. You can find the classic gingerbread recipe in this blog post plus there’s a festive spiced banana muffin recipe in the gingerbread blog post too, bonus!baking-a-gingerbread-sleigh-using-cookie-cutters-1diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-7Even though I first made this chocolate gingerbread recipe for halloween, it’s definitely going to be baked again in December. The chocolate makes a nice change to the traditional gingerbread biscuit recipe, and you could make a batch of both types for Christmas, mmm.

Cheesy Christmas Stars

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Pieday Friday recipe – Coffee shop Christmas menu hacks

You know that Christmas is approaching when the coffee shops start serving their Christmas drinks. The usual selection of coffee and tea suddenly flips over to the festive menu sometime in early November. One day you’re buying your usual latte and the next day there’s a turkey and cranberry toasty on the sandwich counter and gold stars are being sprinkled on top of every drink. Yes, the coffee shop Christmas drinks are here to stay (until January, at least) so I thought I’d see whether I could hack some of the famous recipes from Costa, Starbucks and Neros for you. In previous years I’ve blogged my favourite flavoured hot chocolate recipes for Christmas, but it’s all about the coffee this year. Here are three festive coffee recipes that you can enjoy at home that might help you to save a little extra cash over Christmas.

Gingerbread latte

All of the coffee chains create a gingerbread latte in some form or other at this time of year – even McDonalds have a spice cookie latte on the menu. Here’s what you’ll need to recreate it at home: Coffee (I used flavoured coffee capsules of Gourmesso for each drink in this blog post, saving a little extra money on the usual Nespresso capsule prices – see, always thinking thriftily!) hot milk, gingerbread syrup or a couple of cubes of crystallized ginger, gold star sprinkles (find them with the baking aisle in the supermarket with the hundreds-and-thousands), ground cinnamon and a mini gingerbread man. You could make your own, or skip this step like I did and buy a ready-made box of festive gingerbread biscuits from the supermarket.Image by up a shot of coffee into a festive-jumper patterned mug (mine is from The Caravan Trail). Stir in a shot of gingerbread syrup. If you don’t have syrup, pour a little boiling water over the crystallized ginger to melt it a little before stirring it into the coffee. Top up the coffee with hot milk to create a creamy latte. If you have a milk frother to hand (my little whisk was £3 from the supermarket and it makes fantastic foam!) whisk up a thick milk foam to top the latte. Sprinkle on some gold stars and sit a little gingerbread man on top – I think it looks like rudolph is drinking my latte in this photo!

Honeycomb latte

A new festive coffee in our local coffee chain, we tried this drink for the first time last week. The main flavour of this drink is cinder toffee, so essentially a Crunchie bar will do the trick! Here’s what you’ll need: Coffee, caramel syrup, hot milk, whipped cream, a Crunchie or chocolate-coated cinder toffee nuggets.Image by a shot of coffee into a latte glass and stir in a splash of caramel syrup. If you don’t have coffee syrup like this, you could use some toffee ice-cream syrup or even melt a chunk of Crunchie bar into the coffee. Fill the cup with hot milk before finishing with a swirl of whipped cream. Crush up the Crunchie bar or cinder toffee into small nuggets and sprinkle over the top.

Toffee nut latte

Sure, you can find tons of pumpkin spice latte recipes online (I could dedicate a whole pinterest board to it!) but this year the big American coffee chain has a festive nut toffee latte on the menu this year. Even though I’m not a fan of nuts, I know that many of you will love this recipe so who am I to skip it? To recreate this recipe at home you will need: Coffee, caramel syrup, hazelnut syrup, hot milk, whipped cream and peanut brittle. Hopefully this will give you a similar taste, although I can’t be sure as I’ve never tried the original coffee shop version.Image by

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Pieday FriYAY – Energy boosting mocha smoothie

The summer holidays are drawing to an end and all that’s left is happy memories of melting ice cream, collecting shells, splashing in the sea, fish ‘n’ chips lunches, breezy promenades and fluffy candy floss on the pier. Yes, I have to admit that I’ve indulged a little too much during August, but haven’t we all? I blame ‘holiday spirit’ for encouraging us to wave thoughts of healthy eating aside as we buy a bag of sugary donuts from the beach kiosk and tuck into a full English breakfast in the hotel. If this sounds like you, I’ve got an easy way to get back on the healthy-eating wagon and it all starts with breakfast…healthy breakfast recipe inspiration friyay smoothie oats coffee latte banana chocolate-16 healthy breakfast recipe inspiration friyay smoothie oats coffee latte banana chocolate-20After needing to kick-start my healthy habits after a summer of indulgence I’ve come up with a quick and easy recipe for a breakfast smoothie. It can be prepared the night before (which gives the oats plenty of time to soak) or whizzed up in the morning. Take it with you on your commute to work or – if you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic – enjoy it after an early morning gym visit. It’s the perfect breakfast to fill you up without feeling stodgy and the caffeine from the coffee gives you a boost of energy, so it’s a great brunch treat too. Start your day with a healthy treat that feels rich and indulgent because this recipe contains everything you need to #MakeItAYayDay; bananas, soaked oats, coffee, almond milk, cacao and ice.healthy breakfast recipe inspiration friyay smoothie oats coffee latte banana chocolate-15healthy breakfast recipe inspiration friyay smoothie oats coffee latte banana chocolateIngredients (serves 1): One ripe banana, 100g oats soaked in around 200g almond milk (or normal milk if you prefer), a spoonful of cacao powder, 1 cup of Emmi CAFFÈ LATTE Strong Macchiato or Skinny Iced Coffee, a handful of ice.

  1. Soak the oats in the milk until they are softened and the milk has thickened. This should take about 30 mins in the morning, or you can soak the oats overnight.

  2. Add a ripe banana before sprinkling in a spoonful of cacao powder to your preferred taste.

  1. Throw in a handful of ice and pour over a cup of Emmi CAFFÈ LATTE Strong Macchiato or Skinny Iced Coffee if you prefer.
  1. Whizz all the ingredients together in a blender until smooth.

If you’ve got an early start in the morning you could prepare your breakfast smoothie in advance and keep it in the fridge ready to grab-and-go. Simply blend all the ingredients together but skip the ice as this will make the smoothie too watery if left overnight. The oats don’t need to be pre-soaked in this instance, you can put them into the smoothie dry. They will soak in the coffee and milk overnight and will be soft by the morning, ready to make any day a yay day for you!

Let me know if you have a go at making this energy-boosting breakfast smoothie yourself and I’d love to hear more ideas of ingredients to add to my morning oat smoothie so please get in touch by leaving me a comment below. And please tag me in your Instagram photos @cassiefairy with the hashtag #MakeItAYayDay so that I can check out your own breakfast smoothies and ideas for ingredients.





Pieday FriYAY – Chai Latte Rice Pudding

Pudding is my favourite treat. It can be any pudding – hot cold, crumble or cake. Whatever it is, a pudding turns my dinner from ‘mmm nice’ to ‘yaaay!’ I think that’s probably because I don’t tend to have a pudding most of the time, which means that ending my dinner with a dessert is a proper treat. I’ve been away recently and it’s been a lovely indulgence to have two (okay, sometimes three) courses while I’ve been eating out. I guess I just don’t take the time to make a pudding when I’m cooking for the two of us; when the family are round for dinner they will be treated to cookie cups full of ice cream or a zesty lemon tart, but when it’s just me and my husband having tea, we tend to skip the pudding or have a piece of fruit instead.creamy healthy skinny chai latte rice pudding emmi caffe latte-10But that’s all changed now that I’ve worked out how to use my slow cooker to make puddings. Now I can pop the recipe for a sweet treat into my slow cooker and it’ll do its own thing while I get on with cooking the main meal. And it’s hot and ready for me to eat whenever we’ve finished our dinner. The recipe I want to share with you today is for a rice pudding but not just any rice pud. It’s actually a chai latte rice pudding! Combining all my favourite flavours (yes, I’m one of those people believe that a chai latte is for life, not just for Christmas) it’s so simple to make and it really helps to turn any meal into a special occasion. Yes, this weekend is your time to #MakeItAYayDay, so here’s the recipe for you to try out.creamy healthy skinny chai latte rice pudding emmi caffe latte-2Even though I used my slow cooker to make the rice pudding but it’s just as easy to make it on the hob too – it just takes a little more stirring! The recipe was actually inspired by Emmi CAFFÈ LATTE, as I decided to use the Skinny Iced Coffee as the milky base for my rice pudding. The drink only contains 90 calories and the recipe uses two of these creamy drinks, along with some skimmed milk. So it’s truly a healthier version of a rice pudding than cream-packed traditional recipes. I added a small amount of soft brown sugar and a knob of butter. The spiced chai flavours come from mixed-spices, cinnamon and vanilla, yum!creamy healthy skinny chai latte rice pudding emmi caffe latte-12creamy healthy skinny chai latte rice pudding emmi caffe latte-11Ingredients (serves 4): 2 x cups of Emmi CAFFÈ LATTE Skinny Iced Coffee topped up to 1 litre with skimmed milk, 110g Arborio/risotto rice, 25g butter or margarine, 25g soft brown sugar, 1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon powder, 1 heaped teaspoon of mixed spice, one teaspoon of vanilla extract, a drizzle of double cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon to serve.creamy healthy skinny chai latte rice pudding emmi caffe latte

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Picquot Ware – The Coffee Percolator

Ever since I first wrote about my ‘lucky find’ of a Picquot Ware tea set last year I’ve been inundated with comments, emails and information about the brand. It’s been amazing to learn more about this British company and to read everyone’s stories about their own Picquot Ware collections. Who knew that so many people were fans? The comments section on the original post is packed full of information from knowledgeable readers and I’ve since posted a second article about the Picquot Ware guarantee and instructions, after Lesley kindly emailed me a copy of the original documents. Be sure to check that out as it shows the complete collection of Picquot Ware designs available.Picquot ware coffee pot percolator magnalium-2After publishing this second article, another Picquot Ware collector got in touch with me to share photos of their rare find – a coffee percolator. In the original tea set there is a tall pot that many people mistake for a coffee pot. This pot was more likely to be used for extra hot water to add to the teapot – it is a tea set after all! But on this occasion the pot in question actually IS a coffee pot, and is a particularly rare example. Robyn kindly sent over some snaps of the coffee percolator and told me the story behind it:Picquot ware coffee pot percolator magnalium-5“I bought it as a set about four years ago, on the Gold Coast in Australia. I thought it was from the 70s because of the coffee percolator so I did some research and realized the coffee pot was quite rare. I have not been able to find a picture of another one so thought it would be nice to share these photos. Picquot Ware is still quite affordable and available here in New Zealand so I’ve since bought another set, which I use regularly at our holiday house, and a few of my friends have also bought sets too.” Picquot ware coffee pot percolator magnalium-6Sounds like I need to go on a Picquot Ware hunting trip to New Zealand then, eh?! It’s so kind of Robyn to email these photos of the percolator so that we can all see it and admire the design. A regular contributor to the original blog post, Peter, tells us that only 300 percolators were made before production was discontinued. Picquot Ware discovered that manufacturing them was a “production nightmare” and put a stop to this design. So if you find one, hang on to it!Picquot ware coffee pot percolator magnalium-3 Picquot ware coffee pot percolator magnaliumIf anyone else has further information on Picquot Ware or would like to send in photos of their collection please do email me or leave a comment below. Thanks!


Cinder toffee coffee cheesecake recipe

Creamy sweetness and rich coffee bookended by crunchy caramel flavours. Yes, I think that perfectly describes my cheesecake recipe and I know you want to try it out for yourself! I was inspired to make this cheesecake when my coffee delivery arrived from Pact because the tasting notes of the Finca La Montana Espresso coffee read simply ‘cinder toffee’. This got the cogs in my brain turning, as I remembered back to childhood summers at the seaside and bags of crunchy cinder toffee. I tasted the coffee and there was an undeniable zing of roasted caramel so how could I not include this delicious coffee in a dessert recipe? Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake Recipe for Pact Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake recipe-4

Cinder toffee is also the taste of Christmas for me, as I always without fail eat a Crunchie bar on Christmas morning. Are Crunchies made from cinder toffee? It’s a very similar taste anyway and you could certainly get away with using a Crunchie to decorate the top of your cheesecake if you can’t get hold of cinder toffee. I think the Crunchie tradition started for me because there was always a small Crunchie in the chocolate stocking selection pack and as it was my least favourite chocolate bar I always ate it first. But now, I couldn’t possibly not eat a Crunchie before breakfast on Christmas day and I would be so disappointed if it wasn’t in my stocking. Anyway, back to the recipe.Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake recipe-2 Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake Recipe for Pact-2

I decided that cinder toffee and coffee was a killer combination and I wanted to incorporate some smooth creaminess to counteract all the rich flavours so I’ve layered my cheese cake mixture so that every bite is the perfect mouthful;  bitter and sweet, smooth and crisp. I decided to use Lotus biscuits due to their caramel flavour and the fact that they are so often served with a cappuccino in coffee shops. I combined this with digestive biscuits so that the traditional cheesecake flavour is there and the caramel doesn’t overpower the pudding. The way I see it, coffee and cheese are after-dinner staples so why not combine them in this decadent dessert to serve up at the end of a delicious meal?? Without further ado, here is the recipe and method:

125g digestive biscuits, 125g lotus biscuits, 100g melted butter, 3 tablespoons strong Pact coffee, 300ml double cream, 400g full fat soft cheese, 200g mascarpone, 125g icing sugar, 100g cinder toffee

Method for making Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_ Method for making Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_-2

Crush the biscuits – I used a blender but it’s just as easy to put them into a freezer bag and crush with a rolling-pin – then mix with the melted butter until the mixture resembles damp sand. Press into a spring-form cake tin using the back of a spoon to form the base. Chill while you get on with making the cheesecake filling. Method for making Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_-3 Method for making Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_-4Whip the cream to soft peaks before mixing in the soft cheese, mascarpone and icing sugar. Take a teaspoon of the mixture and taste it to make sure it’s really yummy! Then divide the cheesecake mixture into thirds, spreading two-thirds of the plain cheese mix over the biscuit base. Chill for about 15 minutes.

Pact Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_ Recipe for Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_-4

With the remaining third of the cheesecake mixture, add 2-3 tablespoons of freshly brewed strong espresso coffee (depending on taste, so you’re going to have to test it again!) and mix in thoroughly. Spread on top of the cheesecake to create a dark top layer and then return to the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes. Recipe for Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_-3 Recipe for Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_-6 Recipe for Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_-7When you’re ready to serve, release the spring-form cake tin and slide the cheesecake onto a serving plate. Crush up some cinder toffee (in a bag, with a rolling pin again) and sprinkle all over the top of the cheesecake before adding a few big chunks of cinder toffee to the centre to decorate. The cinder toffee that I bought already had white a dark chocolate drizzled over the top so either use the same type of cinder toffee, leave off the chocolate altogether or drizzle a little melted chocolate of your own over the toffee.

Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_-4 Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_-2 Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake Recipe for Pact-4

The Finca La Montana Espresso coffee is available from Pact until 20th Oct so get your order in now! But don’t worry if you miss it this month – it’s likely to make a reappearance again in the future, and in the meantime you can use any of Pact’s delicious coffees the recreate this cheesecake. If you want to save a bit of cash on your ingredients, you can use voucher code “cassiefairy” on the Pact Coffee website which will give you your first bag of Pact coffee for only £1 – it’s so kind of Pact to create this code especially for Cassiefairy readers! Get that coffee brewing and let me know how you get on with making the recipe and please get in touch to share your photos if you make one for yourself. Enjoy!

Pact Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_-5 Pact Cinder Toffee Coffee Cheesecake_-9


Vintage coffee on a lazy Sunday morning

Happy Sunday everyone! It already feels like one of those lazy days when you just don’t want to leave the comfort of your bed, the Sunday papers are calling, and the coffee is bubbling away on the hob. I actually had a rather late night out at a hangar dance last night, so I definitely need a lie-in today! It’s also a great excuse to try out my ‘new’ coffee pot…cleaning up a vintage coffee pot cleaning up a vintage coffee pot-2

Okay, it’s a very very old coffee pot, which my husband just picked up from the car boot sale. It was being sold on one of those stalls that I just walk past without really looking, thinking that everything there is too dirty and decrepit, even by my standards. But it’s always at these ’emptied the attic’ car boot stalls that hubby always finds the best hidden gems, and the coffee pot was no exception. If it wasn’t for his eagle-eye and willingness to see beyond the dirt, we wouldn’t be enjoying a freshly percolated coffee today!cleaning up a vintage coffee pot-3 cleaning up a vintage coffee pot-5 cleaning up a vintage coffee pot-6

And boy did this coffee pot need a good good clean. I’ve taken some photos of it before the scrubbing commenced (in fact it’d already had two normal washes before these photos were taken!) then I set to work with a scouring pad and a heck of a lot of washing-up liquid. I figured that even using a metal scourer would make it look better than the years-of-coffee tarnished finish it was currently sporting. I’ve taken a photo of part of the pot mid-clean (above) so that you can see the difference it made. I didn’t mind the half hour of elbow grease it took to bring the coffee pot back to life because it looked SO much better up a vintage coffee pot-11 cleaning up a vintage coffee pot-8 cleaning up a vintage coffee pot-12

I don’t know why, but I originally thought that this might be a French coffee pot. The ornate decoration around the pot, the carved handle and the pretty pouty spout just looked French to me but after I cleaned all the years of hob gunk off the bottom of the pot I could see that the inscription on the base said British Made Diamond 143-S. I’ve Googled these details but even though I found lots of other types of coffee pots and cafetières, I couldn’t find the same one so haven’t been able to find out anything more about the age or origins of the pot. One thing’s for sure, I’m glad that my husband picked it up from that dusty car boot stall because I’m really pleased with how lovely my vintage made-in-the-UK coffee percolator is now that’s it’s been cleaned up a vintage coffee pot-9 cleaning up a vintage coffee pot-10 With a coffee pot like this, it requires course ground coffee, which sits in the drum at the top of the pot and the water boils up and bubbles up through it to percolate the coffee. I really enjoy watching the coffee blipping away in the ornate glass lid and seeing the colour of the water get darker as it percolates. But of course we couldn’t start brewing our coffee without the course-ground coffee itself. This was virtually impossible to find at the supermarket, and the closest thing we could get was coffee beans. Unfortunately, we don’t have a grinder yet, so it would have been a case of using the blender to grind up the coffee – is that a good way to do it, or not? In the end, we went to the only place that we knew we could get the correct level of grind for the pot, which was Whittard of Chelsea. making a caramel coffee in vintage pot making a caramel coffee in vintage pot-2 making a caramel coffee in vintage pot-3Since needing a specific type of coffee grounds for this pot, I’ve now discovered that there are many different types of grind; from whole beans, to cafetière grind, espresso grind, filter grind and finally Turkish grind. We chose an omni-grind Guatemalan coffee in a medium/dark roast. It was mostly because the name on the canister said Guatemala Elephant and that had me hooked! As you can probably tell from my all baking posts, I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth so while we were shopping I got some caramel and amaretto syrups to occasionally add to my coffee – the ultimate Sunday morning treat! I love having flavoured coffee when I go out for a drink in a coffee shop, so I’m really chuffed that I could recreate the same tastes at home with these syrups. making a caramel coffee in vintage pot-6 making a caramel coffee in vintage pot-7 making a caramel coffee in vintage pot-9

So you can imagine the scene in my home this morning, with coffee percolating away, the house filling with the aroma of fresh coffee, the radio burbling away in the background and a fluffy cat on my lap. Needless to say the coffee is delicious and I think that the times it takes to percolate only adds to the coffe drinking experience. I’m so pleased with the coffee pot and how well it works with the coffee grounds. Of course, my morning drink has been made all the more tasty with the addition of the caramel syrup and I want another one right now. I don’t think Sunday’s get much better than this! What are you up to today and what’s your favourite type of coffee? Leave me a comment below and we’ll chat soon 🙂



The importance of tea breaks

Or coffee breaks. Or just a water break. What’s important is actually taking a break from whatever you’re doing and giving yourself a little breathing space. This time last year, I remember rushing through my work at break-neck speed, barely stopping to have a bite to eat at lunch (okay, who are we kidding? I ate at my keyboard). I felt crazy-busy all the time yet I never seemed to be getting anywhere with my work. It was go-go-go from the minute I started work at 7am and I stared at that computer screen non-stop until 7pm when my husband prised my fingers away from the keyboard.

In truth, I didn’t really want to stop. I was kind of enjoying being so busy and I had so much to do yet so little time to do it in. Or so I thought. I soon began to realise that I was swimming against the current. Running through treacle. Whatever you want to call it, I was getting nowhere fast. Not only was I not being totally productive, but I also was dehydrated, which made me more hungry and when I stuffed my face with food I felt sluggish. Which of course I tried to fight against because I was soooo busy. But I managed to change one part of my routine and things improved overnight. What was it? Break time!the importance of taking a break-1

Enjoying a cup of tea in my favourite mug – from LetsGoHme

Children get break time at school and at work employment regulations stipulate that we must have 20 minutes of uninterrupted rest every 6 hours. This is because teachers and employers know that concentrating on one activity for a prolonged period of time will addle your brain and make you less productive. When I think back to the time when I was rushing head-first into my work without a pause to refresh, I can honestly say that if you’d asked me what I’d achieved that day, the answer would have been ‘errrm, I don’t really know…’ because really I wasn’t getting anything significant done in all those hours of work.

So now I’ve divided up my work into ‘sessions’ all of which are followed by a tea break, coffee break or lunch break. I’ll write for a couple of hours, then I’ll take a break. And that means getting up from the computer, spending time making a drink and sitting down to enjoy it rather than taking it back to my desk. There are many reasons why breaks are important and here’s a few that I can think of:

Eyes: It’s important for your eyes to focus on something different. If you’re staring at a screen all day, or working on intricate details of a craft or design, it would be sensible to spend some time looking into the distance to allow your eyes times to refocus and prevent fatigue or eye strain. HSE advises regular breaks for workers who use Display Screen Equipment (DSE) and just because I’m working for myself doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t impose the same rules – after all, I’m the most important employee (not to mention the only employee!) I have 😉

Time to think: When you’re rushing from one task to the next, do you ever really get the chance to actually think? I find that I get better ideas when I allow myself quiet time and new ideas start to flow more easily over a cup of coffee. Richard Branson agrees that it gives you ‘a moment to stop and think without distraction’, so if it’s good enough for Branson, it’s good enough for me!

It rehydrates you: Everyone knows that a hydrated brain is an active brain and on the flip-side, being dehydrated makes it harder to concentrate and you’ll be more prone to headaches. I just read a study that investigated whether water deprivation had an effect on reaction times and mental performance of volunteers. The study found that dehydrated subjects were more sluggish, tired and took significantly more effort to concentrate compared with when they were adequately hydrated. So having a drink (even if it’s just water) while you take a break will make you more productive than if you were to use that break time working.

 the importance of taking a break-3Enjoying a caffeine boost with a cup of Pact coffee – this one tastes like Earl Grey and Garibaldi biscuits!

If you’re going to take a break, why not make it into a ritual that you enjoy and look forward to? I even used to rush making my tea, so I’d pour the kettle too quickly and boiling water would splash out of the sides of the lid. Whereas I now enjoy the sound of a kettle being s-l-o-w-l-y poured into a cup, in the same way that I used to enjoy the glug-glug-glug of wine being poured into a glass. Far from the quick-stir-with-a-spoon-and-whip-the-teabag-out method of tea-making that I used to favour, I now take pleasure from letting the tea infuse for the suggested amount of time and enjoying a full-flavoured cuppa! Of course, there’s nothing better than percolating coffee, with the ritual of grinding the coffee beans, hearing the water come to the boil, watching the steam puffing out and seeing the coffee blip away. The rich aroma and the bubbling sounds makes me feel instantly more relaxed and ready to rest.

I usually take my coffee or tea outside with me so that I’m far enough away from distractions and technology to give my brain time to reset itself. Again, it’s an instantly relaxing ritual to rest outside because you can feel the change in temperature, smell flowers and grass (or in my case, the herb garden) and can hear birds chirping or bees buzzing. It’s stimulating these senses that will help you to relax and refocus. The rest (and the drink!) will help you to be even more productive when you get back to work – so if you want to work better, TAKE A BREAK!


Pieday Friday ~ Mocha choca brownies recipe

What a healthy start to the new year eh? Chocolate – yes, butter – yum, coffee – great! What more do you want from a weekend treat when you’ve been so very good eating fruit and veggies all week long?! I’ve been in the kitchen baking these yummy brownies so that when I need to reach for a sneaky treat at the weekend, it won’t be a whole tin of biscuits – it’ll just be one square of something rich, chocolately and satisfying. So here’s how I made my mocha choca brownies recipe and I hope you’ll give it a go too:

Ingredients 115g butter, 150g plain flour, 115g dark chocolate, 3 tablespoons of cooled coffee (I used rich Illy coffee), 200g brown sugar, 3 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract, pinch of salt, 150g chocolate chips (optional)

Method Melt chocolate and butter together and in another bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until fluffy then add the vanilla, coffee and pinch of salt before mixing in the liquid chocolate mixture. Stir in the flour and add chocolate chips if you like before pouring into a baking tray – I lined my tray with greaseproof paper so that it would be easier to lift out the brownie after cooking. Bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees until the batter is set and crisp on top. It should crack a little when you lift it out, but still be gooey on the inside!

pieday friday choca mocha brownies recipe

If ever I needed an excuse to get out the brownie baking tin I received as an anniversary present last year, this was it! They are sooo delicious, but because I have cut them into small squares, they’re really not too naughty per peice and will store for ages in an airtight tub, so I’ll be able to enjoy them all week – that is as long as hubby doesn’t scoff the lot this weekend 😉

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