After Christmas is over, January drags its heels in a seemingly endless parade of grey sky and perpetual drizzle. The complete opposite of a month of sparkle and celebration in December, and unsurprisingly, it’s a struggle to stay motivated for the goals we optimistically set ourselves on New Year’s Day. It’s far too easy to slip into a dull routine, forget the resolutions for another year, and nothing changes. But, instead of all this, I think now is the best time to look after ourselves for a bit.
Christmas is a barrage of friends, family, parties, and as much as we love them all, it’s exhausting! (Especially for us introverts.) I’m lucky in that Dad’s birthday is January, so there has always been something to look forward to after Christmas, but it has meant that I hadn’t taken any time out for myself to recover. This year could be the start of a new routine – something wonderful. The month of me.
I’ve spend the month so far focusing on myself. It’s not been easy to block out all the requests and obligations to be selfish (it’s definitely not in my nature!), but it has been beneficial. I’ve thought about my health, both physical and mental, and my other goals for the year. Basking in thoughts of wedding planning and growing veggies in the garden this summer has definitely helped ‘beat the January blues’! Indulging in time to think about myself and plan is helping me make the right decisions, and I feel much better about my plans for the year ahead.
I’ve been feeding my body and mind with good food, and making more veggie and vegan choices, not just on ‘Meatless Monday’, and I’m really enjoying my increasingly flexitarian diet. It did prompt comment from my sister – “What, you’re eating vegetarian? But it’s not Monday though?” Very true. It was actually a Wednesday – and I can’t remember what I was eating, but I loved it, and am loving it. While I’m not quite a full time veggie just yet, I love introducing more veggie and vegan recipes in my diet, and am really pleased to be making changes to reduce my meat intake.
Combined with actually going to the gym again (rather than just paying for it), I feel more energised, less tired and less sluggish. I’m probably being more productive too! I definitely feel like I have more ideas and energy to focus at my blog than I did before Christmas. It was like drowning in to-do lists and other commitments – I didn’t have the time to write or even think! Now though, I’m planning in my content (in the gorgeous new diary my sister bought me for Christmas – thank you!), and even plotting in Instagram post ideas too. While haven’t actually gained more time, and am still writing these posts during lunchtime at work, I feel more in control – and actually quite enjoy my little lunchtime sessions!
(Quick question – if you’re balancing blogging with other commitments, when do you like to write?)
So all in all, with everything going so well, I have absolutely no guilt in treating myself – and indulging in what I shouldn’t be. Every now and then…
I actually was reminded to treat myself with some cupcakes entirely by accident, but it made me realise that while I’ve been focusing on my health and food choices, I’ve also been unconsciously restricting myself. I’ve been sticking to healthy foods – for good reasons – but, even in a healthy diet plan, there is still room for the odd treat. It’s all about balance, so they say. (Whoever ‘they’ are, they’re definitely right!)
So, when I was asked to make some cupcakes for a baby shower, I suddenly thought, when was the list time I even baked my favourites – Mum’s cupcake recipe? And more to the point, when did I last eat one? Far too long ago, I decided. So not only did I bake the order of baby shower cupcakes, but I also made a couple of extra ones. Because why the hell not? And (I know I am biased) they are soo good. At least I’ve thoroughly quality tested the order I made…
Just in case you too are feeling the absence of cupcakes in your life this month, here’s Mum’s recipe for delicious, crumbly vanilla cupcakes and soft buttercream icing. You can thank me later! These are perfect with a cup of tea; fresh out of the oven; or at any time really! The cake mix is also really yummy, though it does come with a sticky face warning!
Mum’s Vanilla Cupcake Recipe
Cooking time 15 minutes, makes about 12 fairy cakes or 8 larger cupcakes
You will need:
2 large eggs
Margarine or butter
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
So how much flour, sugar and margarine, I hear you ask? Well here’s the magic bit: weigh the eggs, use the same amount of flour, sugar and margarine. This way, the recipe is always perfectly proportioned – and fairly fool proof too! If you want to scale it up, use the same method to weigh the flour, sugar and margarine, and use ½ tsp of baking powder and ½ tsp vanilla per large egg.
Preheat the oven to 180°. Prepare a bun tin with cake cases (8 cupcakes or 12 fairy cakes).
If using a mixer, add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well. (Skip to filling the cupcake cases!)
If making by hand, sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the margarine and sugar together (squash it together using the back of a metal spoon).
Add it to the flour, with the eggs and vanilla and whisk well – the more air you can beat in, the lighter the cupcakes will be! (If your arm aches, it’s working…)
Divide the mix equally between the cupcake cases.
Bake at 180° for 12-15 mins, or until they’re lightly golden and springy to touch. Try not to open the oven door until they’re done!
Leave to cool completely before decorating with buttercream icing…mmmmm J
Lemony Buttercream Icing Recipe
(It’s not full on lemon flavour, but the lemon helps to take the edge off the sweetness. You can replace it with the same amount of vanilla if you prefer.)
114g unsalted butter, softened
228g icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
½ tsp lemon juice (or vanilla essence)
(food colouring gel, if you want coloured icing!)
Cream the butter and sugar into a stiff, smooth cream.
Mix in the milk and lemon juice – it should now form a soft buttercream. If it’s still a little stiff, add a bit more milk to soften it up.
Decorate the cupcakes! (And don’t forget to lick the bowl…)
Note – this amount will cover all the cupcakes well, but to add swirls like the photo above, I’d recommend making 1.5 x the recipe quantity to make sure there’s enough.