January is quite a hard month (not just personally but for a lot of people), it’s cold, dark and the excitement of Christmas has long since passed. It feels like this year has been particularly not fun. In a month we’re moving in with Dan’s parents whilst we work out our next steps. Because all the majority of our possessions are going into storage, we’ve been really trying to evaluate what we want to keep and what is just dead weight. Whilst minimalism is something I’ve always aspired to, I am a hoarder at heart. Even letting go to things that have been hidden in a box and not looked at for years is tough for me.
Am I ever likely to oil paint again? Probably not. Do I need two cupcake stands even though I rarely bake cupcakes? How about my mini Cuisinart mini food processor now my new Kenwood one comes with a mini bowl? The worst offender is probably my broken ice cream maker (and box, stored separately) that I have hung on to for nearly two years.
Reading the first chapter of the Happiness Project a couple of times has helped. Ruben breaks down of the main types of clutter into four types – nostalgic clutter (things you keep for sentimental reasons), conservative clutter (this could be useful someday), bargain clutter (but it was a really good deal!) and crutch clutter (things that are worn out, still continually used, and should be replaced). Evaluating why I want to hold onto things when I know that I should be letting go of them has really helped the process. Donating still useable things to friends and charity shops can also be comforting, knowing that I will not cluttering up a landfill with my decluttering.
Even though we only live in a small apartment, it still feels like a mammoth task to undertake. Reminding myself of my favourite mantra ‘one step at a time’ I broke my possessions down into just under 20 bite size categories, wrote them down on separate notes and stuck them to a wall with washi tape. Not only does it make the task less intimidating it also gives you the satisfaction of being able to see the project progress as you take down each completed tasks note.
As I have mentioned before, in times when I am feeling stressed and generally not my best I like to reach for comfort food. This cake combines two of my favourite treats (which I only indulge in once or twice a year) the very British Victoria sponge cake and the American peanut butter and jelly sandwich. These transAtlantic classics merge well into the perfect pick me up after a session of brutal clutter clearing.
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Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwich Cake
note: the cream and peanut butter filling does not keep well so this cake is best served straight away.
For the Sponge:
190g Caster Sugar
190g Self Raising Flour
1.5tsp Vanilla Extract
For the Fillings:
⅓ cup peanut butter
200ml whipping cream
50g icing sugar
⅓ cup strawberry jam
Preheat the oven to 180C, grease and line 3 20cm circular cake tins.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in a tablespoon of the flour.
Add the eggs slowly to the mixture, making sure they are fully incorporated after each addition.
Repeat this process with the flour.
Beat in the vanilla and milk.
Divide between the tins and flatten the top with a spatula.
Bake on the middle shelf for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then remove from the tin and let cool to room temperature on a on a cooling rack – if the cake is still warm it will melt the cream.
Whisk together the cream and icing sugar until it forms stiff peaks.
Add the peanut butter and whisk slowly until combined.
Spread half the jam over the sponge and then top with the peanut butter cream, leaving about 1cm between the peanut butter cream and the edge of the sponge to allow for it to spread under the weight of the other sponges.
Carefully layer the next sponge on top and repeat.
Lay the final sponge on top and serve immediately.