Monday 18 March 2013


So it's been a little while since i have blogged for a few reasons
Firstly I've been growing this little bump which has required a lot of extra sleep and food.
Secondly, we've had two Spanish students staying for a week. It was fun but rather time consuming & exhausting cooking for a vegetarian (husband having a break from meat for Lent), a Celiac (one of the Spanish boys), a non-vegetable eater (other Spanish boy), a pregnant woman trying to get all the right protein, iron, calcium, vits etc, and two small children. Plus the celiac had his 15th birthday so I felt I should make a cake (gluten free). Needless to say lots of cooking and various pots and washing up! Kids have watched more tv than usual and fallen in love with Shrek which is fun.
Thirdly hubby and I are addicted to Breaking Bad so evenings have been eaten up with that.
Fourthly it's my four year olds fifth bday party soon which is happening at our house. he wants a jungle themed party. thankfully hubby loves decorating the house for parties and i love decorating cakes so we should be fine. i will post the cake recipes.
Plus my father in law and easter are arriving soon.... ooooh la la better go...

Thursday 28 February 2013

do you hoover counter tops?

after our bake off (previous post) i needed to do some tidying up as you can imagine! as we had already made a big mess i didn't mind more mess... so i set the kids up with a tray of flour and some toys each. they loved it and it kept them enthralled for a long time. my son in particular could play with flour for hours. 
i do wonder whether anyone else in a hoovering frenzy gets carried away and hoovers the table and kitchen counter tops... or is that just me? and is it revolting? i have to say it is quite satisfying... but perhaps no-one will want to eat at our house again now that i have outed myself.
another fun one is mixing cornflour with water to play with. it is amazing and fascinating. we tried out different consistencies. it made the most amazing textures that felt dry to touch but on picking it up turned in to a gloopy liquid and ran off our hands. it feels dry but moves like a liquid. this is great because it is really easy to clean up.

Sunday 24 February 2013

inspiring sisters

so i have two wonderful sisters and we all love cream teas and all things baked and delicious. they both write wonderful blogs that i want to shout about because they are great reads.

my older sister lives in America with her hubby and two kids. she is a very talented artist and amazing at doing arty, crafty, creative, cool, messy activities with her kids. you will be inspired by her blog Messy Lab Studio

my younger sister lives in London with her hubby. she is incredibly creative and thoughtful and loves to dream and photograph and create beautiful things and delicious and beautiful food. she writes about her amazing food, furniture and decorative creations and her own thoughts about life and her experience of fighting cancer. you will be inspired by her blog Spooning in the Kitchen

they are amazing women who i love very much

Saturday 23 February 2013

half term bake off

so my boy often asks if he can "make a mix" - it is one of his favourite things to do. it involves putting various ingredients in a bowl and mixing them together with spoons and beaters. if he has his way it would involve flour, every spice in the cupboard, some eggs, lots of grated cheese, sugar, maybe even some washing up liquid. it all eventually goes in the bin and is rather a waste of food - an expensive hobby!
it got so stressful recently when both kids ascended into my counter space and spontaneously decided to make mixes with everything in the kitchen while i was trying to cook dinner. in that heated moment i decided i hated cooking with the kids or even having them in the kitchen and never wanted to do it again. i lost my temper with every grab, spill or mess and sent them both out of the kitchen.
the next day i felt really bad about my stress and impatience and putting such a dampner on Z's enthusiasm for mixing and making! so i took a new approach. i covered the dining table and got out two big bowls, two loaf tins and all the measuring, mixing, pouring, sieving and stirring utensils. i then let the kids say what ingredients they wanted me to get out. i did a lot of "how about some...? would you like to put in some...?" so that it would turn out edible. it is a really fun way to make a cake... very liberating to have no concerns about spills, mess or measurements. it helped to have them both at the table rather than teetering on stools/countertops in a small kitchen.

this is (roughly) what we included:
300ml milk (poured through a colander!:)
2 eggs (whisked, of course)
800g self-raising flour (sieved)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp cinnamon (or half a pot in one of the cakes!)
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 a courgette (grated)
1/4 of a carrot (grated) - or as much as a little one can grate
8 chopped dates (my 4 year old loves using a sharp-ish knife!)
1 tbsp melted butter
a handful of chocolate chips

this seemed to satisfy all of their measuring, pouring, sifting, chopping, grating, whisking & stirring desires.
putting some chocolate chips on top.... and plenty in our mouths
the finished product!
it was SO delicious. i ate a thick slice of this every day this week - toasted with lots of butter.
i'm already looking forward to doing it again - maybe with a sweeter, more chocolatey, sprinkly version so it is a really exciting treat for the kids, rather than a pretty yummy cake that keeps mummy happy all week - though those are important too!

Wednesday 13 February 2013

birthday ballerina girl

so i have this little girl who i love to bits. she has the most delightful, tender, cuddly, witty, sparky, playful, independent, outgoing spirit. she also knows how to give us a run for our money. man can she put up a fight and an ear-piercing scream that only dogs should be able to hear. i love her and i want to be a good mum for her on this journey of the day-to-day. i want to be a role model and i want to build her confidence and self-esteem and sense of self and place in the world and place in relation to other women and to men. it's a challenge every day and every day i want to be better and be more patient and creative in my interactions with her. i fear the mother-daughter relationship going horribly wrong when i really lose my temper with her. but i hope and pray we can keep things positive, close, respectful and intact over the years. she has just turned three and i really enjoyed making a birthday cake for her. she loves ballet and ballerinas so i went down that route and it actually ended up looking like her so it was a cake of gorgeous M as a ballerina. 

the cake recipe is here in a previous post 
i made icing with butter, icing sugar and food colouring. i added little silver balls and edible wafer flowers (from Tesco) for decoration.
she was very pleased...

Visit The Gallery to see other posts about Girls

Thursday 7 February 2013

just ignore her

Sam & I were arguing recently over breakfast - I was talking passionately & crying. Four year old Mr Z leaned over & whispered in Sam's ear "just ignore her daddy"!! Sam managed not to laugh and to (kindly) whisper "no i love mummy and i want to listen to her." later Sam told me what Z had said ... when i was ready to laugh! I think I have said the phrase "just ignore her" to Z when Little Miss M is winding him up on purpose... Eg. "if u ignore her, she'll probably stop. she's doing it to make u cross."  maybe he's learning lessons about relating to women... learning to switch off.. hmmm we'll have to see about that.
a great comfort food after an argument is bread. 
we all know that bread can be a killer to the waistline and make us feel lethargic and full of wheat! but if i am going to eat bread, homemade is soooo much tastier.. and cheaper... and without all the preservatives, sugar, salt and crap. so i decided to dabble in becoming a bread maker... and thus a proper fully fledged housewife right!? i have to say i loved it ... the process, the satisfaction, the taste... and delicious lunches like this...
after trying various options i have come up with a good easy recipe. i love making loaves that i can pull out of the freezer for a saturday lunch with soup. or having a big bag of home-made bread rolls in the freezer for the weeks packed lunches. 

this was my first attempt... a simple white loaf. it looks really impressive but was a bit dense and my son came home from school saying he wanted brown bread because it was healthier!.. ok.. can't argue with that!

So this is what i came up with and i think it is really tasty. You can play around with the different flours that you use as long as it add ups to a total of 550g of flour

150g spelt flour
100g strong white bread flour
300g brown bread flour
1 tsp salt
1.5 cups warm water
2 tbsp honey
20g/2tbsp dry yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
optional - 50g toasted sunflower seeds, 50g poppy seeds, 50g sesame seeds

1. whisk the yeast and honey in to the warm water and leave until really frothy
2. measure out the flours & salt in to a large bowl and stir
3. toast the sunflower seeds
4. add the oil to the frothy water
5. pour the wet ingredients in to the flour and mix well. mix in the seeds. you want the mix to be doughy and kneadable without being too dry. you can add extra flour if it is too wet and sticking to your hands or extra water if it feels too dry and won't come together. 
6. on a floured surface knead the dough for 10mins
7. place the dough back in the large bowl, cover with a damp tea towel away from draughts and leave until it has at least doubled in size.. usually a couple of hours. the warmer the spot the quicker it will rise. if the house is cold you can just leave it for hours which is fine.
8. punch the risen dough down (my kids love doing this bit) and knead for 2mins
9. shape in to a loaf or bread rolls (or have the kids make plaits) and place on a floured baking tray
10. cover with a dry tea towel and leave for an hour, preheating the oven to 200C when necessary
10. place the bread in to the hot oven and bake for 20-30mins (time varies according to how large your loaves/rolls are - you might have to do some guess work. if the bread feels hard and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom of it, then it is ready)
here are our giant loaves that we made for lunches when family were staying for christmas

Monday 4 February 2013


we have decided it is time to get budgeting... serious budgeting... we started a few months ago and it is both painful and intensely satisfying. it gets disheartening when the boiler breaks or the extended family decide to have a family reunion abroad but we are plodding on and determined not to be living in a perpetual state of debt. so here are a few ideas that we are trying to put in to practise.

  • buy in bulk
  • shop online or use self scan at the supermarket to keep track of how much you are spending - stick to a decided amount
  • use cloths instead of wipes or paper towel
  • use vegetable oil instead of olive oil
  • put less cheese in food
  • make bread
  • dont eat out so much
  • eat less meat
  • eat more beans
  • packed lunches for all of us
  • make coffee at home - do not buy expensive coffees
  • buy less alcohol
  • say No to things - e.g. expensive days out and cinema trips - ugh!
  • use less laundry detergent
  • dont use stain remover in every wash (leftover from weaning days but i realised no longer necessary)
  • don't go in to Holland & Barrett (i always spend too much on unnecessary pills & health items!)
  • buy cheaper hair & body products - don't get so caught up in the all natural uber-organic products
  • use less loo roll
  • wash clothes less
  • wash self less - ha!
  • turn the lights off
  • turn heating off and put a jumper and scarf on
  • go on less holidays or do house swaps for holidays
  • use the EEBA app if you have an iphone - i can not recommend this highly enough - it has totally transformed our spending habits and ability to live within our means. it is an envelope system that enables you to create a budget with various envelopes and then record and track your spending really easily on your phone
  • buy clothes from charity shops or borrow/swap with friends - this can get depressing after a while and i think some times one needs a little injection of new stuff. this is where EEBA can be great because you can choose how to spend your allocated person al amount each month and if there's a bit leftover then treat yourself without feeling guilty
  • get a big fat loan!!??

one problem i have with budgeting - i would love to buy all organic and herbal but it is so much more expensive so i am trying to mix it up a bit

so to start we have cheap and simple Spicy Vegetable Curry
vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red chilli, chopped
1 medium potato, chopped
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp mild curry powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp honey
1 tin coconut milk
1 tin chick peas
10 green beans, chopped in inch long pieces
1/2 courgette, chopped in chunks
1/2 small cauliflower, chopped in chunks

to make:
1. heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok
2. add garlic, chilli & potato and stir for a few minutes
3. add all the spices and stir for a few minutes
4. add the coconut milk and bring to the boil. simmer on low heat for 8 minutes
5. add honey, beans, cauliflower, courgette and chick peas and simmer for 5 mins
6. add salt and pepper to taste and serve on rice

Tuesday 22 January 2013

new year new inspiration

so christmas has well and truly passed. we had family to stay for 10 days - lots of lovely meals, drinking wine and staying up late playing games and putting the world to rights. and New Years was a fun night out. We threw a 60th birthday party for my Mum on New Years day... we scurried around all day and my sister made the most amazing canapes for 50 people. 
i have enjoyed a long break from blogging. i love blogging and find it rather addictive - the more i do it the more ideas i have for things that i want to write about - but recently i have found myself really liking the freedom from it. i have felt with the passing of 2012 (as one often does at these junctures) inspired to do more reading (novels, biographies, histories, and especially the News!), listening to music, playing with my kids, praying, staying in touch with friends (picking up the phone!), going out with friends, staying on top of our filing and family photo albums, figuring out a way to make money, sewing, maybe even exercising and definitely more sleeping! .... so for the time being i am going to blog less. 
i want to get a bit more experimental with my cooking and find fun recipes in cookbooks. i frequently make up quick and easy grub that is fairly basic. i will carry on blogging and building up a bank of my own and my favourite recipes. but i do not want to be a slave to the blog... life is too short... there is too much to do & enjoy.... i would like to be more present in the moment and spend a bit less time with phone and computer screens.
here we are on New Year's Eve at our awesome local pub where the theme was: Where The Wild Things Are 

Tuesday 11 December 2012

It's Beginning.. look a lot like Christmas. i feel like christmas properly gets under way when the wreath goes on the door. the outside of the house says it's Christmas and inside it's time to go in to full preparation mode! Sam has decided he "really wants to get in the Christmas spirit this year" so Christmas music has been filling the house from 8am, a favourite being Sufjan Stevens.

last year i put whole orange halves in the wreath
this year i used baked orange slices
making these lovely decorative oranges fills the house with lovely smells, especially if you add cinnamon

  • slice a few oranges thinly

  • place on a rack (not tray) and sprinkle half of them with cinnamon
  • bake in the bottom of the oven at 135C for 1 hour and 107C for 1.5 -2 hrs
  • keep an eye on them so they don't turn too brown

you can use these as decorations in the wreath, hang on string etc
my kids decimated most of mine so i put them in a bowl and they make lovely pot pourri
the kids loved cutting and breaking them in to pieces

i got some energy yesterday despite my flu setting in and made Christmas pudding. it was really easy and fun to make and i loved the brandy smells filling the house. the recipe is on my previous blog post.
this week i'm joining in with The Gallery. Head over there to see other posts with the theme It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas.

Monday 10 December 2012

bah humbug

so i'm feeling a little overwhelmed by christmas and paralysed by my To Do list. i can't figure out where to start and how to prioritise my tasks. they are all fun christmasey tasks but they do need to get done. i foolishly agreed to bake 80 mince pies and 40 cookies for the local preschool because i'm on the committee and haven't done anything all year. we are having a christmas drinks party so i'll need lots of mince pies for that... plus extra for general consumption over the next few weeks. 
we are hosting christmas this year. i have never cooked a christmas lunch or christmas pudding so it's all a new adventure. with a huge list of ingredients, i did look longingly at the £5 christmas puddings in tesco today and think why not? why not just buy one? how easy would that be? why torture yourself with having to make one? but i couldn't do it. something in me said it HAD to be homemade. as with the pizzas for the kids at our house party... why not buy pizzas.. i couldn't bring myself to do it... and the granola and bread for the christmas period..... so now i'm left looking at mountains of ingredients and zero baking-labido... help!
i have a headache and sore throat and feel totally unmotivated to do anything other than sit on the sofa and watch tv... while maybe writing and re-writing the odd To Do list. i will get an early night and tackle it all afresh tomorrow. sorry for the bah humbug blog post.

to help me feel better (and more in control) i will at least start by recording here the recipes i have chosen for my first few baking exploits.

mince pies:

pastry (makes 12)
rub together with finger tips: 200g flour (sifted), 120g chilled unsalted butter and 40g caster sugar, (optional - 75g ground almonds) until the mix resembles breadcrumbs
gently stir in 1 large egg, then push together to make a pastry ball
add a few drops of water if micx is too dry to stick together
wrap pastry in cling film and put in fridge for at least 1 hour

to make the pies:
roll out the pastry and cut with a round cookie cutter
put the pastry rounds in a cupcake tin and add a large teaspoon of mincemeat
cover the top with a smaller round or a star shape
brush with a little milk on the lid of the pies and put in the fridge for 40mins
bake at 180C for 20mins

here are last year's pies. they were a hit. 
let's hope i can get some mince pie mojo tomorrow and start baking!

Here's is the BBC Rich Christmas Pudding i'm going to attempt:

Make this pudding a couple of months (2 weeks will have to do!) before Christmas day. Feed it with booze regulary for the flavours to develop.
  • Ingredients

    225g/8oz golden caster sugar
  • 225g/8oz vegetarian suet
  • 340g/12oz sultanas
  • 340g/12oz raisins
  • 225g/8oz currants
  • 110g/4oz candied peel, chopped
  • 110g/4oz plain flour
  • 110g/4oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 55g/2oz flaked almonds
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 level tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 level tsp mixed spice
  • 5g/1 level tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 150ml/5fl oz brandy

Preparation method

  1. Lightly grease 4x600ml/1 pint or 2x1.2 litre/2 pint pudding basins.
  2. Mix together all the dry ingredients.
  3. Stir in the eggs and brandy and mix well.
  4. Spoon the mix into basins. Put a circle of baking parchment and foil over the top of each basin and tie securely with string. Make a string handle from one side of the basin to the other so it is easier to pick the basin out of the pan after cooking.

    Wrapping a pudding for steaming
    2:01 mins
  5. Put the basins in a large steamer of boiling water and cover with a lid. Boil for 5-6 hours, topping the boiling water up from time to time, if necessary. If you do not have a steamer, put the basins in a large pan on inverted saucers on the base. Pour in boiling water to come a third of the way up the sides of the pudding bowls. Cover and steam as before.
  6. Cool. Change the baking parchment and foil covers for fresh ones and tie up as before. Store in a cool cupboard until Christmas Day.
  7. To serve, steam for 2 hours and serve with brandy butter, rum sauce, cream or homemade custard.