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...

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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