Autumn Crochet

 

I’m determined to do a bit more crochet over the winter. I’ve got into a terrible habit of spending hours on blogs and Ravelry, tagging projects I want to do which leaves no time to actually crochet! So less surfing and more action is called for.

 

 

My first project is  Cherry Hearts’ striped gloves. I’ve done them in a variegated yarn which has worked really well, although it does split a bit. The pattern is brilliant and really easy to follow, so I’m sure I’ll be making some more. Even better they are quite quick to crochet up.

 

 

 

 

I love the buttons, it’s hard to see but they have a slight sparkle to them, and they’ve got a lovely little clover-type hole in the centre. Mind, the 14 buttons needed cost more than the ball of yarn which was just £3.99!

I’ve used Adriafil Knitcol DK in 049 Picasso Fancy which has worked really well.  I think I’ll make a striped pair next in some basic double knit, plus some plain black ones with multi coloured buttons.

 

To go with them I’d also like to try Cherry Hearts’ Riot Pattern scarf, although it’s knitted rather than crocheted. Actually, all the patterns on this blog are great – well written with lots of pictures and easy for beginners/improvers like me!

 

 

What is currently in your WIP basket?

Colouring in for grown-ups

 

 

         

 

According to an article recently in The Telegraph, French women have latched onto a new trend – colouring in – after cunning marketing gurus began promoting the books as ‘anti-stress’ aids. Apparently the French are among the biggest consumers of anti-depressants in the world, hence the success of any alternative therapies across the Channel. Having just returned from my hols near La Rochelle, I can support the fact that French bookshops and newsagents are awash with books of mandalas, Islamic and Celtic designs just waiting to be attacked with a felt tip or a trusty Crayola.

 

In fact, British artist Johanna Basford has just released Secret Garden – An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book, a luscious 96 page anthology of hand drawn gardens, plants and flowers just begging you to take a quiet half hour with a coffee, cake and coloured pencils. I should know because I’ve bought it.

 

 

Inspired by these masterpieces and keen to find outlines which fully appeal to my tastes, I’ve begin drawing a few myself. I’m ridiculously pleased with my first attempts, and I’ve not even begun to colour them in yet!

 

 

98 days left……

Seriously?! 98 days left til (whisper) Christmas?! I’m excited and horrified in equal measure. But to celebrate reaching this milestone point of the year – and because now the kids are back at school I’ve got time to do it – I decided to do a bit of light festive crafting. Nothing too heavy, you understand, but a little drawing and watercolour.

 

I’m thinking of making these into cards? First of all Brighton Pavillion in the snow:

And a rather random reindeer:

 

I’m thinking an abstract Christmas tree might work quite well. Or a three Kings scene?

Monday menu

Ok, so I’m back on the blogging wagon after a bit of a break. And what better way to start than with food? Here’s my menu for the week:

recipe-image-legacy-id--51643_11

Monday – breaded chicken, pesto pasta and broccoli. I’m constantly trying to get the kids to try new things and pesto pasta is such an easy standby. So combining it with something I know they’ll eat – hence the breaded chicken – has to be a winner, right? I’ll let you know.

Tuesday – Chicken casserole in the slow cooker with tomatoes, lentils and served with rice.

Wednesday – Toad in the hole with filled jacket potatoes and carrots.

Thursday – home made pizza, salad and garlic bread.

Friday – Chilli con carne made with stewing steak, rice and tortilla chips.

chilli

I’m also going to get baking again after a hiatus during the school holidays. But in order not to stuff my own face with calorie laden goodies I need to make stuff I’m not too keen on. Hmmm, difficult. Flapjack maybe?

 

 

Rainy day wear

The weather here has been terrible today – non stop rain. Where is the sun?! So inspired by the dull skies I’ve chosen the best of all the waterproof macs out there – just in case we need them this summer. Fingers crossed we won’t!

All these images are on my Polyvore account.

Mac - £119 Joules
Jeans £26 Next
Converse £47 Next
Top £20 Joules
Bag £30 Zara
necklace £35 Next
Scarf £5 River Island

Mac £120 Seasalt
Top £9.99 John Lewis
Jeans £39 TopShop
Bag £30 Nelly
Necklace £15 H&M

Top £30 John Lewis
Mac £119 Boden
Shoes £40 Next
Bag £110 Boden
Necklace £75 Stella and Dot
Trousers £59 Boden

Monday menu

Monday – Lemon and parmesan chicken

This was inspired by a ready meal I saw in M&S – just as easy to make it yourself. Take your skinless chicken breasts and place in shallow dish. I like to add some cherry tomatoes and red onion wedges too.

Whizz up some breadcrumbs from preferably stale bread in a food processor (or by hand if need be). Add some grated parmesan, juice from a lemon and some olive oil.

Mix it all together and spread over the chicken, with some extra olive oil drizzled on top. Cook at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes, until cooked through.

Serve with salad and new potatoes.

Tuesday – indoor barbecue 

I was hoping to be able to barbeque this week – it’s such an easy tea, the kids eat lots and all the mess is outside. But the weather has put paid to that, so I’ll just do the same food but indoors! For fun I might put a picnic blanket down on the kitchen floor and let the kids pretend they are outside.

Wednesday – spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread and salad

Thursday – home made soup

This is a quick tea because Thursday is the night we have lots of activities. This soup can be made in huge batches and frozen in portions, then microwaved when needed. The kids like it with garlic bread. It’s fab because it’s a whole meal in one!

You need:

1 ham joint

Selection of veg, diced – carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, turnip, peas

A large handful each of lentils and barley.

Put the barley in a small pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer for an hour and a half. At the same time, simmer the ham in a large pan of water for the same amount of time.

Remove ham from the pan and add the veg and lentils, bring to boil then simmer for 20 minutes. While this is cooking chop the ham into small pieces.

Once the veg is cooked return the ham to the pan along with the cooked barley. You can eat it as it is, or blend it to make a smooth broth, which my kids prefer. Allow to cool then freeze.

Friday – chicken curry.  I usually make this in the slow cooker, with onions and carrots finely chopped into the sauce. You can also add raisins or pineapple. Then I mix a little plain yoghurt into the children’s portions so it’s not too hot. Serve with naan bread and mango chutney.

Bento boxes

I’ve seen a lot written recently about Bento boxes and how they can be used to encourage children to eat more healthily by making food more interesting and appealing.

Originating from Japan, they are basically little pots and boxes of food all styled to look amazing. The boxes themselves range from disposable plastic style boxes to elaborate lacquerware, and they are becoming increasingly popular worldwide, particularly for children’s’ lunches.

It makes sense – making lunches into mini works of art must be the best way to get kids to eat something other than jam sandwiches and Kit Kats.

I’ve decided to tap in to the trend to see if it will encourage my three boys to eat a more varied packed lunch. Although my eldest is great with vegetables and fruit, he is picky about sandwich fillings, while the other two are reluctant to try anything green.

A quick search turned up these for inspiration:

 

There are lots of great ideas online – some simple, such as the rolled sandwiches and cheese shapes above, while others are a bit more detailed. Check out these:

There’s lots of bento boxes available online – Amazon has a good selection – although an ordinary box will do the trick, use smaller boxes inside it for different foods, or silicone cake cases. You could also save little plastic cups, like the ones you get with salad dressing in supermarket salad boxes, or foil containers.

There’s loads more ideas on my Pinterest site.

Quick and easy birthday cakes

It’s my littlest boy’s birthday today – Many Happy Returns Rowan!! As usual the cake making and present buying has been left until the last minute and I’ve been under serious time pressure to get a cake sorted.

So a quick internet search has thrown up some ideas for fast and fun baking! Here’s the best:

For recipes, I don’t think you can beat the BBC Good Food’s dark chocolate fudge cake. As well as tasting totally divine, it’s really easy to make, you basically beat all the ingredients together in one go. Definitely my sort of baking!

Here’s the one I’ve made using this recipe for his actual birthday today. I used a gingerbread man-shaped mould which I got for about a fiver from our local factory shop.

 

 

And for his party last week I made this, using the same recipe and lots of smarties!

Not exactly Mary Berry standards but they tasted good!

 

Shoe heaven

I’ve just popped into my local Clarks store this morning and what a fab selection of shoes they have! As well as being on trend, they are just so comfortable (yes, sad I know!)

Here’s a round up of my favourites. I particularly like the black and lime green Studio Pinch sandals – they’d look great with black cut offs.

Dark green suede Glitter Pool £49.99

Gin Crush £49.99

Compass zone £39.99

Studio punch £49.99

Rusty Art was £49.99 now £39.99

Un Swish £54.99

Fenners fun £64.99

Hotel Diva £65

Compass Realm £44.99

Clarks website offers free standard delivery and returns to your home or local shop. Which are your favourites?

Monday Menu and taco recipe

One of my most challenging weekly tasks is planning our menus. With three boys – and often their guests too – plus a husband who works unpredictable hours, it would be all too easy to get caught up in making multiple meals to suit every member of the family and their differing social calendars.

Strike a chord?!

But I’ve been there – making beans on toast at 4pm for the hungry 9 year old who’s rushing off to football, then something more substantial for the other kids at 5pm, followed by a third option when my husband comes in from work. And it’s exhausting! So now I try to plan my menus out weekly, alongside all our calendars, to ensure that I’m making just one meal that can be, if required, eaten at different times of the evening.

As well as cutting my cooking time it also slashes my shopping bill. So every Monday I’m going to post my menu for the week – and I hope you’ll contribute ideas too!

One of my most valuable tools in the kitchen is my slow cooker – check out this post to find out why!

Monday

Chicken casserole with veg (can be mashed into sauce for fussy eaters), sauce made from stock and passata – all done in slow cooker. Couscous for kids, rice for adults.

Tuesday

Spag bol – mince done in slow cooker, pasta cooked all together then adults refreshed with boiling water. Garlic bread and salad. Enough mince left over to freeze for a meal next week.

Wednesday

Fish pie and peas. Made in afternoon and put in low oven which collecting kids from school, then reheated for adults.

Thursday

Eldest at football so need to feed kids quickly

Kids – beefburgers, potato wedges (or part baked baguette for child 1 who won’t eat potato!), salad bowl.

Adults – marinated chicken fillets (ready made), potato wedges (Cooked alongside kids then quickly reheated in oven), salad bowl.

Friday

Husband home by 6pm so we’ll all eat together. Chicken tray bake – chicken breasts, red onion wedges, new potatoes, pepper strips, rosemary and lemon wedges in ovenproof dish with drizzle of olive oil. People can avoid the bits they really don’t like!

Saturday

Mexican Tacos. You’ll need

Beef mince and a taco kit such as Old El Taco’s, or a supermarket own brand – I use a one called Discovery from Morrison’s which is about half the price.

Plus optional extras: grated cheese, savoury rice (I use Uncle Ben’s which you can microwave in 2 minutes), crème fraiche, guacamole, tomato salsa, fried onions and peppers

Brown the mince and add the packet mix from the taco mix – usually you sprinkle on the powder and add some water. Allow to simmer for 20 mins.

Then I put everything in bowls on the table and everyone helps themselves. The major benefit of this is there are so many options that everyone will find enough bits they like. Great when one child doesn’t like tacos but will eat rice; another doesn’t like crème fraiche;  husband doesn’t want onions – you get the picture.

Sunday

Roast beef with all the bits – get a big enough joint to have leftovers for sandwiches or the basis of Monday night’s tea.