Monday, 28 February 2011

Rice Pudding and Raspberry Leaf Tea

I've been drinking a lot of raspberry leaf tea this past week and a half.  It's meant to be good at helping when the ol' labour kicks off, and I must say in the mean time it intensifies the Braxton Hick's contractions.  All well and good- home stretch now (quite a scary thought!)

A friend has posted several times on Facebook recently about making rice pudding for her family, and every time I see her mention it, it makes me yearn for it.  I do have a bit of a weakness for a good old home made rice pudding.  I found a lovely recipe on BBC Good Food (once again they come good!) and it's so easy.  I didn't have pudding rice (it seems that not many supermarkets stock it these days, and people get very confused when you ask for it, wondering if you in fact mean tinned rice pudding!) so I used risotto rice, which worked excellently.

I love making this because a) it is so easy- just bung everything in a dish, pop it in the oven for a couple of hours, and voilĂ - a delicious dessert, and b) because it's great if you're trying to be thrifty- rice, milk, sugar and a dash of nutmeg- it doesn't break the bank!

Given that clearly I have a bit of a sweet tooth at the moment, I also decided to try out banana and chocolate chip bread in our bread maker.  I tried out a (disastrous) white bread recipe on the back of a yeast packet today, which did not work properly for some unknown reason, and after that decided that I had to have one bread success today, so I looked around on line for a nice (and not too complex) sounding recipe for banana bread.  What better than one with chocolate chips too?

I found the recipe here, but when I was about to turn on the bread maker, I did do a double take about the fact that it had no sugar in it (not in itself a problem, but it didn't sound normal for a sweet bread!) so I added 3 tbsp of sugar to the mix.  I was a little nervous about how it would turn out- especially given my failure once today already! However, I needn't have worried- it is delicious, and I particularly love the dark chocolate chips (chunks?)! A good breakfast tomorrow me thinks!

I finished my fat-quarters bag, and went with blue straps in the end.  I'm pleased with how it turned out, but with retrospect, you need a little more of one single type of fabric to make a bag of a more practical size.  It was my first little play with making up patterns myself, and I've learned a few bits and bobs, but it's given me lots of ideas for developing in the future!  And in the meantime, I reckon it would make a nice peg bag!

Right. I must stop now, and get on with clicking my needles together to finish that cabled cardi.  I'd like to complete it before the little one puts in her appearance, and I'm getting pretty close...
If you fancy another crafty blog read, one that I'm enjoying at the moment is Flossie Teacakes.  Lots of inspiration to be gleaned from there!

Hoping that you're having a lovely week.


Saturday, 26 February 2011

Mud and Crafts.

I laughed when I read Fay's blog post a few days back, documenting Flo's taste of mud in the garden.  E is a big fan of mud.  His current favourite thing to do in the garden (when not chasing or playing ball with the cat) is to dig for worms.  Failing that he will aim to mix mud and water in whatever suitable container he can find, and drink as much of it as possible before being stopped by my husband or myself!  As you can see, today he was rather a state after a short while in the garden.

I am so thankful for our garden though.  I love that he's old enough to be able to play in the garden (and that he enjoys doing it), and that he wants to do it at any given opportunity.  I was raised by parents who were always championing the benefits of fresh air, and I've become one of them myself now!

In our garden we have some beautiful daffodils starting to blow their trumpets.

And the promise of many more to come! (Thank you Mummy for planting last summer whilst I was feeling grotty!)

I made another carrot cake today from the same lovely recipe.  Except this time I added sultanas too.  Good move. It tastes great!

I've been doing a little more on the crochet Granny squares, am progressing on the cabled cardi and am eagerly anticipating an evening of crafting and fun with two good friends. Lovely.

I hope your weekend is going well.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Yellow and Blue inspiration

Today has been such a lovely day.  The weather has been beautiful- blue skies, and really mild.  E is so much better now (thank goodness for prayer and antibiotics!), and there's something even more wonderful about a cheerful child after a few days of them being miserable.


I had the morning off today! E went and had fun with his Grandma, and I took a leisurely bath, and then had a little jaunt into town.  Oxford is such a beautiful place to live- particularly on days like today!

One place I particularly wanted to visit was Oxford's new little haberdashery.  For a reasonable sized city, Oxford has had no haberdashery (apart from a wall in a department store) since the fabric shop closed about 18 months ago.  This little place is little, and full of charm, tucked away beside Christ Church College.

And, they do day workshops and endorse local craft groups, such as a Monday night sewing and knitting group that meets in a local pub- fantastic.  You can find more information here.  

I had to go in and have a little mosy round, and although I intended to buy nothing, this lovely little pack of fat-quarters caught my eye.

They just looked so spring-like, and they were just crying out to be made into a bag. I really like some of the lovely pleated bags I've seen around, and decided that they couldn't be that difficult to make, so this afternoon whilst the boy was sleeping I set about designing a pattern for my own.  Who knows how it'll turn out, but so far it's going well.

Although my only problem is deciding what colour to do the straps.  I have the floral fabric as the outside, the plain yellow as the lining, and the blue as a kind of 'band' on top.  What do you think would do well for some straps out of the following?

I'll be getting on with it next tomorrow, so if you have any inspiration or opinions, I'd love to hear from you!

In other news I bought myself two lovely new items of clothing today.  I was given some vouchers last summer, and I figured that pretty soon I'd have less time on my hands to go shopping at leisure, so I got myself...

This lovely shirt (which doesn't quite fit now, but will do after birth!) which is a) rather gorgeous, and a style I've wanted for a while and b) ideal for breastfeeding, which I shall be doing rather a lot of in a few weeks' time! And...

A new pair of PJs- again, I'm going to be very good and save them for after the big day, so I have something nice to wear.

So. All in all a Good Day. 
Right. Must dash. The bread needs taking out of the bread maker.  Granary this time.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Crumpets and Cake

It's Al's birthday today- Happy Birthday to a lovely husband!  And E has an ear infection.  He didn't play ball when I took him in to sing happy birthday to Daddy, in fact every time I paused after "Happy Birthday..." for him to fill in the lyrics, he whined "noooo".  Not the chirpy start to the day I'd envisaged, but never mind.

We had a lovely birthday breakfast, complete with Eggy crumpets and ham (masquerading as bacon for the purpose of the breakfast!)... (for Al)

And croissants (for E and I!).

We joined Al at work for lunch in the office (very exciting to a toddler), and enjoyed the first (of more than one during the course of the day...) piece of the carrot cake...

It did not disappoint!

Our gift to Al was a canvas of a beautiful photo taken by a very talented friend at a photoshoot last year, which sat on our piano whilst we decided on a suitable location, but is now hanging above our lounge sofa.

Our day was finished off with a delicious dinner, full of giggles, with family.

Craft-wise,  I finished weaving in loose ends on my tank top, and finished off the ruffled scarf I've been making on commission. Other than that, much time was taken up sitting waiting to see the doctor (for the boy), cuddling said boy, and generally looking after a grumblier-than-usual son.

I'm now looking forward to cracking on with the pink cable knit top for the impending arrival so that it's ready in time, whilst doing a little more crocheted granny squares when I fancy a change.

I hope you are well.

Monday, 21 February 2011

A Grey Day

Today the weather has been grey and rainy.  And I have had a more fragile little boy to entertain who is pushing through about 7 teeth in one go!  I can't really complain, given that he has a generally joyful disposition, but somehow that makes it even more of a challenge when he's grumpy!

In keeping with the colour of the day, I was wearing my lovely grey aran, made for me a few years ago by my Mum.

I unpacked three boxes in our conservatory today, leaving two left, but it's freed up quite a lot of space, and there you can see how a nice "new" (to us!) chair fits in the newly vacated corner. Lovely.

I've now finished my grey tank top, and am just weaving in the last few ends (a job that always takes far longer than you estimate).

The centre of the "V" neck was a real pain to knit, as, no matter how carefully I tried to carry out the instructions given, it never seemed to look quite right... Oh well- I think I got there (or thereabouts) in the end.

I also lengthened it.  Having knitted it all up, I measured it up against myself, and I thought it was too short.  I really dislike tops that are too short, so I undid the tops of the shoulders, and elongated the top section (rather than undo to below the "V"- I wasn't sure if I could face that!)

I will now have to wait a few weeks to try it on, as I'm not going to risk stretching it this side of the baby arriving!

This afternoon saw baking time, with a carrot cake on the menu for my lovely husband's birthday tomorrow.  It is his favourite cake, and apart from this one, he's not really a cake eater.  In fact, I don't know why I don't bake it more often- it's not difficult! Perhaps having it once a year keeps it special.  I used this recipe from BBC Good Food.  We've not tasted it yet, but it smells fabulous, and, of course is completed with the delicious cream-cheese icing!

This evening I've been making a birthday present for my Nanna.  I bought a beautiful cross-stitched sampler at Oxfam when I was Christmas shopping, and earmarked it for this project...

I chose a cornflower blue fabric for the backing- another freecycle bargain- a pair of childrens' curtains that I picked up a while back, that wouldn't fit any of our windows, but which are in very good condition, with lovely colourful material! 

I didn’t have any cushion pads of the correct dimensions, so I used a spare pillowcase, and filled it with some soft-toy stuffing I had handy (having once ordered far too much for a small project!), then sewed it up, and- voila! A cushion of precisely the right size!

I’ve enjoyed using some of the 'fancier’ features of my sewing machine- such as blanket stitch and the button hole setting on this project.

All in all, a productive evening- even more satisfying that I was able to make a lovely personal Birthday present without having to spend lots of money.  Right.  Need to get it wrapped up and ready to send first thing tomorrow with a home-made card.

I hope you have had a lovely start to the week.  

Friday, 18 February 2011

An ordinary day full of lovely things.

I spent today with my Mum, and the day was filled with fairly ordinary, but really quite lovely things...

This morning we went to the market.  Look at all of this lovely fruit and veg we got!

I love going up to the market- partly for the enthusiastic and character-ful market vendors (one calls everyone "Bubba" which just makes me smile!), and partly because it's such good value!

It was a fairly clear and blowy day, so the washing got to hang in the garden for a while and now smells amazing!

Having admired my lovely knitting yarns sitting on the windowsill for a few days (c/o freecycle!) I took one ball into a local knitting shop to ask if they had any idea what the weight of the yarn was (as the writing was all in German).  These particular ones are 3-ply.  So, what- I ask myself should I make with them....?!

A friend who I had a lovely catch-up with yesterday had mentioned a crochet blanket, and it got me to thinking... So, today I thought I might like to try a Granny-square (a nice manageable starting point!)

I don't find crochet super-easy yet.  I'm quite practised at my knitting, but much more of a novice at crochet.  Still, not too bad for starters.  I found a beautiful pattern for various crochet squares made into a fabulous blanket here.

My Mum has been putting the finishing touches onto a blanket for the bump...

I finished a sudoku I'd been working on for a while (although only for very brief periods of time at a go- I'm not that bad!)

I enjoyed watching my son dig for worms in the garden...

And I used some stale bread to make Olive-oil garlic bread, to go with avocado and mozzarella.  A yummy side to our family favourite- Spag bol!

A fairly ordinary, but rather fun day.
I hope you have a lovely weekend, and a nice lie-in (...?)

Thursday, 17 February 2011

A grey tank top.

I have been thinking about getting started again on a tank top I started knitting in the summer.  Basically I stopped making it in the Autumn because (apart from getting distracted by other projects and Christmas Present making) I knew I wouldn't fit into it until after having the baby!  So, given that we're not too long from D-day now, I thought I'd get going on it again.

It's knitted in Sirdar Chunky on 6.5 needles, so it's a pretty quick knit, and is coming along well...

Along with this, I'm working on a "ruffled" scarf, knitted in Katia Ondas for a commission...

I've also been dabbling with a little cross-stitch.  I have one or two friends who are convinced that this cannot make a comeback into the crafting world in any meaningful way, but, having looked at some of the beautiful designs in the Cath Kidston "Stitch!" book, I have been persuaded otherwise... The book comes with all you need to complete one of the projects, which is a lovely little purse with a spray of flowers on.


I'm currently working on having a facebook page for Cream Teas and Crafternoons, and although it's still under construction (being technical is not my forte!) it is basically up and running now... So, if you enjoy these blog posts, and are on Facebook then do add it to your "likes"! It will probably look a lot sleeker once my Husband has had a look at it!

Enjoy your Friday.  I'm looking forward to spending the day with my Mum.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Cinnamon and raisin bread and potato rosti- the recipes

Thanks to those people who asked for the recipes I mentioned in my last post.  The recipes are as follows:

Cinnamon and Raisin Bread  (recipe as given in the Morphy Richards Fastbake bread maker manual)

Recipes are for 11⁄2 Ib loaf or 2 lb loaf

Water 11⁄4 cup or 11⁄2 cup
Skimmed milk powder 3 tbsp or 4 tbsp
Sunflower oil 3 tbsp or 4 tbsp
Sugar 2 tbsp or 3 tbsp
Salt 11⁄2 tsp or 2 tsp
Cinnamon 3⁄4 tsp or 1 tsp
Strong white bread flour 3 cup or 4 cup
Fast action yeast 11⁄2 tsp or 2 tsp
Raisins* 5⁄8 cup or 3⁄4 cup
Use setting 1 Basic on Morphy Richards Fastbake bread maker.

The "cup" measurement is equivalent to 8 fl oz, and the tsp/tbsp are regular measurements.
The * beside the raisins is for adding into the mix (for bread makers) once the beeps sound, so that the raisins don't get chopped up by the earlier mixing process.  If you're making by hand, you can add them whenever!

I'm guessing I might be making more of this pretty soon, as it's not lasting very long in our house...!

Potato Rosti
Potatoes (enough for the number of people eating!)- peeled and par-boiled.
Eggs (at least one per person)
Onion - grated
Butter - about a tbsp
Emmental - 200g (ish) - grated

I also like to add:
Green Peppers
(I think it makes the dish more Spanish-feeling)

Par boil potatoes, and then grate into a bowl with grated onion (very eye-watery!)
Beat eggs with about 2/3 tsp pesto.
Add egg mix into potato/onion mix, and also add in green peppers.
Melt half butter into a large non-stick frying pan.
Add half of potato mixture to pan, and press down.
Fry gently for about 15 mins, being careful not to burn.
Turn first half of rosti onto a plate, and melt second half of butter, and do the same with the second half of the potato mixture.  This time, sprinkle the emmental (and salami) onto the top of the pressed down rosti, and then place/flip the cooked half of the rosti back on top of the cheesy rosti.  Again, cook for about 15/20 mins.

Either turn onto a plate and serve, or slice up in pan, and serve onto plates.
Great with salad, and tapas-type things!

(Note- if in a hurry, you can do both halves at the same time if you have 2 similar sized non-stick frying pans.  Just pop the one with the cheese under the grill for a minute or so to make sure that the cheese melts nicely, and then just sandwich them together at the end)

I hope you enjoy these! Let me know if they work for you...

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Cinnamon and raisin bread and sticker charts.

Today I had my first resounding success with our new bread maker.  A friend recommended cinnamon and raisin bread (thanks Mel!) and since I am finding it hard to think of things I'd like to eat in the mornings currently, I decided that might be a tempting breakfast choice.

It smelled absolutely fabulous as it was rising and then cooking away, and it tasted delicious both plain with butter (says Al) and toasted with butter (says me!).  Sort of like hot-crossed bun as bread. Yum.

The other thing I discovered was that some of my lack of success had been due to the type of yeast I was using- not "fast bake" but one that was more suited to hand baking rather than bread makers.  Can it make much difference? It turns out the answer is YES, given that this one rose to about twice the height of my previous attempts!

Lots of my life at the moment revolves around spending time with my toddler son.  He's amazing, and a huge amount of fun to be with, but is also going through that (totally normal so I hear!) phase of pushing lots of boundaries.  It's quite full-on working out on a case by case basis how to respond in a loving yet firm way.  Today we decided to give stickers a try, and (although it's early days) the idea of a sticker reward for being well-behaved at the dinner table worked very well.  We'll see how this carries on.  He certainly pointed out his two hard-earned stickers to Daddy with pride upon his return from work.

We had potato rosti for dinner tonight.  I don't know if you have a good recipe for one, but I got our one from the back of an emmental cheese packet about a year ago, and we've been enjoying it ever since.  If you've not tried it before, then do! It's delicious.  If you don't know of a good recipe, let me know, and I'll post one.

Right.  Off to bed for me now.  I hope your week is going well.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

This weekend I have been...

- Finishing off the Bird Mobile.  I've finished one of them, and am finishing the wings for the birds on the second one.  It's pretty though, and worth all the fiddly effort.

It's hard to photograph well, but you get the general idea...!

- Making meringues, because I had some left over egg whites (which I usually forget about).  Although they weren't quite as perky as I'd hoped, they are very tasty, and weren't as disastrous as I'd feared they could be.

- Spending time in the garden (yesterday) relishing the lovely weather, taking photos, and joining in fun with A and E.

- Helping to man a (rather full-on) creche session, and catching up with good friends and family at church, and over coffee.

- Spending a lot of time sitting at the table whilst E ate several bowls of rice pops.  Very slowly.

- Enjoying the luxury of a bath for the less fun reason of trying to alleviate the pelvis pain that can often accompany late pregnancy.

I am now looking forward to doing a spot of knitting and catching up with some friends over tea and cake.
What have you been up to?!