Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Welcoming the Return of my Cooking Mojo!!!!

Well I am sitting in my darkened living room with the back door open and a cool breeze wafting in, swigging ahem, sipping wine, and celebrating the return of my cooking mojo! For many weeks now I have not enjoyed cooking and have relied too much upon convenience foods which are both expensive and boring! When I have attempted 'proper' cooking it has resulted in pulled faces and being pushed around before eventually being eaten due to it just not being that great! I haven't been able to organise a decent menu plan though, let alone a shopping list and a tasty result!! From past experience, I knew that it would return and so I was patient - and return it has!

I am just waiting for the oven to beep to inform me that some rather cute and hopefully tasty little blackberry bakewells are golden brown..... it has been years since I baked after the children had gone to bed, baked for the joy of it that is rather than necessity. Yesterday afternoon, whilst Idris was snoozing, the girls and I sat in the garden and pored through the Good Food magazines that come on a gift subscription from my parents. We pulled out all the yummy looking pages and added them to a clipboard that is propped up behind my battered old chopping board.

We made yummy Sausage Pot Pies for dinner - a really versatile and easy recipe that would be fabulous with red cabbage in, or pumpkin in the Autumn.... it met with ravenous approval and I wondered about baking the bakewells when the children had gone to bed. I then decided I shouldn't - it seemed rather frivolous to cook for pleasure, just me 'by my own' (family joke, sorry!). Wasn't there something serious and important to do?

Oh hang on, there's the beep - let's see now.....
Well it turned out that there wasn't anything more important and that baking by myself was really enjoyable and I almost remember doing it before I had children and felt compelled to include them in all baking activities!! As it happened, just between you and me - I couldn't resist inviting my little willow the wisp to help me put them together - she never goes to sleep until late anyway, and she dearly loves to help me cook!!

I am very relieved to be back into cooking mode again, where I find it simple and fun to prepare and cook healthy meals for my family - long may it last!!! The recipes for these aren't available yet on the Good Food website..... I'll pop back and add the links when they are up there!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Seed Markers Made from Vintage Spoons!

This is another of my 'seen around the web thought I'd try it out' endeavours..... not the most successful one I've ever tried to be honest! It looked so easy..... but then it always does..... I bought a pile of unusual vintage spoons from ebay and a set of steel letter punches.
Here are the spoons in their original condition.... before I got Dewi to hammer them flat (approach this carefully - he was a tad enthusiastic and split a couple of the spoons near where they attach to the stem)....
These are the punches and here it became tricky as I'd underestimated just how HARD a steel teaspoon can be..... no, really, steel is VERY hard!!! In my naive little bubble I'd imagined tapping perfectly formed letters into the spoons and joining the ranks of crafting genii..... alas I joined the ranks of bumbling also-rans, and collected a couple of blood blisters along the way!!!!
Idris was fascinated with the whole process and laughed like a drain when I hit my thumb and hopped around the patio hissing unmentionable things about spoons and pinterest!
A couple of them turned out really well and at least I'll know which seedlings are which now!!!!! I think I'll look for other ideas to use the letter punches with next time.....

Sunday, 12 August 2012

An Olympic Muffin Tin Dinner!

I hadn't made the girls a muffin tin dinner for a long time and thought the closing ceremony of the Olympics was a perfect opportunity to surprise them with one! I racked my brains for what to do and decided to represent some of the sports that the girls enjoyed watching and learning about, as well as some of the classic Olympic symbols. I always balance savoury with sweet and try to include all the food groups and we always have jelly in our MTD's, it's a tradition! So we had:
  • An Olympic torch made from a tortilla twisted up with yellow peppers and carrot slices as the flames
  • Beach volleyball - couscous sand with a team GB flag left over from the Jubilee celebrations!
  • Gold medals - cheddar discs cut with a cookie cutter and a ham number added
  • Olympic ring fruit salad with black berries, blueberries,  red peach,  yellow banana and green apple
  • Rythmic gymnastics ribbon baton - Strawberry fruit roll-ups coiled just so with a cocktail stick as the baton
  • Diving - lemon and lime sugarfree jelly dyed blue with gel food colouring, and with a toy person (cleaned with boiling water first) embedded upside down as if they had just dived in. I managed this by putting half the jelly in and allowing it to almost set then suspending the person upside down with a pipe cleaner twisted around their legs and hooked over the edges of the cup with their head resting on the already set jelly. I finished it off with a tiny blob of plain yoghurt as a 'splash' - in a GB cup of course!
Our previouse MTD's were St Patrick's Day and St. George's Day.

A Metal and Shiny Objects Treasure Basket!

I asked my Mum to keep her eye out for metal and shiny bits and bobs for a new treasure basket for Idris.... and THIS is what she came back with.... the most amazing, super-inventive collection all ready in a basket! She collected metals of different types and colours, as well as metallic items and it is so well put together....

It contains:
  • A pile of disposable metal pie tins
  • A solid non-stick black coated pie tin
  • A couple of small coloured tins that open in different ways
  • A mesh desk-tidy pen holder
  • A red metal bucket
  • A set of metal bangles
  • A set of spanners in different sizes
  • A ring of interesting keys
  • A plug stopper
  • A brass decorative kettle
  • A balloon whisk
  • A tea strainer
  • A metallic bouncy cat toy
  • A spiral metal egg cup
  • A spiral toast rack.....
  • .....with gold and silver metallic coated scouring pads slotted into it
  • A metal drinks tin with a money slot in the top.....
  • ..... and a packet of oversized metal paperclips just PERFECT to post into the slot (see Iddy below - he is really into posting things this last few weeks and sat down immediatly to post clips into the tin!!)
  • Two blank CDs
  • A mirrored coaster

I love this treasure basket and it has already provided hours of entertainment for Idris - treasure baskets are so easy to put together and you can add to them over time. Mum thinks all the things for this (some found, some bought) came to about £20 which is much less than commercially available ones.... go on, give it a go - it's what carboots, pound shops and the like were invented for!!!!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Making a Nappy Cake!

I just found out that my oldest friend - the one I have known for the longest, not the oldest in age - is expecting a baby in January. I am thrilled for them and even more thrilled to get the opportunity to make this gift!!! I saw it somewhere on the net a few weeks ago and was taken with the idea but knew no-one who would benefit - until now!!!! I have made it in yellow and green to suit both eventualities!!
The base layer is made by wrapping newborn nappies around a bottle of my favourite baby shampoo/wash - I secured them with large elastic bands as I went - this is a little tricky and you may want a willing volunteer to help you! Try to get them as tight as possible and with the folded end of the nappy visible down the side for neatness!
I folded two white muslins together into a strip the same depth as the nappies and ironed it smooth, then carefully wrapped it around as icing and had Eve hold it for me whilst I tied the ribbon. I used a plain yellow vest from a multi pack (size 9-12 months to give me plenty of icing!!) - it is ruched up a little to go around the bottle neck but this is hidden with the second tier of 'cake' so don't worry!

To make the second tier, I again wrapped some nappies around the neck of the bottle and secured with an elastic band. I then rolled four more nappies into tubes and five of the remaining vests into tubes and put a small band around them, then arranged them around the nappy stack and held them in place with another large band....
I 'iced' the top tier by laying the other yellow vest over the rolls of nappy and vest and smoothing it over/tucking it in. The edging is made with another muslin folded, ironed, wrapped around and tied with coloured wool this time, in three strands. I tucked a baby comb and brush into the bottom ribbon and finished the top tier off with a pair of newborn bootees!

I'm SO pleased with the result - it was such fun to make and although Dewi thought I was crackers, even he agrees it is very effective and a lovely gift! It now has pride of place in the lounge awaiting Julia's visit next weekend!

There are so many ways you can adapt the 'recipe' to your own tastes - washable nappies, any colour vests - use socks to make roses, rattles instead of brushes, use velour or minky receiving blankets to make the icing instead of muslins........ your creativity is the limit!!!