Saturday, 23 March 2013

Easter Snow Day

Its been really hard to feel 'springy'. I guess that makes sense because England has decided to remain in a Narnian style eternal winter and we need Aslan to rid us of the white witch so that we can have some nice weather. Its cold, its snowing...lots and I've struggled today to force myself into an Easter mode. At this stage of the year there is normally bight cheerful bunting and bunnies and chicks hanging from sticks all over the house. I can't even make an Easter tree today as the pile of twigs isn't locatable underneath all the snow.

So I decided to start today with an attitude check. Easter is more to do with Jesus and being thankful than it is to do with pastel shades, bluebells and daffodils so phase 1 of the move into Easter was to create a prayer wall. Time to get things into perspective.
These are just words printed onto sugar paper and cut down. I chose words that are interesting and should work to inspire creative ideas for messages. I've thrown all these into a big basket and left it on the chest by the blackboard wall with a pot of chalk and blue tack.
Then the idea is to pick out 1 or 2 words that you connect with and use them to construct a prayer message on the wall. Hollys message says Thank you for promising that we will be with you in heaven forever. We've been thinking a lot about eternity this week as a friend of mine sadly lost her little girl.   
Elijah's prayer ' You are strong and you rule the world.
 The idea was to have this wall to add to all the way through Easter. Within 30 mins of taking these pictures they'd already pretty much filled it!

The other bonus of being snowed in is that we have had plenty of time to get crafty and get on with the kids projects for the decorated egg competition for later this week. I have very much stepped back and let them get on with this. They can't look as through a fussing mother has interfered and taken over... so the easiest way to achieve that look is not to interfere or take over. Its REALLY hard, yes, but if you just stick to pinning bunting around the walls and hanging bunnies and prayer walls then it keeps your mind off it and passes the time far quicker.  

Elijahs' ScalEGGstric track. He's mid making little racing cars out of eggs and lots of my decopatch glue!

She loves her idea this year... it makes her laugh whenever she thinks about it.
Almost done. I had to tweet this to Ant and Dec. Tomorrow we're onto the bonnet making!!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Easter competition

Aww I'm having to remind myself of all the Easter fun we had last year. Its hard to believe it was a normal time of year. Its just so cold and snowy that I can't seem to get motivated to get them started on their Easter egg/bonnet competition things but they do really love it. Holly worked for weeks and weeks on this Mad Hatter's Easter bonnet made out of a Cheerios box. My clever girl.

And I love the swirly seas on Elijah's pirate ship.

Right - this weekend... need to get EGGtremely creative!

Low sugar bread and butter pudding

 This looks a BIT like sick...? Nope though - its challenge no 1 of the less processed, less sugar, less money experiment (oh and its going to be bread and butter pudding)
I'm getting the children fully on board with everything we eat and all the decisions to cut out certain things. I don't want them to become children who say 'no I can't drink fizzy pop because my mum doesn't like it' I want them to decide if they would like to drink fizzy pop being aware of the nutritional facts... and in engaging them fully in low sugar food preparation I'm also teaching them to cook and will be training all of our tastes to be less addicted to sugar.
 Here is the original recipe but I've taken Dr Lustig's advice and given this recipe only 1/3 of the amount of sugar and its brown and unrefined. I've also gone a couple of steps further in using granary bread rather than brown or white and I've ONLY used crusts. I basically had a couple of empty bags of crusts left over that would have gone moldy and been binned rather than anyone be gracious enough to eat them... so this has used them all up. I also did 2/3 of the milk and 1/3 water. Oh and I didn't use extra butter for the dish (which is more to do with forgetting it). I added in a few chopped dates to the dried fruit in case I've gone a bit overboard in reducing the sugar in light of it being granary... but voila...a wholesome pudding which should fill up a hungry family on a very cold and snowy march day! I'm going to serve with a bit of double cream. Packet custard has always sent my children crazy and is full of the baddies I'm trying to get away from and making custard from scratch is not something I feel like doing often. Cream will be best and less sugary too. I'm hoping this will be a good desert to have tonight as we're having a very low carb dinner and was a bit worried they wouldn't be full. I think this should help :-)

Well for a mixture of stale bread crusts, egg, water, milk, a bit of butter and brown sugar you can't really beat these scores from my honest critics. 10, 10 and 9.9. The 0.1 deduction was because some of the fruit on the top got a little burnt so Mr Toombs says it will be even better next time. 1 sucessful low sugar sucess. :-)

Food Processing

I've been processing so many food thoughts these past few days. Credit where credits due to being 45 mins of the way through Dr Robert Lustig's teaching on sugar on youtube and to Joann Bruso with her Happy Meal experiment. This lady has a 4 year old happy meal which still looks like a new one! Even more credit due to the games of 'Theme Park' I used to play when 'Theme Park' was one of the only games available on very old fashioned computers. I learned back then that in order to boost your drink sales you put more salt in the food to make your visitors thirsty and then watered down the coke to make it cheaper. Ever since then I've known burgers and coke are a scam. So being educated that coke is pumped with salt to make you thirsty as you drink it, caffeine to make you pee so that you need more and then sugar and sugar and more sugar to mask the taste of the salt that shouldn't really be in a drink in the first place doesn't really surprise me... I would expect things have progressed since the days of Theme Park - so understandably so has the scamming. What does surprise me is that people buy into it and fall for it.

There is so much information to digest. I guess some people ignore it because it all seems so overwhelming. All of Dr Robert Lustig's teaching about how we've been advised to cut down on fat so in doing so have replaced it with too much sugar and then all the ways foods are processed... it leaves you wondering what foods we can buy that contain any nutritional content whatsoever.
Actually that's kind of freeing and I like it. If most of what is available to us is rubbish then surely we are free from it and can just ignore it all. Why do I need to cram my cereal cupboard full of 15 different choices of breakfast food (and potatoes because for some reason they share a cupboard) I can just have a bag of porridge oats? Just because we are used to being bombarded with choice doesnt mean we have to channel that value into our own homes and into our children's attitudes. All we need is a few grains, pulses, and the basic wholesome ingredients with as much variety of fruit and veg as possible... and think about what an organised kitchen this would give us?! Just imagine no more packets balancing on tins and when you feel something falling out by reaching to the back of the cupboard and pray like mad it wasn't a glass jar. Ohhh a simple cupboard sounds amazing! Well I am keen to work out how easy this really is and I am particularly optimistic about the effect it may have on our spending. Although maybe that's because I'm starting this experimenting by cooking a pudding with stuff that was ready for the bin...?! See next blog for results!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

My beautiful new bookshelf

Hurrah for the arrival of my new REAL furniture. I think its a thing that comes with age, a new level of maturity or just that you finally have a house packed full of ikea and so when you only need to buy one or two new things you can actually afford to look beyond flat pack. Either way... I felt very grown up ordering my new book case from a real place. I did order it in plain untreated pine - I still have to be involved in the making process somehow if I'm not fixing it all together so I decided I'd paint and stain it all myself.
So I used this woodstain to match it to the new dining table (also real grown up furniture) called Georgian Medium Oak and made it all a nice brown inside... 
And then painted the outside and the shelves in this chalk white. At this stage I am happy with my creation. They are my new shelves and I now I can play around making them look pretty!...
See how much fun you can have putting a few choice items here and there... a basket of ribbon, some potpourri, some aesthetically pleasing books and a strategically placed magazine or two to make it look homely and effortless and 'lived in' ... :-)
And then reality hits when I turn to the storage box of books I actually bought the shelves for... the downside of living with a male are all the ugly male belongings they come with that no matter how badly designed the covers are - they just don't care (maybe he can't see?) So my beautiful new bookshelf has been destroyed with hideously font-ed bright ugly boy books. What a sad tale of woe.


The things I do not need

I've realised I spend a lot of time shopping. Working in town makes it easy to pop to the shops in a lunch time and all these cold winter nights have been mainly filled with trawling the internet for nice things I want to buy while Joel normally watches some show about extreme challenges or football. I'm good at bargain hunting and stalking the sales but when I go to the shops and come back with a few nice things I have begun to decide almost strait away that I don't like them THAT much and then I take them all back. Its generally ok as a time wasting hobby. Some people play on Clash of the Clans but I visit shops, give them my money, feel a bit happy, then take it back and get my money back a few days later when it re-credits my account and I feel like they've paid me.
We're perhaps on the brink of one of the biggest financial challenges we've ever faced right now though and I'm having to rigidly plan and organise where every penny goes and I do think it may be helpful if I spend less time on the Selfridges website and maybe a little more time stockpiling lasagnes or something more useful. I've explained already to Joel that I am much safer stalking a £900 dress that I could never actually justify than having 20 mins wandering round Primark and coming out with an actual deficit of £100 and a bag full of jumpers with holes in or leggings with cartoons on (because for a moment I forgot I was over 30 and ought to at least think about dressing like a grown up).
What I've decided to do is to write a list. Lists are ALWAYS the thing to do - they solve EVERYTHING and always help. My list is going to be Things I do NOT need. I figured I might need one of these since the things I come home with in bags that I have to take back are quite often black dresses of a similar variety. My bedside draw is full of moisturisers. Every flower that God ever created for this earth in every continent will be represented on one of my summer tops or dresses... so maybe I keep buying all the same things by accident - that I do NOT need - and this is always instead of a practical short cardigan with long sleeves that I always forget to buy but need to put on most days and do NOT have!
So... I do NOT need..
A coat - at all.
A maxi dress (because days you can wear a maxi dress in this country are about an eighth of the number of maxi dresses I already have and could wear on those days)
A denim jacket
Black dresses
Actually any dresses (I'm going to regret saying that one and I can not promise to keep to it)
Ugg boots - even if its a really good deal and they are genuine)
Moisturisers - when my L'occitaine one runs out I will ignore the temptation for more because my organic Neals Yard one is also super amazing and then I have at least 10 Clinique bonus time ones and full size to get through!
Accessorize window displays (Lets face it, a house can become a bit to full of themed cardboard. Less is more)
Then lets be brutally honest I do not need any jumpers, Christmas jumpers (because 4 is already more than enough),  leggings, jeans, pyjamas, skirts or shirts.

I do, however, quite need some matching socks, the sensible cardigan ooh and some cotton wool. Maybe when I've made a few lasagnes I can treat myself to a bit of quality time on stalking the best cotton wool deals?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Being Outside

They say the you never forget how to ride a bike. Well this is how I know that I am special. Rules like this actually do not apply to me. They told me this when I became a youthworker, age 18, on motorbike training day. That was the day a friction burn from a spinning motorbike wheel melted a load of elastic from my trousers right into a big wound on my leg. I had a BLUE wound. So that put me off listening to people who say 'Don't be silly, of course you can ride a bike'. They clearly do NOT know anything. However, being married to a Bradley Wiggins wanna-be means there is huge disrespect for my nervousness and some days I just have to be brave and try anyway. Today I woke up in the right mood for this. I read Zest magazine with a huge glass of water. Nothing can make you feel more like striving to be healthy and adventurous than this combo. (particularly with the guilt of fish and chips for tea last night) so I suggested we went for a family bike ride after gardening club. What a beautiful part of the world we live in... the above photo proves to me that its good to be brave more often.
 Gardening club today was lovely. The spring weather is such a surprise and its made me realise I have been plodding on through the days expecting an eternal winter. I love the snow but I'm glad its gone. So today we prepped a few beds to plant sweet peas. That makes it sound like I know what I'm talking about, maybe? Nope. Its all very new to me and we're just reading instructions on the packets and hoping something might grow one day. 

  Next we put the potato seeds in the veg patch. I'm least confident about these as they actually look just like potatoes - they are in fact potatoes. If we end up digging these same potatoes up and eating them in a few months I'll not be overly impressed. I'm hoping there's more to the magic than that!?

Our exciting garlic progress! That IS magic. Those green bits were definitely NOT there when we put them in.
And then we headed out with 4 bikes into this! Elijah thinks he IS Bradley Wiggins - so Joel has to be Chris Hoy. I am Victoria Pendleton (I am older and have brown hair) and Holly gets to be Laura Trott. Bradley Wiggins is ALWAYS in front even though he has very little legs he is very competitive when on a little red bike. It was very beautiful. We rode 8 miles and because Joel made my bike out of parts of about 3 old broken ones it is very hard to peddle meaning I'm sure I burned off 3x the calories. I fell off once trying to scratch my nose and my bum kills but otherwise I was brave.
Home for a hearty chicken and veg stew and now cooking up a huge squash soup for lunches. 75 happy points :-)

DIY Ruby Red Slippers

There's no place like home. Because of that we thought we'd make our own ones at home :-)
These are almost shiny enough. I picked them up at Sainsburys in one of their regular 25% off sales but they're not glittery and ruby red slippers are nothing if no red, shiny AND glittery... but that's easy enough to take care of. One big tub of red glitter, decopatch glue and a paintbrush and off we go...

 This glue is great because it dries shiny and clear so a coat underneath and a coat over the top means they feel smooth and less likely to all rub off when worn. 
I gave up control on these and let Holly go ahead and make them herself. If a job involves sprinkling glitter into glue its probably not a job for a 33 year old when there's a willing and enthusiastic 8 year old to hand. For that reason they're not the neatest things in the world but I can be OCD another day when I make some for myself!
<3 p="">

Saturday, 2 March 2013

DIY Dorothy Dress

This year for Holly's 9th birthday we're well into planning a Wizard of Oz party. Its such a great theme that I don't think we can go through 'girlhood' without doing it one year properly. So aside from all the plans to create an emerald room and gingham notice boards, rainbows, yellow brick roads and hot air balloon party bags (I started these 5 months early because they are fun!) I have good reason to get the birthday girl's outfit ready as next week is also Book Day at school - so lets get 2 wears out of the costume! These gingham schools dresses are so cheap in the Supermarkets so I picked up a blue one for a couple of quid and got straight to it with the scissors...

I chopped across the front, under the armpits and across from that point along the back.
 The edging on the sleeves seemed to be the ideal piece to make the straps for the shoulders from so I chopped them off and across the seam and pinned it all into place. 
We couldn't find any big matching buttons in the sewing box so once I'd hemmed it all, tidying up all the edges I'd snipped at with the sewing machine, we got these buttons to cover, a bit of old curtain and a sharpie and made ourselves these matching buttons to sew onto the front to make it into a pinafore.   
And voila... very easy. Dress customised in less than half an hour. Meanwhile there is a lot of glue and red glitter around the lounge mid-ruby red slipper creation. Will post up when we have a result on those!