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|CHALLENGE|larabee goals - august 2013

There are 2 things I don't intend on doing on this blog 
1 blogging more than once a day and 
2 blogging about my personal monthly goals

Over the last few days I am breaking both of these rules, you will have noticed that there have been a couple of days where there have been 2 posts, I'll be perfectly honest, it's because I wouldn't have achieved my blog goal if I hadn't!

I'm not going to regularly post my blog goals and achievements, mainly because its boring to everyone else and in the grand scheme of things my achievements are very small compared to other people's, I understand that and don't want to put you off!

But... at the moment I'm finding it inspiring and I needed an extra blog post to reach my 20 so here it is!!!

I've 'met' some really inspiring people online this past month and feel incredibly motivated by the comments, likes and re-pins I've had on social media thank you for that, its very much appreciated and means a great deal to me. I know I have a long way to go with blog design, content and quality of writing and photos, but I'm trying and I'm loving it!

Have a lovely weekend and thank you so much.

|FAMILY|meet the chickens!

I've wanted chickens for as long as I could remember.

As a vegetarian I eat a lot of eggs, I have always preferred to use organic eggs because of the welfare standards and organic eggs are expensive!  When we had our dog Taz we couldn't possibly have chickens because he would have tried to retrieve them all the time and it wouldn't have been fair.  

When we sadly lost Taz in Nov 2010 we no longer had a reason not to have chickens, but the hubs wasn't keen, the kids really wanted them too and I borrowed books from a friend who keeps chickens and read up so I could try and convince the hubs that they would make great pets and also provide the organic eggs we were paying a lot of money for!

The hubs couldn't be convinced and so I gave up, then for my birthday in March 2012 he gave me a chicken coup, I was ecstatic!  The kids each gave me a 'voucher' for a chicken and so in April we got 2 red rangers from our local garden centre, our coup is supposed to be able to keep 6 hens but I wanted to just get a couple to start with and then maybe extend our 'flock' if they were a sucess.  Our initial plan was to let the chickens free range but after having them for a few days it was obvious that our garden was not suitable to allow them to do this and so we stuck with our 2 birds.

I named one and the hubs named one, mine is called Storm after the Steven Seagal character Mason Storm and the hubs called his Paulo after Paulo D'Canio (he doesn't care that the chickens are female!) 

It sounds funny but they have very different personalities, Storm is calm and jumpy, she has a lighter wattle & comb and lays smaller brown eggs.  Paulo is slightly aggressive and nips, she has a deeper red wattle & comb and lays medium buff coloured eggs.

We've had our ladies now for 16 months, they were 18 weeks old when we got them, they have been fantastic layers and most of the time we do get 2 eggs a day which is perfect for our size family.  I love being able to go out and get eggs for breakfast and look forward to the time that T can go out on his own and collect the eggs.  Over the winter we plan to move the chickens to our drive at the top of the garden, here they will be able to roam free as we are hoping to make it chicken friendly.

Hens make fantastic pets and give you more than love back in return, I look forward to sharing more chicken tales with you in the future.

|52 CARD CHALLENGE|12/52 masculine birthday card


I appreciate that I'm very far behind on this project, but it's great to get back to crafting, even if it is just to make some really simple stamped cards.

Variation on a theme today, like most people who make handmade cards I find it so difficult to make more masculine cards, I used this camper van stamp as I know my brother will love it.  Went for just another basic tag and a bit of washi tape and paper to brighten it up.

Products used:-
Card - Hobbycraft
Stamp - hobbycraft - retro van
Label -  hobbycraft
Washi tape - sorry cant remember but bought at hobbycraft
Paper - forever friends - hugs & cuddles

Other items used; ranger ice stickles - lime ice, Sakura soufflé - #936 light blue, jimnie gel rollerball - silver, fiskars paper edgers - clouds

|FAMILY|toddler activity - shaving foam & popping candy

I've been trying to come up with new things to do with T for our Friday fun sessions, he's loving the sensory trays but I feel as though I need to add a bit of variety from using our play table.

I wanted something that wasn't too messy but that would be fun, so we tried a bowlful of shaving foam with popping candy.  It's no secret that T loves shaving foam and as a 'clean' 'non food' messy play it ticks my boxes too!  I had some popping candy hanging around the house and so we added that into the mix.

It took ages for the popping candy to pick up enough moisture to start popping but the little fella had enough fun with the shaving foam to mind.  When the popping started it just added to the excitement!

T started to explore the foam much more when it started popping and was looking to see what could have caused it.  This was a really quick and fun activity to put together with things I've got around the house already.

Do you use shaving foam or popping candy in your sensory play? I'd love to hear other ideas!


|52 CARD CHALLENGE|11/52 wedding anniversary card

Basic stamped label card, this one if for my parents wedding anniversary but could easily be used for another celebration.

Added a bit of washi tape and velum to pretty it up.

The nozzle on my glitter glue was a bit large so I painted it on with a brush, this worked much better than I expected and I think I will try that again!

Products used:-
Card - Hobbycraft
Stamp - free with craftstamper (old!)
Label -  hobbycraft
Washi tape - hobbycraft

Other items used; glitter glue, crystals

|CREATE|acrylic flower re-do

I had these flowers on a shelf in the bathroom for quite a while, until one day T decided to knock them off when he was a baby in my arms, I loved them so much I've kept them on the shelf in a plant pot to disguise the breakage.

This week I decided that the time had come to either try and do something with them or give up on them and throw them away.

First I smashed off all the glass from the old vase, I expected the acrylic to shatter too but that didn't happen, it was slightly rubbery!  So wrapping the acrylic with a cloth I attempted to pull out each flower stem with pliers, they came out reasonably easily.

I used a bit of washi round the wood on the bottle and then put the flowers in - voila, a new pretty flower arrangement!  I am now on the lookout for a reasonably priced Chanel No5 bottle as I think that will set them off nicely, but for now this is a great improvement.

|INSPIRATION|the edible garden - alys fowler

I love this book for so many reasons, the illustrations and photography are outstanding and I can read it over and over again.

This is another book I bought after watching the tv series as few years ago.

Following the home produce theme from my other posts here and here, this book shows how you can grow your own without having a conventional plot, using containers and flower borders and making the most of the whole garden.  This really appealed to me as I wanted to extend our planting beyond the greenhouse and raised bed.

One of the really helpful sections of the book are the pages which give advice as to where in the flower border vegetables can be grown.  I've tried growing runner beans and courgettes in areas of our garden that were not being used, this was really successful and something that I do plan to do again next year.  Courgettes take up so much space in the raised bed that putting them in unused areas of the garden is a perfect solution.

There is a great chapter in this book giving ideas for how you can use the produce you've grown, either recipes, preserving or storing.  Storing and preserving our produce is something that I really want to do next year to prolong the season or to use up surplus supplies when we have a glut.

|COOK|basic tomato soup

This is my basic tomato sauce recipe slightly adapted, it's my go to recipe as its super easy.

Basic recipe - serves 4
3 cans chopped tinned tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 dsp olive oil
2 dsp honey
1 pint stock
1 large onion, diced
Handful basil

1. gently fry the onion in olive oil until soft. 
2. drain 1 can of tomatoes and set tomatoes aside.
3. add the juice and 2 cans of tomatoes to the onions along with all other ingredients and simmer for 35 minutes.
4. blend the soup and add the reserved tomatoes, simmer for a further 15 minutes.  If the soup is a little too thick add more water or stock.  If it is a little to liquid simmer until reduced down to desired consistency.

If you prefer a smooth soup, do not drain the tomatoes, just add the 3 cans in as step 2.
If you prefer cream of tomato soup add 100ml cream or yoghurt at step 4.

I add a swirl of basil oil which gives the soup a more intense flavour, I made that by blending a handful of basil leaves with 150ml extra virgin olive oil.

Both the soup and basil oil are suitable for freezing.

|FAMILY|summer bucket list update

Just a quick round-up of the bucket list activities we've done so far.

7 days left and 8 out of our 14 items are complete.  I plan to do a couple with the kids next weekend and we'll be starting our autumn bucket list next weekend ready to post.

I've loved this way of achieving seasonal goals, far less pressured than other methods I've tried.  We won't complete everything but that's ok, we'll just do them another time.

Clockwise - eat ice-cream sundaes, make apple nachos, put up an outdoor clock, H's BBQ, choccywoccydoodah inspired cake, put up an outdoor bottle opener, make pulled pork and 
camp in the garden.

|DOCUMENT|project life update

So, last week I received an email from hobbycraft advertising project life supplies! Imagine my surprise. I've seen hundreds of tweets and instagrams from becky higgins about PL products hitting the US market and american crafts now producing PL kits, yet no mention of it coming to the UK.

Anyway I digress, obviously I ordered straight away, the choice is limited to say the least and until next month you can only order online but I received my new kit and page protectors yesterday with free postage so I really could argue with that!  Beats my experience last year of ordering from canada and waiting months to receive it!

I'll be honest, this year I've really struggled with PL, I have photos for every day and stories I want to remember in my diary but I haven't even completed my weekly PL plans for about 4 months. Finding that I could buy a new kit in the UK was just what I needed to give my mojo a boost!

Last year I could only get hold of the amber kit and I just couldn't get on with it and felt totally uninspired, so I purchased the clementine digi kit and got my motivation back for the rest of the year.  The new kits were not on offer in the UK until well into the year (or not that I knew of!) and so again I ordered digi, I ordered the seafoam, baby boy and wellington editions.  Within weeks, I didn't have time to print my photos let alone mess about with printing and cutting out cards and I think that's why I gave up.  However, I absolutely LOVE those and many of the new editions. 

I am so pleased to have a new kit to play with, T helped me open it this morning saying 'oh wow' every time I looked at the cards so I gave him some grid ones to draw on, I'm really pleased with them and will definitely encourage him to do this again maybe each month so I can see how his style/abilities change as he grow.

Off on another new PL journey...

|FAMILY|family summer staycation 2013 on a budget

Just had a week staycation with the hubs and 3 kids.  We had a packed week doing things from our bucket list, going to parks to let T run around and spending time together as a family.

We managed to do all this on a budget too!  I'm working on another post which details what/how we spent and additional details and forms for how I plan our spring, summer and winter breaks.

For now just a quick round up in photos.

|FAMILY|toddler activity - cotton wool and pom-pom sundae sensory box

We are really making the most of our sensory table, I've been trying to think of things around the house that I can mix in with items from our play box rather than buying new things to play with.  When I emptied the pom-poms into the tray, T took some new ice cream dishes from the kitchen counter and started filling them up!

I thought that ice cream sundaes would be a great idea for a sensory box and so added some cotton wool balls as there weren't enough pom-pom's to fill the bowls, I also gave him some ice cream cone plastic glasses that I had in the cupboard and an ice cream scoop. T had a great time scooping up and making sundaes.

We kept this sensory tray going all weekend, T made sundaes for us all, he even got the hang of pretending to eat the 'ice cream' rather than filling his mouth with pom-pom's and cotton wool and spitting it out!!!

NOTE: I never leave T unattended during our sensory play time as I often use things that he could put in his mouth, I am lucky that he rarely does this.  On this occasion he only did it because he copied me and didn't understand pretend eating.  I'm pleased to say that he's now got the hang of pretending to eat.

Do you use cotton wool in sensory play?  I'd love to get more ideas of how we can use it for future sensory trays.

|INSPIRATION|grow your own veg - carole klein

I have a long association with growing my own food, however, I've never felt as though I've got the hang of it and still feel like a complete novice.  I'll be posting soon about how, what and where we grow in full detail and I'll be setting down what we plan to do over the coming months.  The hubs has only really got involved since we got together, although he comes from a long line of grocers so he does have interest and would also like to become more self-sufficient.

We've had this book for a couple of years, we treated ourselves after watching the accompanying series and have used aspects of it for our planting, particularly the section on square foot gardening which we found really helpful when we tried that method of growing.

Our main goal is to be able to have more produce all year round, be it growing with the seasons or food storage, I'd love to be able to have beautiful salads available in the greenhouse all year rather than    buying them in a bag from the supermarket.

What I love about this book is that it provides information about what to grow when, how to succession grow and how you can extend the seasons, those things that I really feel I need help with.

Our plan for 2014 is to concentrate on things that we use a lot of or that we can somehow store for later use.

Personally I really want to get to grips with successional sowing and making the most of the greenhouse. I feel that in the past the produce has all be available at once and we have far too much to eat, we become so sick of it that the last thing we want to do is to store it!  The thought of canned pasta and pesto sauce during the winter really appeals to me, although in the past I have frozen sauces I have never canned so this will be new to us.

We'll be using this book in the next couple of months to formulate our plan for 2014, I'm so glad that we have this resource and expect we will turn to it many times in the future.

|COOK|homemade pizza

Made homemade pizza this weekend, they are one of the kids favourite dinners.  I used 2 quantities of Elise Blaha-Cripes wholewheat pizza base for the 5 of us, I have a tub of yeast rather than packets and so I used 2 1/2 tsps not sure if that works out as 2 packets but it seemed to work ok and we all enjoyed it!  There was enough left for one extra child size pizza.

I am hugely inspired by Elise's 40 pizzas, we eat pizza at least once a week, usually takeaway delivery but sometimes supermarket make your own.  Everytime I make homemade I regret not having bases and sauce already prepared in the freezer so we can make our own on a work night, just throw on some toppings and cheese and its quicker than delivery and about the same time as supermarket.  September is going to be a real push for me to eat healthier, more local and homemade.  This week I'll be making more dough and sauce to put in the freezer, need to defrost and purge first though - eugh!

We used a portion of my basic tomato sauce which I blended, the only change I made was to substitute the basil for 1 tsp of my own italian dried herb mix, which is equal parts of garlic salt, dried basil, thyme, oregano & rosemary.  Could have done with some fresh basil to top it off, but didn't have any!  

We used cheddar this time as it was on offer and we have a huge block but mozzarella is much nicer and not as heavy.  The hubs and kids had ham, pepperoni and chicken on theirs.  H is a little pineapple fiend too and loaded his with it.

And for pizza puritans, I know that pineapple on pizza is a sin, but I love it on everything! 😀

|FAMILY|summer bucket list update - apple nachos

Another item crossed off the summer bucket list, I'd seen a few pins on pinterest for apple nachos and decided that these could be a good desert for when we are on our staycation with the kids.

Our toppings - crushed up meringue nests, fudge pieces, chopped pecans, mini marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles.

After cutting up the apples I coated them in lemon juice so they didn't go brown during lunch.

We also had bought chocolate caramel sauce and honey.  Next time I would try making the caramel sauce in this recipe.

I was in 2 minds as to whether T would have any apple nachos but in the end I let him, I also let him select his own toppings (all of them!) he was really good, ate the apples, nuts and marshmallows but left anything still in his bowl.

This was such a hit H has already asked if we can have it again, I'm even considering serving them next time we entertain.