|BIG LIST|May 2013

May's big list, back next week with the pages from the April activities!

|FAMILY|toddler activities - food colouring in the bath

A few weeks ago I had a good sort out of our grocery cupboards, I was shocked to find that there were loads of jars, packets and boxes that were out of date and needed to be discarded. Whilst sorting out I found some liquid food colouring, these were way out of date, I no longer use liquid food colouring so was about to throw them out. I knew there would be some other non-edible way I could use them.

This week it seems that spring has arrived in the uk, earlier this week I collected Thomas from work a bit early and we spent some time in the garden, he loved stripping down to his vest and playing in a big water tub. He got a bit cold so I took him indoors - screaming!!! I ran him a bath to warm him up but he just wanted to go outdoors, I knew I needed something more to entice him into the bath - the food colouring. I put a few drops of red in and he couldn't wait to get in and play! He swirled the colouring with his hand and smiled and giggled, I then added some blue at the other end. This was a really cheap and easy activity for us to do and certainly be doing it again.

What different ways have you used food colouring??  Share your ideas in the comments.

|HOME|spring mantle

This year I thought I'd change the spring mantle up a bit I still wanted to keep the rabbits and some of the eggs from Easter but I also wanted a more subtle effect.

I felt that the ivory taper candles got lost against our still unpainted hearth wall, so I used some Cath Kidston washi tape to add a bit of colour. The little fame has also been given the washi treatment, it was so quick and easy to do.

I also added some washi tape (make unknown) round the tea lights and love that effect, I will definitely be doing more of this in the future - I'm already trying to think of a colour for the Christmas table!!!! I made the ribbon roses a couple of years ago for Christmas, the idea came from a Kirstie Allsopp Christmas special, I think from 2009.

I'm really pleased with the overall effect and all the flowers are from the garden so when they are past their best I can just replace them and the display still looks nice and fresh. I might even swap them about and mix in some bought ones if I get a bit tired of the look before the summer!


|HOME|Sticky stuff remover

A while ago I used some double sided tape to stick down some mats in our kitchen, at the time it was to prevent our elderly dog tripping over them, when we lost our beloved dog and replaced the mats with new ones we had the problem of removing the double sided tape, over the past 2 years we've tried practically everything, sticky stuff remover, wd40, a scraper even picking at it with my nails.

When researching how to clean matt kitchen tiles I came across a tip to use nitromors so along to the DIY store I went, driving back I suddenly wondered if the nitromors would remove our problematic sticky patches (more on the tile cleaning in a future post).

Using a toothbrush I applied the nitromors to one of the patches and left if for 10 mins before applying another coat just as the instructions said.

After leaving it for about 40 minutes it all just wiped off easily leaving no sticky residue or anything I am so pleased that this has worked, now to find something to clean that dirty grout we inherited and have never managed to get clean!!!!

|FAMILY|toddler activities - squidgy sack colour matching toy

I'm always looking for new toys/activities for Thomas to do when he's at home, he's just at the age where he wants to learn, he's also showing an interest in a colours book that he has and also loves jigsaw puzzles.

During a pinning session one day I came across this pin for playdough filled balloons and I thought that I could go one stage further and create coloured mats for Thomas to colour match.

This game has been a real hit although I don't keep it in his toy box as Thomas is still young and I do worry about having balloons around and him putting them in his mouth! So far he's having more fun just squishing the balloons (hence my new name for them!) particularly with his toes for some reason!!!!

|COOK|pasta meatball bake

Another family meal using my basic tomato sauce recipe, a super simple one to adapt for veggies too, either swap the some or all of the meatballs for veggie ones or exchange for veggie sausages or roast veg.

Pasta meatball bake - serves 4
400g wholemeal pasta
16 meatballs (I use fresh ready made)
1 portion basic tomato sauce
200ml single cream
1tbsp red pesto
2 balls mozzarella, cut into small chunks
80g strong cheese grated

Warm the oven on 180 oC

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the pasta, cook for 10 minutes.

Fry the meatballs until lightly browned, when pasta is boiled, drain and mix with meatballs, tomato sauce, water, cream, pesto and mozzarella. Put into a 1.5litre oven proof dish, sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 20mins.

|BIG LIST|album pages and cover

A little preview of my raw album before any embellishments or decorations.

All of the papers have been laying around in my stash for sometime as you can probably tell but I'm hoping that as the book comes together and pages fill up it will have a more cohesive look.

I am a little concerned that spring, summer & winter are all co-ordinated and that autumn stands out completely but the autumn pages are some of my favourite papers and if I don't use them now I never will. In the middle you can just see a few pages in neutral colours, these are a few filler pages which I'm sure I'll use, I also have no doubts that other pages will find there way in here too! The winter pages will be split into dec, jan & feb so they won't all be together but thought it was easier to photograph whilst they were in a group.

The cover didn't come out quite as expected, as I was supposed to call it 'the bramham's big list' but I didn't have any smaller white letter stickers and the idea for this project was to use up existing stash, I think it's turned out ok and if I decide further down the road to change it I will and that will be fine! What you can't see is that the cover is made from a cereal packet, I love the shade of grey that's on the inside, not sure how and what I will do to cover up the inside but you'll be the firsts to know!!

I am so looking forward to filling this book with our adventures into new things, traditions and experiences and watching it grow. I expect that the rings will be placed with larger ones and there will be little peeks hanging out from every side as the journey progresses.

|52 CARD CHALLENGE|6/52 - female birthday card

I needed a card for a good friend at work.  I had a rough idea for style, nothing too flowery but something feminine and loosely on a food theme.

The first card I made just didn't work, I used a Manila tag and stamped in forest green to compliment the papers I had chosen, once I put it together, instantly I could see that it didn't
work at all and so I started again, this time I created a tag using the same card as my blank.  I was much happier with the results.

For the first time I used a doily, I've admired Michelle Wooderson's work for a long time and love how she uses doilies in her work.

I added the pink ribbon to girly it up a bit as it was looking a bit too green.

Products used:-
Card - Hobbycraft
Stamp - docrafts
Washi tape - cath kidston 

Other items used; ribbon, doily

|COOK|toddler food - english muffin pizza

We are always trying to think of new meals for Thomas for when we are eating later or if our meal isn't appropriate for him. I prefer to have something homemade and quick that's healthy and easy for him to feed himself.

I have adapted this recipe from Annabel Karmel's website, there is also rabbit novelty variation in her book Superfoods for babies and children as shown below.

English muffin pizza - 1 serving
1/2 wholemeal english muffin
1tbsp of my basic tomato sauce or use any ready made tomato sauce
2 slices pepperoni or ham
1oz grated cheddar, mozzarella or cheddar/mozzarella mix

Toast the muffin, then spread with tomato sauce, cut up the pepperoni and top the pizza, cover with the cheese grill lightly until starts to brown, about 2 minutes on high.

|52CARD CHALLENGE|2-5/52 - Easter Cards

Finally getting round to showing my Easter cards, I don't usually send everyone an Easter card, these are just for brother-in-law and wife, mil, my mum and dad & my grandparents next year I hope to send more and Thomas should be old enough to make some 'proper' cards, I also think I will make some potted tete-a-tete narcissi (similar to this) but I'll need to plan well for those to make in advance. I'll be pinning lots of ideas for next Easter on Pinterest, I often find I like to do a lot of preparation for the next annual celebration right after the last as that's when I'm most inspired.

Next year my sister and I also plan to host a big family Easter egg hunt Easter Sunday, so we will need to start planning for that.

So these cards were super simple to make, I needed something quick and easy given that I'd left it so late to make them.

I'm still a long way off the 14 cards that I should have made by now but I'm currently at 5, I'm counting my 4 Easter cards individually as they are slightly different.

This week I'll be starting to prepare for the handmade card class I am to be running (hopefully in May) and will have another 4 to show towards my catch-up projects! Next week I have a friends birthday card to make and show, going to try a bit harder with my photos next time too!

Products used:-
Card - Hobbycraft
Papers - First Edition, Springdrop 6x6 pad

Other items used; stickles, vintage images, & ribbon

|COOK|full english salad

The hubs loves black pudding and salads so I tried to think of something different to serve that wasn't too fussy to put together whilst my stuffed mushroom was cooking.

My starter:- full english salad

Full English salad - serves 1
2 slices black pudding
2 rashers bacon
1 egg
1tbsp multigrain breadcrumbs
1tsp olive oil

For salad
Handful mixed salad leaves
1 tomato
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp mustard
Balsamic glaze

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil.

Lightly fry the breadcrumbs in olive oil, once nice and golden set aside.

Poach the egg in the boiling water, you are looking for a firm white but semi-set yolk, I cooked mine for 5 mins.

Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry until slightly crisp, fry the black pudding for 2 mins on each side.

Place the salad leaves and tomato on a plate, mix dressing ingredients and drizzle over the top, sprinkle with the fried breadcrumbs, drizzle a little balsamic glaze. Scatter the bacon round the plate, place the black pudding on top of the salad then add the egg on top of that.

I'm assured that this is delicious!!!

My pictures don't show tomato as the hubs doesn't like them but if I were to make this for anyone else I'd add them.

Pour a glass of prosecco and enjoy.

|COOK|stuffed mushroom & salad starter

Over Easter I decided to make a nice meal for the hubs and I before Kelsey and Hayden came over for the Easter holidays.

Our intention of a nice peaceful evening with a glass of wine didn't quite run to plan as Thomas would not go to bed, he was still really poorly though so we didn't mind him sitting up at the table with us and then curling up on the sofa to watch The Voice.

My starter:- stuffed mushroom

Stuffed mushroom - serves 1
1 field mushroom
1dsp pine nuts
1tsp mustard
20g strong cheese grated
1/2 slice multigrain bread
1tsp extra virgin olive oil

For salad
Handful mixed salad leaves
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic glaze

Warm the oven on 180 oC

Remove the stalk from the mushroom and chop roughly, place in a food processor with the mustard, cheese and bread, using the pulse function finely chop into fine breadcrumbs.

In a dry frying pan, toast the pine nuts, once nice and toasted put aside.

Fry 1 dsp spoon of the breadcrumb mixture in the tsp of extra virgin olive oil until crisp, out aside.

Mix the remaining breadcrumb mixture with the pine nuts and then stuff the mushroom with the mixture, bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the breadcrumb mixture is lightly browned and the mushroom is tender.

Place the salad leaves on a plate, sprinkle with the fried breadcrumbs, drizzle over a little olive oil and balsamic glaze then put the mushroom on the top.

Pour a glass of prosecco and enjoy.

Look out for the carnivore starter soon - Full English Salad

|5 THINGS|You take for granted before you become a parent...

1| unwinding in a bath
2| going to the bathroom without having the door battered down
3| having clothes without snot/sick/dribble on
4| remembering to get your bikini/legs/eyebrows waxed
5| eating your dinner, hot

Happy Monday!

|HOME|easter mantle

After Christmas has passed and the decorations are put away, our living room and particularly the mantel look so bare. Eventually I want to decorate it for valentine but so far I just decorate for Christmas, Easter and Halloween. I was a bit behind in getting the Easter decorations down from the loft and on display, so they have only been up for a week. Easter and Halloween decorations usually only stay up for 1 week before and 1 week after the celebration, I'm now ready to put the Easter eggs away and create a spring display as I don't want the minimal look any longer.

I didn't go to too much trouble as I just wanted to get the decorations up and ready for when we collected Kelsey and Hayden, the blue crystals in the bottle holding the twigs are in fact dishwasher salt tinted with food colouring. The blue turned out too bright but as I was so behind this year I went with it.

I made the wreath a couple of years ago with trinkets from a garden centre and Marie curie daffodils which were the perfect size, the vase is filled with lots of random eggs and a small set of led lights I would usually put that on the dining table but knew this year it would be too much of a temptation for Thomas so it went on the hearth behind the fire guard instead.

My favourite Easter decorations are these beautiful glass eggs that The hubs bought for me last year, on Saturday night I thought I'd do us a nice meal and set the table etc, I laid the table basically but nicely (even taking off the oilcloth!!!) and laid a glass on top of our napkins, Thomas was a nightmare, totally refused to go to bed he ended up grabbing one of the napkins and now my beloved glass eggs have gone from 6 to 5. I guess one of the perils of having a 15 month old wandering about!!!

|CREATE|card class preparation

I have taken the plunge and have committed to running a small handmade card class for my companies social club, there are many reason I've chosen to do this; exposure of what I do as a hobby, a goal to challenge me and a test run for running a personal class and craft stall.

All of the steps I can think of so far have been written on post it notes and stuck to a lovely bare wall in our bedroom where I moved and swapped and joined and linked them to form the basis of my project plan, I'm planning on holding the class in may sometime so I need to get a move on to get everything ready in time and deliver an organised and professional session. The main thing missing is that I need to have a well presented stall/booth/stand to display my kits and packs for people to browse and hopefully purchase, this I've got to completely start from scratch, the same for business cards/postcards for me to hand out giving a 10% discount and free p&p for my etsy shop.

Stock is also another bit challenge for me, I'm going to need to create enough to have a decent size stall, and list things on etsy without going overboard and creating things that people won't want.

So far I already have a list of forms and lists that I'm going to need on the night, I also have the blueprints for the card designs drawn up and just need to make the examples for on the night and to photograph for advertising. More about these in future posts.

So my focus for the next couple of weeks is:-
Etsy - how do I set up discount codes?
My stand - creating a pretty but practical backdrop for my wares, including bunting with 'larabee' on
Branding and packaging - designing and combining up with a cheap and quick design
Stock - start putting together packages
Examples - create an example of each card I plan to 'teach' on the night

|COOK|basic tomato sauce - the ultimate 'convertible' meal

One recipe that I find myself turning to on a regular basis is a basic tomato sauce, I use it for pasta, pizza, mushrooms, chicken and soup. I can make the sauce and mix in other ingredients to change the flavour and adapt for meat eaters.

To adapt the sauce for a meat eater I...
Add sausages, cut up and fried like little meatballs
Add bacon, pancetta or prosciutto
Add chicken

Remove basil and add capers, olives and chilli - for Puttenesca sauce
Remove basil and add chilli, garlic and paprika - for a warm Spanish kind of sauce
Add double stock quantity and pasta/ beans - for a substantial tomato soup
Remove basil and add double stock, bouquet garni, diced, fried carrots, celery and garlic and pasta/beans - for a minestrone soup
Swap basil for 1 tsp mixed herbs

Add cream, yoghurt or cream cheese to any of the above to make a creamier version.

Bake in the oven for a richer more intense meal

Blend for a smoother sauce or blend just half for a smooth sauce/soup with nice chunks of tomato

Basic recipe - serves 2
1 can chopped tinned tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 dsp olive oil
1 dsp honey
1/2 pint stock
1 small red onion, diced
Handful basil

Gently fry the onion in olive oil until soft, add all other ingredients and simmer for 25 minutes.

|I LEARNED|this week...

1. If I'd have been organised I'd have given the hubs the £5 off voucher for Tesco - he only needed to spend £1.30 more to receive £5 off - and we forgot a few things.

2. If I'd have planned better is have used the lamb fat from Sunday's roast dinner to make bird feeders with the children.

3. If I'd have thought I'd have checked when the recycling bins were being collected this bank holiday and wouldn't be left with a full bin for who knows how long.