|CREATE|52 card challenge 15/52

This weeks challenge was 'all that glitters' I didn't do as well this week as I'd hoped to so only one card, did a little christmas one for T, I'll personalise it later.

Kind of used the sketch from last weeks challenge for the start of this one, the paper was already glittered so I haven't added any more although I do think that the 'believe' could do with some! 

Products used:-
Card - hobbycraft
Cutting die - spellbinders scalloped circle
Papers and sentiment - K&Co, peppermint twist
Washi - hobbycraft

|INSPIRE|homemade home - cherry menlove

Well, what can I say about this book. I waited a long time to receive it as I pre-ordered it from amazon and it was worth every minute of that wait. I could easily just show every page and tell you what I love about each one but I will try and restrain myself!

I pretty much want to try every recipe and make every craft, it's simply a fantastic book I absolutely love it. I can look through it for hours just looking at the styling.  

Every time I see something I haven't spotted before, a particular teacup or pretty dress Cherry is wearing or how her hair is styled.

I had hoped to try the recipe below using homegrown tomatoes, but as I didn't grow any this is going to be a little difficult, look out on lovely lunches part 2 soon though - as soon as I see tomatoes on offer!

At present I'm working on my autumn mantle, hopefully this will be ready next week, I'm having a nightmare trying to find mini pumpkins, but if the little fella allows I'll try and make some of the felt ones in Cherry's book. They are so cute.

For the photo below alone, I would buy the book.  It's absolutely stunning and to me completely sums up christmas.  Makes me happy every time I see it, roll on christmas!!!!

I think you've probably worked out for yourself that I would recommend every page in this book, can't wait until she brings out another!!!

|CAPTURE|week in the life 2013

Warning - this post is photo heavy!!!!

This year I participated in Ali Edwards week in the life 2013, I did this last year too when I was still on maternity leave, it's amazing how different the weeks were!

What started off as a run of the mill week turned into a bit of a drama and me only doing 1 1/2 days at work, so it didn't really capture a 'normal' week for us.

On Tuesday I was called out of a meeting to collect T from nursery as he'd fallen over and split his lip, this resulted in spending all Tuesday afternoon at the doctors or a&e and then the next day at the hospital for him to have minor surgery!  The rest of the week was really just spent around him, the hubs also had to work this weekend which again is out of the norm.

I did manage to create a little collage of photos for each day and Instagram them, we also took loads more photos for me to create some inserts which will go in the project life album, I am happy that I was able to capture this rather unusual week, although I may do another week in the life later in the year to try and capture our usual more boring routine!

It's also given me a bit of a kick to join in the the day in the life project so I think I may do that from next month.

Here are my daily collages in one place, I will post my actual pages as soon as I've done those.

|CHALLENGE|52 card challenge 14/52

Card 14/52 down, I (loosely) followed the sketch on Kool Kitty Musing's 52 card challenge for week 37.  I'm not very good at following sketches as I have an urge not to do something completely opposite.  Anyway, I based my design on the sketch, I used these papermania papers as I still seem to have loads left, when I started I had no idea who would receive this card but now its finished it will be for my grandma, I know she'll love it.

I couldn't resist the stickles again, it needed something to stop it looking so flat.

Products used:-
Card - Hobbycraft
Cutting die - spellbinders scalloped labels
Papers and sentiment - papermania, rose garden (no longer available)
Stickles - crystal

|FAMILY|our fun stuff box

We've started to collect quite a lot of supplies for our fun sessions, I'm always on the lookout for bargains to enhance our sensory, motor skills or invitation to play time.

I've found some goodies in the supermarkets recently such as hair gel in tesco for 15p, the pound shop is never going to beat that!  I'd highly recommend going to the supermarket before anywhere else.  I've also been buying quite a few bits that were intended as party bag contents such as mini dinosaurs, gold coins, mini footballs and mini lizards, these are quite small so no good for toddlers still popping everything in their mouths.  I've found some great things in the card factory and on ebay.

We got to the stage where I had 2 or 3 totes containing all the supplies, so I used an old crate to contain it all, the funny thing is, if I leave the box out T keeps asking for things out of it.  There's loads in there that T hasn't even seen yet, I'm sure there's enough to keep us going for a year at least!  My goodies started to get out of control and so along with the box I created a simple form to record everything on, this helps for a couple of reasons; 1. I'm soon going to double up on something because I've forgotten it's at the bottom of the box, 2. When the initial fun box becomes to small (this will be soon!) I will start to record where something is stored, I'm not yet sure how I will organise it but I'm sure that by christmas we'll have a few containers full and having a list will save searching through each box.

I'm looking forward to perusing the shops for seasonal goodies soon for halloween and christmas, for some lovely themed play as the days start to draw in.

If you would like to see our fun box & useful household objects list it's available here a blank copy for you to download and complete is available here.

NOTE: for some strange reason the forms don't look correct in google.docs, however, when they are downloaded they are fine.  Apologies, I didn't want to hold up this post, but I will work on a better method for my next downloads.

|GARDEN|home grown - our organic journey

As you've probably guessed from the books in my 'on my bookshelf' I have a passion about home grown produce and cooking, my 'grow your own' journey started about 15 years ago when I became aware of organic food and at the time could not afford to buy the vegetable boxes that were on offer.    I realised that I could resolve this issue by growing my own staples, then purchasing the more usual vegetables that were difficult to grow.  I also loved the idea of eating seasonally, as a vegetarian, it’s very easy to get into an eating rut I found myself eating carrots, green beans and potatoes all year round, I craved variety.  Over the years I continued to grow my own vegetables and eventually had an allotment but found it was too much to cope with.  I supplemented what I was growing myself with things that were difficult or impossible to grow in the UK, like melon, bananas or things that took up too much space and were cheap like potatoes and onions.  I preferred to concentrate on outdoor tomatoes, herbs, beetroot, carrots, salads, chard, garlic and shallots.  I soon found myself automatically eating with the seasons because that's what I had on offer!

When we moved (4 doors down!) in 2009 we were super excited to have more space to create growing areas and we finally had a greenhouse.  We were ecstatic!  By this time the hubs was getting interested in gardening and also started expanding his vegetable tastes from carrots and potatoes to salads and beetroot.  He also really appreciated the taste of home grown carrots and potatoes, we used gardening as a form of family activity involving the children in the planting, preparing and eating of the food we grew.  Homemade pizza became a staple in our home, using herbs, tomatoes and vegetables that the children had picked fresh, they loved it.  Our eggs were purchased from a neighbour and we regularly ate homemade quiches, salads and new potatoes.

We moved in June so it was too late to do anything for the summer season, we also didn't have any  vegetable beds in which to grow, in 2010 the hubs spent time putting in a great raised bed which gave us a lovely starting plot, that first year we used the square foot method detailed in Carole Klein's grow your own veg, it was a great success but didn't really provide enough food or us, I needed to work out how to succession plant to extend our planting season.  I planted in the greenhouse and we also purchased 10 large buckets from a hardware store which the hubs drilled holes in for us to grow new potatoes in.  That meant that we had more space to grow in the bed.

I also could expand the my varieties by planting in the greenhouse - something that I'd dreamed of for ages.  I planted pepper's, chilli's, aubergine's, cucumber and a wider variety of tomatoes and salad leaves, we had salad for lunches throughout the summer, the freezer was full of tomato sauce and ratatouille, that summer we ate like royalty.   We tried planting our beans and courgettes around the garden as recommended in Alys Fowlers The Edible Garden, this also freed up much needed space on the plot and was a great success.

The next year everything was prepared and sown and then in the May we found out we were expecting T, everything went on hold and from then until now and we've never really got back on track.  

Both the hubs and I are really keen to be producing good quantities of veg next summer, there's so much in the garden that needs doing first though, we really need to make a start on the work.

We need to...

1. Clear the vegetable garden area of the garden.
2. Turn over the raised bed.
3. Decide what to plant and where.
4. Plan when to plant.
5. Sow seeds for winter salads now.
6. Clean and tidy the greenhouse, fix broken pane.
7. Identify and clear other areas in the garden to plant.

Now that the seeds are all nicely organised, it's going to be easy for us to plan for next year, I'm looking forward to spending a nice cosy evening in front of the fire with a bottle of wine and the hubs, going through the seeds and books making our plans for next year.  We are also going to be concentrating on things that we'd like to grow to preserve and seek out our local farmers markets and possibly ordering a box scheme over the winter.

The picture above shows our beautiful raised bed that the hubs made.

I can't wait to come back to you with progress, plans and updates!  I once its all prepared we'll do a garden tour post to show you round our garden and growing areas.

|INSPIRATION|grow something to eat every day - jo whittingham

If, like me, you are a novice vegetable grower, this book is a must for you.  We came a cross it a couple of years ago and it's been a huge inspiration to us, it's broken down into monthly chapters, with sections 'ready to eat', 'what to sow & plant', 'what to do' and 'what to harvest', amongst that are recipes and gardening advice.

I love the sections and have currently been using the book to see what I can plant now and the ready to eat and what to harvest sections for ways I can store food now for future use (albeit not our own grown produce).

There's a great crop planner which I'm using to make our plans for spring and summer.  This book is just what I need when I'm looking for gardening inspiration, when I look at the 'ready to eat section' it really motivates me to get into action and start planting because in a few short months you could have something for the kitchen table.

One of my favourite sections is on wine making, a couple of years ago I attempted to make wine but it was awful and so I was put off. I'd really like to try again, this section gives great detail as to how wine can be made at home which is something I will definitely try agin.

I can see this book still being on my bookshelf in 20+ years time!

|COOK|boston baked beans

Not sure if this recipe is really 'baked beans' but that's what I call it and its a firm family favourite, I make a vegetarian version with veggie sausages, it freezes well and is really easy to increase the quantity for entertaining, we served this with jacket potatoes at our Halloween party last year and it went down a treat.

Serves 4
4 pork loins or 8 sausages
2 tins baked beans
400ml water
1 large onion, diced
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp Worcester sauce
1 tbsp treacle
1 tsp dry mustard

1. Brown pork or sausages in a frying pan.
2. Dice pork or slice sausages and add to the slow cooker/crockpot along with other ingredients.
3. Cook on high for 5 hours.

|FAMILY|Autumn bucket list 2013

It feels wrong to say that summer is over and autumn is on the way considering the great weather we're still having.  After a few awful years, the weather was good to us this year and we've had a fantastic summer, which apparently is not yet over.

Anyway, according to the calendar we are now in autumn and so we've said goodbye to our summer bucket list and moving on to the autumn one.

So far I'm the only one who's added anything to ours, I'm hoping to get a bit more on there this weekend when we have the older kids.  This time I've added a couple of activities for T which I didn't do last time, I've also added a couple of things that we generally do each year anyway such as carve a pumpkin and watch fireworks.

So far on our list is:-
1 make pumpkin pie
2 roast marshmallows
3 autumn sensory play - T
4 outdoor movie night (wrapped up in blankets with a fire!)
5 photograph scarecrows
6 carve a pumpkin
7 watch fireworks
8 forage for mushrooms
9 eat baked pumpkins
10 make a leave collage on the patio window - T

Outdoor movie night was leftover from our summer bucket list, I thought it would be really fun for us all to cuddle up in blankets and watch a movie under the stars but in reality it might not work out quite as cosy as it sounds!

This coming weekend I hope to knock a couple of items off the list, starting as I mean to carry on...

|CHALLENGE|52 card challenge 13/52

This week 36 and the prompt is Kraft + 1 colour.

At 13 cards I'm way behind on 52 card challenge but I have decided that from now I'm going to follow the prompts and get cards done for the rest of the year.  I also aim to get caught up and meet the challenge of 52 cards this year. I'm making a start on my special christmas cards this week - eeek!!

Although I don't send all homemade cards, each year I do send send around 20 special handmade cards which I personalise for my friends and family.  Over the next few weeks I'll be creating a few cards that look nice but that I can mass produce quickly so I can be nice and prepared this year.  I'll be making 30 this year (at present count), so I'm looking at 6 designs.

Real simple card again, but this week I got the cuttlebug out.  I don't have any kraft card and so I recycled a diet coke box which is Kraft on the inside, I used a christmas tree embossing folder by provocraft, added some stickles and topped with an aqua ribbon for a pop of colour.  

I used a scalloped white card, but if I'd have had a plain edged one, I would have used that.  I shall be making 5 more of these cards to go towards my 'special cards'.

Products used:-
Card - Hobbycraft
Embossing folder - cuttlebug (unable find find a current source, although available on eBay)
Ribbon - honey pie selection by cosmo cricket
Stickles - crystal

|FAMILY|toddler activities - water bead sensory play

This was not the post scheduled for today but I received these water beads yesterday and we've been playing with them this morning so I wanted to share. 

I purchased these water beads on ebay, I bought 3 lots ranging from 39p - 59p for 8 bags. The amount you can see in the picture above is from 1 packet!!

The beads are tiny when you receive them, you add to water, I had to add 400ml for each packet.

This is what they looked like when I added the water. The pack says to leave for 4 hours, I left these overnight and woke up to these...

They are brilliant!!  At first T was a bit unsure as the feeling was a bit strange for him but it didn't take long for him to get his hands in and start playing.

On the eBay description it says that these can last up to 2 years when used as intended - instead of soil in plants. I'm thinking about buying a large fishbowl or vase and just tipping them in when we are not playing with them. Apparently they just need to be kept moist.
EDIT: (06/09/14) - FYI this didn't work, they went mouldy!!!!

NOTE: these are not designed for children and are not edible so I would not leave T unsupervised playing with them.

|CREATE|button photo frame re-do

We received this lovely button photo frame for Christmas and although I love it, there's no brown in our home and so it sat in a drawer unused.

I was looking for a photo frame to display a craft project and found this one, so I decided to have a go at changing the colour.

At first I tried a base coat of gesso, with a layer of iridescent paint to finish.

As you can see, this was a complete disaster!  I know that lots of people use gesso in craft projects but I've never had any luck at all with it.  Not sure where I'm going wrong but I think my craft cupboard is going to become a gesso free zone!

I needed to get that bad finish off of the frame if I was to use it, otherwise it was heading in the bin!  I decided to use some trusty nitromorse to remove the paint, the frame was ruined anyway so I thought, in for a penny, in for a pound and brushed it on.  After a while the paint started to come off quite successfully, there was still hope, I could possibly still paint the frame and use it.

As you can see, the nitromorse worked quite well and most of the paint was removed.

Once the frame was clear of the failed paint job I could try painting again.  This time I used an ivory spray paint, which, I'm pleased to say worked really well.  It wasn't quite as smooth as it would have been if I hadn't had the initial paint disaster but all things considered it covered rally well.

I used a bradawl to clear each of the holes in the buttons and painted the frame with some glitter nail varnish to give it a bit of texture and glitz.

My frame was complete, I just needed to create the display inside.

I saw something similar on etsy a while back and knew that it would be perfect as a memento of our wedding in Antigua, I printed an old map, then sewed a heart around the location of our wedding, placing a gem heart as close to the exact place as I could get.  I also sewed our wedding date using gems to separate. 

This is how the project looks in-situ, unfortunately I can't get a better picture from our rather dark bedroom, in reality it's not quite as yellow.

There will be a tour of our bedroom, post soon so some photos from a distance might show the colour a bit more accurately.

I'm so thrilled with this project, both the frame and the map, I'm feeling really inspired to create more things for our home that would otherwise be unused or discarded.

|INSPIRATION|craft - kirstie allsopp

Another book, another tv series!  I enjoyed both the book and the tv series, I love kirstie allsopp for the same reasons I love nigella and cherry menlove; she is uber glam yet still down to earth, both could be 1950's housewifes and I love that - I want to be like that but I'm afraid I'm more like pony tail mum in jogger bottoms most of the time!

I should start by saying that I adore everything in this book but I will force myself to select just a few to concentrate on.

Since we decorated the 'nursery' now referred to as T's room, I have been meaning to make some bunting using these instructions, you never know I might just get it made soon!

We've made birdseed cakes before with the older kids, but they never quite worked out, these are on our autumn bucket list to try again and we'll be following kirstie's instructions.

I made these ribbon roses after watching the tv show, in fact I made about 6 of them and use them on gifts.  I forgot how much I like these and will be making them for christmas gifts this year.  I used these on my spring mantle.

I couldn't recommend this book more, if you've made anything from it I'd love you to put a link in comments so I can have a look!

|COOK|coddled eggs

After introducing our ladies to you, you've probably realised that we eat quite a lot of eggs.  I thought that I'd dedicate a series of posts to egg recipes, some that we use regularly and some new ones that I've been looking to try for a while.

I'll let you into a little secret, the hubs and I have a dream to run a B&B someday (soon hopefully!) and when we have our B&B, coddled eggs will be our signature dish.  Here's how I make it, please do let me know if you try it, it's my absolute favourite breakfast and fast becoming T's.

Serves 1
2 eggs
4 tbsp double cream
Grated cheese (I don't have an exact measurement, just enough to cover the ramekin)
Black pepper

1. Heat oven to 180oC, break the eggs into a ramekin, use a knife to break the yolk if you like your yolks hard, leave if you prefer a little soft in the middle.

2. Pour cream into ramekin.

3. Sprinkle cheese over the top along with ground pepper.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they no longer 'wobble' when you move them!

Serve with a couple of slices of bacon or prosciutto, smoked salmon, wild mushrooms or for a very special occasion a grating of truffle.

Variation - I have tried putting bacon or mushroom in the bottom of the pot before breaking the eggs in, however, we found them too watery and so serve our extras on the side along with a slice of toast.

|FAMILY|toddler activity - moon sand

Thomas and I had a lovely time playing with the moon sand that I made, I found many different recipes online but I went for just the basic one of 8c flour and 1c baby oil.  I also added in a couple of vials of glitter for no reason other than to make it look a bit prettier!

I used a mixture of plain and self-raising flour because I had some going out of date in the cupboard, I also used aloe vera baby oil which made it smell lovely!

In hindsight I don't really think that this is an appropriate 'floor' activity, T really wanted to stand up and get his hands in as far as possible.  Because he couldn't do that quite a lot made its way onto the floor.  At the weekend we bought a water/sand table and I think that will be a much better way to play and we'll be trying that next time.

We are lucky in that T doesn't really put anything in his mouth anymore, so that wasn't much of a consideration for us.  This was a very successful activity and I'm sure it can be developed as he grow to include additional stimulation.

When T gets a bit older I think I might bury some treasure (plastic coins & gems!) in there and have him dig for it, I think I'll also use it for dinosaur play and maybe a meerkat mountain.

What do you use your moon sand for?  I'd love to hear your suggestions in comments.