It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

The tree is up, the decorations sorted the School Nativity has been performed, Carols are being played on the radio and at home…It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas around our house ๐Ÿ™‚ This is by far one of my favourite times of year. Its the one time in winter that I don’t mind being outside in the cold. In fact, I look forward to it because it means that I get to warm up again at some point with some of my favourite things, I get to hear my children laughing a lot and running around like maniacs, enjoying the snow (when it comes) and delights of the holidays. Even the dog gets into the spirit of things… the rest of the time she goes into hibernation!

Christmas Prep 2013

There are so many delights in store for us this December that I am afraid it is going to pass by in a blur but I am certain that it will be memorable none-the-less. There are Christmas Markets to explore and Santa’s to meet; Christmas lunches to overindulge in and Mulled Wine to be drunk; there are winter walks to go on and wreathes to be made and so much more to look forward to that I feel like a big kid all over again!

I am posting a few winter warming recipes that remind me of the flavours of the season but allow me to save up for those indulgent lunches where I definitely wont be counting calories!

Here is my recipe forย Apple, Orange and Butternut Soup with Pancetta, Pumpkin Seed and Maple Syrup Topping

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Keeping with the warming, simple theme, here is a recipe that can me a side or light main and can be plain or spicy depending on what your preferences are. My kids love this served with a baked potato but I am partial to it on its own. Here is my recipe forย Spicy Creamed Corn

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And lastly, I am reposting this recipe by Waitrose.com for Spiced pumpkin coconut casseroleย because I love it and it fits the season

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Enjoy the lead up to Christmas. Happy holidays everyone

Cx


		
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Mother dresses her daughter up as 5 kick-ass women instead of Disney princesses

Mother dresses her daughter up as 5 kick-ass women instead of Disney princesses.

I love the idea behind this and think that this is definitely worth sharing. We are always trying to do our best for our kids but some inspiration or food for thought is always helpful ๐Ÿ™‚

x

Happy Autumn

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons ๐Ÿ™‚ (There’s reason to love each of them…) The changing of the colours is magical and makes me love living where we do as there is a veritable feast for the eyes to see every day. The colours of the leaves are also reflected in the food that we bring to the table and so we bring those colours indoors for continuity.

Autumn Colours

Autumn Colours

As the air cools, I look forward to soup and roasts of all kinds and even a few treats ๐Ÿ™‚ I have been playing around with Autumn flavours and have come up with a few recipes my friends and family have enjoyed

Pumpkin and apple soup with toasted pumpkin seeds and bacon

Pumpkin and Apple Soup

Cut up 2 cooking apples and one culinary pumpkin (leave the skin on) ย and dust with a little salt, pepper, and cinnamon and drizzle with olive oil and honey. Roast at 170C for 30 minutes or until tender. Scoop out the flesh of the pumpkin and place in a blender with the cooked apple and 500 ml low salt chicken or vegetable stock and 250 ml water / milk (if you have kids). You can add add more or less of the liquid to suit your taste. Dry fry some cubed pancetta till crisp (100g). Add some toasted pumpkin seeds (half a cup) and maple syrup (about 1 tbsp) to the pancetta. Lastly, check the seasoning of the soup and adjust if necessary. Pour into a bowl and top with the Pancetta mix. Enjoy.

Roasted pumpkins stuffed with smoked Pancetta, spring onions, maple syrup and Gnocchi cooked in sage butter.

Pumpkin stuffed with pancetta and gnocchi

Cut a culinary pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, brush with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Add a nob of butter, 45 g cubed pancetta, 1 chopped spring onion and 1 tbsp of maple syrup to pumpkin half. Dust with cinnamon, salt and pepper and add a couple of leaves of fresh sage. Roast in an oven at 170C for 30 minutes or until tender. In ย the mean time, bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook 300 g of fresh Gnocchi. In a separate pan, melt 25 g butter and fry 1 clove of finely sliced garlic, with a handful of fresh sage (shredded). Toss the cooked Gnocchi in the butter, sage and garlic and ย season with salt and pepper. Serve aside or on top of the roasted pumpkin.

Cranberry and Port Cheesecake

Port and Cranberry Cheesecake

In a small saucepan, place 150 g Craisins (dried cranberries). Cover with 100 ml Port, 50 ml Frambois liqueur (or raspberry juice if you prefer), 2 tbsp runny Honey, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 5 ml vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp Vanilla Powder. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the cranberries are soft and plump and the liquid is reduced by half. Place in a blender and blend till smooth. Crush 200 g biscuits to a fine crumb – I used Romany creams, but feel free to use your favourite for a base. Melt 25 g butter and add to the biscuit crumbs and mix well. Line a pie dish (30 cm) with the crumb mix, pressing firmly till even and smooth. In a bowl, mix 250 g Ricotta cheese, 250 g Quark (if you can’f find Quark, use smooth cottage cheese), 1 large egg and the puree’d cranberry mixture. Mix well and pour into the pie dish lined with the biscuit crumb base. Bake for 30 minutes at 160 C or until just set (slight wobble in the middle) Cool and devour on its own or with cream or ice cream.

This year I am determined to make Autumn a feature at home and with 2 weeks of half term break coming up, we are going to be doing loads of fun crafts to make sure we prolong the colours, smells and best features of the countryside around us. So watch this space for some drying, threading, fixing, moulding and decorating.

Cx

Reinvention overload?

In January I posted that I would be trying to complete a list of 52 new things… one for each week of the year. Ambitious some would say. Me? Well, I say “Aim High!” This all came about from trawling through other blogs and reading about how others were trying new things, enjoying new experiences and getting on with doing rather than just dreaming… perhaps this was my first mini mid-life crisis, who knows. I really was serious about the challenge and have spent the last few months … uh hem, 9 months … trying to complete this list. So far, I am 50% of the way through and have had some really brilliant experiences… will I finish? No, but I will come close and acknowledge that some of the things on the list are unrealistic with having a 1-year-old in tow and a limited budget to throw at this project! I am satisfied though. It did what I needed which was shift me out of the arm-chair and out into the world ๐Ÿ™‚

My family

So was this a case of reinvention? Yes for sure. Whether intentional or not is up for debate, but whatever the main reason, I know for sure that I am better of for all of the experiences. I believe in leading by example and if nothing else, my 6-year-old will see that her mum is willing to try new things, that it isn’t always easy and that hard work pays off in the end even if it isn’t the expected outcome. I certainly never started out with reinvention in mind but at least I feel like I am doing something positive with my time rather than just drifting from one chore or activity to another and watching the world live through the internet. I feel like I always have something on the horizon to look forward to. I am getting back to doing things I personally enjoy. The flip side was trying to fit all 52 things in, starting to feel the pressure of the task set and actually turning it into a stress and something that started to take over family life!! So I have chilled out, accepted that I am better off than I was 9 months ago and will be better off still by the end of the year but that it wont hurt me to not finish all of the list in 12 months.

52 New things part way

What I have achieved to date…. Went for a comprehensive allergy test, went mushroom foraging, had some golf lessons, threw pottery, rode a Segway, made a candlelit dinner in the garden, took the family ice-skating, visited a car boot sale, went somewhere new, went to an auction and bid, attended a cake decorating class, went to 3 food festivals, found a good babysitter and booked a regular slot, started up date night, made a flower planter, made something off my “Things I want to make” Pinterest board, was sous chef to my 6-year-old who designed all 3 meals for the day and made them, got waxed, made my own nougat, made bird feeders, visited a junk yard and bought a chest of drawers to refurbish, visited a good friend I haven’t seen for a while, went on a girls night out in Paris, set up a beach day at home, went camping near the beach (not quite on but I’ll take it).

It feels good to try new things again and to find my adventurous spirit… she certainly got lost at some point and for now, she is back in the driving seat! I am finally growing up rather than growing old ๐Ÿ™‚ With Autumn upon us and Winter just around the corner, I feel like I need to get out there and experience and explore all that there is to see and do at this time of year! I saw this quote when I went on my Segway adventure …

โ€œSunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.โ€ย John Ruskin

… I will think of this when the winter seems ongoing and endless and I am out there training for my 10 km run ๐Ÿ™‚

St Patricks Day March 17th

Happy St Patricks Day everyone.

There was much excitement in our house this morning with my daughter discovering that a leprachaun had sprung the trap she had made and left her a stash of gold nuggets ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh and as pennance for the trap, he dyed the milk in our fridge green! Very useful for green pancakes for breakfast ๐Ÿ™‚

St Patricks Day 2013

Pancakes (1 cup flour, 1 cup green milk, 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 25 ml melted butter and 1 tbsp honey) with fruit salad, lime juice, honey and yoghurt for breakfast…

Hope your little ones inspire you to break the mould and get stuck in to some St Paddy’s Day mischief. If there are no little ones, rely on your inner child ๐Ÿ™‚ Either way, enjoy

Lots of love x

Valentines Day

My Husband is of the opinion that Valentines Day is another commercial cash cow for opportunistic capitalists and to some extent I have to agree with him. I am however far more of a romantic and that side of me, usually wins over here. I do like to celebrate Valentines Day and will make a special effort for all of my family. Granted, I do not wish to fight over a restaurant booking or partake in the buying frenzy that is cards and chocolates, but I do think that having a day to celebrate love in its own right is just fine.

So my breakfast surprise for my daughters (DH will actually be away this Valentines …) will be to try Valentines Day Toast Cups – recipe from E is for Eat ๐Ÿ™‚

For lunch (I am having my girl friends round for a glass of bubbly, something to nibble on and a good old-fashioned chinwag!) we will be trying Turkish Manti served with yoghurt and a pepper salsa – recipe by My Barbarian Table – for something different and new to me ๐Ÿ™‚ and I can’t wait to try this!

And to finish I am going to try my hand at making these heart-shaped Churros… recipe by Girl Meets Sugar who makes them look really easy ๐Ÿ™‚ and will serve them with a hot chocolate dipping sauce… Yuuuuuuum!

For dinner, as it’s just me and the girls, I think we will be having leftovers ๐Ÿ™‚

If you or your kids are thinking about some cute Valentines gifts then see these cute homemade marshmallows by Little Skye

The Idea Room has really lovely FREE printables to share. So many great ideas to customise and turn just about anything into a Valentines message. Take a peek here.

I found a really cute gift tag idea via Hill City Bride for Plantable Paper. I think these would also make lovely valentines gift tags

Imperfect People has some really lovely ideas for Valentines gifts, like this Valentines bird feeder. Fun for the kids to make, cheap and easy, practical and won’t rot their teeth ๐Ÿ™‚

This idea for conversation hearts by Less Than Perfect Parents is brilliant and simple but effective. Pin them up, turn them into a garland or bunting, use them as place setters or valentines cards… the uses are endless ๐Ÿ™‚

And to wrap it all up, here is are a couple of clever valentines gift wrapping ideas by The House That Lars Built

Whatever you end up doing this Valentines, I hope you make a bit more of an effort than usual to show those that you love, just how you feel. Most of all though, enjoy

Lots of love x

Pancake Day and Mardi Gras

Tuesday will be a day for celebrating for many and we will no doubt be climbing on one or more of the proverbial band wagons, just for the hell of it ๐Ÿ™‚ There is lots of fun to be had at this time of year and the treats for the kids just keep on coming.

Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) or Mardi Gras (translates to Fat Tuesday) are all essentially one and the same thing… the last day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Celebrated by indulging in richer, fattier foods before the fast. On the menu… pancakes for us!!! The kids just love this because they get to eat pancakes for breakfast, lunch and supper!

Breakfast pancakes will have loads of fruit salad on the side and a drizzle of honey. Lunch will be pancake pockets filled with spinach and ricotta and for supper they will be rolled crepes filled with savoury mince, vegetables and cheese! Smiles all round.

Some other pancake ideas worth sharing…

Life and Kitchen has a recipe for these yummy looking Carrot Cake Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze to share

or how about these Savoury Potato Pancakes from The Daily Spud

I am always amazed that by taking something ordinary and just changing how it looks, you can seriously make a child’s day. I know that mine would love these Good Morning Hearts by Sherbet Blossom. They are lovely!

Of course, it’s not all about pancakes! One day, I am going to sample beignets (and other creole delicacies) in New Orleans during Mardi Gras! Till then…

Enjoy the celebrations however you choose to

Lots of love x

Chinese New Year, Year of the Water Snake – February 10th 2013

Happy Chinese New Year everyone:) We kicked off our celebrations this afternoon and evening with friends by enjoying a feast of food and getting stuck into some arts and crafts activities with the kids.

Red Ted Art has some really cute Chinese New Year crafts that are accessible to all. See here … We made paper lanterns and imaginative snakes out of TP rolls…

Our Chinese New Year Crafts

Our Chinese New Year Crafts

I tried to incorporate the main elements of a Chinese New Years Feast in to my dinner so basically we ate lots! I say elements because this celebration is really to share the traditions of other people with my family and friends and so although not authentic, I try to stick to principal elements. My research said that we should serve this and that, and that and also this and eventually I just had to remind myself that I was just cooking for 4 adults and 4 kids and we had to actually eat it all so calmed down and came up with a menu I could cope with! We started with Marbled Eggs (Recipe courtesy of Pig Pig’s Corner) Pork Dumplings and Vegetable Spring Rolls. Mains was a production of BBQ Beef with Fried Rice and Roast Chicken with Noodles in a spicy broth. We finished off with Pineapple rolls (Recipe by Food4Tots) which I have read are a must have!

The Marbled Eggs… In the end, because I was serving to kids and novice palates, I decided to just colour the eggs with cochineal food colouring (added during boiling) and because we had so much to eat, I just used quails eggs. They were sooo pretty after colouring that I almost just kept them as is for decoration ๐Ÿ™‚ I also just served them with the dipping sauces alongside the spring rolls and dumplings.

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Marbled Quails Eggs

The Pineapple Rolls… Well in the end, I made these more according to principle rather than following the exact recipe. Besides time constraints, I also had to consider equipment or rather lack thereof and so adapted things accordingly. In the end, I halved the pastry recipe, used a food processor to “crush” the pineapple and a rolling-pin to roll the pastry. I also only used about half of the required sugar as I thought it was sweet enough! Notes for next time… Roll the pastry thinner and leave the cloves and cinnamon in to the end when making the jam (It will be ok!)

Pineapple rolls - my version

In between all the crafting and eating, there was of course, lots of chatter and laughter as we caught up with friends. A really relaxed, fun afternoon and evening. And now I am going to retire to the sofa to rest off the meal ๐Ÿ™‚

Enjoy the celebrations

Lots of love x

Burns Night 25th January

It’s Burns Night tonight and I am busy sorting what we will do to celebrate (somewhere there is Scottish blood in our family :)) Why celebrate? Well, besides the fact that I believe that it opens a childs eyes to the rest of the world, and the fact that we have Robert Burns to thank for the New Years Eve anthem, “Auld Lang Syne”, it’s just plain fun!

I found some great recipes again on the Netmums website (for those interested in making from scratch) and I will be enlisting the help of my eldest to prepare our feast for dinner (a few cheats to keep it quick and simple because this week… well lets just say I am over it and ready for the Whisky!). We’ll be having Scotch Broth (store-bought though I had every intention of making my own!) to start and Haggis (store-bought and microwavable!) and Clapshot (I will make!) for mains. Then, let there be NO doubt that I am making Millionnaires Shortbread for dessert!

Burns Night Supper

Let the feast and Friday night celebrations begin ๐Ÿ™‚

Lots of love x

PS, Don’t forget the Address to a Haggis (Full address and Idiomatic Translation at Wikisource)

โ€œFair faโ€™ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain oโ€™ the puddin-race!
Aboon them aโ€™ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy oโ€™ a grace
As langโ€™s my arm.โ€

~Robert Burns

Dating my Husband

Dating my husband is sort of like getting back to basics… or perhaps reality. I love the thought of us making special time for just the 2 of us. There is always that time where the kids have gone to bed and you chat and watch a bit of TV, but that is just unwinding, letting go of the day, enjoying the peace and quiet ๐Ÿ™‚ … not making an effort for each other and so as of this year, my vow is to change this!

DH and I have finally got round to organising a date… as in a night out… just the two of us ๐Ÿ™‚ I won’t have to eat cold food because I have been feeding the kids and I won’t have to worry about the time (well a little about the babysitters time…)Long term, we have a plan too! We will go OUT at least once a month and that we will alternate who plans the date. With that in mind, I have been scouring the internet for deals and ideas on what is good for date night. Here are some of the ideas I came across that I think are fun, cute and helpful…

Life in the Greenhouse posted some really fantastic ideas for Date Night but the way of choosing the dates is what I think is coolest. I will most definitely be doing this ๐Ÿ™‚ Will be fun for the date nights when we don’t go out

Lucky for me, some of the ideas on my 52 New Experiences list will work nicely for Date Night and I will definitely make the most of that ๐Ÿ™‚ They are more for warmer evenings than we are experiencing at the moment but will take a bit of planning so good to get started early!

One idea I have is for an al fresco candlelit dinner (planning required for outdoor dining area!) If I am organised enough, I can go on my cooking course and come home with something made or at least the know-how to make something fancy. Wild Pony has gathered some fantastic ideas for Al Fresco dining but I think this one is my favourite and what I will be aiming for. Doesn’t this look inviting?

Something else I have been wanting to do for ages and that is also on my list of 52 New Experiences, is setting up a Drive-in movie night in the garden at home (first show for the kids and second for us after they’re are tucked up in bed!) If I can recreate some of Miss Design’s atmosphere as shown here, I will be well pleased

Not everything has to wait for the evening and so one of the things I am looking forward to is a brunch Champaign picnic with hot air balloon ride (Off of Ryan’s new experiences list)

The Dating Divas have thought of the kids too and I think that their “Kid Date Night Envelope” is a fab idea. Will give you peace of mind that the kids are involved in both suitable and fun activities while you are out, especially if you are departing a while before bed time…

So here is to getting back to dating my husband and to many such experiences in 2013 and beyond

Lots of love