Friday, May 31, 2013

30 posts in 30 days...

It's the end of May already. I could have sworn Christmas was only a couple of months ago so how is it that we are only three weeks from the summer solstice?

If you remember I made no specific New Year's Resolutions although I did have a plan.

Of sorts.

I have even managed to put some of it into action! I am certainly taking a more positive spin on life these days - not sweating the small stuff gets easier the more you practise it. I am also becoming more organised and making better use of my time. All of the OH's shop paperwork has been sorted and is ready to go to the accountant - last year it took me until the July 31st deadline to get that box to his office!

This blog has mutated somewhat over that past 6 months - I am really pleased with the responses I have had to the recipes posted as part of the Veg Box Challenge posts and the tutorials I have put together for Abakhan's Creative Budget. I am also loving working with Jane Means Ribbons using their gorgeous products for crafty projects.

Things are pottering along quite nicely but I think maybe it's time to give myself a little push...

So here's the challenge - for the month of June I will make the effort to post one blog everyday - that's 30 posts in 30 days.  I may cheat a little and post twice in one day or else use the 'schedule posts' option so that I can keep up without breaking my self-imposed 'no computer on a Sunday' rule. 
I have a schedule of sorts - a few more Creative Budget tutorials plus some other crafty stuff to share including some new items I am making for my Folksy shop; some scrummy recipes along with the usual bi-weekly veg box challenge posts; a couple of reviews including some gorgeous books Roo was sent and a fab crafty club run by one of my favourite suppliers. I may also include a giveaway or two...

I also have another challenge to tell you about - slightly more personal and it's something I have blogged about before but the time has come to take the bull by the horns and... well I'll leave that for my first post in June.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

#CreativeBudget - Pretty Reversible Tea Towel Tutorial

Sometimes, when money is tight, you just have to make do with what you have - even if it is falling apart/unpractical/you just hate it.

My kitchen is a prime example.

 The oven died the week before Christmas a couple of years ago. We had no money so we had to settle for the cheapest one we could get delivered and fitted as quickly as possible. What we had hoped to do was wait until the January sales to replace the dying cooker but fate clearly decided that was not going to be an option. The oven we ended up with truly was cheap and nasty - it works but the temperature gauge is iffy and the dial seems to turn by itself and heat the oven way too high resulting in stuff burning if you turn your back for five minutes. Unfortunately the company who supplied and fitted it (badly) have since gone bust and disappeared. We can't afford another so I'm stuck with it.

My sink is the same - a horrid white 'textured' plastic thing  - textured means it traps every speck of dirt that comes close to it and white means the dirt shows - no matter how hard I scrub it with bleach!  But it's a non standard size so not just a simple case of ripping it out and sticking a nice shiny stainless steel one in.We would need new worktop too...

 But we have no spare money so we have to make do.

 (I did manage to get some new cupboard doors for free a while back - they're not perfect but they were a lot better than the drab grey we had before! You can read about that here )

Thankfully there are ways you can change things up a little without spending too much cash!

My Abakhan creative budget project this month has been all about cheering up my kitchen and I had this little bundle of sweetness to do it with...

1 metre red cotton Gingham
1 metre sky blue strawberry print cotton (currently out of stock)
red gingham bias binding
blue polka dot bias binding
sky blue cord
100g ball white craft cotton

Nothing says cosy country kitchen better than red gingham don't you think? And the beautiful sky blue cotton  with strawberries and polka dots (always a winner in my book) is just perfect for kitchen accessories. Bright red and sky blue is one of my favourite colour combinations too!

The first thing I made with my fabric was this really simple reversible tea towel.

Simple Reversible Tea Towel Tutorial

You need four pieces of fabric - One 45cm x 45cm and one 15cm x 45cm in main fabric plus one 45cm x 45cm and one 15cm x 45cm in a contrast fabric.

Pin the small contrast fabric rectangle to the main fabric square along one 45cm edge and sew together using a 5mm seam allowance.
Do the same with the contrast fabric square and the small rectangle of main fabric.
Press the seams open.

You should now have 2 rectangles of fabric measuring approx 60cm x 45 cm

Pin your two rectangles right sides together, making sure you line up the seams where you have joined the panels as best as you can, and stitch all the way around, again using a 5mm seam allowance.

Leave a 10cm gap on one edge so you can turn your work the right way round. Trim the corners, turn and press.

Sew a row of top stitching (that's just a normal straight stitch that is visible rather than being a seam) in a contrast thread - I used red - as close to the edge of the tea towel as possible - this holds the fabric in place and closes up the gap you left to turn.

And that is it. Simples.

I love it! (I may have to force myself to actually use it though - it's so pretty!)

I think a bundle of these in co-ordinating fabrics would make a wonderful new home gift.  Add a matching pot holder, oven gloves, an apron and pretty knitted dishcloth (tutorials for all of these will follow in the next couple of weeks) for a pretty and practical gift that can easily be customised to suit the tastes and decor of the recipient.And all for under £20.

P.S.  Polka dots and gingham not your thing? Abakhan have a great selection of 100% cotton fabrics that would work well for this project. I am particularly loving this bird print which would look lovely with the checks or stripes.

As always I had a £15 budget to spend at Abakhan who supplied this bundle of goodies free of charge. No other payment has been received.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

National Vegetarian Week - Chunky Veg and Nut Loaf recipe

Did you know it's National Vegetarian Week? No? Well you do now!

I was a vegetarian for most of my teens and twenties, partly out of protest against the treatment of animals kept for food and partly because I just wasn't that fond of the taste of meat (these days I am more relaxed about what I eat but, more often than not, I still go for the veggie option). In that time I learnt a good many great veggie recipes, many of which I still cook on a regular basis for my non-vegetarian family.

One particular favourite is this fab nut roast recipe. Originally from Rose Elliot's Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, sadly now out of print but replaced by Rose Elliot's NEW Complete Vegetarian - an updated edition taking into account current healthy eating advice.
The recipe has been tweaked and adjusted over the years to suit what I had in the cupboard. The original recipe contains onion, carrot and celery but I substitute celery (which I hate) with any other veg I have. It's a great way to use up those lone courgettes, half a pepper or handful of mushrooms that lurk at the back of the fridge! It's cheap to make, filling and nutritious with a chewy texture that even a die hard meat eater can enjoy.
Although not my Other Half. Way to much veggie presence for his tastes... *sigh*

Chunky Veg & Nut Loaf


1 large carrot
1 onion
A portion or two of any other veg you may have around - celery, pepper, courgette or mushrooms all work well
200g chopped mixed nuts - Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts (sometimes I use pre-packed chopped nuts found in baking isle at around £1 for 100g or you can chop and mix your own)
2 tsp yeast extract
2tsp Marigold Vegetable Bouillon (optional but tasty!)
2 eggs
1-2tsp dried mixed herbs or a handful of chopped fresh herbs
A knob of butter and a handful of breadcrumbs to line tin

Chop your veggies into chunks then throw them all in food processor and pulse until they are all chopped up. If you don't have a food processor then you can grate or finely chop all the veg by hand.

Tip the chopped veg into a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly - it will be quite a wet mix - like a very lumpy fruit cake batter!

Line the bottom of a 1lb loaf tin with a long strip of greaseproof paper so it comes up and over the 2 short sides then grease the tin with butter and sprinkle with some breadcrumbs (I blitz any slightly stale bread in the processor and freeze breadcrumbs so I always have a supply at hand. So much better than the bright orange ones you can buy in tubs!)

Pour the veg mix into the tin, making sure you tap the tin to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake in a preheated oven GAS5/190C/375F, uncovered for about 45mins - slide a sharp knife into the loaf to make sure the centre is set (just like a cake). Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before sliding a knife all the way round the edge and turning onto a serving plate.

Lovely served warm with roast potatoes, greens and onion gravy or cold with a salad and new potatoes. I have even shallow fried slices of cold loaf for a couple of minutes on each side and served them in a roll with some grated cheese and ketchup for a veggie burger alternative.

Chunky veg and nut loaf with salad... omnomnom!

If you want to find out more about National Vegetarian Week please visit their website - there are a loads of hints and tips for those thinking of taking up a meat free lifestyle and scrummy simple recipes to get you started!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

#VegBoxChallenge - salad days and rhubarb fool

Well I HAVE been slacking a bit on the Veg Box Challenge. Not in that I'm not using up my veg, I hasten to add, just not really finding time to pin and blog recipes! Which is daft coz I've had 2 whole weeks to sort it out!!

But hey....

The weather improved for a bit which meant I actually felt like eating all the fab salad stuff that was in the last box - the lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, chicory and carrots all got tossed up with some olive oil and balsamic dressing at some point during the week (sorry, no pics, I was too busy enjoying eating :-) )   Even the baby new potatoes got boiled up, cooled down then mixed with mayonnaise and chives from the garden.

The rhubarb was made into a fabulous fool - chopped up rhubarb was cooked with a couple of spoonfuls of soft brown sugar, the juice of an orange and a teaspoonful of ground ginger (I told you there was a twist!) for ten minutes or so then mixed into a small carton of whipped double cream and a small carton of creme fraiche, spooned into dishes and left to chill for a bit in the fridge. It was delicious!!

Here's a little selection of the other lovely meals we've had from our veg box in the past fortnight...

clockwise from top left: veg box curry; tucking in!; cheesy spud boats; roasted veg pizza; broccoli and cauliflower soup; rhubarb, orange and ginger fool

So I guess you'd like to see what delights we got this week?

What I got in my box this week...

  • 2 LARGE baking potatoes
  • big bunch carrots
  • radishes
  • green beans
  • peas
  • large leek
  • chard
  • more rhubarb :-)
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 apples
  • 2 peaches
I mentioned in the last post that I had changed my delivery to a larger box but delivered fortnightly instead of weekly and buying some back up basics (onions and potatoes) and this seems to work well for us. I have been toying with switching from the fruit and veg box to just a veg box but there is no way I'd be enjoying a peach in my conservatory right now if it hadn't come in my delivery (wouldn't even think about buying a whole punnet from supermarket at silly prices) so I am still undecided...

perfect peach

and just look how shiny this apple is!

Now I am off to find interesting recipes for swiss chard...  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Personalised softies - elephants, dragons, giraffes and...?

I don't usually switch the laptop on BEFORE the school run. I spend most of the morning running around making sure Roo gets breakfasted, cleaned and dressed. Then there's the usual 'trying to find the other shoe' aggro. Not to mention forcing the Other Half out of bed which is a mission all by itself...

But this morning I had a nagging feeling that I needed to switch on... (being woken up at 6am by a playful kitten, shortly followed by a playful small boy resulting in us all being ready to go with an hour to spare probably swayed me too!)

I signed into facebook because I had posted a picture of my latest softie commission last night and was hoping the customer had seen it and commented. She had, as it happened but I was also overwhelmed to see that the photo had been shared and liked by lots of others too - in fact, Facebook stats informed me that a total of 1,375 people had seen it!!

This may not be a lot in the grand scheme of things but for my Forest Flower page it's nothing short of amazing!  Not only had lots of people seen 'Amelia' but my inbox was full of queries and even a couple of orders.

So what's all the fuss about?

'Amelia' is the latest personalised softie I have made.

Wanna see some more?   Meet Poppy...

...and Emily...

I haven't just done elephants either.   Here is Idris the Welsh dragon...

Idris didn't get the full on photo shoot treatment and this is the only pic I have of him - he's not quite finished here, haven't stitched his features yet!

And how about Willow - a fabulously girly dragon with wonderful Jane Means ribbon spikes...

And last, but by no means least - the softie that started it all...

Loki was commissioned by a friend for a lucky little boy whose mummy had a mild giraffe obsession (and who also happens to be Willow's big brother!).  I was so pleased with the way the black fur fabric tail and 'horns' turned out!

The personalised heart patch and the wooden button joints became the special features of these softies which make perfect new baby gifts (although I should point out that babies and young children should not be allowed to play unsupervised with toys like this as the button joints may be a choking hazard...)  Every one of these softies is made to order - I select some fabrics from my stash, based on colour options requested and let the customer choose which ones they would like their final softie to be made with. This means every single one is completely unique!

All my commissions so far have been from friends or friends of friends via Facebook but today, thanks to that photo shared by British Crafters, I have orders from customers further afield!

Maybe now is the time to expand my softie range... What animals would  you like to see turned into cute softies?

Personalised softies are made to order - if you are interested in having one made please don't hesitate to contact me either by email at   forestflower (@) hotmail (dot) com  or head over to my Facebook page or Twitter account and message me!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

NEW :: Upcycled wool fabric needle books

You may remember a few weeks back I showed you a lovely wool fabric skirt I picked up from a charity shop £1 rail. Although I didn't know exactly what I was going to make with it I knew the lovely fabric would lend itself well to a variety of projects and the colour offers the perfect backdrop for many different colours

The first thing I made was a cute little needle book as a gift for my dad who loves to do cross stitch.

I used some lovely ribbon from my Jane Means stash for the button loop and decoration. If you watched the Great British Sewing Bee you might recognise the narrow grey stitched ribbon - it's the same one Anne used to great effect embellishing her blouse in episode 1 .  I adore the simple red, grey and white stripe ribbon too - a decorative touch without making it girly!  The button came from Nan's button box.

I lined it with a pale blue and white striped cotton and made the 'pages' with black felt.  Then I finished off the gift by filling it with a selection of gold plated needles.

He loved it!

So did I!! In fact I loved it so much I made a couple more...

This one uses Jane Means stitched gross grain ribbon in sage and the same narrow ribbon as before but this time in green. The lining fabric from my stash matches beautifully - right down to the stitched lines as part of the pattern!

I have used pale green felt for the pages and another vintage button holds it all together.

On this needle book I have used Jane's beautiful red ribbon with grey polka dots - it looks like it was made to go with this fabric!  The narrow stitched ribbon comes in red too and once again has been used for the button loop. A lovely etched button and matching red top stitching finish this one off nicely.

Inside I have lined it with gorgeous Lama Love by Monaluna Organics sold by one of my favourite fabric suppliers Seamstar (stay tuned - I have an upcoming blog post all about their great new monthly craft club!) It's cute and quirky and goes with the grey and red theme perfectly! Bright red felt pages hold your needles safely.

Both these needle books are available now from my Folksy shop priced £8.00 each. I am still offering free post and packing on ALL UK orders through Folksy so why not go take a look?

I feel there are few more needle books to be born from this fabric/ribbon/vintage button combo yet - perhaps you have a colour combo you'd like to see? I may have to create some matching pin cushions too...

Thursday, May 02, 2013

#VegBoxChallenge - a taste of summer...

Tomorrow is Roo's 5th birthday (where did THAT time go!) so it's all go here on Mount Pleasant.
We are planning a picnic with family and a few of his friends from school at a local 'tourist' spot - Beechenhurst. It's a lovely place in the heart of the Forest - a large picnic area with a fab playground and lots of room for kids to run around and play.
It's all a bit last minute as we weren't sure what the weather was going to be like (fingers crossed it stays as lovely as it has been all week!) so I'm super busy prepping food and games which doesn't leave much time for anything else!

So, just a quick post showing you the super fruit and veg box I got from Four Seasons Food this week...

What I got in my box this week...

  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • purple sprouting
  • cauliflower
  • chicory
  • lettuce
  • cherry tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • rhubarb
  • apples
  • pears
  • a large orange
  • a punnet of strawberries!

first taste of summer...
Don't they look gorgeous? I left them warm up in the sun then me and Roo gobbled the lot :-) 

There are 4 lovely bulbs of chicory which is something I have eaten in salad - the boat shaped leaves make great little receptacles for dips or cottage cheese - but never actually cooked with so this weeks pinboard additions will mostly be chicory recipes. I am looking forward to trying something new! 

We also got the first thin pink sticks of rhubarb. Not quite enough for a crumble but I am thinking of making one of my all time favourite puddings - Rhubarb fool - with a little extra twist. Don't worry I'll share next week...

I have made a slight change to my veg box delivery - upgrading to a medium box at £13.50 but only have a delivery every two weeks. Money is tight and I often end up buying extra  basics anyway (there's never enough potatoes to keep the Other Half happy!) so I thought save a few quid and minimise waste this way. 

This means my veg box posts will be fortnightly too but I may still squeeze an extra recipe in alternate weeks!

I'll leave you with a few of the dishes we enjoyed with the contents of last week's box...

stir fried purple sprouting with mange tout and red onion - went lovely with a basic omelette

chunky veg and nut loaf with salad - a recipe I have been making for years and I WILL share shortly...

carrot cake muffins - the most sensible thing to do when you have a surplus of carrots! I blogged this recipe here if you have lots of carrots to use up too...

In case you were wondering what I did with the avocado that I was so excited about last week - it ended up sliced on ryvita which is still my favourite way to eat them :-)

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