Monday, September 30, 2013

A 5:2 Pep Talk...

Cast your minds back 10 weeks or so - those halcyon days pre-summer holidays where we were all enjoying the sunshine and hoping that perhaps this year we might actually get to wear flipflops and summer dresses and NOT freeze to death/look like drowned rats before the end of the day...

I was 6 weeks in to the Fast Diet - you know, the one where you eat very little for 2 days a week and eat 'normally' the rest of the time? I was doing alright, had already lost over half a stone and had calculated that, at that rate, I would be back to my pre-pregnancy weight by the end of September.

Fast forward to the end of September...

Guess what folks? I am nowhere near my pre-pregnancy weight (now there's a surprise!).

So what happened? you ask.  I'll tell you.


Now I can't blame it all on having Roo home for six weeks but have you ever tried fasting with an uber energetic 5yo bouncing around the place like Tigger after a big bag of Haribo?  Fasting whilst he is at school is easy (ish) because you don't have that constant 'Mummy, I'm hungry! Can I have...?' in your ear from breakfast time right the way through till bedtime. 

Then there were the days out that usually required a picnic of some description if we didn't actually eat out, at least one ice-cream and the obligatory coffee (for me), milkshake (for him) and cake. Obviously.

We actually went on holiday too, to Devon, which meant a week of ice cream, cream teas, fish and chips and pasties. Plus a week with my mum and dad - who view fasting as some kind of torture and manage to pile more calories on one dinner plate than I generally eat in an entire day!

With all this going on it's amazing I only gained 2lbs throughout the entire holiday!

But now the hols are over, Roo is back at school, I have goal to reach and the clock is ticking...

5:2 began in earnest again last week - I have got back into my routine with relative ease (although the second fast day was a bit of a nightmare - time of the month and no chocolate? *shudders* ). The 2lb gain has gone again already and I am ready say good bye to the other stone and a half over the next few months. The next 4 months, to be precise.

They say it's always helpful to have a specific goal in mind whatever you are doing. It helps to keep focused if you know exactly where you are heading.

I know exactly where I am heading. In 4 months time I reach a milestone and I am absolutely determined I will not be fat AND forty...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Craft Blog Club Challenge - Cover a notebook

A few weeks ago I spotted something new on Twitter on a Tuesday night.

#CraftBlogClub - hosted by the lovely Emma of Life is Peachy every Tuesday between 7 and 8pm - gives crafty bloggers a chance to chat about craft blogging, offer advice support and generally have a bit of a giggle. Emma tries to keep us focused on a theme each week (she also does a fantastic write up on her blog afterwards covering the main points talked about) and also sets us a monthly challenge. As there are so many different craft bloggers, each with their own niche, it's a great idea to get us all to offer up our own interpretation of a theme...

This month's challenge was to cover a notebook.

I chose to use a simple method I have used many times before but with a little twist, trying something new is what keeps things interesting right? I wasn't sure how well it would work but I am pretty pleased with the results!

You will need

Fabric - measurements depend on the size of book you wish to cover

one piece of main fabric
one piece of iron-on, medium weight interfacing (not essential but a good idea if you are using a light fabric)
one piece of contrast fabric

Ribbon for the spine trim
Ribbon for wrap around tie
matching button

Measuring up - your main fabric needs to be (4x the width of the front cover ) + the spine measurement  x the height of the book + 4cm
The contrast panel needs should be the same height as main panel and a bit less than half the width.

so for my A5 note book the main fabric measured (4 x 10.5cm) + 1cm  by (15cm + 4cm)
or 43cm x 19cm  and the contrast panel 20cm x 19cm

Cut the piece of iron on interfacing 1cm smaller all around - so in this case 41cm x 17cm - and place it centrally on the wrong side of your main fabric. Iron into place.

Press a 1cm seam along the 2 short edges and sew it in place (you'll see in the picture that I folded a hem on the long edge too - I'm not sure why, it's not necessary. I must have had a brain melt at that moment ;-) )

Fold the fabric in half length ways to find the centre point that will sit on the spine of the book.
Cut a length of wide ribbon - I used this lovely 20mm  Whitby Stripe by Jane Means - the height of the book + seam allowance (so, in this case, 19cm) and stitch it into position down the centre of your cover.

Now place your notebook, open, on the right side of the cover, making sure the spine is aligned with the ribbon. Fold each end over the notebook cover.

 Slide the notebook out of the cover and then take your contrast panel and pin it, face down, centrally so it covers the gap between each folder over end. (Again, no need to fold that little hem over like I have in the photograph - however you could fold over and hem the two shorter sides if your fabric is particularly easily frayed)

Stitch across the two long edges with a 1.5cm seam allowance. Trim the seams then turn through.

 Press the cover and slide the notebook into it's new jacket!

Adding ribbon loop and tie

Cut the ribbon approx 3 x the width of the book. I used a lovely cream and baby blue stripe ribbon from the Jane Means collection.

Seal the ends by holding it close (but not too close!) to a naked flame.The heat melts the fibres and stops the ribbon fraying.

Fold over one end to form a loop and stitch a button in place, sewing through the two layers of ribbon

Take a few stitches through the top layer of the book cover to secure (you might want to leave the book in the cover while you do this so you don't end up stitching right through the cover. Like I did...

Wrap the ribbon around the book and tuck the loose end through the loop.

Add a pen and pop it into your bag for stylish note taking on the go :-)

Happy Crafting!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

#WIPsLinky No3 - Retro Rockabilly

Hello everyone! I can't believe another whole month has flown by!

I don't know what the weather is like where you are but here in the Forest of Dean we have woken up to thick fog every morning for the last four or five days. The school run is decidedly damp and my hair has gone into uber frizz mode!

The Autumn Equinox has passed which means that the nights are now longer than the days. Summer is over. The evenings are drawing in. Time to snuggle up on the sofa and craft by candle light... (although, to be fair, for most of us it's craft by TV light! ;-)

The crochet high tops I told you about last time are coming along well - I am about two thirds of the way through the second one now so hope to be able to share them soon. One good thing has come from all this extra crochet - I have finally mastered the correct way of holding yarn and hook. It really speeds things up and my hands aren't cramping up like they were before. Which means more crochet can be done! Yay!!

This month however I have a special project to get going on.  I am part of the team organising a very special event in Newent over the weekend of 18th - 20th October in the town of Newent, the birth place of the pioneering song writer/producer of the early 60's Joe Meek. His best known hit was 'Telstar' by the Tornados - the first record by a UK band to top the Billboard 100 in the US! NME even proclaimed him the NO1 most influential producer EVER! No small claim to fame.  

What does all this have to do with #WIPsLinky? I hear you ask. Well, as part of the team I will be attending the main evening event - a 60's Dance night headlined by the original Tornados (ok, not all the original Tornados) and part of the deal is that we have to dress to impress! So this month I will mostly be attempting to make me some Retro Rockabilly style!

I absolutely love this pattern - it's a little different to all the other dress patterns I researched. Lets have a closer look...

It's made as a wrap around style which means NO ZIPS (this is a bonus as I hate putting zips in! ) and the pattern difficulty level is described as 'very easy'.

We'll see.

To be honest I am absolutely terrified. I know it's silly, I have used my sewing machine practically every day for the last five years but I only ever sew smallish things. This dress uses a lot of fabric which I am seeing as a lot of potential to go wrong!  I can't wait to get started though!

So what projects have you started this month? Do you have anything special planned for October? Blog it, link up and share your works-in-progress with us all - there is no better incentive to get things finished!!
Don't forget you can use the hashtag #WIPsLinky when you share your post on Twitter/Facebook/Google+ too.

p.s. This month I will also be working on a #WIPsLinky badge that you can all add to your blogs if you choose. Look out for that next month x

Happy Crafting

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Blackberry Crumble Pie recipe

So you've been out foraging for blackberries and have more than you know what to do with - try this mega sized tray bake that is super versatile and very, very tasty...

Blackberry Crumble Pie

You will need

for base and topping:

14oz/390g plain flour
7oz/200g caster sugar
1/4tsp salt
12oz/340g butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

for the filling

4 large eggs
9oz/260g caster sugar
300ml (one large pot) sour cream
3.5oz/100g plain flour
pinch salt
1tsp Vanilla extract
zest of half a lemon
1 1/2lb/700g fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 350F/180C/GAS4

Start with the base - sift the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles rough breadcrumbs.  Reserve approx 200g of this mixture for the topping and press the remaining mixture into the base of a large tray bake tin (I used a large roasting tray measuring approx 43cm x 32cm). Pop this in the oven for 12-15mins to set the base. Remove from the oven and allow to cool whilst preparing the filling.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl then add all the other ingredients except the blackberries, mixing thoroughly. Finally fold in the blackberries gently.

Pour the mix over the base then top with the remaining crumble mix.

Bake in the oven for approx 50mins.

Blackberry Crumble Pie tastes just wonderful warm from the oven served with cream, custard or ice cream but works even better if you leave it cool completely, cut it into squares and refrigerate.  The centre firms up nicely and contrasts beautifully with the buttery crumble top and bottom. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week in a covered container.

Best of all this tray bake freezes well too which is just as well as this recipe makes a lot of pie! Cut into slices/squares when cold and freeze in suitable containers. Defrost for about 4 hours before serving.

Happy Baking!

Something for the weekend :: Blackberries

If you love to eat and cook seasonally then you'll know that now is the best time for one of my favourite fruits - the blackberry.  The best thing about blackberries is they are available for free in many places and not just in the country either - check out parks, alongside canals or cycle tracks and scrub land. Berries growing close to busy roads are best avoided as are those growing close to the ground where dogs and foxes may cock a leg.

I'm very lucky when it comes to blackberries - not only do I live in the country with lots of brambles in the woods nearby (and sloes too but that's a whole other blog post!) but my MIL's large garden has a HUGE bramble bush tucked away down the bottom absolutely over flowing with luscious black jewels. This year the harvest has been very abundant and we have already picked more blackberries than in previous few years and there are still many more growing and ripening.

That's one BIG bush...

Fortunately blackberries freeze well. Just give them a wash and check through for bugs then lay them, in a single layer, on a baking tray and pop them in the freezer until solid before bagging them up for future use in cakes, muffins, tea breads, coulis, compote and more.

I have been collecting lush blackberry recipes on my 'Autumn' Pinterest board and last weekend I had a bit of a baking frenzy trying out some of them...

This 'Wild Blackberry Loaf' recipe was incredibly simple to make and tasted absolutely wonderful - the blackberry icing was a bit of a faff but definitely worth it!

We also had a go at 'Blackberry Lemonade' which is delicious as it is but, I would imagine would make a lovely mixer with a splash or two of vodka...

Talking of vodka, there is a great Blackberry Vodka recipe pinned to the board that I may have to try too!

 Far and away our favourite recipe was the magnificent Blackberry Pie Bars tray bake. It needed a bit of tweaking and deciphering of American measurements but turned out amazing. I shall be adding the recipe as a separate post later but in the meantime here are some piccies to whet your appetite!

There's still a few weeks of blackberry season left so why not make the most of this most wonderful FREE food and get picking!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New oven, puddings and 'Baking for Boys'

At last, after best part of three months I have a working oven again!!!!

It's not a new oven, it's not even a particularly pretty oven but it works - and it was free so really all other niggles can be ignored!

Now don't get me wrong, life without an oven was not unbearable. The slow cooker got a fair bit of use - pasta bakes and lasagna both worked well. I developed a new method of cooking pre-cooked frozen pies which involved defrosting in the microwave followed by grilling with the tray on bottom shelf of the oven and turning the pie over, like you would when grilling sausages, so that it cooked all the way through and didn't end up with a burnt top and a soggy bottom. It wasn't perfect but it worked. Skinny chips also grill ok. I even managed to do my favourite summer dish - Mediterranean 'roasted' veg under the grill!

But what I really missed was baking (although Wright's Ginger cake mix made in the bread machine was a revelation!) Cookies, muffins, sponge cakes and tray bakes. I have had to buy cake from the shops ** READY MADE **.  It really is not the same.

And you don't get that lovely warm cakey smell wafting through the house when all you have to do is slice open a plastic wrapper...

So, the new (to us) cooker came from a flat refurb and would have been thrown away otherwise (Kirstie Allsopp would be so proud of us!) and was fitted by my FIL at the weekend. So now I can bake once more.

Which is good now summer is ending. There is a nip in the air in the evening and it's very nearly that time of year when custard replaces ice cream as the dessert accompaniment of choice. Custard and crumble. Custard and steamed pudding. Custard and fruit pie. Just custard (when I'm feeling lazy).

You may have noticed that Great British Bake Off  is back with more inspiration and ideas than you can shake a silicon spatula at and those lovely people at Duerrs are celebrating with their very own YouTube series of yummy cakey, puddingy (if that's not a real word I want to know why!) recipes demonstrated by their master bakers Richard and Paul.  Each episode showcases a British pud in neat 5minute slices. The first episode featured the classic Victoria Sandwich - the perfect summer cake. Their latest offering is definitely more comfort food - a little twist on an old classic - a delicious looking Marmalade Bread and Butter pudding.

Now I have an oven again I shall definitely be giving this one a go!

Friday, September 06, 2013

#VegBoxChallenge :: Sweetcorn and salad veg

This week saw my first veg box delivery since the beginning of the summer holidays. Four Seasons Foods are a small family run firm who also run a mobile food wagon Nomad Kitchen and they like to take some time out in the summer with the kids. Deliveries resumed this week once the kids were back at school and I must admit I was really looking forward to receiving my fortnightly box of delights again.

I wasn't disappointed.

Here's what I got this week:

bunch of spring onions
red pepper
french beans
patty pan squash
4 cobs of sweetcorn
half a melon


Lots of salad and fruit - it is still kind of summer after all! - and lovely lovely sweetcorn.

I'm a big fan of corn on the cob. My mum used to have a set of thoroughly modern (in 1978) metal trays with little forks specially designed for serving corn on the cob (I must ask her if she still has them) but I confess I actually like smothering them in butter and picking them up to eat with my fingers, hot melted butter dripping down my chin - and probably my tshirt! - and then licking my fingers afterwards.


I'll show you what I did with the rest of my veggie box in the next veg box post but in the meantime here's some gratuitous sweetcorn piccies...

ps - don't forget you can find loads of ideas and recipes to make sure nothing in your veggie box goes to waste on my Veggie Box Recipes Pinterest board...

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

End of Summer...

So Roo went back to school today.

Part of me let out a huge sigh of relief. Getting anything constructive done over the last six weeks has been hit and miss at best of times. I have managed to keep on top of the bike shop paperwork (well the important bits anyway...) but Forest Flower and this blog have suffered from a lack of attention. Now my little monster darling is back at school I can get my working routine back in place.

I have so many plans for the next few months. Business plans, home plans, bloggy plans and I am itching to get on with them!

But a big part of me feels sad too.

That's another summer done and dusted.

At least it was a good one. Somehow the prospect of cold and dark days ahead doesn't seem quite so depressing now we have had a long overdue reminder of how good a continuous spell of warm sunny days actually feels like!

We didn't do all the things I wanted to do through the holidays - mostly because this summer Roo discovered Lego Indiana Jones on daddy's xbox and, as is his way, became totally obsessed! He also discovered fake tattoos, but that's another story...

We went on some lovely days out. We walked in the woods; we went swimming; we played in the park; we ate lots of ice cream. We ate lots of homegrown rasberries too!  We went to the seaside and the zoo. We even managed a trip to the cinema - to see Monsters University - and it didn't end in either leaving early coz Roo wouldn't keep quiet (Kung Fu Panda 2) or Roo missing film completely coz he snoozed all the way through (Ice Age 4).

what we did in the summer hols!

 Another summer has come and gone.

Roo is back at school and this year he has moved up from reception to year 1.

My little boy is growing up.


This post has been linked up to @clairejustineo's Welcome to the Weekend bloghop. You are welcome to add your own favourite post of the week to the list and don't forget to hop around and visit some new blogs while you're here!

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