Monday, April 29, 2013

Wonder Wool Wales 2013

This weekend we went off to Builth Wells for Wonder Wool Wales - a great show celebrating all that is woolly.  I wrote about it last year here so I won't waffle on this time but here are some pictures to inform and inspire!

As ever I came home all fired up and eager to try new things. There was a lot of recycling/upcycling going on which always inspires me. I have already been practising needlefelting but I really want to work creating my own fabric by wet felting (did you spot some of the amazing felt clothing in the slideshow?). I am even going to dig out the drop spindle I bought last year and have another go at spinning my own yarn! I'll let you now how that goes... ;-)

We are already planning our trip next year.

Maybe you could come too...?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Avocado appreciation

This week's box contained one of my favourite fruits in the whole world - the avocado pear.

I have fond memories of my mum and dad having 'date nights' at home when we would all be ushered up to our room early with strict instructions not to come downstairs unless it was an absolute emergency.  Dad would cook a nice meal that invariably started with Mum's favourite - prawn salad served in half an avocado. This was the 70's after all!

As a child I couldn't understand the fuss about avocado's but as I got older my tastes changed. One of my favourite snacks during pregnancy was sliced avocado on Ryvita and Pinterest has opened up a whole new chapter of my avocado appreciation - I never realised you could do so much with them!

Things have been a bit busy here this week (stock take at my Other Half's shop, which is always fun) so I haven't had time to rustle up AND photograph a recipe for this post but I have added loads of avocado treats - including some gorgeous looking chocolate avocado puddings which I MUST try - to my Veggie Box Recipes pinboard. Do go take a look if you are wanting some avocado inspiration!

What I got in my box this week

  • potatoes
  • onion
  • carrots
  • red pepper
  • purple sprouting broccoli
  • green chilli
  • lettuce
  • mange tout
  • cucumber
  • apples
  • satsumas
  • orange
  • avocado pear
  • a bunch of thyme
As you can see it's another very colourful box!  I just love that Four Seasons Foods always make an effort to provide a good variety of produce in their boxes from week to week - I know not all veg boxes are so varied and that puts some people off. Sometimes it pays to shop around if you can and, as with so many other things in life, the cheapest is not always the best.  I know I am very lucky to have a local supplier who cares so much about what they send out! :-)

As promised, here's a selection of meals made with last week's veg box.
from top left - roasted new potatoes; roasted mixed veg; leisurely Sunday morning melon breakfast; pasta with pesto, cream cheese, cherry tomatoes and grated raw courgette; grated carrot, lettuce and hummus wraps; leek, pea and mushroom risotto

Monday, April 22, 2013

#MagpieMonday - it's car boot sale season again!

I am celebrating the first carboot sale I have attended this year with a sneaky little Magpie Monday post.

Car boot sales are possibly the only party where 'fashionably late' basically means 'you missed all the best stuff' although it can also mean that people are happy to part with what is left for much less just so they don't have to take it home again!

For the first time I gave Roo his own money to spend, with the warning that he could spend his £2 on anything he wanted but that included cake or ice cream - no extra sweeties from mummy or Nonny today! Fair play to him he purchased a jigsaw for 10p, a book for his Thomas the Tank Engine collection (yes, a budding collector already!) for 20p and Jolly Phonics work book for 10p. 50p went on a strawberry cupcake, leaving him with £1.10 to spend. Then he spotted the ice cream van...
"Mummy, can I have an ice cream?"  "If you want, but it has to come out of your money."  "Ok, I will have a look at these tables first - ooo look can I have this colouring set?"  "If that's what you want. But you won't be able to have an ice cream too..."  "ok"
And that was it. Not a flicker as we walked back past the ice cream van. Not even an attempt to persuade Nonny to by him one.   I was very proud of him!

Anyway - most of the booters were packing up as we strolled around but I did manage to get a couple of bargains...

First up is this adorable little milk jug from the iconic 40's and 50's Wood's Ware 'Beryl' range. I have seen this for sale in pristeen condition for as much as £12. On ebay they fetch around a fiver. This one has a little tiny chip on it which probably renders it nearly worthless but at 50p I am not going to grumble! I will be looking our for other pieces though as I LOVE the colour and the cute curviness of it.

My second bargain of the day was this lovely little carousel tin - it's not especially old (the best before date for the toffees it once contained was May 2005) and it is pretty beaten up but the colours are just fabulous and becasue of it's state it actually looks a lot older than it is. Which is kinda cool.

So how much? 10p. Ten whole pence. I couldn't possibly not have it :-)

I have to keep this post short and sweet as I am supposed to be sorting out my conservatory to make room for a most wonderful find that any self-respecting Magpie would be proud of. It is heading my way very soon so I must get cracking!

Go and have a look at what all my fellow magpies have been gathering this week on Missie Lizzie's blog, Me and My Shadow .

Me and My Shadow

Friday, April 19, 2013

#VegBoxChallenge :: Leek, Pea and Mushroom Risotto

Have you spotted the new badge on my side bar?  (pauses while you scroll down a bit...)   I have linked up with Johanna at Kirschplunder and her Veg Box Challenge (yes it does deserve capitals!).
As you know I have been urging you all to give veg boxes a try by posting my veg box contents each week, along with musings and ideas - even the occasional full on recipe! - on what I plan to do with it!

Johanna's food blog takes this a step further by challenging us to show that we are using every little bit of our veg with as little waste as possible. She recommends this great resource too - LoveFoodHateWaste - it's a great website full of ideas for making the most of your food and eliminating the throw-away food culture which, with prices rising at a steady pace whilst incomes seem to be falling, can only be a positive thing. Go check it out now. I'll still be here when you get back...

So in order to fully participate in the veg box challenge I am going to change my veg box posts slightly. I will still show and tell each box but I will also try and include a montage of pictures of all the things we made to eat using the contents of the previous box plus a recipe too. I will continue to update my pinterest board - focusing on one or two items in my box each week - so if you don't fancy what I have done there is plenty of other inspiration for you!


What's in the box this week?

  • lots of baby new potatoes
  • carrots
  • runner beans
  • peas in pods
  • mushrooms
  • a HUGE leek
  • courgette
  • cherry tomatoes
  • 2 little gem lettuce
  • 2 gorgeous purple plums
  • half a melon 

 Peas! I adore freshly picked peas, straight out of the pod. A rare luxury at this time of year - I can only assume that they are grown under cover along with all the lovely summer veggies - tomatoes and courgettes for example - that I have been getting recently! Not quite sure how this fits in with 'seasonal eating' but all the veggies in my box are grown locally and organically so I'm not going to quibble!

peas in a pod

who knew peas were so photogenic?

To be fair there were barely enough peas to get excited about - just a handful of pods. Not enough as a side even but enough to add a little spherical green accent to a dish. And what better way to use them than in a risotto...

Leek, Pea & Mushroom Risotto

Let me start by saying, apart from the rice (4oz) and the liquid (1 pint of water with 2 rounded teaspoons of Marigold Vegetable Bouillon or other good veg stock) I am not giving you any actual amounts for this recipe. I have used what I have which in this case was one large leek, half a dozen white mushrooms and a handful of pea pods. It seemed to be enough but, you know, if you have more peas or more mushrooms (or different mushrooms) then I'm sure it will taste just as good! 

First you need to finely chop your leek and mushrooms ( I used my little Braun herb chopper for the mushrooms but by hand is fine) and pod your peas. I may have mentioned before that I am not the worlds biggest mushroom fan - mainly I can't stand the texture of them cooked. Chopping them finely like this takes that texture thing out of the equation and allows the full mushroom flavour to infuse the dish.

Melt a knob of butter in a large pan and add a splash of vegetable oil.  Add the leeks - allow to cook gently for a few minutes before adding the peas and mushrooms. Cook for another minute or so then add the rice. Give it a good stir so the grains are coated in butter then start adding your stock. I keep mine simmering in a small pan and add it a ladle at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding the next ladle full. There is no rushing a risotto - it doesn't take that long in any case, about 15 mins or so.

Keep on the simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally to stop the rice sticking to the pan.

Serve straight away with a little grated Parmesan or crumbled goats cheese if you want, although it is good just as it is!

Serves 2 as a light supper or starter


Next week's post will hopefully include a montage of pictures of everything we did with the contents of our veg box (with the exception of the plums that were just eaten as they were within about an hour of said box arriving!)


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Creative Budget - Pom Pom crazy!

Do you remember the cute felt Easter Egg decorations I made as part of my Spring Creative Budget challenge with fab craft materials from Abakhan? Well, as promised, here is my Spring Creative Budget challenge part 2!

One of the trends I am loving right now is the resurgence of the humble pom pom. Once beloved of grannies who knitted your winter woolly hat and decorated tea cosies with them, they are now being used to create everything from cushions and rugs to window dressings and wall art!

What better way to brighten up your home this Spring than by hanging a pretty pastel coloured pom pom garland somewhere bright and sunny....

Pom poms are so easy to make - did you ever make them as a child, the old fashioned way with 2 rings of cardboard sandwiched together? These days with fab little pompom makers readily available pom pom making has got even easier. I picked up a set of 4 different sizes for a few quid from Ebay and if you are going to make a lot of pom poms I really recommend that you invest in a set!  You can even get ones that make heart shaped pom poms! Imagine how beautiful a heart pompom garland would be...

So the first thing you need to do is make a load of pom poms... (there are plenty of tutorials online if you have never actually made one before!)

a whole load of pom poms!

Do you see the cute rainbow coloured pompoms? Want to know how to make them?

Take your first colour and wrap around the pom pom maker (or your cardboard circles if you are using them). Keep the yarn evenly spaced.

Cut the yarn and take your next colour...

I used yellow next then mint green then lilac - can you see how the layers are building up nicely?

When you have used all the colours you want close up the two halves of the pom pom maker and clip together...

snip around the edge to reveal cute pastel rainbow stripes!

Finish off the pom pom as per maker instructions and there you go!

I am already thinking black and orange stripey ones for Halloween and red and white for Christmas!

Once you have your basket load of pom poms all you need to do is thread them on to a long length of yarn - mine are random colours and sizes but you can arrange yours in a pattern if you prefer.  You'll need a fairly long wool needle - I used a doll making needle - to get through the larger pom poms without pulling half the strands out! Space the pom poms out along your thread carefully (they should stay in place without any additional knots) then hang in a bright spot and enjoy!

pretty pastel rainbow pom pom

I love the way this garland brightens up my hallway - it gives it a kind of welcoming feel that has been missing since the Christmas tinsel came down. You can use these garlands anywhere though - pretty up a babies room (make sure it is hung well out of reach of young children and cats. You do not want to know how quickly one kitten can shred a batch of pom poms...) or use instead of bunting for parties.  How pretty would colour co-ordinated pom pom garlands look at a handmade wedding celebration?

If you need anymore inspiration once you have mastered/rediscovered the art of pom pom making check out my pinterest board...

I used Hayfield Bonus DK yarn supplied bt Abakhan for this project. My garland measures approximately 2m long and used less than half a ball of each of the 5 colours I chose so there is plenty left over for another project. Or more pom poms ;-)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Veggie Box - 9th April 2013

Four Seasons Foods took a little (well-earned) break over Easter - hence no veggie box post last week. This week's box is oh so colourful and inspired me to rustle up one of my favourite quick suppers!

This week we had...
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • broad beans
  • potatoes
  • red onions
  • cherry tomatoes
  • mange tout
  • bag of rocket/salad leaves
  • yellow pepper
  • grapes
  • bananas

I was not a huge fan of broad beans until someone showed me how to remove them from their pale jackets and reveal the beautiful tender bright green beans hiding inside!

Once you have discarded the tough outer skin the tender sweetness of the bean within is so much improved - now they are ready to eat as they are, add to salads,  mash into a paste/dip/pate or stir into a warm pasta salad like this...

Broad Bean, Pesto & Goats Cheese Pasta

First you need to prepare your broad beans

Pod them and add to a pan of boiling water. Allow them to simmer for a couple of minutes before draining and rinsing them in cold water. Then take each bean and pinch out the skin at the bottom and gently squeeze the beans out of their skin.

Cook your pasta according to instructions on the packet while you quarter a handful of cherry tomatoes and crumble some goats cheese.

When the pasta has cooked, drain it and stir in a good dollop of pesto (homemade or from a jar), add the beans, cherry tomatoes and a handful of rocket and give it another stir. Finally add the goats cheese which will melt slightly in your still warm pasta...

Serve. Eat. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Dick Whittington Farm Park

During the holidays we took a trip down the road to Little London to visit Dick Whittington Farm Park (formally known as the Mohair Centre)

It was packed (as we were expecting as it's school holidays) but luckily for us most of the visitors seemed happy to stay in the indoor playcenter with all it's climbing frames, big slides and ball pits rather than brave the freezing wind.
feeding the goats

Unfortunately we weren't able to bottle feed the lambs today (one of the reasons we went!) because they were having their inoculations but we did get a sneaky peak at them all huddled together in their warm and cosy stall...

There are plenty of other animals to see too including llamas, pigs, Shetland ponies, plenty of rare and unusual breeds of chickens and pheasants, even a huge turkey! They also have a couple of rescue owls and a reptile house with various lizards, tortoises, terrapins and fish and another small barn housing small furry creatures - guinea pigs, rabbits and rats.  I know they have animal 'discovery' sessions where various animals are brought out for children to handle or just get a closer look.

this little piggy...

amazing colours on this iguana


Roo in the reptile house admiring lizards

farm cat doing the most sensible thing on a cold day...

cute fluffy chicks!

As we headed back to the play barn so the kids could run around like loons while we drank coffee we were treated to this spectacle of a peacock showing off for the missus (who seemed pretty unimpressed to be fair) I was impressed though!

Hey lady Peahen! Look at me!

no, really, LOOK AT ME!

Has she gone? Oh. *tail down*

Even Roo was inspired to take a picture...

Roo. Doing what mummy does....

We spent another hour and a half inside - unusually for a tourist attraction like this they are quite happy for you to bring a packed lunch although there is a cafe selling hot food, sandwiches and drinks.

Dick Whittington Farm Park is all about the kids - it's the only place I have ever been too where the adult entry fee is less than the kids entry fee. Even better, until the end of June, every adult coming with a paying child gets in free!

If you are ever in the area I heartily recommend a visit - it's no major tourist attraction, all plastic and shiny, and a little off the beaten track but all the better for it!

Missing kitten...

This Easter has been properly tinged with sadness for us here at Mount Pleasant.

On the bright sunny morning of Saturday March 30th our kitten, DJ, went outside for a sniff about as he does each morning and never came back.

We have spent the past week phoning vets and the Cat's Protection League, leaving posters at local shops and on community pinboards, putting leaflets through letterboxes and knocking on doors asking people to check their sheds and garages and keep an eye out. I have posted pictures on facebook and twitter which have been shared extensively (thank you everyone) but so far have had no response.

Every morning for the past week I have woken up thinking that this is the day he will come home, and every evening I have gone to bed thinking 'tomorrow...'  I have even dreamt of him - seen him in the distance and called his name and he comes trotting up, tail all a-quiver and jumps up to my shoulder for a hug with a little squeaky miaow...

In ten short weeks he has firmly embedded himself within our family and into my heart (you can read about how DJ came into our life here). The last 7 days of not knowing have been torture.

DJ, wherever you are, we hope you are safe and happy. We would love you to come home xx


8th April 2013
10 hours after publishing this blog post, a friend got in touch with me via facebook to say a friend of hers had spotted a kitten identical to DJ that afternoon. We've studied the pictures and are convinced it is him! He is in another town 12 miles from home but, coincidentally 50 yards from our bike shop so we can only assume he managed to hitch a ride in the van somehow! 
Today I will mostly be walking around the area shaking a tub of kitty crunchies and hopefully tonight our little bundle of fur and claws will be back where he belongs - snuggled around my neck :-)
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