Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Baby Cake.

Yesterday I had an overwhelming urge to start cooking nutritious and comforting food to fill my freezer with in readiness for the chaos that is a new-born baby & to make baby cake.  "What on earth is baby cake?" You ask.  Baby cake is something truly magical I discover after having my second child.  It is a wonderful filling, comforting and sustaining cake that is easy to eat and exactly what you feel like eating in those first few sleep deprived, sore, euphoric days after having a baby.  My husband also decided it was exactly what he wanted to eat as well so I will be making 2 this time around.  
If you are expecting or know someone who is, make this cake!  It can be made in advance and frozen (thank goodness) and I have successfully made a gluten free version by substituting Doves Farms plain gluten free flour.

For the cake;
2 apples, peeled and diced
185g dates
125g butter
250g caster sugar
225g plain flour (or your gluten free substitute)
1 egg, beaten
1tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1tsp Vanilla essence
For the topping;
60g sugar
60g butter
70g desiccated coconut
2.5tsp milk

Soak the dates and bicarbonate of soda in a cup of water for 1hour.  Preheat the oven to 180'C (gas 4).  Cream together the butter and sugar and add the beaten egg.  Fold in the flour, vanilla essence and diced apple.  Mix and add the dates and give a final mix.  Pour into a 22cm spring form tin or greased and lined loaf tin.  (I like using a loaf tin because it’s easier to slice and eat with a new-born in your arms).
Bake for 40 minutes.  Combine the topping ingredients in a small saucepan stir continuously until the sugar has melted.  Pour over your cake and bake for another 10-20mins.  If your cake is getting a little too brown on top near the end of the cooking time cover loosely with a little tin foil.

Recipe from The Resourceful Mum’s Handbook.  I don’t know how well this recipe will translate to those of you reading this around the world.  If you have any questions about ingredients or measures just post a question below and I shall endeavour to answer to the best of my knowledge.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Bambury Cross Cardigan

My latest sewing adventure was this charming cardigan.  Its a new pattern available through etsy and I was fortunate enough to win a copy!

I fell in love with this pattern not only because its cute but because its thrifty too.  Its made using an adults jumper.  My selected jumper (well cardigan actually) was a hideous charity shop find by posh label Racing Green.  It was in great condition and a luxurious blend of silk and cashmere.  I knew it had potential and I snapped it up for £5.95. 

well here it is ta dah!  One baby cashmere cardigan for the princely sum of £5.95.

 If you would like to know more about this piece and drool a little further I've been a bit sneaky and written it up more fully over on my new blog dedicated exclusively to sewing!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Vintage nursery

I shared with you my exciting utility find for the nursery.  Well now it's time for the before and after.  Here it is after sanding priming and painting.  I'm not normally a fan of gloss paint (or bright colours) but for this piece it was right.

This is the wallpaper we've chosen for the nursery.  A beautiful vintage sail boat design by Cath Kidston in lovely bright colours that I think will really stimulate a small child.

image source
The theme is very vintage as you can probably tell.  I've been collecting vintage inspired toys and bits and pieces to decorate the room.  I saw some charming wooden blocks in a lovely vintage shop when we were on holiday.  They were beautifully aged and played with.   

antique wooden blocks via etsy
 I thought it would be lovely to write out our wee boys name in blocks but as they were priced per block this would have been expensive.  Undeterred (as always) I found some very similar wooden blocks in my local poundland of all places.  In order to achieve that lovely distressed vintage look I was after I put the blocks in a net and let my children kick them around the patio for an afternoon.  Then I set them about rubbing the paint off them on the paving, they were most bemused by this but had a lot of fun doing so.

The sweet little trunk (our little man's brief case as we jokingly refer to it) that you can see on top of the drawers was kindly given to us by a friend who heard about my furniture find.  It sets it off perfectly I think.
So the nursery is starting to come together and other than the wallpaper (which we are using on just one wall but is my one extravagance) it's all very thrifty, naturally ;)  

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Storing Apples

I was hoping to post this marvellously thrifty idea last year however, due to the horrible weather in the UK last summer the apple harvest was so poor I didn't have any apples to store.  This year however there is a bumper crop.  The orchards around here, of which there are so many, are literally dripping with fruit and it makes my heart very happy to see.

I build up my apple store in September or October of each year and it keeps us in apples until Christmas, so it's really worth doing. 
To build your own apple store you will need some shallow crates or boxes (I use blue plastic crates that the stall holders at our local market use and give away for free), newspaper and apples suitable for storing.  "What apples are suitable for storing?" you ask.  Generally the crisper varieties work best, apples with softer or fluffier flesh don't, in my experience, store well.  Choose apples that are unblemished for your store, no worm holes or bruises.

Once you have picked your apples select those you want to store and wash them well, I had a little helper as you an see.

 Lay them out  in a single layer to dry.  Wait until they are well and truly dry (the slightest bit of moisture could ruin your whole store so DRY apples are the key).  You may need to turn them to get all the water out of their dimples.  Once your apples are really dry take your newspaper open it out flat and tear or cut it in half so you have single pages.  Wrap you apples individually and lay them in a SINGLE layer in your trays or boxes - that part is also very important for a successful apple store.

Here is how mine looks, for reference.  Keep filling trays until you think you have stored enough.  The reason why I like these blue trays so much is because the stack but still allow air flow.  They may not be pretty but they work well. Oh and did I mention they are free ;)

Store your apples in a cool dark(ish) place such as a shed or garage.  Check your store regularly and remove any soft or rotting apples, sometimes a bruised one slips through.  Don't panic as long as you take it out as soon as you notice it it shouldn't do too much damage  Another thing that can ruin your apple store is mice, beware!  

Happy autumn everyone!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Utility Furniture

Hello all, I know its been AGES.  I felt a bit lost with what direction I should take this blog in and I started working on a new project but then I fell pregnant, which was very exciting.  Then I got really ill and 7months later here we are.  I haven't had a spare ounce of energy for quite some time but today something happened that was so exciting and I just had to share.

As you've probably gathered from programs such as Kirsty Allsop's Fill your House for Free up-cycling furniture is very hip right now.  If I haven't mentioned it before I am a HUGE Kirsty fan, not because I find her ideas particularly new or revolutionary but because she has single handedly made EVERYTHING I love very cool.  Instead of being the strange woman who sews, makes jam, trawls skips for furniture, delights in all things old and making them new again and has an extensive doily collection I am suddenly on trend.  This is a first for me.  Don't worry I won't let it go to my head, I have no illusions that this will  last no longer than 15 mins and I will not only be uncool again but very out of fashion.

Anyway onto what excited me today.  We are in the process of redecorating the nursery and I have been looking for quite some time for a chest of drawers for all those teeny-tiny baby clothes and hats and booties etc.  I knew I wanted to paint the drawers a striking pillar box red so something second hand would be perfect.  I also knew I wanted a very vintage/retro feel for this room.  So I visited our local Emmaus furniture project (they are a great charity - check them out).  Amazingly even they had very few chests of drawers and nothing that fitted my needs but then I saw this....

It seemed to be the right era and in need of some TLC.  By this time my 3 year old was getting very... well like a 3 year old who'd spent the morning in a doctors waiting room and then who's mother had taken her to a giant furniture shop.  I rather rashly decided I'd make it work and I'd take it home with me (it didn't fit in the car with the car seats in so I agreed to go back later and get it).  When I got home I worried it was the wrong thing and I should have held out for a chest of drawers.  Anyway it arrived today and looking at it again the thought occurred to me that it might be utility furniture.

Utility furniture was produced in the UK during the second world war until 1952.  It was a Government scheme designed to address the big demand for new furniture as many people were bombed out of their homes and the number of couples getting married, needing to set up home during this period.  Such families were given ration coupons and could buy a limited number of items of furniture from the scheme.  Some items were not of great quality however this certainly wasn't always the case.

If you want to know if an item is utility look for this mark stamped onto the wood...

 As I pulled out the second drawer a scrap of paper caught my eye.  I love the little clues to a furniture's past you get with second hand furniture.  I once found a collection of vintage seaside postcards in an old wardrobe.  Anyway my hopes of this piece being utility wear skyrocketed when he scrap of paper turned out the be a page from a ration book, thrilling! And sure enough, it's stamped utility wear.

As if this wasn't exciting enough there is a lovely coincidence to this tale.  When my parents were expecting me and decorating my nursery, they were also looking for a useful set of drawers.  They struck upon a lovely piece with two cupboards at either end (my first wardrobe), 4 drawers and a tiled top.  You guessed it folks it was utility furniture and is now my kitchen sideboard!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Oven Cleaning Tips.

We have had a few sunny days lately and & the bulbs are starting to appear in the garden, you can almost hear the earth groaning on its axis and know that spring will soon be here.  I have been itching to get stuck into my spring cleaning but I am stalling myself because I just know the months of mud and mildew are not over yet & its probably a little too soon.

So I satisfied my urge to deep clean by giving my oven a lovely clean.  My now gleaming oven makes me smile every time I open it - I am not embarrassed to tell you.  You may remember the post I did last year about cleaning your oven with bicarbonate of soda and water.  Well I have been using this method very successfully for about a year now & it's working well.  The thing I love most about it is that's its easy, chemical free and very inexpensive to do.

In essence I sprinkle the inside of my oven with bicarb in the evening & then spray it with water and leave over night - get the full instructions (and some other handy kitchen cleaning tips) here.  The next day I scoop out all the gunk that has lifted of the bottom of my oven and then rinse it well with mild soapy water.  I have found you need to rinse thoroughly to remove all the bicarb otherwise you get a slight residue when you next use your oven.

The inside of my oven is now clean so I turn my attentions to the glass. I remove the glass from the door and using bicarb, water, a scouring pad & some elbow grease I scrub the glass of my oven.  If the glass is especially mucky I make a bicarb and water paste which I smear onto the glass and leave overnight.  To give it extra sparkle once I have removed all the muck I spray with a little white vinegar and polish to a nice shine.

The thing I always struggle to get clean are the oven racks.  They are rather fiddly and time consuming to clean in my experience.  The other day it occurred to me that these could go through the dishwasher (I am still new to dishwashers - do forgive me if this is very obvious to you all).  I put my oven racks into the dishwasher with my dishes on a normal cycle.  They came out looking better than I have seen them looking in a while & further more the rest of the grime came off so easily with just a sponge!  they are now shiny and like new - as is the rest of my oven.

Reading my previous post about how despairing I was about the state of my oven and conventional oven cleaners I am so glad I found the bicarb method my oven looks 100x better than it did this time last year - & so thrifty too ;)

Saturday, 9 March 2013


A bit of make do and mend for you today.  My girls have gone through the knees (& crotch) of several pairs of tights lately & as my girls rarely wear trousers they need lots of pairs of tights.  Just like ladies hosiery girls tights are not cheap on a cost per wear basis.  So I have been mending them using a technique called darning. Darning can be used to repair any hole in knitted fabric.

Mary Poppins darning a sock (excuse the subtitiles)
 It’s very easy - the hardest thing about it is finding darning wool to do the job.  After hunting high and low locally for some I looked online and found e-bay was about the only place where you can buy it.  It starts from as little as 99p.  You will also need a darning needle and either a darning mushroom or if you don't have one a small ball or even a sturdy drinking tumbler - anything with a curved edge - to support the hole whilst you work.

Here is how to darn.  Turn you item inside out and place your curved object inside the garment under the hole.  Starting about 1cm in from the hole make a line of vertical running stitches beginning 1cm below the hole and extend to 1cm above the hole.  Repeat this step going up and down as in the diagram below making rows of vertical stitches as close to each other as possible.  When covering the hole make one long stitch to cover the hole and then continue 1cm below and 1cm below the hole, as before.
Image via martha Stewart - see below for link
Now repeat the above taking stitches horizontally and weaving them in and out of the vertical stiches you have just made.

Image via martha Stewart - see below for link
These images were taken from the Martha Stewart website - read the full article here for more tips on repairing knitwear.