Sunday, 29 April 2012

50 things

The National Trust has launched a lovely campaign aimed at getting children outdoors and connecting with nature.  Its called 50 things to do before you are 11 & 3/4 and is full of lovely (mostly free) ideas such as eat an apple straight from the tree, hunt for bugs, skim a stone.  There are activities suitable for all ages a couple of the more adventurous ideas are canoe down a river and a high tech nature hunt using GPS.  I confess I have only done 47 myself but we have signed up for the the challenge and my young children have plenty of time to complete it.  Sign up for yourself here

The national trust also has some great ideas for entertaining kids on rainy days, of which we have had plenty lately.  I printed out this activity sheet to take on holiday with us last year.

Eat A Rainbow, week one

Vegetables of the week are... Radishes and Broccoli

I managed to pick up some mild radishes at the supermarket and we have been having them thinly sliced with hummus at lunch time.  My daughter loves hummus so this has gone down well.  She also commented that she liked the crunchy texture.  We have also tried a salad of salad potatoes, grilled haloumi cheese and radishes.  My daughter ate the cheese and not much else.

I made a quiche filling with broccoli and some left over salmon I had. Instead of pouring the mix into a pastry case I made crust-less quiche by using ramekins instead.  I thought the novelty of having your own individual pot for dinner may help - it didn't!  But I may try this idea again with a different vegetable.
We tired steamed broccoli with our Shepherds pie - not very original but by marketing it to my daughter as being part of our rainbow veg she ate one florette. 

Friday, 27 April 2012

Coconut Deep conditioner

This week has been so hectic and I have been tied up looking after poorly people left right and centre so it's been a quiet week on the blog.  I thought I would post this pampering tip and wish  you all have a lovely weekend.
Coconut oil has many uses not just in the kitchen but in beauty products as well.  One of it's simplest and oldest uses is as a deep conditioner for hair.

 Wash your hair with your normal shampoo and then take some coconut oil and rub it between your fingers until it melts (coconut oil is solid below 24'C) work the oil into the end of your hair and scalp.  Wrap your hair in a warm towel or use a shower cap if you prefer and leave the coconut oil on for a couple of hours.  If your hair is really dry you can leave it on overnight.  Rinse the oil out of your hair using your normal shampoo - don't use conditioner.  Dry and style your hair in the normal way and enjoy your lustrous locks.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Eat a Rainbow.

My two girls could not be more different when it comes to food.  My youngest will eat anything and everything and in vast quantities, she is delightful and very cheeky concerning food.  My eldest daughter has always been fussy, she eats very little of anything & drinks even less - to the point where she has become quite ill and driven my stress levels through the roof.  My daughter does posses a great enthusiasm for many things one of which is colour.  She will also show great excitement about anything I get excited about.  My birthday/Christmas present combined this year was a new sewing machine (having worn out my old one through shear over use) when it arrived I squealed and jumped about the house like a teenage girl.  My eldest daughter joined in dancing and screaming with joy & then said "what is in the box mummy?"  When we eventually calmed down enough to get it out of the box we spent nearly an hour together trying out all the new stitches.  My daughter kept saying I want to try this one next and do another buttonhole one again.  I truly cherish this great capacity of hers for joy and enthusiasm, it is so lovely.

So I have devised a healthy eating scheme for her and hope to harness her enthusiasm to get her to eat more vegetables.  I thought I would share it here as although not strictly thrifty I know children and vegetable consumption - lack of - is a hot topic.  As a pleasant and unexpected side effect of this scheme I have found by focusing on two vegetables a week I tend to have less left overs as these can be reused in the next meal, that's kind of thrifty.

You will note we have substituted indigo for a pink layer.  My daughters favourite colour is of course pink.
Each colour has two vegetables associated with them.  My daughter is only 4 and like I say not keen on eating full stop.  These vegetables are not wildly exotic or hard to come by & peppers feature twice.

Red - Tomatoes & Red Peppers
Pink - Radishes & Borlotti Beans
Orange - Butternut Squash & Carrots
Yellow - Sweetcorn & Yellow Peppers
Green - Broccoli & Spinach
Blue - Aubergine & Black Beans & Blue Viola Flowers 
(Can you think of any even vaguely blue vegetables? I  know two of these aren't even vegetables or blue but they are as close as I can find)
Purple - Beetroot & Red Cabbage

So each week we pick two vegetables from our rainbow &eat them two different ways.  The deal is my daughter has to try at least two mouthfuls before she decides she doesn't like it.  I had considered doing a sticker chart for this project but we are doing lots of sticker charts at the moment for other things & I think it would just be over kill.  Like I say it doesn't take much to get her enthusiastic about a project.  If you would like to do a chart free vegetable stickers are available from Ella's kitchen when you "become a friend" and a friend of mine tells me the governments change for life campaign also gives out free vegetable stickers.

Each week I will keep you posted on on what vegetables my daughter has chosen and what recipes I will be trying to entice her with.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Marbles and Multi tasking

I recently shared a post about a rather hectic day I had which culminated at tea time with me unloading the dishwasher, clearing away the children's tea, receiving my food order, trying to arrange a lift home for my stranded husband and dash up and down stairs to my children who although supposedly in bed for the night were concocting all sorts of mayhem in their bedroom.  Multitasking doesn't quite seem to cut it.

Anyway it put me in mind of two articles I had read on friends blogs lately.  Fiona from tea with a friend shared her experiences of multitasking with two small boys in tow and reflected on the following anecdote from a visitor to Corrie Ten Boom, Dutch Holocaust survivor and her carer Pam;

"They enjoyed a relaxed day together, which included plenty of activity but seemed peaceful and stress-free at the same time. When Joni and her friends commented on this, Pam explained "Corrie and I never do lots of things at once. We don't sit outside, read and enjoy chocolates. We space everything out so we can truly appreciate the individual pleasures of each activity." What a wonderful attitude to take to life!"

Read Fiona's full article here.

Another friend of mine has recently started a blog since her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  As you can imagine facing something like that makes you think about life a little more sharply.  Marion wrote about an activity her and Steve did with a jar of marbles which I found very touching.  Its a way of sorting priorities and is the sort of activity that counsellors love to use with their clients.  I am always amazed that by attaching an idea or concept to an object you can somehow say so much more about it and more easily too.  Each marble represented something in their life and was allotted a marble with a size that corresponded to its importance.  They found when they put all the little marbles into a jar there wasn't any room for the most important things - funny hey!  Read the article here. Marion is far better able to explain it all here.

I fear I may be hopelessly addicted to multitasking and it may be too late to change my ways but sometimes its good to raise your awareness and change your habits - if only for a little while.  So happy reading & take some time today to do just one thing & really savour the moment.  I might go and savour a cup of tea sans limescale without the TV on or facebook or any other distractions.

What will you do?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Use Up Old Crayons

I've seen this idea floating around in various places online and today I thought I'd give it a try.  It s a fun and very quick way to use up broken and worn down wax crayons.  The Easter holidays may be over but this craft is so quick you could do it after school.   

Place your broken and stubby crayons into a silicon cake mould.  You could do single colours but I thought it would be fun to mix them up.  Bake on a baking tray at 130'C for 5mins.

Allow to cool and then turn out.  So simple!

My girls think this is so fun.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Shabby Chic Cheap

I am very into the "shabby chic look" and today I found an outfit I would describe as shabby chic cheap ;)
I am really excited I chanced upon a beautiful dress in a charity shop and pulled together a whole outfit for £9.99.  The dress caught my eye in the window.  It is for me the very essence of spring.  light, floaty very feminine, perfect for layering and a delightful fresh green colour.  
I enquired about the dress in the window and asked the size.  It was a size 12, my heart sank a bit, too big.  I really liked it and asked if I could try it anyway.  the ladies in the charity shop made lots of comments about my petite frame and the impossibility of me buying the dress whilst I was in the changing room.  Charity shop staff are always as curious in their manners as the wares they sell.  It was a little large but has quite a lot of darts and gathers I had a hunch that if i belted it it could work.  So I bought the dress for £4.99 and set out to find a belt.  No joy in the charity shops but I found one in Peacocks for £5.  Total cost £9.99 and I love it!  The bust is a little large but I think I could wear it with a vest underneath and the top two button undone to embrace the blousy look.  
All this softened the blow when i got back the garage that was supposed to be putting a new tyre on the car, that we need two new tyres not one :(

Monday, 16 April 2012

Just a note

Dear Readers

Just a note to say everything I post on hear I have done myself - yes I really am that crazy!  If I come across a new idea I will try it out first before I recommend it to you you & I will only recommend things that work for me.

I make my recommendations in good faith and in a gesture of friendship but in trying my tips you do so at your own risk.

Make up

Make up is an expensive business but what it can do for our self esteem can be priceless.  My husband is now arguing that make up is in NO way essential but would it be acceptable to turn up to a job interview or wedding party without it?* So whilst the debate continues here these are some tips (first two courtesy of my Mum) about making it go further
  • Get an extra 6months out of your lipstick.  Once you have used the stick continue to apply lipstick using a lip brush.  You will be AMAZED at how much more lipstick there is down in the tube.
  • When you think you have used the last of your foundation cut the tube open and fully empty the contents into an airtight container - those little travel pots from the chemist are good or reuse an old cosmetics pot.  Again you will be amazed at how much there is in there.
  • The dried foundation that collects around the top of your foundation can be used as concealer and of course the colour will match your foundation perfectly. 
  • To make your mascara last longer avoiding pumping the brush in the tube, mascara dries out becuase of the air that is added when the brush is removed and replaced.  If you ever find your mascara has dired out and you need to use it desperatly add a drop or two of water to it.  This isn't really a great idea as putting water into or around your eyes can lead to eye infections so replace your mascara asap if you do this.  

This next one is not strictly make up but a beauty tip none the less.  Here is a sneaky tip I learnt the other day the active ingredient in most high end micro exfoliating creams and spot treatments is salicylic acid or BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid).  Salicylic acid is also the main ingredient in Asprin.  I kid you not I know I sound like a crazy woman now but this does work.  Crush a couple of plain Asprin and mix with a little water.  Apply this to your face and leave for 10mins, rub off to exfoliate as you rinse.  DON'T get this in your eyes.  Only do this once a week and as with those expensive "micro dermobrasions" kits use suncream after doing this as your skin will be more sensitive to sun. 
*After lenghty discussion I have now enlightened my husband that most of our female friends un-be-known to him are wearing make up & that many proffesionals he encounters are required to wear make up at work at least, he's so suprised.

Saturday, 14 April 2012


Today I have a great thrifty tip for you - how to make your own yogurt.  I started doing this when I was weaning my eldest daughter.  Yogurt is a great weaning food and both my girls loved it!  I was horrified at the poor quality of children's yogurt and fromage frais, most of them didn't even contain any milk and were full of rubbish.  So I was buying big pots of natural live yogurt, most of those available are also organic.  I don't have anything against this but it means they are expensive at £2 or more a pot and we were really going through a lot of yogurt.

So after some research and playing around I started making my own, it's very inexpensive and easy to do & I thought it would make a great youtube video.  So here it is my first youtube video!  I've just uploaded it & I'm quite pleased with it, its not nearly has horrendous as I imagined it would be. 

I only made one mistake which I noticed after I spent all evening uploading it.  At the end when I talk about adding the sugar I say 1-2 tablespoons and I should have said 1-2 teaspoons - oops!!

As you can see there is an initial outlay for the yogurt maker (Amazon charge £10), mine is by Easiyo.  After that all you'll need is milk powder, UHT milk (you can use fresh) and sugar.  For your first batch you will need some live yogurt, after that you can use your own yogurt.

Friday, 13 April 2012

One Yard Wonders -Laptop Cover

Do you remember in my post back in February on gadgets and making them pretty I mentioned making a laptop cover for my husband's work laptop.  Well he finally has his laptop & I have finished the cover.  It's custom sized to his laptop and quilted to protect it.  It closes with a flap and Velcro.  The fabric is perfect on for my husband who works in public transport industry and is something of a "bus nut". I based this project on a pattern from the book One Yard Wonders (which is a fantastic book if you want to get into sewing) but I added a lining rather than binding the seams as recommended in this pattern.


 If you are planning on making this project I would strongly recommend you invest in a walking foot for your sewing machine.  This is a foot used in sewing many layers of fabric (so quilting) and fabrics with a deep pile such as velvets.  The foot attaches to the needle shaft of your machine and has a set of feed dogs that work in conjunction with those of your machine to give even feeding.

These Photo's don't really do the lovely colours in this Echino Nico, Etsuko Furuya for Kokka fabric justice.  I am photographing it in very poor light.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Bath fizzers

Lately I have been reading up a lot about making your own cosmetics.  I love to use natural beauty products but find them so expensive.  I've been curious about making my own for some time.

I am trialing a few concoctions at the moment that I am very excited about and hope to share with you soon but last week to kick things off the girls and I made bath fizzers or bath bombs.  They were very simple to make and a lot of fun.  they also fizzed more than any shop bought bomb I've ever used.  We wrapped some in some cellophane and tie them with a pretty ribbon as an Easter gift for my Mum.

You will need

150g Bicarbonate of Soda (I know AGAIN)
75g Citric acid
25g Corn flour
Essential oils of you choice
Water or witch hazel
1tbsp dried flowers (optional, I used lavender flowers)
a spray bottle
silicon cake moulds

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together (don't stand over the bowl as the citric acid will make your eyes burn a bit).  Now add 10 to 15 drops of essential oil mix in using a metal spoon.  Take your water or witch hazel and put it into the spray bottle.  Spritz the mixture and mix until you have the consistency of damp sand.  The mixture should stay together when you compress it in your hand.  Now press the mixture into your moulds, the more you compact them the better the fizz.  This is where little hands are very useful.  Once the moulds were filled I used an empty drinks bottle to give them one last press this had the pleasant effect of stamping a sort of flower shape into the fizzer.  Leave to dry somewhere warm and dry overnight and then turn them out.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Kettle Descaler

Today has been one of "those days" to coin a phrase.  My youngest daughter (22months) was unwell and my 4year old had a flare up of her existing health problems.  Between the pair of them I have changed 10 stinky nappies & ran about like a lunatic.  Come bed time I was so tired, as were the girls.  It's never an easy time of day & then my husband rang to say he was stuck on the underground & and wouldn't make his train.  Furthermore he would arrive at our local station too late to catch any of the buses back here.  So I had to call upon the kindness of some dear friends to drive 9miles to the station at 8pm to collect him.  I'd just got my girls into bed and begun to tidy the house and was halfway through unloading the dishwasher - the girls tea still all over the tabe, messy worktops ect. - when I get a call from our food delivery service to say they were running early could they come now.  Fine I said, why not.  Multitasking doesn't seem to quite cover my evening. Anyway I've achieved very little today & feeling rather frustrated I decided to descale my kettle.  You may be wondering what on earth I was thinking but stress makes me want to clean but after today I didn't have the energy to tackle a large job.  Also very cheekily by descaling the kettle and taking it out of action for the evening this means when my husband eventually gets home & I get to sit down we'll have to use the coffee machine to make proper coffee.

I know spring cleaning month is over but I hope you will forgive me this little cleaning tip.
This is how I descale my kettle.  I half fill the kettle with 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water and bring it to the boil, then I leave the kettle overnight.  In the morning poor out the water and vinegar.  Then rinse out the kettle and fill it with water, bring it to the boil and discard the water.  Job done.

Now i'm off to put the coffee machine on and raid the childrens easter eggs - yum!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Happy Easter

Happy Easter readers

Apologies for the lack of posts this week it's been a busy one.  The girls and I have been busy with lots of lovely Easter crafts.  I had hoped to share these with you throughout the week but I'm sorry to say it just didn't happen.  So here is a round up of this weeks activities. 

Every year we make Easter bonnets not for competitions (I don't know of any) but just for fun and my girls always wear them to Church on Easter morning.  This year we found this pink hat in a charity shop.

We added these fabric flowers which cost £2 in total and I've plenty left over for another hat.  My eldest daughter is thrilled with it and I have to say I'm quite envious, tee he!

We've done lots of cooking too we made our own Hot Cross Buns and Blancmange rabbits using some sweet little vintage moulds I picked up at a vintage kitchen stall.  Blancmange is very easy to make it's just cornflour, milk, flavouring (such as nesquick or vanilla extract) and colour (optional).  You just bring it to the boil and then simmer for a minute and poor into your mould.  Let it cool at room temperature and then put it on the fridge to set fully.  My husband and youngest daughter love it, I confess I'm not a fan.

I found this tutorial via Pinterest (I joined pinterest last year and I LOVE it).  Dyeing eggs using old silk ties it is truly amazing and very simple.
Click here to read the article   
I scoured all my local charity shops for silk ties and only found one, sadly.  The pattern is a little big for an egg but the colours were strong and it worked well.

I wish you and all you love joy and peace this Easter.

Sunday, 1 April 2012


Sharing the true meaning of Easter with your children can be a challenge.  I stumbled across this article quite by accident only the other day and I think this idea is inspired.  A 12 day countdown to Easter using plastic eggs to hold a prop for children to discover something about Jesus.  It's suitable even for very little children and very inexpensive to make.  I rushed out and bought a big pack of plastic eggs that come apart in my local poundland.

Read the article and for yourselves here 

Easter part one

Hello Readers

As many of you are aware we are now in Holy Week.  As a Christian this week is hugely important to me - Easter is far more important in the Christian calendar than Christmas.  For many around me Easter is about bank holidays, fluffy bunnies and chocolate eggs.  I have tried very hard to find ways of building family traditions that help us to remember the true meaning of Easter and thought I would share some of them with you this week.

Today is Palm Sunday, the day that Christians remember Jesus's arrival in Jerusalem where crowds of excited people came to welcome Jesus & proclaim him the Son of God.

Today is the day we decorate the house for Easter, this may seem a strange thing to do as Churches are traditionally left bare and free from any decoration or embellishment during Holy Week.  However I find having decorations around for this week helps me to be mindful of the season.

I make an Easter tree using faux blossom branches and Pusey willow.   I stand the branches in a vase, or this year - a pretty jug.  I have in the past used a lovely terracotta pot and some florists foam.  Over the years I have collected cute little decorations to hang off the branches.  Some of them were Easter presents, and are therefore even more special.  I have in the past cut branches to hang decorations from but always felt uneasy about possibly damaging the tree cutting it in the spring, hence why I now use faux branches.

Last year I made a wreath using polystyrene as my base and small, brightly coloured eggs.  They were quite inexpensive but it did take a lot to cover the wreath.  I attached them with a hot glue gun.  It's lots of fun and very eye catching.  This project didn't turn out quite how I had hoped - it is a little over he top for my taste but like I say a lot of fun.  My two girls love it so it has made a reappearance this year ;)