Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Little puffy badges

I wasn't sure what else to call these. This one above was the first thing that I couldn't show you before as it was inside my sister-in-law's Xmas present. The other two are for my children on their coats. You may recognise the fabric for Povey's one from the top I made him a while back.

I made the badges by choosing an image from fabric and cutting it out very roughly. I cut a piece of felt the same size and then sewed the two together using a zigzag stitch. I sewed round about halfway and pushed in some stuffing before completing around the shape. I then zigzagged around three or four more times and cut it out close to the stitching. A safety pin sewn to the back turned it into a badge.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Xmas bags

Here are my family's presents all ready for them in fabric gift bags rather than wrapping paper. I originally planned to make these bags for everyone but only got the free time after Xmas so made them for my parents and brother and sister-in-law who we're not exchanging presents with until tomorrow.

You'll have to wait to see what I made for inside these ones, just in case my family spots my blog before we see them ;)

I found the tutorial to make the gift bags here. They are so easy to make and look and feel lovely. My aim is to do this for all presents throughout the year from now on. I may not manage it for every present due to lack of time but I'm going to try my best. I just think they're so much nicer than paper as they're like part of the present themselves. Of course they're more environmentally friendly too as they're reusable!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Salt dough

Xmas stuff is finally getting going in this house. I decided the children were old enough to attempt some salt dough decorations this year and found a recipe here*.

Salt Dough Christmas Ornaments

½ cup salt
1 cup flour
½ cup water
a few drops food colouring


1. Pre-heat oven to 120 degrees Celsius (250

Mix together, salt, flour, water, and food colouring until dough is formed.

Knead the dough on a floured surface until the mixture is elastic and smooth. If dough is too sticky, sprinkle with flour, continue to do so until stickiness is gone. Do not add too much flour, this will dry out the dough and will cause it to crack before you get a chance to bake it.

Roll out the dough to about ¼” thick with a rolling pin that has been dusted with flour.

Use cookie cutters to cut out whatever shapes you want.

6. Use a straw to cut out a little hole in each one... the straw will make perfect little circles.

Place all shapes onto an ungreased cookie sheet and place into the preheated oven.

8. Bake for 2 hours.

9. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

10. Paint however you like.. you can even add glitter. The food colouring means you don't have to paint them if you don't want to. Allow to dry.

11. Seal with a final coat of pva glue or varnish. This seals in the glitter and means they will last longer.

Thread ribbon through hole and tie in a knot to make a hanging loop.

We had lots of fun with this, and even made enough to give some as presents!

*as an aside I wrote this afew days ago, but was waiting on the photos. Before I got a chance to post it Poppy Mom posted the same recipe on her blog.... and she uses a straw to make the holes too!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Needle Case

I get so few chances to do any sewing, or even get my sewing bag out, as I can't do it when the kids are about. This means it's taking me a long time to get all my equipment in order and it's been bugging me for some time that I don't even have a simple needle case!

I finally managed to nab a copy of Sew Hip, a new sewing magazine, and lo and behold there were
two needle case patterns in there! I went for the pear one above but kind of jiggled and changed it a bit to suit some cute apples fabric I bought a few months ago.

Its actually a bit of a medley of the two patterns as the main part of the cover is material reinforced with card. I've never used embroidery thread in this way before and love the fact that you can be fairly haphazard with your stitching and it actually looks better for it! That was just as well as the added card made it tough to sew through! The centre of the apple is a scrap of red corduroy I found. Inside it has four leaves of red felt with all my needles now safely stowed away rather than rattling around my sewing bag! Now I just need to make a pin cushion...

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

House for sale!

We have lived in this house in Guildford for 7 years now and love it very much. Since we've been here we have married and had two children. Over the years we have turned it from a run-down house in need of update and repair, to a warm, colourful family home. It's not been easy; we have redecorated every part of this house! We've changed every floor and painted every room, the wiring and plumbing has all had to be updated and the garden has been given decking and a patio. We've put in a new kitchen and only this year we have put in a new bathroom.

We finally have the house just as we like it and could have seen ourselves living here for much longer.... if we didn't need to move to be closer to our daughter's school and my parents in law! It's just so typical that just as we've finished we have to go and start again... ah such is life!
We have luckily already found a house in the right area and now need to sell this place asap, but we don't really want to get estate agents involved... which is why I'm writing about it on here.

Are you (or anyone you know) looking for a 3 bedroomed house in North Guildford?
We're not using estate agents and we can put through a very quick sale. We're also open to negotiations so you never know you could grab a bargain ;) We've put together a website on the house (complete with floorplans!) which you can reach by clicking here. Please pass it on if you know anyone looking in this area, thanks :)

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Red and Aqua Swap

After reading about it in Apron Thrift Girl's blog I decided to sign up for her Aqua and Red swap, despite never having taken part in a swap before! I was a little nervous as I wasn't sure what to send, but luckily there was a budget ( $20... around £11ish) and my lovely swap partner, Maria, had a blog so I was able to get an idea of what she would like. I was quite proud of myself as I managed to get my parcel all bought/made and wrapped up in good time and sent it off in the post hoping that it wouldn't go missing.

A couple of days later I came back from a driving lesson to find my PIL and my children all eyeing up the lovely big box that had arrived for me from my swap partner. I agreed with Papaya that she could
help me unwrap it... which of course meant she did most of the unwrapping! We opened up the box to find lots of little parcels inside wrapped up in paper with little shoes all over it.

I just have to do a close up of that paper as anyone who knows me will realise just how perfect it is ;)

I negotiated with Papaya that she could have some of the maltesers if she let me do most of the unwrapping of the little packets. Together we got all the paper off to find this lovely collection of things... how lucky am I?! They're all so beautiful and thoughtful and perfect for me! I told Maria that I like 1950's and retro things and I feel she really captured the 1950's style with it all.

The two pots are a tea light holder and a ramekin containing little cooking supplies.

The little hand-sewn personalised cover on the notebook is just gorgeous!

I think my favourite though was the handbag, which is so detailed and well-made. I haven't really been able to capture how beautiful it is in this photograph.

I love the other little sewn bags too! She made me a drawstring bag, a plastic bag holder and a tissue packet cover, all in suitably retro fabrics.

What Maria didn't know was that the drawstring bag is the same fabric as my ironing board cover! When we move house I plan on using the spare room as a sewing room. I can't wait to have a proper space to sew, it will enable me to do so much more! At the moment I can only sew when the children are in bed, and then I have to get everything like the sewing machine out first. I will use those bags in there and they will all have pride of place. My ironing board will be able to stay set up permanently in there and I plan to use the drawstring bag and the gingham tube to hold some of my sewing supplies!

I'll definitely be doing another swap! Thank you so much Maria, I feel very lucky!

Monday, 10 November 2008


We have a fairly bad record when it comes to double booking things, so for a long time I've wanted some blackboards up in the kitchen so that we can all see at a glance what's happening in the week ahead. I've been toying with various ideas like painting chopping boards to hang up or using small children's slates as we're moving soon and I wanted to be able to take it with us. Then the other day it suddenly occurred to me.... why not just paint it on the wall and then we'll have the paint so can always paint it on the wall again in the new place!

I used some blackboard paint I found in B&Q by a company called International, which has the added bonus of also being magnetic!!

The comedian being super tall gave me a hand masking the area off and then I just used a little roller to apply around 5 coats with about an hours drying time between each one. Next time I may do more coats as whilst it was good enough to write on after two coats the more coats there were made a difference to how magnetic it was. The paint did really well considering that wall is far from smooth. The days have been written on using a chunky chalk pen so can be wiped off if the new owners want to use the board another way.... or if they really don't like them they can always paint over them. I'm already finding it super useful and have plans to paint blackboards all over the place in the new house; a days one in the hallway, a shopping list one in the kitchen and one in the playroom for the kids to draw on!

Friday, 31 October 2008


I have been trying to be more frugal (especially now we have a kid at private school!) and so I was determined to use every single bit of our pumpkin this year! Once we'd carved the face ready to greet the Trick or Treaters on the doorstep (three lots so far... a record!) I saved the flesh and seeds.

The flesh was used to make Pumpkin Swirl Brownies, as suggested by Angel Funk, which were tasty if a little dry for my liking...although that may be because I used gluten-free flour and dairy-free spread to make them?

The seeds I dubiously sifted out, washed and boiled for ten minutes before drying them off, sprinkling them with oil, cinnamon, sugar and a little salt and roasting them in the oven. I say dubiously because I've never actually tried pumpkin seeds and couldn't imagine what they'd taste like. The answer was that they were delicious!

I've been chomping on these beauties all day and may have to lock the rest away to give anyone else a chance of trying them. Apparently they're good for me too ;)

Friday, 17 October 2008

Recycled Top

I've had this lovely monkey circles fabric for while, just waiting for me to come up with something to do with it. I tell you my drawers are stuffed with little fat quarters of interesting fabric!

Today I spotted a stripy-sleeved top for 50p in a charity shop, what Americans call a thrift store, (which sounds nicer actually... maybe I'll use that term from now on?!) and knew I had a winner! With a square cut out of an old t-shirt of the Comedian's in-between I have a perfect top for Povey!

By the way, the same thrift store spree (you know... that does sound better!) produced a sweet red top for me and this lovely flowery thing for Papaya, which is actually meant to be a dress for an 18 month old but paired with jeans on a four year old makes a perfect gypsy, flouncy top.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Beef Mexicano

I had no idea when I first started this blog that I'd be posting so many recipes! I guess it just shows how important food is to me and my family. I love cooking and more to the point I love eating!

This is another tried and tested family favourite. I don't know why it's called Beef Mexicano since there doesn't seem to be anything Mexican about the final flavour. The ingredients for this one look weird but trust me the final result is nothing like you would expect from that combination. You check this casserole every 20 minutes or so and the first few times you'll be stirring it wondering how on earth it is ever going to taste good. Then suddenly it changes, something miraculous happens and the ingredients combine. The result is a rich tomatoey stew with a subtle sweetness and beef that just falls apart. The carrots are a family addition to the recipe as we all love them and I always try to add extra veg to things. The recipe works just as well without them if you would prefer.

Beef Mexicano

500g Stewing Steak (diced)
2 Tins Chopped Tomatoes
1 large Onion (chopped)
2 cloves Garlic (crushed)
6 Carrots (peeled and cut into rounds)
2 tablespoons English Mustard
2 tablespoons Jam (any type)
2 tablespoons Branston Pickle


1. Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees Celsius (gas mark 3).

2. Fry onions, garlic and carrots in a saucepan until softened.

3. Add beef and brown.

4. Add tin of tomatoes and the mustard, cook for 1 minute.

5. Add jam and pickle, transfer to casserole dish.

6. Cook for 2 hours (or more this recipe tastes better the longer it's left) stirring every 20/30 minutes.

I served this up at the weekend with new potatoes but it's great with jacket potatoes or rice too. As with any tomato-based dish it tastes even better the next day!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Avocado Goodness

The original recipe for this came from a pregnancy book, although i'm ashamed to say I can't remember which one..... maybe Gowri Motha? Anyway it became a firm favourite in pregnancy and has continued to be my back-up speedy lunch solver. As with most of my favourite recipes I don't actually have this written down anywhere (who knows what happened to that pregnancy book!) but just throw it together from memory when I have a need. It's a very handy and speedy little concoction that works just as well as a dip with nachos as it does spread inside a pitta bread or spooned into a jacket potato.

Avocado Filling


1 avocado, peeled, stoned and mashed
An equal amount of cheese (any type really, I'm going with sheep's cheese mostly these days)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
A large dash of Tabasco


  1. Just mash everything together!

Povey loves this too (he likes to scoop it up with pitta) perhaps because I ate SOOOO much of it when pregnant with him ;)

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Top for Dolly

As I said before I'm trying to slowly build up Dolly's wardrobe. She's a Lilydoll, which unfortunatly aren't being made any more so clothes are hard to find and expensive. I figured she needed a basic top to go with the new skirt..... and all the others I'll be making for her and Papaya hehe! I bought some new ribbon the other day!

No pattern here, I just took two squares of white cotton, cut out two squares from them to turn them into a T shape and form the sleeves and then sewed it up and hemmed all the edges. The T shape gave it a bit of a boat-neck.

I added some iron-on mini studs I got free with some jeans once.

I made the sleeves too long and thin but they just about fit and I'll remember that for next time, a black top next I think :)

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Our Favourite Roast Lamb

This is our family's absolute favourite way to have roast lamb. I have no idea where this recipe came from originally, only that it was my favourite right from a child. I don't even have it written down anywhere (well until now!) I just know it all off by heart. What I love about this meal is that you cook the meat, veg and gravy altogether in one fell swoop! It's delicious with roast or new potatoes.

Glazed Lamb with bacon

Serves around 4
Takes 30 minutes to prepare, 2 hours to cook

Leg of lamb
Fresh rosemary
Two packs of smoked bacon
Jar of apricot jam
1 onion (chopped)
Bag of carrots (peeled and chopped into rounds)
Chicory (chopped finely)
1 pint stock (lamb or vegetable)


1. Fry up the onion, chicory and carrots together until softened. Put them into a large deep metal baking tray and pour the stock over them.

2. Sit the leg of lamb on top of them. Cut slits all the way along the leg of lamb horizontally and put a sprig of rosemary and a slice of bacon into each slit.

3. Cover the whole leg with the rest of the bacon, cover the whole tray with tinfoil and pop in a preheated oven (180) for 1 hour.

4. After an hour remove the foil and cover the whole leg (over the bacon) with pretty much all of the jar of jam. Pop back into the oven for another hour (or so, it may take less time), stirring the vegetables beneath occasionally.

The bacon on top will turn black, don't worry this is what is meant to happen! The black crispy bits are the best bits :P When you come to serve, lift the lamb out of the pan onto a serving plate, let it rest for 15 minutes or so and then lift off the crispy bacon to carve the lamb beneath. Lift out the vegetables with a slotted spoon and pour the stock into a jug to be the gravy.

It's so good that I totally failed to get a photo of it all cooked before it got eaten! Maybe I can slot one in later as we have this for Sunday lunch quite often. Yum yum!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Pyjamas for Povey

Finally! I should really have made these instead of the pink ones as he had a far greater need for pyjamas than Papaya did.... all done now though. This batik material was far nicer to work with than the frustratingly fine pink stars material. I added poppers rather than buttons for Povey in the hope he'd be able to do them himself, but forgot they were the poppers I usually use for cloth nappies so are therefore very tough for little fingers!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Recycled Scarf

I bought a scarf from Topshop years ago because I loved the fabric but never really knew what to do with it. Then thanks to SouleMama I spotted the Lazy Days Skirt from Oliver + S and was excited to measure the scarf and find it was exactly the right length to make a skirt for Papaya!

I really like this pattern as it makes a nice full skirt. Unfortunately the edges of the scarf were already hemmed so I didn't need to use a ribbon, but you can bet I'll be sewing loads of these little skirts, complete with ribbon hem, from now on! Obviously her dolly gets a skirt too! If I've got enough material I try to make a matching item for dolly as it barely takes any extra time and it's building a nice little wardrobe for her.

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