Monday, 24 November 2014

Operation 'Get Healthy'

This weekend I've been feeling rubbish. I woke up with a stinking cold on Friday morning and I've got all sorts of random aches and pains. I didn't make things better for myself by having far too many glasses of prosecco with friends on Saturday night. Yesterday was largely spent feeling sorry for myself. I slept until midday and didn't get out of my pyjamas all day. Thank goodness for lovely understanding husbands!!

Last night culminated in this, the ultimate comfort food following a hangover (albeit I had it for tea, not breakfast!)

Not too unhealthy. The bacon was grilled, the hash browns oven baked and the eggs fried in the tiniest amount of coconut oil. But at the same time, there isn't much on that plate that's feeding my body, helping my poor damaged coeliac guts to heal and my body to get better.

I followed up with some pineapple and cherries, but still, if I want to feel better, I need to eat better.

So, this morning, this happened.

That's a much better start to the day - all juiced up and then made into a smoothie with ice and the avocado.

It's the Juice Master's Turbo Express smoothie and I plan on starting the day with it for at least the next 7 days. I'm eating nothing but fresh, raw fruit and veg for breakfast and lunch, whether whole or in juices/smoothies and then we will eat 'clean' healthy meals in the evenings, based on meat and vegetables, no grains, no potatoes, nothing to slow our systems down. We will reassess after a week and see how to go on from there. I say 'We' because they hubby's in on it too.

I'm hopeful that after a week of healthy eating with no dairy, grains or alcohol, I'll feel the benefits enough to be motivated to continue. I'll let you know in a week! For now, back to my smoothie ......

Fancy following my progress? I'll be posting my juices, smoothies and meals over on my Instagram feed. Come and follow me! @Wannyrow


Sunday, 9 November 2014

My Sunday Photo

Time for this week's Silent Sunday photo. We spent this weekend in Loughborough with good friends. We had a great time eating, drinking, chatting and laughing, while our combined 6 daughters played happily.

On our way home today, we stopped at the steam railway at Quorn. It's such a lovely railway and the station is kept beautifully, just as it would have looked in the 1940's. Evie and I had a lovely time exploring, while a Daddy and Lola stayed in the car (Lola was asleep and Daddy had mild concussion after whacking his head on a low beam the day before!)

Definitely worth a little trip if you're in the area - the cafe was so lovely and atmospheric. Just like a step back in time!



Thursday, 6 November 2014

Easy Button Art

Back in the summer, I was lucky enough to be invited by Fantastic Ribbons to become part of their 'craft posse' that tests and reviews their products for them. I jumped at the chance to choose some lovely buttons and tiny ric-rac from their range, and started planning what I could make with them.

We had recently watched the film UP, which is such a lovely film, and when I tipped the buttons out over the table to have a look at them, they reminded me of the balloons in the film.
So, I googled for an image to copy, and came up with this:

I drew each element of the house out on the smooth side of bondaweb, back to front (mirror image). I cut roughly around each piece, leaving a few millimetres all around the end shape, and then ironed each little piece on to the back of various scraps of fabric. Once ironed on, you can cut around the shapes easily and the bondaweb stops the fabric from fraying.

Next is my favourite bit. It's like Fuzzy Felt for grown ups! Find some fabric the right size for your frame, peel the paper backing off each little fabric 'jigsaw' piece and lay them on the fabric, to form your picture. Once you've got all the pieces laid out how you want them, iron them on. The glue on the back of the fabric will melt and stick them all down. Genius!

I then did a little of free-motion machine embroidery around the outlines. There are good tutorials on the web on how to do this (I like the one by Urban Threads, here) but essentially, you just lower your feed dogs, change to a free-motion embroidery foot (or remove the foot all together) and off you go. Without the feed dogs, you can move the fabric in whichever way you choose and it's just like drawing, with your machine. Considering I don't really like drawing, and am quite frankly rubbish at it, I love free-motion embroidery. It's so much fun and looks so effective.

I didn't want the picture to be all machine stitched though, so I took some sparkly embroidery thread and hand stitched the windows. I then used a disappearing fabric pen and wrote 'Adventure is out there' in deliberately script-y writing. I hand embroidered over my outline using back stitch, and then sprayed the fabric with water, to erase the pen marks.

What I should have done next, and now need to go back and fix, is machine stitch straight lines from the chimney, to where the 'balloons' would go, to make the strings for the balloons. I don't know how I didn't realise I'd forgotten to do this, until after I'd framed the picture!

Finally, the really fun bit. I had Evie sit with me, playing with the buttons and choosing which one came next, as I sewed each one on with silver sparkly thread. I sewed the buttons close together, so that they would overlap slightly and look like the bunch of balloons used to fly the house in the film.

Finally I found some card, the right size for the frame, and stretched the fabric over it, taping it down with parcel tape on the back. I used a box frame from IKEA, so that there would be space for the buttons, without squashing them.

What do you think? What would you do with a bag of pretty buttons?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

October in Pictures

Ok, I'm a bit late, but I thought I'd have a little round up of October, via the photographs on my phone. You'll have noticed that I don't often post photographs of my girls on the world wide web, especially not without having their faces obscured. This month, it seems to have left my photo roll a bit sparse. Either that, or we just didn't do much in October!
I've been busily turning Kitschy Coo's Skater Dress pattern in to princess dresses. I just love these. I spent a very pleasant evening drawing out lots of variations, including superhero versions, and can't wait to make them all. My girls inevitably love Disney princesses. You just can't avoid it, however much you try, but I can't bear to see them running around in those horrible, scratchy, polyester versions that you see every other four year old wearing. They are just as happy in these lovely soft jersey versions. In fact, they love them because I have made them (they are so proud when I have made them something, and tell everyone they see - something I am enjoying every minute of, as I imagine it won't always be the case!) I am happier with these too, because they last better, wash easier, and they can wear them to the supermarket without looking silly!!
I've also been making lots and lots of cushions, using TIDNY colouring book fabric from IKEA. I've been selling these through my Facebook shop and they are really popular. I knew that they were a good idea and would be popular, but I had no idea how much! I ended up buying an entire bolt of the fabric, and I am so glad that I did, because it seems to be out of stock everywhere now. I am just waiting for a break in the cushion making, so that I can make the girls dresses out of it - I think it would be so cool for them to be able to colour in their own dresses!
I have to make up for not publishing photographs of my girls by including pictures of my ridiculously cute cat at every opportunity. Here she is being very helpful while I cut fabric!
I haven't done much baking this month. Partly because we are trying to eat more healthily, but mostly due to the lost mojo that I have previously mentioned. But this almond banana loaf was lovely (GF of course).
It was our 5 year wedding anniversary in October and having never left our children with anyone overnight, and being badly in need of a full night's sleep, we treated ourselves to a night in a spa hotel. I will review the hotel in another post, but enough to say now that it was amazing and catered to my diet requirements really well - even producing a gluten free scone!
I had a really proud mum moment a few weeks ago when, on the way home from nursery, Evie asked if we could 'make her jeans prettier'. Oh my gosh, she was asking to customise her clothes. I was so pleased. So as soon as we got home, I pulled out some odds and ends of lace, some sequins and my glue gun, and we customised her jeans. It was so much fun, she loved it and her jeans look really cool. She was so proud of them too.
Lola loves her big sister so much, she wants to do and wear everything Evie does, so I had to make her a princess skater too. This is Aurora, from Sleeping Beauty.
Our day at the spa allowed me to read more of a book than I have in the last year. I read at least a chapter!!!
While I haven't been baking as such, I have been trying other things in the kitchen. The homemade marshmallows that I wrote about here were delicious. I've been trying out gluten free packet mixes too. My review of the chocolate cupcakes from Helen's foods is coming soon.
This month I had my first ever craft stall. It was a really fun day and I've got another couple booked in the run up to Christmas. I love making gift type items and hopefully other people will love what I make, enough to buy them!
So that was our October. Quite nice and chilled with lots of time at home crafting and pottering in the kitchen. November and December will be busy. We've got lots of weekends away planned, Lola's birthday, and of course Christmas, so it will be hectic. I can't wait!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

My Sunday Photo

I've decided to join in with the Sunday Photo linky over at One Dad 3 Girls.  The idea is to post a photo, just one, that sums up your Sunday.  

Today we went to London, to see the poppies at the Tower of London, and then a visit to the Science Museum.   It was extremely wet. This pretty much sums up our day:

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Super Squidgy Mega Marshmallows!

Since becoming a gluten free family, a failsafe standby treat in this house has been rice crispy squares.  Not very imaginative for a dedicated baker I know, but I seem to have lost my baking mojo somewhat since going GF.  Previously, no trip away in the caravan would have been complete without a tin of goodies - homemade cakes, bread etc.

My failsafe Gluten Free goodies of chocolate macarons and pistachio fudge are always welcome, but seem a bit rich to be snuck in to the picnic basket!  So, I've been merrily making rice crispy cakes, by melting marshmallows and butter together, adding gluten free rice crispies and whatever random sweets are lying around from party bags etc.  The bright nuggets of crushed up sweets (our favourites are jelly beans) are little explosions of flavour and look like little specks of confetti in the white sticky squares.  I even made a 'Frozen' version for the 4 year old's birthday party, which went down with the parents almost better than the kids!

* Marshmallow crispy squares are ridiculously easy, but if you need a recipe, head to the ever reliable Nigella's recipe here.

This week, it being half term, Grandma came to stay with us.  In anticipation of this, I picked up a bag of marshmallows and one of jelly beans in the weekly shop, ready for a 'bake with grandmother' session.  Well, imagine my surprise (not) when I went to the cupboard to find the bag of marshmallows over half empty!  I suspect the husband, but he's passing the blame firmly down to the girls.

So what does a girl do, when she wants to make crispy squares and doesn't have enough marshmallows?  Well, she hits google of course!  I found most recipes needed corn syrup, which I neither had to hand, nor remembered ever seeing in the supermarket!  I googled a bit more, taking note of the many pearls of wisdom warning me that I was about to embark on a tricky task that would make a bomb site of my kitchen.   Well, those people have not seen my kitchen during the course of a normal day.  It's a bomb site anyway, so we might as well get marshmallows out of it!

I found a couple of recipes here and here that were exactly the same and didn't require corn syrup, so I went with those.

I have got to say, I found the whole thing such a lot easier than expected, and as long as you cover your mixer with a tea towel whilst it's doing it's business, there really isn't much mess.  The recipe was dead quick and easy and the results were delicious!!  You are going to need a decent stand mixer for this though.  An electric hand whisk isn't going to cut it.  Your stand mixer doesn't have to be bright pink of course, but your marshmallows will taste better if it is.

It did make quite a lot of marshmallows and they are very sweet (but oh so much nicer than the shop bought ones, and with none of the nasties) so I did wonder how best to store them all and keep them fresh.   Once again, a bit of googling came up trumps with the suggestion that they can be frozen, very successfully.  Much like my favourite Nigella fudge, they don't actually freeze and can be eaten straight from the freezer!  Brilliant!  They are that little bit more hidden so that you're not as tempted by them on a daily basis, but there when you want to wow some unexpected guests.  That's my kind of homemade treat!

Give them a try.  I promise you won't be disappointed.  They honestly take less than 10 minutes work in the kitchen, and then overnight to set.  Oh, top tip for cutting them in to chunks afterwards - fill a pint glass with very hot water and dip your sharp knife in to it, in between each slice, wiping with a clean towel afterwards.  Your knife will slide through the mallow so much easier if it's clean and slightly warm.  Then dust the cut edges liberally with icing sugar, or do what I did and plonk your squares into a freezer bag, with a tablespoon or so of icing sugar and give them a good shake.

These were almost too good to melt down in to crispy cakes (although we did use some for that purpose) but they were absolutely amazing, melting in to a cup of Jamie Oliver's Epic Hot Chocolate.

If you'd like to read more of my recipe reviews, or any of my other pearls of wisdom, please click the subscribe button, to the right of this post.  You can follow me by email, using bloglovin, or by joining my Facebook page.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Product Review: The Green Earth Frying Pan from Ozeri

A few weeks ago, I was sent one of these lovely pans by Ozeri, to review.

These pans are unusual - I haven't seen them before, and a quick read of their website had me really interested to try one out. They are made with a textured, ceramic coating, in germany (expecting high quality then!) and are 100% PTFE and PFOA free. For anyone worried about the dangers of cooking with Teflon (there's a great article on the subject from Good Housekeeping here) this is a big feature.

When it first arrived, I was immediately impressed with the packaging. It looked modern and fresh, high quality and definitely made me feel excited to try it out.

Equally excited to try out our new 'green' pan were my daughters, who will do anything for pancakes! I was a little concerned by the textured base of the pan, wondering how on earth it was going to be non-stick with all of those ridges to cling on to!

I have discovered that you need to treat this pan in a similar way to a cast iron griddle pan. Oil the food, rather than the pan (unless it's pancakes of course!) and wait for the food to release itself before flipping. At first, it will look like it's stuck, but don't panic, just wait a bit and the food will release itself perfectly. Have faith!

I was sent the 20cm pan, which is the perfect size for pancakes and omelettes. You wouldn't want to be cooking anything bigger in there, as it's fairly small. But, guess what? It's perfect for our caravan! Not only is it the perfect size, but since it's easy to clean and heats up really well (even on our less than powerful caravan hob) it has been a really lovely addition to our caravan kitchen! I love the nice bright green colour too.

You can check out the pan on Amazon here.  You can see from all the positive reviews that this is a great little pan, and even better, it's currently on sale at half price!