Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chicken Palm Pies

Okay, you asked for a recipe and I aim to oblige so here (from Family Food by Silvana Franco) goes.

For 12 pies you'll need:

3oz pancetta or streaky bacon in small bits
4 chicken thighs (skinned and boned)
1 tsp cornflour
1 onion chopped finely
1tsp chopped sage
100ml chicken stock
500g shortcrust pastry
1 egg yolk

Cook pancetta in a frying pan till crisp and golden (you bay need a little olive oil if you use bacon), remove with a slotted spoon. Cut thighs into 1cm bits and toss with cornflour.

Cook chicken and onion in the bacon fat for about 10 mins till browned and cooked through. Add sage for last minute of cooking time, stir in stock and bring to the boil, season. Return pancetta to pan and allow filling to cool.

Preheat oven to 200deg C. Roll out pastry and cut 12 discs to fit in a 12 hole muffin tin - allow excess pastry to overhang the edges. Cut out discs for lids.

Divide filling and put in pastry cases. Dampen each lid with water and place on top, sealing the edges by pressing them together. Put a small hole in the top of each pie to let the steam escape while cooking.

Brush the tops with beaten egg yolk and bake for 20 mins until pastry is crisp and well glazed. You can eat them hot, or leave them to cool when they become great lunchbox food.

And for typing all that out, I think I deserve a sit down with some of the Halloween biscuits I made yesterday.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pies and pumpkins

The beginning of dark nights always marks a step-change in the food I feel like cooking. Soup, stews, sponge puddings, pies.... I have a weird fondness at this time of year for institutional food - you can probably trace it back to boarding school. So today was chicken palm pies. You do them with shortcrust pastry in a non-stick muffin tin with a filling of chicken, pancetta, sage and onion.

Mark loves them cold the following day for packed lunch, when, as the name suggests, they fit perfectly in your hand. but he's going to be sadly disappointed tomorrow, because we have scoffed the lot.

Chef Johnny got very engrossed in his rolling. And why, oh why did I bother mopping the kitchen floor this morning? Never mind, by candlelight the dirt doesn't show.

Happy Halloween everyone.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Oh, what a perfect day....

Forgot the clocks were going back today - this morning started very early and I am predicting tears before bedtime, but strangely I don't care. I am in a little bubble of happiness after having one of those great, life enhancing days yesterday.

I went to Cheltenham to meet Monica and passed the day in a pleasurable haze of chatter, eating, drinking, wandering and shopping. I discovered that Monica is one of those people with flawless style and taste, so I was really pleased when she helped me pick out some fabric for a bag I have been meaning to make for ages.

I saw these amazing shoes which I probably should have bought and may have to go back for.

And I returned home to two happy little boys who had the best day with Daddy. They had a picnic (with boiled eggs - which entitles him to a 'Father of the Year' award in their eyes). And he swore to me he didn't keep them in the linen hamper ALL day.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Just checking in...

And the winner is Lesley (who Blogger didn't give me an e-mail OR a blog address for so Lesley, you'll have to e-mail me with your details - my e-mail is on my profile).

I've been a bit quiet for a few days as it's half term this week, so things have been busy on the kid front. We went to the "shee shide" to spend a few days with my folks. It was wet and cold though so no piccies, unless the ones I took of my Dad's saxophone count. He wanted a photo shoot for e-bay purposes, as his sax tally is currently 6 - they are taking over the house.
So no crafting done, which is bad news as I owe parcels to half the blogging universe - I'm sorry, they are coming! But I did finish my book club book The Secret River, by Kate Grenville. The book club is a new thing for me - I have the first meeting next week and to be honest I am feeling a little nervous. It's with a group of people I don't know and I don't want to come across as talkative and opinionated. This is tricky as I have a tendency to be both.

Meeting new people is always a bit anxiety inducing, but I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to lunch with Monica on Saturday and shopping with Caroline the following weekend. Meeting bloggers seems more like a reunion than a first meeting if you know what I mean.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Balls and beans

I went through a phase some years ago, of making Christmas ornaments from unexpected materials. Behold, the mung bean balls. They were such a pretty colour, but 5 years and the less than delicate handling of two small boys means that they are unlikely to be gracing my mantle in the future.

Another not-to-be-repeated Christmas decoration was the sprout tree. This was a cone shaped topiary made from individually wired brussel sprouts. It looked great, but after 3 days in a heated house, it smelled awful. Sadly, this was in pre-digital days, so I have no photo to show you. Perhaps that's a good thing - I wouldn't recommend it as something to try.

And how about these:

polish pinecone crafts

from a book called Vyrobky z pirodnich materialu. I have no idea what that means, but the book is full of strange objects made from seeds, conkers, nuts and corks. I have a whole series of these Polish (I think) craft books and I think they need to get out a bit more, so if you (or your kids) would get a giggle out of this, leave me a comment. If there are stampeding hoards of you, I'll draw names, but somehow I think it's unlikely.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Thanks to a great tip off from Anke, I've finally got my hands on some Speedball for my rubber stamp carving. It came from Blade Rubber (who do mail order). If you need to know something there's always a blogger with an answer.

Feeling shattered tonight - I went to see "The Devil Wears Prada" yesterday and I am paying the price this evening. Just can't take the pace any more!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Knitting... how hard can it be?

If you're a blogging knitter, I have probably left a comment on your site at some point to say something along the lines of "how lovely, so jealous that I can't knit".

Well the time has come to do something about it. I have to say, the thing that has spurred me into action is Julie's blog, Little Cotton Rabbits. Her things are so gorgeous and she has a free pattern for some mini-stockings which I can picture on my mantle.

So desperate was I to own one, that I had my mother show me how to cast on. I knit a square, which seemed OK ...

So I decided I needed to try a stocking. Unfortunately, my Mum had to go home before she could explain how to slip, knit 2 together, knit through the back, pick up stitches or anything else useful to know. So it was just me and some fairly dodgy Internet knitting tutorials.

I will show you if you promise not to laugh. Bear in mind that at 2pm yesterday, I could not knit, but I am now the proud owner of a too big, slightly holey, backwards in places mini stocking from the pattern. And no, you can't see the other side, because there is a really big hole there.

Am I a knitter now then?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Post craft fair post

Okay, one last post about the craft fair and then I promise to shut up and never mention it again. It was absolutely FAB! I had such a good time, with lots of lovely compliments and I sold more Minimoopies than I had dared hope and made a shedload of money for Home Start.

The only down side is the lighting in the hall was so abysmal that I don't have any photos to show you of the stall. Just these 3 of some sweet Minimoopy makers.
The little cat girl had the most amazing colour sense - she knew exactly what she wanted and that's going to be one fab Moopy. I'm hoping to catch up with some of the finished softies in the future.

I used this Halloween tree to display some of my wares - batty peg making kits and ghostie lollies.

The lollies sold really well, which I had expected, but the surprise bestseller was some Christmas Organizers which I never even photographed. I sold out - people were so keen on them I even sold the sample I made for folks to play with!

But I think the thing I enjoyed most was the chance to chat to people - a real advantage of doing an event in my own community. Folks I knew, even very vaguely, were by far and away my best customers. Actually, I had to hold myself back - a little voice in my head kept saying "Close the deal! Quick - don't let them put it back down on the table." I may have watched a little too much of The Apprentice recently!

Without getting teary on you though - I couldn't have done it without you guys. Folks were stunned when I explained that the Minimoopy fabrics had been donated from all round the world by people I don't actually know in real life. And your feedback on some of the stuff I made really gave me the confidence to put myself out there without being scared. So whether you posted me fabric or left a kind and supportive comment, or posted a tutorial which taught me something new, thank you. Thank you for your part in a truly memorable day.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Minimoopy Love Experiece - countdown to blastoff

I have downed tools - the craft fair is tomorrow and I have called a halt to making stuff. I hope I haven't made the classic error of making too many different kinds of thing and having a stall that is too 'busy' looking. We shall see, and I promise to try and take lots of photos to show you.
But just in case I don't get the chance, I wanted to let you see the materials for the Carly approved Minimoopy Love Experience that so many of you wonderful bloggers generously donated fabric for.
That's something special en-masse isn't it? I feel quite tearful when I look at it all - can you spot your fabric? Your response was so unexpected and overwhelming. At a rough guess, there's enough material to make about 796 Moopies! I'm going to have to be selling like crazy, but one little darling who is NOT for sale is the chap in the centre - a good luck gift from Caroline. His little 4 leaf clover just makes me smile and smile. He is the greatest advertisement for Minimoopy Love.

So wish me luck and a hot selling streak tomorrow so I can make tons of wonga for Home Start.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Blogging in a thunderstorm... living on the edge.

I am going to get this post out if it kills me and it might - quite literally. There's been a huge thunderstorm, black sky, lightening and rumbles. The electricity has gone off 3 times now (ironic given how close we live to the power station), but there is a lull and before the computer gets blown up by a power surge I need to thank Madmommy for her little package of treats for Mark and I.

A while back, she asked me to send her the latch board and in return she has filled the house with dinosaur goodies - some of which (dino book, dino cards) I can't show you as Mark has carried them off to his lair and I can't face the pit that is his bedroom to unearth them. Post birthday bedrooms - DISASTER. Just when I have the toys and books beaten into submission, a birthday or Christmas or a visit from Andy's folks comes along and we're back to chaos.
But thoughtfully, these cute critters came with their own storage system!

And craft related stuff doesn't count as mess, it's about creativity! So thank you from me for the fabric and lion crewel kit. And especially for the Moopy scraps.

Thank you so much Sara.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Too many cups of coffee this morning and I'm feeling jittery. I am in one of those tailspins that comes with having too much to do and not knowing quite how to tackle it. In me, this usually results in MP (major procrastination), hence the lots of coffee. I've also emptied my airing cupboard and done 3 loads of laundry - it must be serious!
The weekend was fun - we went for a nature ramble with friends on Wittenham Clumps (the only hills for miles), spotting signs of autumn, like this one.

Mark and Ben found a den in the woods (why is my son wearing a Cherie Blair smile?), and Johnny stuck close to Mum and flatly refused to collect anything in his bucket. Funny beasts my boys.

I have been a bad blogger recently, failing dismally to publicly thank Tasha for her amazing swap parcel. Just look at the gorgeous wrapping.

Thankfully, my son has better manners and wrote her a thank you note straight away for the cute Cars-related goodies she included for the boys.

And I literally squealed when I saw the goodness included for me. Amazing Japanese fabrics and craft book, magazines and chocolate, coffee, tea and gorgeous tea towels. The photos are incomplete, because we have eaten, drunk and been reading.

Poor Tasha is patiently waiting until after the craft fair for me to make up and send her return parcel. Hey, if I did it now, I could procrastinate a bit longer..... couldn't I?

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Autumn is here - my Crocs with no socks felt decidedly inappropriate today and my hands are beginning to take on their winter persona. Chapped and rough - no amount of hand cream ever seems to help. It's only since having children and I'm sure it's a reflection of the number of times a day I have to wash my hands after dealing with bottoms, noses, endless food preparation and the ever present pile of washing up.
So, a quick craft to cheer those gungy saucepan interludes - decorated Marigolds. With the perkiest fabric I could lay my hands on.
If you make some, please let me have a peek!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Things orange...

Goldie (Mark's fish) went to goldfish heaven today. Actually, the little bugger died behind the pump in the tank and I spent a frantic few minutes wafting him out with a spoon so I could snaffle his corpse away before the boys saw him and got upset. I needn't have bothered - the callous little beasts didn't give him a second thought and his place has been swiftly filled by 'New Goldie'. Let's hope this one lasts a bit longer than 4 days.

The upshot of our sad loss was a trip to the garden centre, for the replacement. They also have a farm shop and I came home with a perfect pumpkin specimen. So pumpkin risotto for supper with roasted pumpkin seeds to fortify me while I stood there stirring. Actually, let's face it, I had to open a bottle of wine for the risotto so I has a great time sipping, nibbling and stirring while Andy bathed and bedded the boys. Whose deal sounds better?

And while I'm about it, the last (I think) of the heartfelt minimoopy fabric thank yous go to:

Amy (who sent so many lovely different fabrics I had to take two photos)

Tasha (more on the rest of that parcel another time)

and Tiel.
Craft Fair day is October 14th - I'm getting there on the organisation front (I think) and I cannot tell you how much more relaxed I will feel once it has passed.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Birthday boy

Someone make me a cup of tea - we're just back home from celebrating Mark's 6th Birthday - you know how it is. The kids had a ball and I feel as though I've been hit by a truck. Not so different to the way I was feeling six years ago then!

Mark's birth was not the easiest. If I had known him then as I do know, I would have expected him to approach the business of being born in an unconventional manner! After being in the perfect position for birth, he got edgy during a long car trip we took about a week before his due date and flipped posterior. Believe me - if you are nine months pregnant and the baby decides to turn, you know about it. No amount of hanging around on my hands and knees would encourage him to move back, so I was in for a posterior labour. And what does that mean? In a word - LONG. Thirty-six hours long.

Now I need my sleep - I'm a 10-hour-a-night girl in an ideal world, and having lost 2 nights sleep prior to his birth was no joke. I was, by choice, in a midwife-led birthing unit with no facilities for epidurals, ventouse, forceps or any other high tech interventions. Not that forceps are hi-tech. I mean have you ever SEEN a pair? Medieval or what. But I digress.

There I was, plodding on with my student midwife and beloved gas and air for company, feeling shattered. The chief midwife popped in and casually suggested that I seemed very tired and should transfer to the main hospital because I wasn't going to have the energy to push this baby out. At which point I rallied and shouted loudly at poor old Andy "I did not go through all this to get shipped off to the bloody hospital! Get me some sugar NOW!" And I lied like crazy about feeling the urge to push and squeezed that little monkey out. There's nothing like being told I can't do something to make me determined to prove otherwise.

And Mark? He's still looking at the world from an alternative point of view and given the easy way or the hard way to do something, he'll never opt for straightforward. Happy Birthday lovely boy - life may not always be simple for you, but it will never be boring!