Monday, April 30, 2007


We tried out a new restaurant on Saturday night, but I have no idea if the food was any good, because we didn't get to eat any. We were still waiting at the bar at 9pm (and yes, we had a reservation) and when I politely asked how much longer our table was going to be, they told me the folks sitting at it were still eating their main course. I wanted dinner, not a midnight snack. Needless to say, we won't be going back.

If you want good food when you're expecting it, perhaps the message is make it yourself.

So on Sunday I did - Roast Chicken with Sweet Potato Gratin. Salivating yet? You should be!

Take some sweet potatoes.

Peel them

Cut into very thin slices (2mm). I used the Magimix, but a mandolin or sharp knife and steady hand would work too.

Toss in a big bowl with 2 finely chopped shallots (or failing that, a small onion), a couple of cloves of garlic (finely chopped), a teaspoon of ground cumin (toasted and ground my own - the iron pestle and mortar was a wedding present a billion years ago and I still adore it), and some chilli sauce. I use Harissa, but whatever you have is fine.

Pour on some double cream ( or half milk half cream if you're not feeling that sinful). For 2 potatoes you probably need around 350 ml of liquid. More for more folks. Mix around, then layer into a buttered baking dish, seasoning between layers. Bake at about 140 degrees for around 90 mins. If you cook it too hot, you run the risk of splitting the cream. If the top browns too fast, cover the dish with a piece of foil.

Forgot to take a picture of it going into the oven, or indeed coming out, so all I have to show you is leftovers.

But it is really really good.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

What's inside?

Do you want to know what arrived inside a parcel the other day?

A little tote from Kirsty. This perfectly proportioned, stiffened to just the right degree little tote.

And inside? Fabric, trim, buttons, moo card - don't you just love moo cards? I'm building up quite the collection from other lovely bloggers now.

And cookbooks too - somehow my boys seem extra-enthusiastic about this one. Wonder why??

Thank you Kirsty - I feel a bit of a fraud, because she sent this as a thank you for some fabric which I sent her after she admired it.

Somehow, stuffing fabric into a jiffy bag and posting it off doesn't really compare with the effort of putting together a thoughtfully selected and made bundle of goodies like this. I'm very touched.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Last night I had big plans for dinner. The nights when both hubby and I are at home seem few and far between these days, so when I realised that we could actually sit down together and enjoy a leisurely meal, I thought I'd try something new. Braised lamb shanks (from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries).

They looked promising going into the oven. Smelled delicious while cooking too. But at the crucial moment when I should have been topping them up with a bit more liquid, I got waylaid by a KerPlunk tournament that I HAD to win. Disaster. Cunningly disguised the slightly singed taste of the gravy with a big dollop of redcurrant jelly and poured plenty of pre-dinner vino (makes all culinary disasters better). I must curb that competitive streak - Mark won anyway.

And dinner tonight? The new season's asparagus, fresh from the farm. And practically impossible to burn.

Keeping it fresh in my first pottery effort- fired at last! I know it looks like a 3 year old made it, but I'm just learning okay? The only way is up!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Just desserts

Sometimes we are rewarded for good deeds. On Saturday afternoon, instead of ignoring the children and making something, I decided some family time was in order and off we went to a small local museum. It was absolutely great - the boys got to dress up in Victorian costumes, do brass rubbings and play on a tram. I found a re-creation of a haberdashery shop complete with wooden drawer upon drawer filled with buttons, lace, and spools of thread. Fascinating (but sadly, they didn't take visa and the shopkeeper wasn't terribly forthcoming...).

Afterwards we went for a little walk in Wantage in search of some ice-cream for good behaviour and I chanced upon a rubber stamp and scrapbooking shop that I didn't know existed. Now, I don't do scrapbooking, but I am strangely drawn to the pretty papers and then I spied ribbons... and twill tape, printed twill tape. My favourite.

It's going to look great with a little sweater of Johnny's that I accidentally shrunk in the washing machine. Funny, the destruction of perfectly good woollen garments doesn't bother me nearly so much these days!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My word, I've taken some shocking pictures today, so apologies in advance. But I need to avoid a second guilty blogger award, so I'm posting them nevertheless, so I can say thanks in a timely fashion.

To Laurie, who had a giveaway over at Old School Acres and let us lucky winners choose any of her softies or pincushions to come and live with us. Mrs Beaver arrived today. Laurie informs me her lips are removable. I find that strangely disturbing for some reason.

And some vintage button swap deux lovelies from Ines. This was the best smelling parcel I have ever received, as the buttons came in their own teeny tiny hand knit bag on a lavender pillow. Wonderful - thank you Ines.

I love this series in different colours - so subtle.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sowing and growing

Another week gone - is it really Monday tomorrow? I've been taking it easy this weekend, because I have damaged a disc in my lower back. Was it a dramatic accident? Nope - sneezing. Just one more reason to hate hayfever.

And let's face it, the weekend (with super-hubby springing into action) is the only chance I'm going to get to rest my back. Just try potty training without bending over - hmmm, I think not. All your potty envy really had me laughing, so here's a link if you need a racing potty of your very own.

Hero-of-the-moment Hubby has also been in charge of the new baby - the raised vegetable bed.

The soil in our garden is terrible - compacted clay, so I decided a raised bed, in the weird bit of garden tucked around the side of the house might be the way to go. We built it from a great set of recycled plastic link-a-bord, which is the easiest thing in the world to construct.

Much sieving of home-made compost and leaf mold later (probably assisting in the demise of my back) and we'd filled it with enough super nutritious earth to plant beans, parsley (flat and curly), spinach, oriental salad leaf mix, chives and a few sunflowers.

Now it's just a question of water and wait. Oh, and remove cat turds. Because every feline in the neighbourhood is making a bee-line for it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dancing the potty mambo

We're doing a lot of this at the moment.

Carpe Diem (or at least the good weather and some time at home). Johnny's such a star - he's cracking it.

And Ranunculus (ranunculuses? ranunculii?) are some of my favourites.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

And the award goes to... moi!

I've given up hope of any form of 'services to motherhood' award (although I may earn a mom-scout badge or two - go and look) but when Jojo gave out these badges, I knew that was one award which had my name written all over it.

And how do I know I deserve one?

Well, that'd be the small matter of:

1. Tardyness in acknowledging goodie parcels

From Tasha - lovely apples and pears fabric in 3 colourways in a little fabric swapette we had going on.

From Paper and String - a gnome-a-licious mini-bag.

I have now won 3 giveaways over at her site (the latest being a name the monkey thing - meet Mustapha Monkey) and if you must-av-one go see her etsy shop.

I need to stop entering giveaways over there, because it's getting embarrassing, but you should go and try your luck.

And to complete the hat-trick, a wonderful parcel from Maxine at Noodles and Doodles, full of the most lovely Easter booty. I can't show you it all because:: you'll be too envious : we've eaten a lot of it : some of the photos didn't come out quite as planned. But look at the amazing twill tape.

And our egg-eating accessories. Don't you need to wear a brooch that co-ordinates with your egg cosy?

2. Uncompleted give-aways
This one is blatant fraud. I hosted a give-away without organizing the package first. Cardinal sin of craft-blogging. My excuse was I could then tailor the contents to the recipient, but instead of doing that promptly, I went shopping. I'm sorry Zoe, next week I promise. And in my own defence, I did find a cute t-shirt.

3. Uncompleted projects.
The trim on my Amy Butler lounge pants, the Spring Bag I promised my mother and have not yet begun, the new kids learn to knit book I have yet to crack the spine of. I need to stop now, because the irony of writing a post about it when I could be achieving some of it is not totally lost on me!

Any guilt you feel the need to offload this sunny Sunday?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Egg box recycling

Ever since I saw the cute little Marie Claire Idees egg carton sewing box, I've wanted to make one. I don't need one, I probably wouldn't use one, but I had a burning desire to have a go at creating one. Then it dawned on me. Wouldn't it make the perfect packaging for the Vintage Button Swap Deux? Look away Ines!

What a great reason to have a go. And what fun! Finding the perfect lace trim, picking through my button box, making a little pincushion to fit in the hole. Pure fun!

And when my fabulous charity shop working mother turned up at Easter with this box of beauties, I just knew one of those reels belonged in there too. Oh the sheen, it makes me quite weak kneed.

I got so excited about the whole thing, that I've packaged it all up ready to post tomorrow without taking a picture of the buttons - dingbat! But as all children know, sometimes the packaging is the best bit!

And Mark's hearing test? Ears like a bat - told you so.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Choc-free goodness

Very wisely, I haven't climbed on the scales since Easter, but I can't lay any weight-gain-blame on the lovely Easter surprise parcel which came from Alice at Raspberry.

It contained a gorgeous fat-free egg hand felted card,

a yummy low-cal fabric and trim bundle
and most decadent of all, a beautiful felt corsage with freshwater pearls.
And be
st of all, it was one of those 'just because' parcels. And the boys loved their gummy bunnies too Alice.

Mark has a hearing test tomorrow - if they find any hearing problems I'll eat my hat. Male selective deafness, maybe! That seems to run in the family. What? Yours too? Amazing!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

You've got to roll with it

The school PTA is hosting a Ball next month with a black and white/casino theme going on. Yours truly opened her big mouth at the wrong moment and has been roped into making table favours.

Seeing many spots before my eyes (and all over the living room floor). I've even roped hubby in to help, because there are a LOT of these to churn out. I'm not really that keen on them, but we had the little boxes donated to us and so I really needed to use them (in spite of the weird ribbon thing going on). Perhaps people will drink so much they fail to notice and we will make heaps of money.

And I've got a new blog for you to check out - Lululollylegs. We met as miniswap 2 partners and I couldn't believe someone as talented as Louise didn't have a blog. But now she does, and we all know how nice it is to get a warm reception in blogland so drop by and say hi!

Ice cream sandwiches (with link!)

I should have known better than to omit the link for the ice-cream sandwich moulds! So for those of you itching to get your hands on them, they are by Tovolo and I bought mine (in the sale) from John Lewis.

You make a sheet of cookies, stamp out the animal face biscuits (in pairs) and then assemble them with ice cream in the middle and squeeeeeeze.

Monday, April 09, 2007

New traditions

For the second year in a row, Mark has managed to give up ice-cream for the whole of Lent. That's a long 40 days people!! So the end of the fast really did warrant a blow out celebration. Especially since I bought these ice cream sandwich moulds weeks ago and we've all been dying to try them out.

Willing helpers a-plenty, with the cousins visiting.

And what a result! Especially with the appropriately positioned chocolate chip horns (more luck than judgement).

Hope your Easter was chocolatey too.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Division of labour

Time to draw names. I printed (that was one big list - thanks so much for all the kind blog-wishes),

Mark snipped,

Johnny held the bowl

and Mark picked .... Zoe!

Although an independent adjudicator might have a few words on the topic. Because after some overzealous snipping P was on such a microscopic slip, she didn't really stand a chance and Mark kept trying to peek so he could choose Rebecca, (a name he is passionate about, due to a slight infatuation with a 13 year old neighbour). Note to self - random number generator may be less stressful than involving offspring.

But Zoe, by fair means or foul, a little something is yours so e-mail me and let me know your address.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Easter is coming!

Easter is coming! Yes, I know you know, in theory, I knew too, but it hasn't stopped me from being much more ill-prepared than usual. I haven't even got the Easter Bits boxes down from the loft and folks are arriving on Friday. Better get my act together.

So this afternoon, while Johnny slept off our day of fun at Beale Park and Mark slumped on the sofa, did I hop into action? Well, sort of. Because if I just make a bunny egg-cozy, I'm sure no one will notice that I haven't cleaned or done any menu planning, shopping or bed making.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Happy April

April Fool's day is a pretty inauspicious day to start something new, but it does mark the beginning of my year in blogging. A whole year today. One hundred and eighty eight posts, thirty-thousand odd visits, forty seven subscribers, two hundred and forty nine bloglines feeds (yup - I really need to rationalize those), sixty three blogs which link here.

Reducing things to numbers never does tell the real story does it?

Because the number that means the most to me, is the one I can't count. The incredible number of new friends to share with - our triumphs, our sympathy, our plans, our laughs. They don't do a counter for that.

So, thank you friends. I can't tell you what fun it has been to share this past year with you. And never being one to miss out on the chance to celebrate, leave me a comment and I'll get the boys to draw names for a bit of a giveaway...