Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Christmas Candles

I think candles make really lovely Christmas gifts.  Good quality gift candles are a bit out of my price range and I find the cheaper ones a bit synthetic smelling, So I quite often make my own, using soy wax, which I buy in bulk. I squirrel away jam jars and old tea cups all the time, so I always have a little stash in my shed.
There is still some time left to make a few easy gifts, so I thought I would share a little tutorial about how to make them. 




 You will need

Soy wax flakes
Essential oils (I used cinnamon for some that I wanted to be specifically for Christmas and lavender  for those that I wanted to be general presents.
Clean jam jars or tea cups
Candle wicks
Optional - dried lavender
Sauce pan. I now how an old one that I use for candle making, but you can use one that is still in use.  soy wax is not toxic and is very easy to clean.



How to make

1. To work out how much wax you will need; pack the jar very tightly with the soy wax flakes, double this amount and this is how much you will need for each candle.  I throw in a very small handful extra into the pan for good measure.  Repeat for how many candles you intend to make.

2. Melt the wax on a low heat.  Once melted, add the essential oil.  I added 2 ml per candle.

3. Pour wax into the containers.  If using dried flowers sprinkle a few onto of the wax.

4. Leave the wax to cool for about twenty minutes or until it becomes cloudy.  Push the tabbed wick into the wax until it reaches the bottom.  You my need to pour a little more melted wax on top of the candle to make the wax even again.

5. Allow the candles to set over night.

I attached printed labels and rosemary sprigs to finish mine off.   



Happy making
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Thursday, 3 December 2015

And that was November

This month's round up will be short and sweet, at 39 weeks pregnant I have energy for little else.  It's felt like it has rained every day this month.  We have failed to spend much time outdoors. My body craves fresh air and rosy cheeks, i'm sure i'm probably vitamin D deprived by now.  My daughter takes a little gentle encouragement to get out in the wet weather and this month I just haven't been able to muster up the energy to prod her in the right direction. That being said, when the weather has stayed dry we have enjoyed a few stomps out in puddles close to home.

It's been a very difficult month for my little girl, her behaviour has been challenging to say the least and not like that I have witnessed from her before.  Her behaviour has left me depleted and it's been difficult witnessing her feeling so sad and angry.  There have been times this month when I have felt like a rubbish parent and tears have been shed and other times when, after she has finally gone to bed, and I am slumped on the sofa, that I have patted myself on the back, scoffed a packet of chocolate biscuits, and thought, yeah, I handled that ok.  It's been challenging and exhausting but we appear to have weathered the storm and she seems to feel more secure now.  The new baby and Christmas overload seems to be the cause of a lot of her anxieties. 

I had a birthday and we visited The Ditchling Museum of art and craft The museum is beautiful and worth a visit for friends who live Sussex way. 



I have been reading Elisabeth Dunker's fine little day book.  I love her blog and instagram account so it was a real treat to receive her book for my birthday. 



And now to December..... A new baby and Christmas to contend with.

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Monday, 23 November 2015

38 weeks



And so, I enter my 38th week of pregnancy. I haven't spoken too much about my pregnancy on the blog.  I'm still finding my voice on this little space of mine, not entirely sure of it's intent or purpose.  But as I find my self with a spare hour it seems fitting to talk about my pregnancy as our journey draws to  an end.  I certainly haven't found pregnancy as easy the second time round. Working part time and looking after a toddler ran me into the ground a little. I was a lot fitter when I was pregnant with Frieda and my body felt stronger.  I never regained my pre baby fitness levels and I didn't return to my pre baby weight.  I have felt weaker or perhaps just older this time round.  

It's odd to think that, with Frieda, I started my maternity leave this very week and gave birth to her two weeks later; this time round I have already been on Maternity leave for six weeks and truly felt as though I couldn't have worked a moment longer.  My body was craving rest. Frieda has continued to go to nursery for 2.5 days a week (although she will be reducing her hours after Christmas) and my body has lapped up the restorative power of naps and quiet time. 

Frieda is extremely excited about the baby coming, she is keen for a sister and has named the baby.  I'm still not sure how we will tackle the whole name situation should we decided to not go with her name or worst still it is a BOY!!!!!  The last few days however have been a little tricky, we got down some of Frieda's old things from the loft and I think it suddenly dawned on her that she will have to share her old toys, blankets and clothes and she has felt a bit upset.  We have had a difficult few days, she received less attention than usual as both her parents were busily sorting, cleaning and preparing.  I haven't had the energy to do much with her on our days off together and I have relied a lot on Cbeebies, something I always feel guilty about.  I know she must be board at home because she keeps asking to go to nursery on her days off.

I am the youngest, so I am unable to relate to how Frieda might be feeling.  She remains very excited and loving towards my bump, cuddling and kissing it every morning and evening but I have noticed a slight shift towards feelings of apprehension.  She may also be picking up on my feelings of anxiety.  I feel slightly more anxious the second time round.  A lot of this is centred around the logistics of where Frieda will go.  We have a few options, with kind neighbours offering support and my parents are three hours away  but it's all a matter of ifs and buts and nothing feels that concrete. Frieda has never spent a night away from one of us and she can be sensitive, shy and awkward around other people, so I know that this will be difficult for her.  I feel more apprehensive this time round when my partner goes to work, my intuition is telling me that this baby will come very quickly (although I know that this may not be the case), it may also be that he works further away from home this time round and I have another child to look.  We are hoping for a home birth again, Frieda was born in our house and it will be nice to welcome another baby into the world at home.  

The birth pool has been delivered. I have just come back from Argos, tarpaulin in hand. The washing machine has not been off, this previous week, as we bundle into the machine dusty clothes, balnkets, soft toys and nappies from the loft. And so I sit here waiting patiently, gazing out into the garden through dirty windows, debating whether or not to clean them. 




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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Flies be gone.

Hello peeps, just a quick one from me.  I had hoped to share a few blog posts with you this week but it's been so dark and rainy that it's hard to take photos and when a bit of light appears it always seems to be when i'm about to have a rest on the sofa.

I just thought I would share a little tip about how to get rid if house plant flies.  We have been inundated with the things, these last few months, ( I blame the mild wet weather ) and my house plants were starting to look a little sad.  I recently bought a Peace Lilly to go in the bathroom and I decided that I must take action so avoid them laying eggs in my new plant.

 You will need 
  • Washing up liquid
  • Cider vinegar
  • An old jar

Pour roughly 2 inches of cider vinegar into a jar.  Add a couple of squirts of washing up liquid to the vinegar.  You can make a news paper funnel which makes it harder for the flies to escape.  I actually found that this made it harder for the flies to get in, so I took it out after a few days. 

 
Place the jar next to the infected plant and wait.  I changed the vinegar mixture every three to four days.  My house flies were gone in about 3 weeks. I can report that my house plants are well and truly on the mend.


So there we have it a cheap as chips way of beating the house plant flies. Stay dry folks and I hope to be back soon with some more interesting blog posts.
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Saturday, 14 November 2015

Hugh's War on Waste

Have you seen it yet? Hughes War on Waste on BBC1?  It's a two part documentary and both episodes are still on iPlayer.  I have to issue a warning here *you will find yourself crying over a huge mound of wasted parsnips* and this warning comes from someone who no longer likes parsnips *shudders as she thinks back in horror to the parsnip soup consumed just before the great noro virus of 2011*.  


I can, on occasions, get a bit annoyed with these sorts of programmes. You know the sort of programmes where rich privileged celebrities tell us ordinary folk how we should be living our lives.  But generally my annoyance is usually juxtaposed alongside feelings of gratitude and relief that someone has finally got the nation thinking about such important issues.  I didn't find this programme to be too preachy and Hugh's enthusiasm for the subject is so infectious.  Plus he totally took on a supermarket and a fast food chain, which is no easy thing to do and totally requires some celebratory kudos to get an on air interview . 

In the UK, the average household throws away £15 worth of food per week.  In our household we are pretty good at not wasting food.  We shop on a fairly strict budget, we freeze loads of stuff that dosn't get eaten and we don't let best before dates get the better of us!  That being said, we are not perfect and on the odd tub of hummus slips the net. I do realise, however, that I am writing about the issue from a position of privilege when it comes to cooking. Firstly I was taught to cook and grew up in a household where meals were made from scratch and I also like cooking which helps.  Secondly I work part time, this means, although it dosn't seem like it most days, I do actually have time to cook and use up left over food.  On the days that I am on child care duty it's easy for me to pop some on the turn veg in a pan, with stock, to simmer, whilst I play with my daughter.  I think to the days when I am at work, back late, my daughter is crying because she is hungry and myself or my partner has to reach for something quick to get food on the table.  It would be harder to use our left overs if both me and my partner were working full time.  All that being said though there are lots of things we can do if we are time strapped such as meal planning, shopping more wisely and storing food correctly so that we don't waste food. 

The day I watched the programme I had just tipped half a box of soft corn flakes into the food waste bin.  I felt guilty about this the whole way through the programme.  In hindsight I had purchased too big a box, as it's only really my daughter that eats them.  I also didn't seal the box correctly once I had opened them. I could have added the soft cornflakes to recipes that require cooking or baking as this crunches them up again. They would have worked well in recipes  such as biscuits cakes or batters.  Check out these cornflake battered  Quorn burgers


( Image from princessmisia.com a great vegetarian food blog)

I do urge you to watch the programme. Despite being aware of the problem, I needed to visually see a pile of a weeks worth of wasted parsnips to feel utterly horrified and shocked.  

Hugh has a website, wastenotuk.com, where you can sign his appeal to call for supermarkets to take more responsibility for the waste they cause in the food chain.

Love Food Hate Waste is a great resource for ideas about what to do with your left overs and how to store food to maximise it's life.  

If you have a Real Junk Food Cafe in your area why don't you go there for lunch and enjoy fresh tasty food, from supermarkets, that otherwise would have gone to waste. They work on a pay as you feel basis.  My nearest one is in Brighton.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the programme.  
    

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Monday, 9 November 2015

Sofa scenes

I have spent a lot more time of late curled up on the sofa. In fact, my sofa consumption may have returned to pre parenthood levels.  I'm grateful to have this time before the new baby comes.  I just wanted to show you a couple of makes I made to keep me company on the sofa.  Firstly I made a very simple granny square blanket.  I wanted a simple project that I didn't have to think much about, something to keep my hands busy whilst watching iPlayer.




Secondly I made a cushion cover, which I realise is nothing special and is something that many people could whip up in half an hour but, my friends, I am a very crap sewer, so this is something I feel pretty proud of.  I even managed a zip!!!!! The fabric is an old curtain that my partner found in a charity shop and the zip I took out from an old, stained cushion cover.





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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

And that was October



Ah October, this was the month that I finally went on Maternity leave.  First time round, I went on Maternity leave two weeks before Frieda was born and in those two weeks I moved house and could be found, paint brush in hand, painting shelves and unpacking boxes albeit very slowly.  Second time round I have begun my maternity leave/annual leave  eight and a bit weeks before my due date.  I feel terribly self indulgent in doing this and a little guilty for not trying to maximise the time I have off with the new baby but, in short, I was exhausted and I feel a lot better now I don't have to negotiate the bus early in the morning and can take a few naps whilst Frieda is at nursery for two and half days. 

We have been enjoying some unseasonably warm weather down in the South of England. I'm secretly looking forward to it becoming a little colder, and getting really cosy in the house. This month we have spent a good amount of time in the woods and a lot of time pottering at home;  I am slowly ticking things off my to do list and reacquainting myself with my old friend the sofa.  Soups, stews, pies and curries are well and truly on the menu and I can usually be found with a cup of decaf Earl Grey.....my latest obsession.

Early on this month I spent some time saving seeds and planting bulbs. We also took a trip down to the Kent coast to visit friends in Deal,  I used to live in Kent and always get terribly nostalgic when I visit.  I plan on staying put, at home now, until the baby arrives.
 

  





 

And of course, there was a pumpkin! A joint effort from myself and Frieda.


 Reading ~ I have just finished reading Lucy AtkinRead's ebook, '30 days of Rewilding'. I'm a big fan of Lucy's blog, Lulastic and the hippy shake.  So it was a real treat to read this book. I have to admit to feeling a slight fraud, whilst reading it, sat on the sofa (with no intention of leaving it for the whole day), eating biscuits and drinking tea. A bit like that feeling when you used to watch 'Why don't you' but had no intention of turning the telly off after it had finished and instead intended to binge watch cartoons.  For those of you that don't remember, or are too young, 'WDY' was a children's programme, demonstrating interesting activities you could do instead of watching T.V, it's slogan was; why don't you turn of the T.V and do something more interesting instead.

Listening ~ My hypno birthing guided rainbow relaxation has pretty much been the only thing on my head phones.


Eating ~ We found a load of chestnuts in the woods and made this amazing mushroom and chestnut pie.  

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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Windfall Apples



Apple season is in full swing and we have been chomping our way through a fair few of them. We have a young, rare, Sussex breed apple tree in our garden but it was a bit poorly this year and we had to take the apples off, as soon as they arrived, and compost them, to give the tree the best chance of survival.  I'm pleased to say that our tree is now a lot healthier but it did mean no apples this year.  Windfall apples however have been available in bucket loads on our suburban estate.  A few people collect them and leave them in buckets outside their houses.  I, of course, not being one to turn down a freebie, take as many as I can.  

I thought I would write a post about what to do with windfall apples, as it's usually best to cook them first.  We have also found that some of the local varieties of apples have been a little sour for our palate this year, I think because of the amount of rain we had this summer; So we have had plenty of apples that we have needed to use as ingredients.  

 Preparing windfall apples 

I placed my windfall apples in a bowl of warm salted water for half an hour, this should draw out any nasty residue and bugs/maggots.  I use windfall apples each year and have never found a maggot!

Rinse them off in cold water.  Peel off the skin and remove any bruises/bad bits.  Unless in an almost perfect state, I would advise that it's best to cook with windfalls rather than eat them fresh. 



Uses for windfall apples

So what have we been doing with our windfalls?  Obviously we have made crumbles!!! 

Apple Crumble

The thing I like about crumbles is that we generally have all the ingredients already in the house for the crumble, which sort of makes me feel like I have made a pudding for free, when i'm using windfall apples or foraged blackberries.  It's obviously not free but they can be whipped up pretty cheaply and pretty quickly and they freeze really well oh and they taste great.  It's a win win.  I have experimented with using less sugar and adding dates instead and adding chopped nuts and seeds for texture and this worked really well.   I generally go to the BBC Good Food website for all my crumble needs.  I am yet to find a dud recipe on this site

 

 Image source BBC Good Food

Apple and raisin scones

I add a grated apple or two to any scone recipe and suggest that you do too, oh my, very tasty indeed. I have already consumed two whilst wring this post.    



Tray bake apple cake

I make this every year.  Again, another BBC recipe. I'm not a great cake baker and I tend to find that tray bakes are much easier.  A little note with regards to the apple quantities in this recipe, this recipe works fine using what ever quantity of apple you have.  I have made it just using half the quantity and it still tasted really appley    


Image source BBC Good Food

Other great things to do with windfall apples

  • Apple tastes great in curries, thinly slice and add to a curry at the simmering stage
  • Apple tastes wonderful on pizza with blue or goats cheese
  • Put some chopped apple in home made pasties
  • Chutney, windfall apples are great for this
  • Parsnip and apple soup.
  • Apple Sauce.
  • Apple Pie

Have you been cooking with apples this season?  Any recipe ideas would be much appreciated.  
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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

And that was September


September is up there as being one of my favorite months.  I love the fact that the sun shines bright and it can feel both warm and chilly at the same time.  It's the month that I dig out my woolens and my thoughts turn to candles, comfort food, knitting and the i player.  I like the fact that I can think about all these winter treats whilst still basking in the last of the summer light.  It's the month that I usually associate with fresh starts, I can never quite shake off that new academic year feeling, despite having left education a long time ago. This September I have had to listen to my body and slow down a bit as our family start to prepare for the new baby.   

We have celebrated the harvest, of this time of year, attending chili festivals, apple days, foraged for berries, visited farm shops and picnicked.  We have spent time in doors, sorting and clearing out and trying to make space for a new baby. There have been sleep deprived nights, as we have all suffered with low level colds and days spent with blankets on the sofa.  Recipe books have been perused in search of comfort soups and stews. I have also been playing at making some Autumn stamps.










Reading ~ After months of being in a reading black hole, I have finally re discovered the joy of reading ACTUAL BOOKS and not just stuff on the internet. I have been really enjoying Tove Jansson Life, Art, Words: The authorised biography.  I was old school and got it out from the library.  Many a September evening has been spent under a blanket with a book in hand and a cup of mint tea. 

Listening ~ The Radio 4 series Natural Histories is just amazing.  There is a great one about blackberries and their appearance in art, history, literature and religion.

Eating ~ Cake and quite a lot of it.  I have reached that stage of pregnancy where only cake will do.  Apple and blackberry cake sticks out in my mind.   

How was your September?

 

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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Slowing down


As I sit here and write this, i'm looking out onto my very small living/dinning/playroom.  It's a mess! newspaper cuttings decorate the floor (my daughter is learning how to use scissors) and all the cuddly toys in the house are keeping me company!  Jigsaw pieces, half eaten apples and welly boots are all in sight; there are places where I can not see the floor.  My daughter has gone out with my partner to use her scooter and I, my friends, am sitting here, cup of mint tea in hand, fresh out of the bath, typing away at my laptop with a filthy screen ignoring the mess; for I my friends, am slowing down!  I would usually use this precious time alone to blitz the the house, but my pregnant body is screaming no, just stay put on the sofa.  


My body has given me a bit of a wake up call and told me that I need to slow down.  Aches, pains and breathlessness were all signs that at 7  months pregnant it was time to slow down.  At first I ignored the signs but as they persisted it became impossible to ignore my body's cries.  

Second pregnancies are so different to first.  At points, I forgot I was pregnant as life just took over; work, looking after my daughter, doing up the house, trying to keep in touch with old friends, cementing new friendships, hobbies, blogging, following the Labour leadership contest all took priority.  And then there were times when I was very aware of the fact that we would be bringing another human being into the world and I became consumed with 'getting things done' before the babies arrival;  I suppose you could say I was 'nesting' It became impossible to balance my need to get things done alongside my need to rest.  





We moved into our current house two weeks before F was born.  Anything that didn't get done in the two weeks before F's arrival remained not done for at least a year.  I'm going to be honest here and say that, at times, it could feel pretty depressing sat among the clutter, the dirty carpets, the net curtains and unpacked boxes with a new born.  Two and half years on though and things are different, and our house has come quite far, carpets up, walls painted, floor boards sanded, new curtains hung and even a new bathroom but I can't quite forget that niggling memory of sitting with with a screaming baby, in amidst a sea of pink walls, green carpets and net curtains.  

During my first pregnancy I meditated, went to hypno birthing sessions, practiced yoga, went swimming, rested and went to bed early.  I have done none of this this time round, in short I have neglected my pregnancy a little.  So from here on in i'm reclaiming my pregnancy. I have started by cancelling a few plans, going to bed when my body tells me, changing my diet a little and I have.  Already after a few days of taking things slower, staying closer to home and have even indulged in a little meditation. I feel so much better. In some ways it feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  I have stopped trying to do a million fun things with F and my final day of work is very much in sight.  My daughter has watched a fair few cartoons the last couple of days, and I don't feel guilty like I would have done before, I need to indulge in a spot of self care in the next couple of months!





 
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