Monday, 31 January 2011

The Love of Lists

I am a lover of lists.  I have never been able to successfully keep a diary but I have always been a fantastic list maker.  I have notebooks full of lists, different books for different lists, lists of recipes (all the chocolate cakes & who's I like best!).  Lists can be visual too - scrapbooks full of images, which are then grouped & sorted.  Images kept on memory sticks of flower displays, a collection of stacked tea cups, ideas for parties - it goes on & on.

At this time of year, like most of you, I'm starting to think about our holiday plans & of course with this comes the start of another list!!!!!

Holidays in this country are generally a huge success.  This maybe due to the lack of stress, we usually camp or rent a last minute cottage, it's usually spontaneous & as it's last minute we try to go when the weather is nice but have no great expectations here & fully expect rain (waterproofs & board games are an essential).

I obviously already have a list of lovely places I'd like to visit or stay in.  Through reading other lovely blogs, I realise I share the same favourite places as a lot of you.  So, here is some of my list, please comment & add to the list, especially if you've stayed there & I will add your favourite places to this list too - our own list of:

Favourite Hazy Days & Holidays

Driftwood Beach Chalet
Love Lane Caravans

Cloud Farm

Tom's Field Campsite

West Sussex
Billycan Camping
The Dodo

Camper Vans
Snail Trail

Lovely Companies with Unique Places to Stay
Canopy & Stars
Feather Down Farms
Under the Thatch

Please also check out Emma Bradshaw's pages aswell.  Emma inspired me to start my own blog. Emma has listed her top UK family holidays and a great camping guide.

Holiday Bookshop

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

One Banana, Two Banana, Three Banana, Four ......

Banana Muffins

There must be a knack to great food photography, I'm afraid I don't have it but you get the idea.

Today I decided to attack my collection of frozen bananas.  Freezing bananas was a fairly recent discovery.  The moment they start to go too black for the children to want to eat I pop them in the freezer for a future baking project.

We nearly always turn the old bananas into banana bread (I put rum in mine!).  Today I wanted to try something different.  So I baked a batch of healthy banana muffins for the children's lunchboxes - very quick & very easy.

Banana Lunchbox Muffins
125g wholemeal flour (sifted)
125g plain flour (sifted)
2 tsp baking powder
100g dark sugar
a handful of raisins
100ml of any oil with little flavour
4 bananas (mashed)
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 180C (gas 4) & line a muffin tin with muffin cases.

Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl & all the wet ingredients in another.  Then quickly fold all the wet ingredients into the dry.  Divide the mixture between the muffin cases, filling them to the top (I filled 10 cases).  Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.  Leave to cool.

If you have any seeds you could always add these into your mixture, sprinkle on top, or both.

We also managed to knock out a banoffee pie (this doesn't work with frozen bananas as they're too mushy, but great for the bananas just on the turn!).  We've still got a few frozen ones leftover for smoothies!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


Oh, how quickly the mighty fall.  We've gone from a 'Wonderful Weekend' to the sniffs & sneezes!!!!

As much as I'd love a cosy day in bed surrounded by books & magazines - it's not going to happen.  So, with a quick surf of the internet I've come up with these natural remedies:

Number 1 - Rest
Almost impossible for me (I'm just not very good at doing nothing, I feel guilty) so I'm going to do the ironing & listen to The Archers Omnibus podcast.

Number 2 - Eat Well
I always start the day with porridge.  I'm planning pasta bake for the kids tea, so I can eat that too (although maybe not, see Number 9!).  Soup for lunch - usually have a stash in the freezer.

Number 3 - Garlic with it's antibiotic properties!
I nearly always cook with garlic so I'm hoping I have this one covered.

Number 4 - Lemon, Ginger & Honey Drink to help the immune system & give you a Vitamin C boost.

Number 5 - Echinacea has antibacterial properties & is good for the symptomatic relief of colds
I swear by this product.

Number 6 - Keep Warm
Will borrow my husbands lovely Christmas scarf when I go out! Maybe wear a hat. Would love a hat like this one, she looks so cosy & warm......

image -
Number 7 - Stay off caffeine & nicotine as they severely impair the immune system
I don't smoke so that's easy.  I do love my coffee though - mmmm.  I might not manage this as tonight I'll be wrapped up in a cosy blanket (Number 6 - Keep Warm) with a freshly brewed pot of coffee, relaxing (Number 1 - Rest) in front of the fire (Number 6 again)!

Number 8 - Cut out sugar & other processed foods
I didn't know this one.  All meals are usually freshly cooked & I don't use sugar except for cakes, preserves etc.

Number 9 - Cut out all dairy as they are mucas enhancing
Ooh, hard.  The coffee again! I also love yoghurt piled high with granola & dried fruits - but sadly it appears not today.

Number 10 - Breath in the steam of dried chamomile flowers
I always thought it was eucalyptus oil!  I'm sure that probably works too. I don't have any chamomile tea.  I'm going to get some of these lovely Tea Pigs from my local farm shop on my next visit.

image -

I could go on.  Does anyone else have any tips or remedies?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Wonderful Weekends

Our weeks are pretty full with school & after school clubs, with 3 children needing to be in different places, usually at the same time on the same day.  Even Sunday we are up early.  I have very 'active' children so not much can be done to change this.

Saturday however is a day for lounging, to do something different .....

We stayed in our pyjama's 'til midday!

We made soup from all of the leftover root vegetables in the veg basket.  We added some red chilli & cummin - it was delicious.

Our inspiration came from here......

We took the dogs for a walk in the woods

We found an animal skull!  We took some photos for Show & Tell

It was cold & wet - we came home for hot chocolate, whipped cream & marshmallows!!!!
We had friends to dinner in the evening - I made the blueberry cheesecake.

Daddy made the fish cakes - yummy!

We ended the weekend with three very muddy children after rugby on Sunday morning.  A lovely roast dinner in a local pub. A trip to the cinema in the evening with some friends to see The Kings Speech.

Now back to routine, hectic mornings, the panic to make the packed lunches, missing school books - we're looking forward to the next 'Wonderful Weekend'!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Bees Wax & Lemons

In an attempt to declutter, be thrifty & make life simpler & to a degree prettier I am moving to a greener clean.

I made the move years ago as much a possible from chemical cleaning products to environmentally friendly ones. We try to be as green as we can. But there are still endless bottles - limescale remover, antibacterial cleaner, wood floor cleaner, slate floor cleaner, showers, polish .... and on it goes.

Whilst flicking through the lovely Homemade book & The Thrift Book (again!) I discovered this simple picture, so much nicer to look at than all those plastic bottles!

The Thrift Book suggests a number of websites & has some good tips too.

So, I'm madly cleaning (which is no bad thing) to use up all of the old cleaning products - the clash of different smelling products is outrageous.

Soon we'll be very organised with a few key items:

Bicarbonate of Soda
White Vinegar
Soda Flakes
Essential Oils
Bees Wax........ & a fragrant smelling house.

Resolutions & Things

A few years ago a very good friend of mine suggested we wouldn't do New Year Resolutions anymore. Instead we would select a 'word' for the year. I absolutely loved this idea. Last year my word was 'Thrift'. I was going to be more thrifty, think more thriftily, spend more thriftily. Part of the reason for choosing this word was because I wanted a greener life for my family, we we're heading into recession & money needed to be stretched further but without impacting our lifestyle too much, my friend had also given me The Thrift Book for Christmas - which is still my bible. Probably, most importantly, I didn't want to go back to work either.  I wanted to stay at home with my kids, provide lovely home cooked meals for my family & wander the woods & fields with my dogs. Did I achieve all of this? Well, no. Which is why this year my 'word' for the year is once again 'Thrift'!

I recently came across this lovely idea as well over on Emma Bradshaw's Blog.  I think I will try it on my next birthday!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Winter Oranges

On Sunday Nigel Slater served me well. I chose the Baked Cinnamon & Oranges with Grand Marnier Pudding from his Real Fast Puddings book for the lunch I was telling you about. They were a lovely accompaniment to my friends bread & butter pudding.

I made far too much & not wanting to waste the delicious ingredients, after discussion with my other foodie mums we decided they should be made into an orange vodka for Christmas but more likely to be served in the summer because we won't be able to wait that long to taste it!

Turning left-over Baked Cinnamon & Oranges with Grand Marnier Pudding into Orange Vodka

Put remaining mixture into a sterilised bottle (in my case it filled about 1/3 of the bottle)

  • add to this 1/3 caster sugar
  • top up with vodka
  • pop in 3 cardamon pods & a stick of cinnamon
  • leave in a dark cupboard & keep shaking gently until sugar disolves.

I'm hoping it will taste delicious.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Coffee & Books ....

We are very fortunate to have a lovely Oxfam Book Shop in our local town.  Today I spent many happy minutes browsing through the vast & varied selection they are able to stock, followed by a delicious coffee in The Food Gallerys Coffee Shop just a few doors down, where you can get a refill for £1!

We came home with some lovely old Enid Blyton books for our eldest & a copy of Nigel Slaters Real Fast Puddings for me.  We're having Sunday lunch with good friends tomorrow, all of the wives are in Food Club together.  The hostess will be cooking the main meal but the guests have decided that each family will take along a pudding!  We're all real foodies and no amount of puddings to sample could ever be enough.  Trying to stay seasonal, I have picked a lovely little recipe from Nigels book ..........

Friday, 14 January 2011

Starting off

So, here we are, day one.  Sadly to say I'm neither photographer or writer so I have no idea how this will turn out!  The objective is to have a journal for my children to read & view when they are older!

The hardest part so far has been the name of the blog!  It was going to be Pretty & Simple - as some days I have a love for the extremely pretty - picture vintage tea cups & cake stands of pastel coloured macaroons.  Then, within the blink of an eye I'm packing everything away, cursing the clutter & longing for minimalism. It's very hard to keep up with myself!  Anyway, that name was already taken.  So with the quick addition of another favourite word 'vintage' which fits both my pretty & simple worlds - we're off!

Above all we like a 'pretty simple' life .....

A few days ago my daughter asked me to teach her to knit & sew.  Father Christmas popped a lovely pair of knitting needles into her stocking, so I guess he knew we were up for the challenge!  I can recall spending many hours knitting with my Grandmother, the most amazing lady who lived to 98 & always presented us with a proper afternoon tea on Sundays.

So, a few days ago I saw this lovely book (Homemade) in a shop, with a knitted tea cosy & hot-water bottle cover on the front & it accidently slipped into my shopping basket.  It is full of inspirational projects as well as some useful tips and yummy recipes.  The book is organised by seasons, starting with Spring & Valentines Day which is only a month away!

I think we'll probably start by knitting a scarf for M's teddy but I'm now keen to get out my old knitting needles and knit a tea cosy like the one in this book.

Hopefully in the very near future I'll be able to show you the results of my creative efforts!!!