Thursday, 28 February 2013

First sign of madness??

Some days require a BIG pot of coffee. 

Today is one of them.

Today I emptied an entire bag of ground coffee into the  cafetiere when I meant to put it in the jar beside it. The whole bag. It took too long to realise what I was doing because when the bag was empty I thought 'well that all fit very nicely'. First sign of madness?

The more I thought about it the more I remembered those little 'baby brain' moments. When we blame hormones or our offspring for the fact we are losing it. On one occasion I accidentally tried to steal a car. I bet the police, had it reached that stage, would have nodded sympathetically as they hand cuffed me, 'we've heard that one before'. No really it WAS accidental. I always used to park my little black polo in the same spot outside work. One afternoon as I was leaving, I took a look at our car and thought 'that's the best our car has ever looked'. But it wasn't our car. Undeterred, and slightly smug that our car was clean and so well, new looking- she is an old girl after all, I tried to open it. Awkward. Key doesn't seem to fit. Looked through the window, I remember thinking 'do we really have that upholstery and why do we have a car seat in there...'. 

It wasn't our car. 

It wasn't even nearly our car. In fact the only thing that it had in common with our car was the colour. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a movement from inside the house I'd parked in front of and panicked. I'm sure I said something out loud to myself. As if that would make it okay! It's all too embarrassing. Anyway. I made it home (in our car). 



If I've made it successfully to the end of the day then it's because of this very mug of coffee. It's cost is far more than it's worth- my sanity. 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

I owe it to you Annie!

Before...

This little beauty came to us from the British Heart Foundation shop. It set us back a total of £15. Nothing really for such a cute table. It came on a day when we decided that we weren't buying any more furniture...I promised promised promised that this time I was going to 'upcycle' it to sell it on. That was before I painted it and fell. in. love. 

After...I was totally won over by the picnic basket style drawer and debated whether or not to paint it too. When I'd  finished the rest of the table it was obvious that the drawer should be left as it was! If you look closely I haven't finished the bottom of the legs...but I'm on to it! We'd had this table for ages before I got round to painting it because there's a lot of work involved, sanding, priming etc etc. I had time for that before baby was born and now time is SO precious and the weather has been rubbish, and really I've learned from experience that sanding should be done OUTSIDE! 

It was my mum who introduced me to Annie Sloan chalk paint but it was months after she'd mentioned it that I actually bought any. I saw it at home (in Belfast) but due to luggage allowance I could never bring any back to Glasgow (I eventually bought it from Iconic Home in the antique warehouse). I became determined though. The paints biggest selling point is you DON'T need to sand or prime your furniture, it'll paint on to almost anything and there are a load of colours to choose from. I was unwilling to commit to buying any until I'd done my research (so unlike me but I'm learning to be a good steward of our resources!). People rave about this paint.  The only negative thing ANYONE had to say about it was the price, it's on the expensive side of things BUT

1. I can paint INDOORS because it's not toxic
2. I don't have to sand (I bought a sander for a coffee table project last year but I'm sure we'll use it another time...)
3. it dries SO quickly
4. Anyone I spoke to seemed confident in it

I'm sold. So sold I even bought an Annie Sloan brush (again something I NEVER do...I'm all about buying the cheap brushes and regretting it every time).

So far I've painted two bedside cabinets  a bureau, a child's chair and this table. I became totally addicted to buying second hand furniture when I was pregnant. Costly nesting some would call it! I've still got a rocking chair, two benches, a free standing mirror and a childrens' picnic table to do. 

All the furniture was second hand and came to a total of £143 ...spread across 9 months ;-) I'll post photos of it as I work through it all. 




Chickpea week: the evidence

Right. Perhaps not the most inspiring photos of food but try to look past that.... 

My pie
I looked to Economy Gastronomy for ideas when I was preparing this weeks meal plan. It's a book filled with money and time saving ways to eat great food ALL the time. Perfect I hear you say. Well I thought so too and normally I'm dubious about these kinda things but I'm always looking for new recipes so I thought I'd give it ago. I even bothered to read some of the introduction rather than flicking through hoping I'll land on an all-singing-all-dancing-everything-I-want-it-to-be-kinda-recipe. It's very easy to read, I'd even go as far as to say it's a friendly book. One of the things I've LOVED about it is this idea of 'bedrock' food for example one joint of ham that becomes three nights dinner, a load of mince that starts off life in the same pot that then becomes three very different meals. Brilliant stuff. This is the way my brain thinks- how can I make the most of this. With the chickpeas I made a 'base' that then became three different things. A pie, a loaf and hummus.

This book, or rather Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett understand ME...or at least my thought processes. An example: 'I'm encouraging you to leave the hummus-to-be in the food processor, as even though you're going to make the pie first, it really is only a three-minute job to finish this off, and if you put it in the fridge, it just may never happen.' How did they know?! And they were so right. A three minute job that give me that oh-so-smug feeling of I've already got part of Wednesday's dinner made and I am AMAZING. 

Othello's Chickpea Comfort Pie:
(see photo above) I enjoyed making this pie, probably more so because I felt like like I was half way there once the base mix was made (which didn't take long at all!). I definatly felt like I'd cooked something rather than assembled something which was a nice feeling! It's the sort of food I'd give to friends/family that are vegetarians because it's not a curry, a stuffed pepper or a lonesome mushroom. It's fairly straight forward to make but it says 'I made some effort'. 

Spicy Chickpea Loaf:
It was probably foolish to have this for dinner the night after the chickpea pie- but then I was warned! I would probably make these again sooner than I'd make the pie because they would be great for lunches, picnics etc as the book suggests. Tasted great. 

The hummus:
This is probably the thing I was most excited by and the most simple. We LOVE hummus. We particularly love posh hummus and this was just that. Now that we have tahini paste in the fridge I'll make it ALL the time. It's a minium effort maximum reward food and once you've got tahini in the fridge it's cheaper to make your own hummus than buy it. Having followed the recipe once I would be confident to make changed to it by adding different flavours- coriander maybe? Husband quite often has hummus on toast for his lunch, I always mean to make sandwiches but often there's enough left over dinner for him to have Dinner For Lunch. I don't feel so bad now that he can take homemade hummus. 

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Economy gastronomy: chickpea week

This post should really be titled 'how not to shop'. My list yesterday took me to 3 different supermarkets- time saving approach to shopping I think not. Our nearest shops are Aldi and M&S, a thrifty yet snobby shoppers dream come true. But I needed tahini paste and I knew neither of them would have it. Everything else I can get from Aldi...or so I thought. I went to buy minced beef and couldn't. Don't get me wrong there was plenty of it in stock I just COULDN'T. Not after all this horse meat chat. I know that so far it's just been cheap products that contain beef (except they don't they contain horse...) but still. At this point I could still have kept the supermarket count down to two but I could hear my mother (in my head) 'it's not worth the risk'. It's fine I'll just pop next door to M&S. 

I went to get the ricotta. Aldi had none. It's okay I'm going to M&S now anyway so I'll get it there.
Paid for my shopping. £28.93 whoop! (it included nappies)
Mince beef in M&S £4.49. It was £2.19 next door. In M&S it's part of that deal should I get 3 packs?! No I'll go back next door. No I won't. I'll get the expensive mince, it'll do two meals and sure by the time you've divided it in two and then into 2 adult and 1 baby sized portion sure that's hardly anything.

On to the ricotta. They have none. Ahhhh! I could've got it in Sainsbury's. Wasn't to know. I'll pop in to Morrison it's not THAT far away. Four supermarkets in one week. (not to mention that I took baby for a day trip to Asda-don't ask). I was determined to finish shopping. This wasn't going how I had planned it. I asked the lady stacking the cheese if she knew of an alternative to ricotta (what even is ricotta?) I know it's soft cheese so we both thought just regular soft cheese. I check the price. It's cheaper in Aldi. Help! She asks her colleague who enjoys cooking, he recommends goats cheese but I'm sure that's not going to work...at least not in this recipe. So kind of her to ask someone else so awkward now that I have to buy a cheese. I thank them SO much for the assistance and potter off until neither are standing there any more. I panic and grab a pot of mascarpone (?!) and run for the checkout. Two items came to over 7 quid!. I'll not tell husband. 7 quid. I suppose that's the price you pay for trying to be cheap and then flapping!


I told husband, ran the mascarpone idea past him before admitting that's what I'd gone for. He said it's more of a desert cheese. Too late. He doesn't seem too fussed. In fact he looks dubious about this whole 'chickpea themed' week anyway. Who's to blame him. 


Checked recipe book THEY suggest three chickpea recipes in one week is a bit overkill.


Will plough on in spite of advice.

Friday, 22 February 2013

5 minute mothers' day bunting

Bunting is a bad word. At least I thought it was. Growing up in Belfast bunting was (and is) strung up around various parts of the city during marching season and for me was synonymous with shops being closed, helicopters over head and the news being clogged up with reports of petrol bombs and kids throwing stones.

Turns out bunting means tiny flags, street parties (the kind without stones), birthdays and tea parties. Nice things. Nice word.

During our Big Clear Out I've come across mountains of lovely paper and these oh so cute stickers. I was saving them. For what? A time worthy of some cutebutcheap shabby chic stickers? Oh please. I need to get a grip. There is NO point in hoarding and there is little point in saving things (like stickers) for such a time as they are worthy because every day is worthy of celebrating.

My mum and mother in law are also worth celebrating and they'll be pleased to know that the packet of oh so cute stickers is open. This 5 minute no sew bunting is my alternative to a mothers' day card this year. Mum if you are reading this look away now (and I brushed my hair this morning!).



And for anyone desperate to see my till receipt from yesterdays post- it's coming. After I do the shopping. Tomorrow. 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

What we're eating.

I wouldn't call myself a vegetarian (...because I eat meat, obviously) but I'm not a full blown carnivore either. Our diet is part influenced by our budget, partly by ethics and mostly by how quickly/easy the food can be prepared. We do not eat ready meals (or horse- now that they are one and the same).


I plan our meals on a Thursday (no idea why but now it's a habit) using old copies of Delicious Magazine, BBC good food and, on occasion I put up a plea on Facebook for helpful ideas from other people! Economy Gastronomy (a book I picked up in the library because of its catchy title & tactile paper) has heavily influenced our evening meals for next week.
I try to include one portion of fish & one red meat a week, mostly for the 10 month old's benefit. Brains* & iron. I wish I could tell you we got our fish from a fish monger, meat from a butcher and vegetables from a green grocer but the truth is we don't live within walking distance of any of these. Okay that's not strictly true, I believe there is a butcher 20 mins away...but what's stopping me is knowing how much to ask for. I depend on packaging too much. In my mind I'm a lot greener and local-produce-supplier-friendly than I am in reality which saddens me.



Anyway, I thought I'd share next weeks plan. When I've shopped for it I'll share the receipt. When I've cooked it I'll share the evidence.


And just to warn you tonight's dinner fell apart. Literally.


*had to check several times that I didn't type Brian. Too easy.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Yellow Man Ice Cream


If I say 'yellow man' your first thought may well be Homer Simpson. Well I love the Simpsons too but this is even better than our TV watching, duff beer drinking, Springfield residing friends. In Northern Ireland it means  honeycomb! 


Honeycomb is one of those things that to me, looks time consuming and potentially difficult to make. One of the many things that I like about Nigella's 'how to be a domestic goddess' is the simplicity of her recipies and if I'm honest I trust that they will turn out well every time (and so far they have). Nigella's recipe for honeycomb seemed too good to be true but we had  all the ingredients and so I roped Phil in to giving me a hand. 

To our surprise (or ignorance?) honeycomb doesn't contain honey! Having made one batch and devoured it we made it again, this time though I had my heart set on honeycomb ice cream. For me it's a total reminder of my childhood and of Mauds ice cream shop. Maud's is a legendary institution- one that I didn't appreciate until I left home because nowhere does honeycomb ice cream like them (or Poor Bear as it's known by them). 

I ate buckets of ice cream when I was pregnant with Josh. So much ice cream was consumed that I stopped buying the expensive stuff and bought vast quantities of the cheap stuff. 

This recipe for honeycomb ice cream is not cheap, or rather it's worth investing in but it would be cheaper to buy it ready made but where's the fun in that? If you are in need of a reminder of home I recommend making this. It's guaranteed to take you back to warmer, sunnier days (it was always warm and sunny growing up in Belfast wasn't it?!). 

Yellow man Ice Cream (Honeycomb Ice cream)

Ingredients

100 gram(s) caster sugar

4 tablespoon(s) golden syrup

1.5 teaspoon(s) bicarbonate of soda

600mls Double cream

200mls condensed milk 


Method

  1. Put the sugar and syrup into a saucepan and stir together to mix. Don't stir once the pan's on the heat.
  2. Place the pan on the heat for about three mintues until it is bubbleing. 
  3. This is the fun part- take it off the heat, whisk in the bicarbonate of soda and watch it bubble.  Turn this immediately onto a piece of reusable baking parchment or greased foil.
  4. When it has set, break it up so there are some big bits and lots of smaller bits. 
  5. For the ice cream wisk the double cream until it is thick but not totally whipped. Fold in the condensed milk and wisk until it forms peaks.
  6. Stir in the honeycomb- leave a bit to sprinkle on the top & pop it in the freezer. There's no need to churn the ice cream but you will need to be patient until it's set!
So worth it!

From maternity leave to full time motherhood

I must stress from the beginning that I don't regard mums who work to be part time mothers, whether you're in paid employment or not it's a full time job! The title of this post refers more to a shift in my mind set during the months after baby was born. In the early days of motherhood getting out of the flat was no mean feat. If we made it on time to a play group or coffee date then I was probably doing something wrong. And YET we were very busy. The staff in our local cafe know us by name and that was the point, along with the decision to not return to work that I realised that this coffee shop approach to parenting was not sustainable. 

Now what? In the working world it is possible that you know what hours your are expected to work, when you are due in and when you're free, how your expected to plan, prioritise and report back on your progress. I'm used to that and I like it. Suddenly I feel a little out of my depth. Baby and home represent my job and workplace. So long as everyone has eaten, has something vaguely clean to wear (our definition of dirty has changed) then surely my job is done? My standards go a little further than that you'll be glad to hear but WHERE oh WHERE is the job description and what are my deadlines. Who will do my six monthly appraisal where we can discuss my strengths, weaknesses and importantly, future training needs*?


Fortunately we are getting there. I've developed systems, plans, lists and schemes so that I at least feel like I know what I'm doing. We have pin boards in the kitchen, TWO calenders a mini ring binder with mini plastic pockets and an array of coloured pens. What can possibly go wrong??







*I'd love a six week course on how to clean your house so that it STAYS clean and I'm willing to accept any advice on how to cook healthy, budget, quick, freezer friendly meals using real, seasonal, locally sourced, organic, fairly traded ingredients. Not too much to ask folks.