Friday, December 17, 2010

Cerys' curtains

This was the biggest stencilling job I have taken on so far. My niece Cerys has the hugest window to her room (lucky her) and her Mum and Dad wanted some personalised pink curtains to cover it. They have chosen butterflies as the theme to her room, so the job description was just lots of butterflies!
I took the opportunity to find some decent ink this time...I had been using Dylon fabric pain previously to do t-shirts but it is expensive and messy as it is very runny. This time I used proper screen printing ink (permaset aqua) which is water based and doesn't create a hard plasticy finish. It washes well and remains soft. We wanted pinks and purples this time so I got the dark red and purple and a transparent white mixer and made a colour chart of possibilities...which was a nice t-shirt for the Bean.

And then to the butterflies! We went for a mix of mid-pinks and purples and a random spatter of 4 different sizes of butterflies.
Yes it took a long time. Yes I had to cut each butterfly out separately! 262 butterflies and 4 curtains later and I love the result.

Summer memories

OK I know summer is long long gone, but events have got away with themselves and I haven't blogged for so long! Just thought I might get back and catch up and of course looking at the photos makes you long for those lovely warm times! So I just thought I'd kick off with a picture or two of when the garden was still producing and it was warm enough to wear a sleeveless top!
Neither of my children likes tomatoes unless they are just freshly picked from the plant. I have no idea why this is, but they will eat bucket-fulls if they can pick them.

and as I am really the only person in the house that likes tomatoes, and none of us like courgettes, this is the fate of the majority of this produce. We roast it up with some onion, garlic and chilli and then wizz it up to form a nice sauce base which freezes and comes out any time we want pasta, curry, pie, whatever!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Eat This - Green Tomato Chutney

I eat so much of my Mother-in-Law's green tomato chutney I though this year I would actually make some of my own. I never knew before that the inside of green tomatoes is almost exactly the colour of Spring.
I actually enjoyed all the chopping which I decided to do by hand rather than with the food processor as I couldn't be bothered with the washing up. I rarely get that much time to do something so dull so it was a nice change! I prepped all the veg last night and then left it all to soak in vinegar till this morning. Let me tell you that making chutney is not an activity to undertake in the morning when you are pregnant. The stench was almost unbearable when combined with morning sickness.
Four hours hellish simmering later and I had my marvellous chutney though. I won't be able to tell you how it tastes until next year though, it needs a good three months to mature!
Here's the recipe I used:
Green Tomato Chutney (makes about 8 lb)
2.5 lb green tomatoes
2.5 lb cooking apples, peeled and cored
2 lb onions
6 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb raisins
1 lb 6 oz brown sugar
1 oz pickling spice
1/2 tbs cayenne pepper
1/2 tbs salt
2 tbs ground ginger
3 pints malt vinegar

Chop everything up nice and small and put it all in a big preserving pan. Wrap the pickling spice in muslin and tie the parcel to the handle of the pan so it can freely sit in the middle of the mixture. Pour in the vinegar and bring to the boil. Simmer for 3.5 hours or so, stirring occasionally and more frequently towards the end. Once the liquid has reduced significantly and the mixture thickened nicely pour into hot sterile jars and seal immediately. Leave for 3 months to mature.

Teepee - how to

I said ages ago I was going to write more than a small comment about the teepee I made for the girls. The fact of the matter is the very morning after I made it I came down with a kidney stone that laid me out for the next 6 weeks or so. Nasty nasty and not something I recommend to anyone.

In any case here I am back in the land of the living to tell you how it is done. I didn't make it up myself! I got the idea from Obsessively Stitching and she has done a lovely tutorial for it here. Just so you know the Americans call a single sheet a twin sheet. I know, confusing.

New bookcase

Remember the ridiculously large "IN" pile of books in our house? Well hoorah D built a twin bookcase to match the other one he made from our old bed.

And at last I have filled it up with our IN pile. There was me thinking we'd have loads of space, but no, it's already full. If you look closely though you can see some very very interesting reading like "Experiments in Undergraduate Mathematics". I can't imagine how I have coped the last few years without that one readily available on the shelf. A clear-out might be in order.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More t-shirt stencils

Here's another few t-shirts. First up a new set of PJs for the Bean, who loves stars and moons

and second up a t-shirt for our friend's new baby, Max

This one was an attempt to make a shirt inspired by the Beach Boys' album of the same name. I don't think it came out too badly!

The Basilarium

I have been out of the blogosphere for far too long. I will not bore you with excuses but suffice to say these two things: 1) kidney stones are not recommended, it was the most painful thing I have ever encountered and I've had two children; 2) I am pregnant again. Both of the above were discovered coincidentally and each provided complications to the other. But it hasn't been all about me...the Bean has had to have an operation on her foot after getting an infected splinter which turned into a huge abcess, and that took good month to heal.

But we are all well again, and I'm through the horrid first trimester, so let's get back to business!

Of course I have not been neglecting the little projects, but they have been more in dribs and drabs. So I will be reporting them in a similar fashion. First up is the Basilarium.

I have had trouble growing basil successfully outside in this country. Firstly the slugs and snails just can't get enough of the stuff, and secondly any sign of cold the the whole thing karks it. I've had this old bottle garden hanging around for a few years. I inherited it from my sister when she emigrated, and much as I love it, it just doesn't mix too well with the toddlers. Bug in particular thought it was a fantastic repository for anything from toys to clean, wet washing, so I put it to the side some time ago. I'd acquired 5 or so basil seedlings of mixed variety from a charity stall in Epsom, and decided this might be the perfect match!

Sadly I didn't photograph the rather tiny seedlings in situ, but here's the result 4 weeks later:

Marvellous! I don't even have to water them that much as the bottle is lovely and humid. The only downside is that harvesting is relatively difficult. The bug delights in adding a bit of soil every so often with her mini-trowel, but the basil doesn't seem to mind.

I made some lovely pesto with this lot and can't wait for the re-growth.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


OK this might be the greatest thing I have ever made. More on the hows later!

I left it in the living room for the girls to discover when they got up this morning (5:20am arrrggggh), hence the crazy hair!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Augustus And His Smile

I don't know if is actually illegal to photograph a book and blog about it, so please tell me if this is dodgy and I'll remove it. I have a friend that illustrates books wonderfully and I would hate to think of taking anything away from an illustrator's hard work!

I just wanted to say something about a book the Bean has from the library at the moment. It is Augustus and His Smile by Catherine Rayner.

The pictures in it are just beautiful...and the tiger Augustus just has 'essence of cat' - look at this lovely stretch:

And this page I would frame and put on my wall if I could:

Strawberries and the promise of good things to come

I have been talking for a while about doing something better with the strawberries this year. Last year I didn't get a single taste as the Bean was out every day eating them the moment they were vaguely red so this year I am keeping a beady eye on them. We had a load of plain pots from a previous project so we painted them up using our stock of tester pots I use for all the wall paintings and I think they look pretty good.

I stuck one of the seedling shelf units from the greenhouse by our shed and they now look quite happy. It's pretty shaded which is good because they don't need as much water but I'm not sure how they will perform so they may be moved later.

These are a couple of the Beans old boots put to good use.

I love it when things blossom because you know good things are on the way! These are not just apples, people, but DISCOVERY APPLES...the greatest variety every and I can't wait to see if they make it through the June drop.

And these are some of our plums that survived the frost.

Stencilling t-shirts

While I really should have been up to BeanPi business today I got distracted as my Mum had bought the Bean some new t-shirts. They were lovely colours but plain so I saw it as an ideal opportunity to do some stencils for my girl! She loves butterflies and turtles at the moment so the subject matter wasn't hard to choose.

I learned that tiny hibiscus flowers are hard to cut out. And this was my first attempt at graduating colours with fabric paint. As you may have noticed I only have two colours at the moment, but hey fabric paint is not cheap and I will build up my collection slowly. But I'm pleased with the results!

Eat This! - Flapjacks

Flapjacks, flapjacks, how marvellous you are. Actually for some time I thought flapjacks were rather inferior, but D was spending money buying them on his way home from work and I thought 'I bet I can make better ones than those'. It took a bit of experimentation to get the timing right but now we have a lovely squidgey texture and it is full of fruit so definitely should feature as one of your 5 a day. So here is my recipe (it is adapted from a recipe in The Dairy Book of Home Cookery: new edition for the 90s, which is fabulous for this sort of thing)...
100g butter
75g golden syrup
75g brown sugar
225g oats
2 bananas
large handfull of chopped apricots
large handfull of sultanas
handfull of desicated coconut
large chocolate bar
Put butter, syrup, mashed bananas and sugar in a bowl and melt together in the microwave (2 mins or so)
Combine dry ingredients and add sugary goodness to them. Mix well
Spread into a greased lined microwave-safe receptacle.
Cook in the microwave for 2.5 minutes. Stand for 1 minute then cook for another 2 minutes. Squish down the mixture with a spoon.
And now my favourite bit. Break the chocolate into pieces and put them on top of the flapjacks. Leave for 5-10mins then give them a swirl.

This will then take ages to set. Far longer than you will be able to wait to taste them so be prepared for a gooey mess.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Hello and welcome to Tanushree (or Baby Nushree as Anneli has taken to calling her). How cute is she?

First child of my very good friends Av and Ruchi, and possibly the loveliest little thing I have seen in a while! She makes my babies look huge!

She also was the recipient of BeanPi's first foray into baby toys. A happy tag sun with a couple of bells inside for fun.

Best cupcakes ever?

As I mentioned previously I decided to do cupcakes for Juno's birthday this year. I have become a little tiny bit obsessed with them, and the fact that our local poundland has silicone cupcake cases 6 for a pound really sealed the deal. I went for 3 varieties: vanilla chocolate chip with white chocolate icing, double chocolate, and carrot and honey with lemon icing.

Boy oh boy were the carrot ones good. Thanks for the recipe Sally! I used a syringe to inject honey after they were cooked and they turned beautifully. I may have been slightly heavy-handed with the food colouring, though.

I do have to admit it is the first time I have made a cake and had no urge to eat the uncooked batter though. In this case it looked almost exactly like vomit. Next time I might add raisins to them, and maybe try with my traditional icing for carrot cake (maple syrup butter icing, yum!)

Saturday, May 15, 2010


We have so many dandelions on the green outside our house we just can't keep up with them. I have sacrificed my lawn for the joy the Bean gets out of blowing the clocks. No doubt next year our lawn will be as full of dandelions as the green.

But I'm trying to think of other things to do with them. Here's some pictures we did. I put the glue on and Anneli blew the clocks over the paper and stuck the petals on. She then drew the leaves with pastel. I think they are pretty marvellous!

Perfect tablet at last!

Yay I've done it! I decided to make another attempt at the tablet. This time I decided to add vanilla, so I made some vanilla sugar (by putting a vanilla pod in a bag of sugar and leaving it for a month). I knuckled down and gave in with my holistic approach, returned to my scientific training, and used a thermometer. I took it to the "firm ball" stage and let it boil till the colour was right and then whipped until I felt the crystallisation begin.

I still had the same bubbling problem when I poured it out into the tray though. I'm not sure what this is caused by. Is it just that the buttered tray provides nucleation points? Should I let the mixture cool a little before whipping? Should I heat the tray before I pour the tablet into it? Either way, once I poured it out I noticed crystals forming on the spoon and in the pan, so I knew I had timed it perfectly this time.

Once the tray had cooled overnight it was plain to see that this batch was the perfect combination of shatter and crumble.

And it melted in the mouth wonderfully. I guess a testament to this is the speed with which it disappeared!