family dinners: beef casserole

I like to think that we eat well on a reasonable budget. I’m not one for meal planning as I can guarantee that I won’t want to eat what is marked for dinner on Wednesday when Wednesday comes around. Then because I can’t drive I’m limited in what I can get on the pushchair to get home (and get round the supermarket in a basket too!) So I’ve got a system of getting a big online food order delivered at the beginning of the month filling the freezer with a vague idea of meals we may eat and then making it up from there! I end up shopping for fresh food every 3 or 4 days ( 1 year olds get through a lot of milk!) but I’m getting better at not buying too many treats!

We always have food in to make some staple meals and stews and casseroles are one of them especially with dumplings. Now we eat our I find meals like this are good for days when Jack and I are out in the morning as I can cook while Jack eats breakfast and pop the casserole dish in the oven on low (as Phil is home working otherwise a slow cooker would be more sensible), then when we return home Jack has a nap and I sort the veg and dumplings ready for when he wakes up.

So the recipe:

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a first birthday cake

Four days after his birthday Jack finally got to have his first taste of cake. He’d tried biscuits, fruit crumble and sponge pudding but I had made sure that the first cake he was going to eat was his first birthday cake. Then since Phil was out all day on his birthday, cake had to wait a couple more days.

However waiting meant that he got to share his birthday cake with family and have an even bigger cake than I was originally thinking!

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I was going to make a plan or template but at the last minute I just decided to make a 7 egg batch of chocolate sponge and fill a 7″ square tin and a rectangular roasting tray, bake the cakes and work out how on earth I would make a one out of it in the morning!

Which as it turned out wasn’t too hard…

partstogetherSee, simply cut, layer the two sandwiches of the cake together with a bit of buttercream and arrange on the cake board.
Roughly crumb coated in more butter cream then neatened up with a second layer (after a quick trip to the corner shop because I’d ran out of icing sugar!) And then stripes of mini smarties that I’d separated by colour the evening before.

It was nothing fancy but went down very well with the birthday boy!

I wonder what he’ll want next year?

BLW and why we’ve loved it so much

Jack has just turned one which means he’s been eating solid food for just over 6 months, in that time he’s gone from picking up, looking at and pulling faces at pieces of vegetables and fruit, realising that it is nice and he can chew and swallow it, to now pretty much eating anything and I mean anything!

We’ve followed the ‘new’ baby led weaning (BLW), though I can’t imagine the first humans spooning puree into the babies mouth with an aeroplane motion! The basic idea is that you start at 6 months when they can sit unaided, have lost their tongue thrust reflex, and put things to their mouths, Jack met all 3 of these around 2 weeks before he was 6 months. The baby is in control, if they want to eat they eat, if they don’t well you try to shrug your shoulders and not worry about the wasted food (or eat the untouched bits yourself!) There’s also the whole thing about not worrying if they don’t seem to have eaten any vegetables all day and to try and think about it being a balanced diet over a week. And to eat as a family all with the same food, this way baby sees and learns what to do and dinner time become a social activity.
Family dinners are something I remember well from my childhood, all sitting around the kitchen table for a home cooked meal and is definitely something to continue with my son. To make our dinners baby friendly was fairly simple as I’ve always cooked the majority of our food from scratch, I switched to low salt stock cubes, stopped adding salt to season whilst cooking and started adding more veg to meals. Which as a result means we now eat healthier and I now even have breakfast just about everyday.

At first it’s frustrating, most of the food ends up on the floor, or has a face pulled at the taste of it. Jack would get frustrated when he couldn’t pick something up and get it in his mouth and would easily give up. Especially with the combination of him having no routine to his day until somewhere between 8 and 9 months, the guess work in trying to work out when to cook and then eat, around him when he napped irregularly and only on me was impossible! But as he learnt to eat and started having 3 meals it all started clicking into place and we naturally found a routine of sorts and Jack started to eat more and more.

 weaning

We started by offering him bits of the vegetables we were having at dinner as he wasn’t quite 6 months, one of the first full meals he had was a roast chicken dinner, really enjoying sucking on a piece of chicken as he still had no teeth! Not a lot would be swallowed at first but he enjoyed the taste and the texture of different foods.
As his fine motor skills started to develop he got better at picking things up, he enjoys eating plain dipped in milk shreddies for breakfast, and working out the texture of foods, he can pick up clumps of porridge without just squishing it through his fingers (Though he still does that just to make a mess!). He’s now quite happy picking up individual peas to eat and handfuls of bolognaise to push into his mouth and will eat just about anything as long as it’s not cucumber or lettuce, there just about the only foods he won’t eat.
He currently loves tomatoes, cashew butter, cauliflower and raisins, oh and bread.

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Messy but fun!

Why have I loved weaning this way?

  1. I’ve not had to do any extra cooking, I’d generally cook a meal every day anyway so it was never any extra effort.
  2. Jack has eaten everything we have, even the ‘grown up’ food like prawns, mussels, squid, duck, game meats, and has tried them all. (He really likes prawns just like me!)
  3. We can go out to eat and give him bits of what we’re eating, no taking around his dinners when we’re out for the day. (Pizza Express pizza has gone down well several times!)
  4. We all sit together to eat, we do have the advantage of Phil working from home so can often eat our main meal at lunchtime but eating together means no ones dinner goes cold.
  5. He would have had to learn to feed himself making a mess in the process sometime so it may as well have been sooner than later!

Why Jack has loved being introduced to fun this way?

  1. He gets to join in, it’s noticeable how much better he eats when we are all round the table to when it’s just the two of us.
  2. He gets to try everything. So much so that if someone is eating he expects to too!

bunting for the birthday boy

In my usual great ideas at the last minute, a week before the little ones first birthday I decided that I just had to make him some birthday bunting, thinking, “oh, it’s only a bit of bunting it won’t take too long!” Which it wouldn’t but I was planning on stitching felt letters on, it had been awhile since I’d embroidered and it took a couple of evenings before I’d got the speed up and really got going, creating a moment of panic when I wondered if it would get finished!
And yes, I only managed to sew in the evenings once he was in bed, I’ve tried to craft in the day, but there’s so much to do during nap time and I never get very far when he’s awake before he wants to see what I’m doing and join in.

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So this is what I did, a trip to the lovely ladies at The Sewing Shop in Lichfield on Monday to purchase some boy friendly fabric, (my fabric stash tends to be more girly, pinks, polka dots florals, can’t think why!) I picked up some bicycles, sharks, trains and letters to add to the leftover bit of galaxy fabric I did have.

That evening I then set about cutting everything out. Starting with creating a simple rectangular pattern piece for the flags. I worked out I had 17 letters and would need 2 spaces, plus an extra space on the end too, to then make 20 as that made it easier to just cut out 4 flags in each fabric, and I much prefer things to be even!

I also cut out the letters, using the collection of felt that I have, as it wouldn’t fray and didn’t need backing like using woven cottons would have. I made templates for each letter by freehand drawing them all and making them the same height by eye. I could have chosen a font on the computer and printed them out to size but I’m not sure it would have been any quicker as I could pretty much guarantee that I wouldn’t be happy with the size first go.
Once I had the letters it was simple enough to cut them out in the felt and match them up with the flags in order, that’s where I left it night one.
The following evenings were then spend hand stitching the letters on with embroidery thread. I used different stitches just to make it a little bit more interesting for me. Though blanket stitch is my absolute favourite, I find it soothing somehow.

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In true last minute style, Monday evening was when I got round to backing all the flags with plain white fabric and sewing them onto the bias binding. It could do with pressing still but I’ll get round to that eventually! And tada! Happy Birthday bunting that I can bring out year after year!

The birthday boy did actually notice it on Tuesday morning, or he noticed that something was different, it might have just been the new toy garage sat waiting for him, which he seems to enjoy!

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Happy 1st Birthday Lovely!

 

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cherry and almond cake

On the 4th of February it was my 29th birthday, realising that I was entering the last year of my twenties and that I’d not actually celebrated my birthday in the way that I really wanted to since my 25th (Which was a very well celebrated with lots of cocktails, dancing and ridiculously high heels while I was living in Manchester!). At 26 I had glandular fever, 27 it snowed so no one (except Harri who walked across Lichfield) could get to mine to eat cake, and last year at 28 I was pregnant, in fact it was exactly 3 weeks later that I gave birth.

So this year I was determined I would do something to celebrate, and I did by going to the library to sing nursery rhymes, that’s how everyone celebrates their 29th birthday isn’t it?! Though I admit I didn’t raise my hand when they asked if there was any birthdays but it was followed by coffee and cake so that bit was good.
No the real celebrating took place the weekend after when I chose to go out for dinner with some of my favourite girlfriends, an evening of wine and chinese was the perfect way to celebrate, especially when you can be home in bed by 11 in preparation for a little one waking you up by 8 (yes I know it could be much worse!)

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My actual birthday evening I drank a mini bottle of cava and ate 2 slices of this cake. (That makes a total of 3 slices of cake consumed on my birthday, the way it should be!)
This cherry and almond cake is adapted slightly from a recipe in Cake by Joanna Farrow. The original recipe is for a loaf cake and uses a method of separating the eggs and beating the whites for volume in the sponge, but seeing as I didn’t want a huge cake, I baked it in a small round tin, and I was limited on time in making the cake, I had to get it mixed up and in the oven in nap time, I didn’t bother with that and just added a bit of baking powder for a bit more volume.
I love this cake, I’d even go as far as saying it was one of my favourites, a lot of it is just I love glace cherries, I’d eat them from the pot if I didn’t put them all in the cake. The ground almonds keeps the sponge nice and moist, the cherries are like little prizes inside and the flaked almonds on top add a bit of texture.

Ingredients

  • 100g glace cherries
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 125g butter
  • 125g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 75g ground almonds
  • handfull of flaked almonds.
  1. Grease and line your cake tin.
  2. Rinse and dry the cherries then cut them in half and toss in a spoon of the flour.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, almond extract and lemon juice.
  5. Fold in the flour and ground almonds and then half the cherries.
  6. Pour into the cake tin and level out.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining cherries and flaked almonds on the top.
  8. Bake at 180C or Gas Mark 4 for about an hour but check at 45mins.
  9. Leave to cool, lemon icing drizzle optional.
  10. Eat and enjoy.

So that’s it, I’m 29, I’ve never been one to mind getting older, I still look like a teenager half the time and I love birthdays really, but 29 just feels odd, I must be a ‘grown up’ now! Maybe… sometimes!

598 days later…

Or 1 year, 7 months and 18 days since I last wrote a blog post, the longer I left it the less I knew what to say and so all this time passed.

A lot has happened since then, this little boy (who is less than 3 weeks from his first birthday) being the biggest.

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I never thought I’d enjoy being a mother this much but I absolutely have, it’s cheesy to say but it is amazing watching him grow up and learn and he’s so cheeky, just look at him stealing my chocolates when I wasn’t looking!

One of my favourite joys is watching him eat, we’ve baby led weaned from 6 months and cooking baby friendly dinners that we can all enjoy has been top of my list for the past few months. There’s lots of recipes I can share.

I’ve also had a go a few crafty projects for the boy and our home, that I’d like to share as I try to get back into this blogging and perhaps widen my range of posts as my interests change.

All this is as I finally start to run children’s craft sessions and spread the joy of textiles (it’s not just knitting and sewing!) to the young folk, this will be starting next month in March. Create craft activity packs to sell for you and your little ones to make at home and maybe, just maybe, design and make some more lovely and fabulous handmade items to sell in my store! Phew!

 

event: we’ll meet again

This Sunday (24th June) I shall be exhibiting at We’ll Meet Again being held at Chasewater Railway and organised by Always Red Events.

They’ve been blogging interviews with the exhibitors and you can read mine here.

I’m really looking forward to displaying all my lovely textiles that are for sale, putting on a fifties frock and talking to lots of lovely customers.

And look at this amazing advert that they’ve made!

Now I must get on with the making!

cupcakes at cocomeli bakery

Each week I go down to CoCoMeli Bakery in Lichfield and make some cupcakes which are then sold on the market stall. (Also available for order, just contact me!)

Here are what I’ve made in the last few weeks…

Cherry, vanilla and mocha…

Jubilee raspberry and blueberry and Earl Grey tea…

Strawberry and lemon…

Peanut butter and chocolate and apple crumble and custard…

Raspberry and Jaffa Cake…

Rhubarb and custard and cherry Bakewell…

And finally marbled chocolate and vanilla and red velvet.

things people have asked me to make…

My lovely friend Shawn asked me to make him a Kindle cover, after seeing the Union Jack version I had made Rachel. This was a little bit of a challenge as my style is usually very girly and not quite to Shawn’s taste. But with a decision to use the blue and green gingham I came up with this idea to use fifties inspired florals. The abstract plats were machine free embroidered onto the patchworked fabric before being stitched together on the felt and adding corduroy button and ribbon fastening.

Shawn has also been requesting lots of bunnies! He says for his son but he might just be collecting them for himself! Though he did say this pink one here was for a little one and is button free and printed instead.

 

 

Faith also asked for a bunny and a cat and a panda, these are what I came up with!

I also made some kitsch patriotic bunting! And then made a smaller version for myself which is now up in the living room. I particularly like how it’s hooked over The Clash vinyl!

allotments and tea parties

A couple of weeks a go I finally got myself a silk screen and some printing inks and I very excitedly got to work creating some printed projects.

I ended up printing two mini collections which I plan to add to over the next couple of months.

The first is inspired by all the muddy veg we get from the farm and has vegetable printed as if they are in the ground with a stitched line for the soil.


The allotment collection is available here and currently consists of aprons, napkins and bags and more tea towels soon.

The second collection is my Jubilee themed tea party, this time with printed tableware and a stitched table cloth.


You can purchase this print on tea towels, aprons, tea cosys and coffee cosys, see them all here.