Sunday, 29 January 2017

Annual Walk up Darwen Tower

Every New Year we blow away the cobwebs with a hike up to Darwen Tower.

It's a hell of a hike.

But not for Little Miss.  

It's a relief to get to the top.  

But it's worth it.  

Until next year . . . . 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Patchwork Floor Cushion Sewing Pattern

This cushion cover is 32" square.  I used 1/2 inch seam allowances.  It's double sided mostly because I didn't have a piece of fabric big enough to cover the back without patchworking it.  

Here's the fabric pieces I cut for each side:

I used different dark brown fabrics for the back and front as I didn't have enough of one pattern to do both the same.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Emptying the Dishwasher - Montessori

Contrary to popular belief I'm not a mumsy mum, playing games and singing songs does not come naturally to me AT ALL.  I find myself floundering around quite a bit not really sure how to do this stay at home mom thing.  I miss targets, task lists oh and working hours!  

So I've been looking for a way to re-introduce some sort of structure into this process.  And as Little Miss get's older I'm conscious that she should really be starting to learn things, or at least play in a constructive way.  

A friend told me about Montessori parenting as a possible solution.  As I understand it, in layman's terms it's "teach me to do it myself".  Instead of babying a child you show them how to do it for themselves and give them the tools they need to be successful.  

So this is one of our first Montessori "activities" although i've also heard it called common blooming sense!

Little Miss took and interest as I was emptying the dishwasher after breakfast (hence the PJs and bed hair).  

Firstly I quickly removed the sharp knives.  

Then the crockery.  

As I started emptying the top shelf I threw her plastic crockery into the bottom where she could reach it easily.  

I popped my step stool next to her hoping she would put her dishes on it and left her to it while I put stuff away.  

To my surprise and delight my 18 month old neatly stacked all her cups on the stool.  

She wasnt sure about her plates and bowls so she decided she was done and shut the dishwasher.

She carried on stacking and unstacking her cups while I finished re-filling the dishwasher.  

So job done, baby occupied and most importantly she learned a valuable life skill while we spent some quality time together.  

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Healthy Air Fried Chips Recipe

I've been taking  a break from batch cooking lately, the freezer is full and I'm feeling lazy.  So I've been putting my feet up and enjoying the fruits of my labour.

This is such a simple recipe I'm almost embarrassed to call it one.  But this makes the best chips and they're pretty guilt free.  In fact I probably use more fat in my mashed potatoes.

I leave the skins on, I could say this is because there's loads of extra vitamins in the skin, or I could admit that it's purely laziness.

Hubster has a bulky, complicated chip dicer thingy that needs biceps the size of erm, something big to operate.  Personally I have the chips chopped in less time than it takes him to unpack the blooming thing.

Chop in half lengthways.

Half again.

Cut once or twice more at an angle towards the centre of the base.

And repeat.

Then they get boiled until they're pretty much cooked but not over cooked like these!  I got distracted.  But it's OK, they'll still taste awesome.

Drain the cooked chips and add a good glug of oil.  Any oil will do, veg oil is cheaper, olive oil works well, whatever you have to hand.  Oils with added flavourings will do fab.

Add herbs and/or spices.

I'm using chip spice here simply because it was the first thing I saw on the spice rack.  Any herbs would work well, salt of course, pepper paprika, curry spice mix, chilli flakes, mustard . . .  I've been known to sling in that neglected last bit of condiment hubby bought and got bored of.

Give em a good toss to coat, I just put a lid on the pan and carefully turn it upside down.

Sling them in the airfryer.

Cook on high for about 20 minutes.  Give them a shake halfway through the cooking time.

And voila, despite my getting distracted scrummy, healthy chips.  On the table in about the same amount of time as oven chips.

An airfryer will set you back a pretty penny but it is SOOO worth it to have guilt free chips a few times a week.  They're also great for veggies - air fried mushrooms are to die for!  Anything you might like to fry but oven cook instead because it's healthier is quicker, easier and tastier in an airfryer, not to mention healthier than oven cooking.  We use ours more often than the kettle.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Bullet Journal - Gardening Calendar

I usually start thinking about gardening in February but for some reason my mind' turning to it early this year.  It's probably this lovely mild weather we're having at the moment - short lived I'm sure but it's getting me motivated.

As always I've started by digging out my seeds and for the first time in like forever, I don't need to buy any more.  My basil and parsley plants seem to have given up on life and they just happen to be the only two herb seed packets I have left.  

I always struggle with timings in my sowing, planting out and harvesting.  I start sowing indoors very early which is fine but for some plants it's way too early - then I wonder why they fail.  I always loose some crops because I've planted them out months too early.  And the tiny minority that make it to harvesting tend to rot on the plant because I've assumed harvesting is done for the year.

So this year will be different - famous last words!  I've copied the recommended sowing, planting out and harvesting times from the back of every seed packet and put hem in a chart.

On the left I've a list of my seeds with months across the top and then a section for notes.  I've squeezed the key on the end, red for sowing indoors, green for planting out, blue for sowing outdoors and yellow for harvesting.

Hopefully this will keep me on track but time will tell.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Wycoller Country Park Walk

Wycoller is one of the many lovely parks in the Pendle area.  There's walks among the surrounding countryside along with a little beck and quaint bridges to cross it.  

We parked quite a way away and made our way down to Wycoller village for lunch.  Little Miss wasn't interested in feeding the ducks, as usual she brought her own fur baby.

But an alfresco lunch went down well.  

A cheap ie: free day out for dry weather.  

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Patchwork Baby Cot Quilt

A simple nine patch square or irish chain baby quilt.  

I cut long strips of plain brown and patterned fabric the width of my little squares plus seam allowance and as long as the fabric allowed.  They were sewn together into long strips of plain brown, patterned and plain brown.  Another batch the same and a third batch with plain brown in the middle.  Then cut to the right width (square width plus seam allowance).  And finally each block of three was sewn together to make a nine patch square.  

Each nine patch square was sewn to a piece of patterned fabric the same size.  And all sewn together to make the quilt.  

I edges the quilt in some brown cotton I had.  It's backed in plain brown fabric, quilted and bound with satin bias tape.  

It's a very useful dust cover and leaves my daughter's nursery looking lovely and co-ordinated.  

Friday, 20 January 2017

Hair Bobbles as Toys?

I bought my daughter some hair bobbles to pop in her advent calendar.  I assumed we'd need some in the near future and as it's tough to find small inexpensive items so I was running short on ideas.  I hoped she'd like them, bright colours an' all but I wasn't actually expecting her to play with them.

They live on a neglected teddy elephant's trunk.  Today she has demanded the elephant and has then spent the last hour - yes I said hour - pulling them off the elephant and pushing them onto her arm.  Pulling them off and putting them back on.  One full hour of peace and quiet - TV and guilt free.

I figured this was worth sharing . . .

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Valentines Project - Date Night Cards

Here's a little idea for a thoughtful valentine's gift that can be perfectly tailored to your budget.

I used some stiff card to make a little box with a bone folder and score board.  I don't mess around too much when making boxes, there's all sorts of complicated equations out there.  None of that for me.  I look at my score board and pick a line that's as far from the edge as I want my box to be deep.  I roughly measure that and add that measurement to the size I'd like my box base.  I cut one piece of card to that size and one very slightly (1/8 inch) bigger.  I score along all four sides of both pieces and across the little square created at each corner.  I then fold them inwards pushing each little triangle corner inwards and glueing them in place.  Simple, quick and easy, no messing about.

The cards are just a sheet of stiff card with a slightly smaller sheet of decorative paper stuck onto them.  I've used First Edition's Love Story but of course you can do this with any papers.

Each card has a date idea written on it.  You can hand write them or print them as I've done.  You can tailor the ideas to your lifestyle / budget etc.  For example I made most of mine baby and dog friendly like a trip to the beach - no sitter required.  I also included about half with little to no money required, like watching the sunset or a picnic,  But I did include some splurge dates like a canal boat trip (which was awesome btw) and a posh meal out.  There's loads of ideas online if you search for "date night ideas".

I included 12 different date nights, one for ecah month.  You could do more or less as suits your needs.  If your budget permits you could also book and pay for some or all of your dates.  That way they're locked down in the calendar and there's no excuse to not make time.

Incidentally, why is this just for couples?  What's wrong with making a box of dates for me time?  When you think about it, it's just as (if not more) important to spend quality time with ourselves as our partners, or families.  So how about family dates or dates with yourself - oh a few hours in country pub with a good book, a walk alone!!!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Window Pane Pram Blanket in Cotton

This pattern is by Morris & Sons and is availible as a free Ravelry download.  I'm pretty sure you need to have a Ravelry account to access it but if you don't have one - get one!  It's free and you don't get sent any junk.  Just access to oodles of free knitting and crochet patterns.  

I've knitted it in Pegasus Dishcloth Cotton with 4mm needles.  I believe it took me just under four balls to make a square blanket.  It's been a lovely blanket, nice and soft but hard wearing and 100% cotton for a low price.  This yarn is great to knit with, I've done a few projects with it but this was my first blanket.  It's really easy to knit with and I highly recommend it for beginners.  I used to have a lot (and I really do mean a lot) of blind customers who used this yarn to make dishcloths and blankets for charity.  It's ideal because it doesn't split, it's really easy not just to see what's happening with your stitches but to feel it too.  

Sunday, 15 January 2017

East Lancashire Railway - A Trip Aboard a Steam Train

I never intended this to be a parenting blog but to keep the focus on crafting.  But as I try to figure out who I am without my former craft retailer title I'm finding my focus quite rightly pulled towards my new title of full time mummy.  The days do seem to run into one another amidst piles of washing, cooking and cleaning.  I find the need to keep some sort of record of the nice things in between, the things that at the end of the day are the things that really matter.  Perhaps these ideas might be of interest to some people or maybe just to me.  Either way here goes . . . 

A toddler friendly day out amid what was supposed to be a period of severe weather.  I came up with the idea of taking a trip on a steam train.

My little one is becoming fascinated with anything with wheels and trains seem to be emerging as a particular favourite.  I'm keen to relive my "deprived" childhood and get the Hornby set I always converted so I'm very happy to encourage this emerging trend.

I was pretty sure she'd enjoy a nice day out somewhere new with new experiences and all that jazz.  To be honest I half expected the train journey itself to be a bit of an anti-climax.

But no, she spent the whole journey, both ways, gleefully staring out of the window pointing and giggling away.  I think it was the freedom of not being confined to a car seat and being able to sit right next to the window.

She was even excited to see the actual train itself after we alighted.

There were several other families with young children and the same idea.  They all seemed to really enjoy it.  The conductors, drivers and ticket collectors were all really engaged with the children.  Even the tickets were old fashioned thick cardboard punched with an old fashioned ticket punch.  

This wasn't the cheapest day out but it's one we'll definitely be treating ourselves to again.  And given my daughter's clear interest I'm sure we'll be going along to one of the Thomas the Tank Engine event days.  

On the off chance that anyone want's it here's the link to the details of the trains we took -  It set us back £23 ish for two adult return tickets, Little Miss travels free until she's 5.