Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Easy as ABC

We have bought a house! Yay/gulp! Believe it or not we are looking forward to getting stuck into DIY and transforming a chintzy bungalow into a welcoming family home.  Move in date is a few weeks away so I am frantically trying to finish off projects on my spreadsheet before I get bogged down with painting & decorating in our new home.
My first goal, when we move in, is to get the girl's rooms finished. So when I saw this little shelf at the thrift store I lept on it as I could see its new life in my youngest daughter's bedroom.
This little project took a lot longer than it should have.  First job was to sand it down, straight forward enough. I then covered the letters with masking tape as they didn't need repainting.  On to spray painting. 3 coats later decided I should be filling the cracks and screw holes.  Filled & then an extra coat of spray paint. Looked rubbish. Spray paint doesn't give good coverage over filler, in my experience. Then went down the traditional route of paint & brush.  Much better, paint is great for wodging into small cracks and giving a smoother finish to a crappy piece of wood.  Removed masking tape, spray paint all over letters.  Third trip to Home Depot to get paint for letters. 3 coats of paint on letters. Job done.
No picture with daughter number 2 perusing her books on their new shelf; she has her first morning at play school. Yay again!  Now I can get on with the bean bag I want to make for her to sit on while she reads her books...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blood Orange Marmalade

One of the great things about Redlands (where we live) is the abundance of citrus fruits.  The joy of being able to eat home grown fruits and the intoxicating smell of the orange blossom which cloaks the town in spring really feels special.  
Many people have stalls at the front of their houses selling their citrus fruits and other produce from their gardens.  I have my favourite stall which sells satsumas, oranges, pink navel oranges and our households favourite, blood oranges. As far as I know its the only one in Redlands that sells blood oranges.  Fortunately it is on our route to play school so we watch with anticipation for the sign to go up that the blood orange season has started.  We all squealed with delight (seriously!) when on Friday the day had come.
This is the first time I have made marmalade with blood oranges. I have made the more traditional version with Seville oranges back in the UK.  The recipe I use is from Riverford (oh how I miss their veg boxes) whilst still keeping an eye on Delia.
Marmalade really is a labour of love. It can not be rushed and indeed I would allow a good chunk of the day to make it.  But of course this is the pleasure of making marmalade, it does take all day and is all consuming.  And the added bonus is the house is filled with a delicious aroma from the first zesty squeezed orange to the syrupy smell from the final rapid boil.

Blood Orange Marmalade
6 cleaned jam jars
waxed discs
1.5 kgs of blood oranges (or any other citrus fruit)
2 lemons
2kg granulated sugar (approx)
4 pints of water
muslin & string

Cut the oranges & lemons (I didn't have lemons so used limes) in half and juice. I ended up doing it by hand to extract all the juice & goodness.   Put the muslin over a bowl and throw in any pith & pips that come out during the squeezing.

Using a teaspoon scrap all the remaining pith from the skins and put in the muslin. Tie up the muslin with the pith & pips inside to make a little bag.  Next stage is the cutting up of the skins.  It is a matter of taste how finely you like yours sliced, I prefer a decent chunk of peel with my marmalade on toast.  Cut the halves into quarters and then slice.
How stunning are these colours?!
Put the shredded peel and juice in a large heavy bottomed pan with 4 pints of water with the muslin bag tied to the handle & suspended in the pan.  Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for about 2 hours, or until the peel is completely soft (it should turn to mush between your fingers).
Remove the muslin bag & set aside on a plate.  Measure the contents of the pan, it will be about 3 pints. Return the peel & liquid to the pan (don't bother to wash it) and for every pint of liquid add a pound of sugar to the pan. This makes a sharp tasting marmalade, you may want to add more sugar if you like it sweeter.  Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, about 15 mins.  Hold the muslin bag between 2 plates (if its too hot to handle) and squeeze out the precious pectin loaded juice into the pan.  
Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and stir occasionally to stop it sticking & catching on the bottom. Now is the time to put a plate in the freezer.  After 15 minutes of rapid boiling give it a test by putting a drop on the chilled plate. If it wrinkles its set, if not boil again for another 15 minutes. A picture of this would be helpful, sorry forgot.  This batch took 30 minutes of boiling.  I have got a thermometer which helps; you need to get to a temperature of 220F (or thereabouts) but I still do the wrinkle test. It can take up to 50 minutes of boiling so be patient! 
When you satisfied you have reached setting point turn off the heat and leave it to stand for 15 minutes.  At this point put the jars & lids into a cool oven (about 200F) to warm.  Don't worry about the scum; you can either scrap it off the top or put a knob of butter in to the pan to disperse it.  Then using a jam funnel & a ladle decant your lovely marmalade into the warmed jars.  Cover with the waxed disc's immediately and screw on the lids to seal. 
I can't wait until breakfast to spread some sunshine onto my toast. Just need Mr Maker to finish making the bread...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bunny love

This is a belated present to welcome a friend's second baby into the world.  It is not the hand made gift I had intended for her but I am sure she will be pleased with it.  
Gift number one was going to be the kimono top from Weekend Sewing.  It was a fated project from the start.  I had decided to use an old pair of my girls pyjamas which were made from beautifully soften flannel. Hours of painstaking unpicking yielded just enough fabric with a few added joins, then I cut the pattern out wrong. Agghh!  After more painstaking jiggery pokery I managed to make good, but this little top had more seams than sense.  I still maintain the instructions were not clear...Nevertheless I ploughed on as I had invested so many hours in it already. Anyway, cut a long boring story short another hitch further down the line meant I had to abort.  I will save the fabric for another day..
So here comes bunny...The pattern is from Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts.  Yes, I did end up buying this book, and I'm thrilled with it. I am a Martha Stewart convert!!  It was really easy to follow and I made up bunny in a few hours last night.  I used lovely soft flannel scraps that I had, the spotty was from Joann's and pink fabric Ann Marie Horner. 

Doesn't it look like a bunny ready for some love?

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I had a moan in a previous post about the lack of decent breakfast cereals sans sugar which prompted me to start making granola again.  The girls have tired of the 500 chews-a-bowl granola so we have moved onto muesli.  Muesli doesn't seem to feature here in the USA as much, not like the ubiquitous Alpen which dominated the muesli market in the UK for decades (its Swiss ergo it must be good was the thought of housewives in the 70's!).
Its a bit of swiz to call this a recipe as the formula changes each time I make it but I do try to keep the ratio of ingredients the same.  I have found Stater Bros are the cheapest for organic cereals.  Organic ones tend to use different types of grains & are less processed, do read the labels as they still throw in plenty of sugar to many of them.  I get the nuts & dried fruits from Trader Joe's.

2 cups of quick cook rolled oats (ie. not jumbo ones)
1 cup of unsweetened puffed rice/wheat 
1 cup of flakes - current mix has flax flakes
1 cup of unsweetened dessicated coconut
1 cup of raisins/sultanas/dried apricots 
1 cup of almond slivers or whole nuts 
1 cup of other - fruit,nuts or seeds that you've got kicking about

Now comes the really tricky bit, mix them all together and there you have it! Store in an air tight container and watch it disappear. This quantity barely lasts a week in our house.  You could improve it by toasting the oats and the coconut, adding in more glamorous fruit &/or nuts or even chocolate chips for real luxury...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Children's duvet cover

After finally acknowledging Ikea were not going to get the Minnen bed back in stock (hence the link to the UAE Ikea!) I decided we needed to pursue another option to get my youngest into a "big girls bed".  So yet again my eldest lucks out and gets new & youngest gets the hand me down.  Its a hard life being the youngest!  Daughter number one has got a new bed and youngest got her Minnen bed handed down. It really is a great bed as it goes super small for the mini toddler, which she is, but will also extend to full size single bed when she grows.

This all happened before Christmas & I have just got round to finishing her duvet cover & pillow case to match her room. I used a flat single sheet and scraps from my stash (the turquoise/red flowers is her curtain material). I did button holes for the first time, so easy, I will be doing that again.

She is tickled to be in a "big girls bed" and have her own duvet cover which Mummy made. That is a good thing about the youngest; standards are set low & they are easily pleased!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy New Year

I think we can say the new year is well under way, so a Happy New Year to you!  I can no longer kid myself that it is still the holiday; we are back to days started by the alarm clock (albeit bird song from my husband's new clock that I bought him for Christmas!) and bolted down breakfasts.
I am not a newyearsresolution kinda person but I wanted to get the year going with a new post and what better way than to share a few ideas/concepts?!   And come 31st December 2012 I will have blogged evidence to see how much the reality matched up..

  • A post a week.  Whether its a full blown 'make' or a mini re-do I am fairly confident I can stick to a post a week. I also need to address the 'start a post finish a post' aspect of my blogging..
Sourdough rolls - long gone in reality & as a blog post
  • Improve my sewing skills.  I am one of life's bodger's which has its advantages in many situations, detailed sewing not being one of them.  I just bought the Reader's Digest guide to sewing but am a little disappointed with it.  Any other suggestions?
Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts: Basic Techniques for Sewing, Applique, Embroidery, Quilting, Dyeing, and Printing, plus 150 Inspired Projects from A to Z
Am I am Martha Stewart type of person???
  • Tweet more. I am a novice when it comes to twitter, but I am starting to enjoy & use it more.  First thing, install the button on my blog please @WillCrick !
Not a real link, yet
  • Look after my mental & physical self. I am very lucky not to be working while we are living in the USA and this past year has been focussed on the advantages this brings to my girls & our family life.  This year I want to include me in on that focus...
  • Ride my bike. I LOVE my MTB.  It is been feeling very lonely in the garage this year, it needs more action!  A sure fire way of looking after me... 

I hope you all had a happy & restful break over the holidays and are getting stuck into 2012.