Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wooden Christmas Trees

The American ways are slowly creeping into my being. One of which is to decorate every surface in every room at 'holiday' time.  I love Christmas and am so excited we will be in our own home this year; so its not been hard to embrace this tradition.   

Hello to my forest of wooden Christmas trees! Aren't they cute?!  

I started with a strip of balsa wood (3/32"x 4"x 36") which you can get from craft stores for a couple of bucks.

Using a craft knife & ruler cut out 2 triangles of equal size. My largest was 6" tall and the width of the wood which was 4". Find the centre line of the triangle. The first tree I drew this on but after that I did it by eye which was easy when you use a cutting mat.  Then cut a notch a few millimeters wide from the top of the triangle to the centre point on your middle line.  Then repeat from the bottom up.   

Now slot the triangle together to make a Christmas tree!

You can use the off cuts to make up smaller trees.  I used up the strip of balsa wood and it gave me 7 trees.

The forest took less than an hour to make and cost only a few dollars.  And its great therapy to stop, sit down and make something at this busy time of year. Well it is for me anyway :-)

Happy Christmas!

Sorry girls, no inflatable Santa on the front lawn. You have to draw a line at some  point.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cheddar Crackers

There are a lot of similarities with my no starch diet and a Paleo diet. The bonus being there are zillions of great Paleo blogs posting delicious recipes.  However a major difference is I am a happy eater of dairy and sugar; gotta have it! I stumbled upon another relevant diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  This diet is specifically starch, sugar, grain & complex carbohydrate free. Perfect for me! (I can do with out sugar now and then). I am not nearly as strict as the diet dictates, but as with everything I believe you have to find your own level.

I have bought this fantastic cookbook which adheres to the SCD. 

The cheddar crackers were the first recipe I tried from the book. They are amazing. Buttery, crisp, cheesy & big bonus do not taste of almond flour.

Cheddar Crackers

This recipe is slightly adapted from Healing Foods by Sandra Ramacher

1 cup almond flour
1 cup of grated sharp cheddar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp smoked paprika
black pepper
3 tbs cold water

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Gradually add the water until the mixture comes together to form a dough. It may be a little more or less than 3 tbs of water. Cover the dough and pop it in the fridge for 30 mins or more.

Preheat the oven to 300F.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Roll the dough into small balls then flatten with the heal of your hand. Leave a gap between each cracker as they will spread a little.  The size of your crackers depends on how many you will make - I think I got just over a dozen from this amount of mixture.

Bake in the oven for about 15 mins, or when they just begin to brown at the edges. Then remove them from the oven and allow them to cool a little (about 5 minutes or so). Meanwhile turn the oven down to 210F.  Gently flip the crackers over then put the tray back in the oven for 30 minutes.  After the crackers have baked for 30 minutes turn the oven off and allow them to cool in the oven.  When the oven has cooled down remove the crackers and transfer to a wire rack to completely cool.

Store them in an airtight container between kitchen paper.  I kept mine in the fridge.

Despite my efforts to keep them to myself, they are a family favourite.  I am sure you could vary the recipe with whatever cheese you have to hand (providing its got a bold flavour). Or add dried herbs a la the the original recipe. 



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The easiest fruit cake - starch and gluten free

This recipe is adapted from Pauline's fruit cake recipe. Pauline is my sisters step grandmother in law. Sis and I have done this recipe a million times (in the starch format) even as our Christmas cake for several years; its that good.  Its so quick and easy, beautifully moist and a great filler upper, a major plus in my book.  The original recipe adapted very easily to a starch free version with no compromise on taste or texture.

It is also a very forgiving recipe. You can vary the quantities/types of dried fruit and nuts with good results.

Pauline's fruit cake

600g mixed dried fruit of your choice
100g nut pieces of your choice
50g desiccated coconut, unsweetened 
3oz of liquid (sometimes I use brandy, orange juice or just water)
1 1/3 cup of almond flour (ground almonds)
1 egg beaten
1 tin of condensed milk
generous shake of mixed spice (cinnamon & ginger)
2 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 320F (160C). Grease and line your preferred tin, usually 2 loaf tins for me.
Simmer the fruit in your chosen liquid for a few minutes, or until the fruit absorbs the liquid a little.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add all the other ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine.  Spread evenly into the tin and bake until a tooth pick comes out clean. I tend to check it after about 45 minutes as it may need covering, and leave it in for another 10 mins or so.

A mighty fine looking cake in my book... 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

New baby gift - Owls in a tree

I love making gifts for new babies, fortunately I have friends who are still having babies!  This time around I went for a new idea, owls in a tree. I decided to personalize the gift (like this one) and luckily her name has only 3 letters.

The owls were made from fabric scraps and felt. I made a pattern then cut all the pieces out put them together, either sewing or gluing (felt pieces).  I put a few small bells inside so they can rattle in her little hands.

The 'tree' is an oatmeal container wrapped inside & out with felt. In my haste I forgot to do the inside first (hence not done in the pictures), I would suggest doing it first before sealing up the lid of the container. I used the lid as a template to cut out the hole and a permanent marker to draw the faux bois on the outside.

What new baby gifts do you make? Do you have a 'go to' one, or do you like to try new things?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Geometric mobile

In the summer I went to the Renegade Craft Fair in LA.  Many of the vendors were big Instagrammers and I started following several of them. I love it; now I get to steal see great ideas from what super crafty people are up to.  One of those people was Robert Mahar.  He also posts YouTube videos on how to execute his projects; gotta love that sharing!

My take on Robert's geometric mobile
I knew I wanted 'something' to fill the space but couldn't seem to settle on anything. Then I saw this great geometric hanging pendant (see image below) and it got the cogs turning...Unfortunately not quite turning enough for me to be able to replicate but enough to decide on something geometric and hanging.

Image: via
So I plumped for Robert's mobile, a take on a traditional mobile from Finland.  The supply list is minimal - coffee stirrers & craft thread. 

Don't you just love the neon stirrers?! I won't go through the process as its done so well on Robert's YouTube clip, and it really is very easy.

First basic shape

Mobile taking shape

What to do with the other 900 coffee stirrers?! I am thinking mini ones as Christmas tree decorations.  Any other suggestions?

I also think the wall is still a little bare, further thought required on that one...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Friday Night pizza - starch, carbs & gluten free

For many of us Friday night is take out night. The equivalent in our house is pizza (Trader Joe's frozen) and salad. A quick easy meal that requires no effort. 

So roll around to Friday, Alice on no starch diet, agghhh NO PIZZA! I sat and watched a delighted husband get the whole pizza to himself as I chomped my way through salad again. Don't get me wrong I'm a big salad fan, but 24/7 it does get a little repetitive (despite my salad repertoire increasing 10 fold since being on this diet).

Imagine my delight when I found out I can have my pizza and eat it! There are many recipes out there for 'pizza' with either a spinach, carrot or cauliflower base. Brilliant! I've done the spinach version and few times and it is really great, satisfying and filling.

Spinach crust pizza

1 1/2 cups of frozen spinach thawed
1 cup of grated cheese (I use cheddar as always have to hand. You could get fancy & opt for something a bit more 'Italian')
1 egg
Salt & pepper
grate of nutmeg

 Couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes (could use tinned)
crushed clove of garlic
Sprig of fresh herbs (I use oregano)
salt & pepper
sprinkle of sugar

Mozzarella - 2 balls
Your choice of toppings - I go for onion & olives

Apologies the ingredients list is not very accurate. I vary quantities every time, depending on how many glasses of wine I've had (it is Friday night after all).

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Thaw the spinach on a plate.  Using your hands spend some time squeezing out as much water as you can.  Transfer the spinach pulp to a bowl. Stir in the egg, cheese and seasoning.  Then press onto a lined baking tray (or pizza tray if you have one) and bake for 10/15 mins until it browns at the edges.  Don't worry too much about the shape, as you can see from mine its a free form pizza. Aim to get the thickness right, similar to a regular thin crust pizza.

Whilst the base is cooking make up the tomato sauce. In a little olive oil fry the garlic for a moment then add the tomatoes, herbs, S & P and a sprinkle of sugar.  Over a medium heat allow the tomatoes to mush down a little and lose some of their liquid.  This will only take about 5 minutes.

After the base was done I transferred it to a pizza stone for the final cook. I'm not sure its strictly necessary, I thought it might help to keep it crisp.  Add the tomato sauce, your choice of toppings and finally the mozzarella.  Return to the oven or put under the grill until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

It helps to cut into slices, rather than wedges as it is a little floppy. Boy, its good though!  This size was enough for me. Wish I'd got one cooking now...

Roll on Friday night.

Monday, August 19, 2013

DIY outdoor chalk board for kids

Sidewalk chalking is a big thing here in the USA, more so than in the UK, and my girls love it as much as the next.  I'm happy for them to scrawl all over pavements in the park but not so happy to step out of our back door and see their 'art'. I put it down to the neat freak in me and the lack of rain here which means you are stuck with said 'art' for weeks (unless of course you bother to hose it off!).

I decided to make a chalk board for the girls to scrawl/doodle/draw on until their hearts are content with the added bonus of covering up our dilapidated fence.

Darn easy project if you've got a fence to hide and/or artistic children:-)

  1. Sheet of regular plywood - ours is a massive 8ft x 4ft which is the width between fence posts so easier to secure.  HD or Lowes will cut to size for you. 
  2. Chalk board paint.  I got mind from Lowes and just under $10 for the tin (I used all of it for our board).
  3. Primer. I used some I had left over which was actually white.
  4. Screws to attach to fence. We added a baton of 2x4 across the top for added strength as its so wide.
  5. Bucket of chalk
One coat of primer, 3 coats of chalkboard paint, one evening of taking the fence apart then rebuilding (not my idea!) and we have a chalkboard.

Beautiful bucket of chalk. Looked like this for about 1 day...
Fortunately we've had a few cooler weeks (low 30's) so they have been able to use it.  I think I'll invest in a sail shade to rig up so they can use it more in the summer.  Although when its too cool for the pool it will be a welcome garden activity.

Are your kids chalk fans? Get making a board!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Magic in a mug

I hosted girls poker last night and I may have had half a glass of wine more than I needed. Consequently breakfast this morning needed a little magical power to get me going.  This recipe is a take on the cake in mug theme (loads of versions out there on Pinterest &  the web). I have ever so slightly adapted it from Delighted Momma.  She follows a paleo diet so has a lot of recipes that are low or no starch.

 Blueberry & maple syrup Muffin in a Mug

3 tbs of ground almonds (almond meal)
1/2 tbs maple syrup
1/2 tbs honey
2 tbs unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
2 tbs fresh blueberries
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp baking soda

Put all the ingredients together in a microwaveable mug or small bowl & mix.

Zap in the microwave for approximately 2 minutes and then tuck in, remembering that food comes out of the microwave hotter than the surface of the Sun...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cinnamon and coconut muffins (starch free)

My diet has resulted in me spending more time browsing Pinterest for recipes. I use it like a search engine & have found it to have better results than 
Google (in this instance).  I came across this great blog, Slim Palate which has many delicious recipes which happen to be low or no starch. They are well written and have beautiful photos - but get this - he is a 17 year old boy!! Wow! Very impressed; note to self must improve my photography skills...

Cinnamon Coconut muffins

This recipe is adapted from Joshua's at Slim Palate, the original is here

1/4 cup coconut flour
2 tbsp almond meal (ground almonds)
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 - 3/4 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp coconut milk
dash of vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 345F and grease a muffin pan. This recipe makes 6 muffins.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In another bowl mix the wet ingredients then add to the dry. Give them a good mix. Spoon into a muffin tin (with or without cases) and bake for 15-20 mins until a skewer comes out clean. NB: mine took nearer 15 mins. 

These little beauties are fantastic! I am so excited that my first coconut flour experience is a positive one; they are light and fluffy, a similar texture to using regular flour.  Ohhh the possibilities..........

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Starch free Tahini Grissini

Unlike my husband, I'm not a massive bread fan, however I have been missing eating bread products. Its the texture as much as anything and something savory.   Whilst trawling the internet I came across this interesting recipe for Tahini bread and thought it was worth a shot. A little difficult with the dubious google translation from Hebrew but I think I got the measure of it. I have made a few alterations from the original recipe.

Tahini Bread

1/2 cup of tahini
1 tbs almond butter (optional, apparently!)
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar

Preheat oven to 360F.
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix to form a very sticky dough.  

Shape as desired; the original recipe makes this quantity into two rolls.  Then sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake for 15-20 mins until they look done.


They have a great crunchy, crumbly texture and a strong savory taste (from the tahini). Mr did make a rather rude face when he tried them, but I think they are a good option for me.

I can think of may different variations - adding grated parmesan, chilli flakes, fennel seeds or sesame seeds on top.......

Anyone know any other no starch 'bread' products? 


A new grey room - Benjamin Moore Coventry Gray

Yes you read it right; another room in our house has been slapped by the grey brush. I can't seem to get enough of it, and also can't think of another colour that I would there you have it.

Contrary to popular decorating trends we have added some walls thus have divided off the hallway from the front sitting room and created a family/ TV room from what was the dining room adjoining the sitting room at the back of the house.  We feel this was a win win for us as we've gained a room and made the sitting room a more usable shape and size (long rectangle as opposed to a long L shaped!).

Our previous home in the UK had small rooms so I found it easy to decorate & dress the new TV room.  It is a really cosy room with a great outlook onto the garden. 

TV in use!

The sofa is Karlstad from Ikea as is the footstool from a very long time ago.  The rug is Rugs USA.

Here is a close up of the wall colour, Benjamin Moore Coventry Gray. I think it is my favourite gray of the house!  The kilim cushion is from this seller at ebay. The poster is by our very talented friend Neil who is The Handmade Cyclist. If you love bikes like we do you will love his artwork.

My Grandma's nursing chair with Nicki McWilliams custard cream cushion (its a British thing in case you are confused!) sits in the corner next to the TV. The curtains are also Ikea.

Connie & I made up this globe, well I allowed her to do the colouring in...which sits on a thrifted table with my tape measures and pliers on the wall next to it.

The view into the 'grown up' sitting room with my beloved mini Bertoia chair.

Have you got the grey/gray bug? Whats your favorite gray? 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Chocolate chip & walnut almond cookies

We are off camping for a few days to the beach and as any camper knows you need plenty of scooby snacks on a camping trip.  

Chocolate chip & walnut almond cookies

This recipe is adapted from here

 1/2 cup of unsalted butter
3/4 cup of soft brown sugar
2 eggs
3 cups of almond flour (finely ground blanched almonds)
1/2 tsp of baking soda
pinch of salt
dash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of chocolate chips
1/2 cup of walnut pieces

Set the oven to 375F.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat the eggs together in a separate cup then gradually add to the sugar and butter, beating all the time.  Next mix in the ground almonds, salt, baking soda & vanilla extract.  Lastly stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.  NB: the mixture is moister than normal cookie dough. Dollop tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto a lined baking tray.  

They don't spread as much as normal cookies so squash them in.  Bake for 10-12 mins or until they begin to brown.  Leave to cool on the tray for at least 5 mins as they are quite soft to start with.  This quantity & size made nearly 30.

Not a regular chocolate chip cookie but pretty tasty nevertheless!