Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Unselfconscious Creativity

The school Easter Craft competition is looming. We always get plenty of notice but every year it's the same. Five days before the deadline for entrants, I'll bring up the topic. It's a Saturday morning.

"We need to help Secundus make something for the craft thing," I say, as the King re-joins me in bed after a couple of hours' watching the varied delights of CBBC on i-player with the children.

"A giant papier-mache Easter egg?" suggests the King, passing me a welcome cup of coffee. "Some kind of woodland glade model? A twig mobile?"

"Well, I think it needs to be something we can make out of stuff we already have in the house." I muse, observing the snow fall outside. "Unless you fancy going to the shops in this weather?"

Going to the shops with the children on a Saturday is akin to trudging about with a megaphone shouting "No, you can't have that. No, we're not buying anything today. No, put it down please." The King looks hopeful. "Papier mache egg? We've got balloons."

"Mmm, but we don't have any newspaper." (Our homestead gave up reading The Guardian eight years ago). "And doesn't it take ages to dry, each layer?"

A collage it is, then.

Despite my fancy hand-made wrist warmers, half-started rag rug and patchwork quilt projects cluttering up the place, my creative streak runs to Super Simple level, whenever faced with a) a deadline and b) a project that children are supposed to do independently. (Hence, you'll recall, rubbish robots as opposed to life-size Skylander models).

Yes, I of the (and I quote fellow Scorpio, Ms Survivre) "progressive" head-scarves, dream of making tiny bird-houses with heart-shaped doorways but ultimately pick the word "SPRING" written in large bubble writing, covered with tiny Easter/ spring-time motifs, cut out and each letter backed on pink A4 card. It involved scissors, glue, sequins, stickers, stencils and a Team Bayne effort but it was child-led and looks sufficiently pastel-themed.

Sometimes creativity can be another box to tick, another burdensome label. I prefer not to give myself the title "Creative Person" because, as Marisa Anne, author of Creative Thursday  finds that self-judgement starts stomping around. "We aren't born with self-judgement;" says Marisa Anne, "it is a learned behaviour and it gains intensity over time with questions such as 'Am I even creative?' 'Am I talented?' 'Am I good enough?" and so on.

Not to be confused with "self-critique, which results constructively from a desire to become better at one's craft", self-judgement is one of the reasons why I don't "create", I "just do stuff", mainly because I like experimenting, finding answers to problems, making something out of nothing and discovering alternatives to going out and buying stuff.

This unconscious - and unselfconscious creativity - is the reason why we didn't go out and buy an Easter egg painting kit, and it is about us all - parents and children - daring to be different, and not being afraid to make mistakes. It's not "show and tell". It's "hah, I didn't spend any money and I made something myself without insisting it has to be perfect enough for Pinterest." It's "doing stuff" just because you can. Making-do and Mending. That's the kind of creativity we can all benefit from on a daily basis.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Five Cold Weather Beauty Fixes

The Contented Little Baby was my child-rearing "regime", The Confident Mom is my housework regime, but as for a skincare regime: meh, I have never bothered. And you can tell. Especially in wintertime and as I approach forty, I get the feeling I won't be able to ignore my skin much longer. However, I am morally and fiscally opposed to using any "You'll Look Like You're Twenty - Honest" range of products. Step away from the Botox : I really hope I will remain comfortable in my own skin for the rest of my life.

The following tips are from Jemma Kidd, the founder of Jemma Kidd Make Up School and author of Jemma's Make-up Secrets: Solutions to every woman's beauty issues and make-up dilemmas (£25, Jacqui Small LLP). From her expertly-written guide to make-up and beauty, I have picked the most simple pieces of advice - many cost little or nothing. The words in italics are mine.

Monday, 25 March 2013

"Flick O' The Wrist" Wrist Warmers

With the weather continuing to be more Christmassy than Easterish in the UK, wrist warmers are the accessory of choice. You can wear them round the house like Fagin (always a style icon) or under your coat on the school run, and they free up your hands for doing children's buttons/ zips/ shoe-laces up. Wrist warmers are a must for bloggers and sewists like me, and can be made quickly and cheaply out of fleece fabric. Here's how I made mine.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

A New Simplicity

Guest post by Renée Peterson Trudeau

Many of us feel called to simplify our lives and do less. Not a fluffy, it-would-be-nice-to-have-clean-closets simplicity, but a new way of being. This new simplicity is about purging and streamlining our thinking, our doing, our giving and receiving, and, of course, our stuff.

We crave more time to just be — so we can actually integrate into our hearts and souls what we’re experiencing moment to moment. For some, simplifying might be changing a girls’ night out to a girls’ night in; voicing clear boundaries to friends, co-workers, or clients about your phone availability; consciously building unscheduled weekends and evenings into your family calendar; moving into a smaller or less expensive home; standing up for what your child or family needs in order to not feel rushed; or maybe serving oatmeal and fruit for dinner.

Ultimately, simplicity is one path to enhancing peace, both personally and in the world. What simplicity looks like for each of us will be different, whether that’s living a pared-down lifestyle, getting rid of stuff, taking on fewer obligations, or being mindful about who you let into your life and how and where you spend time. It’s about doing and having less, so we open ourselves up to experiencing — and feeling — more.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Stubborn Home-made Dishwasher Powder

Sometimes, when it is 9 degrees C in your kitchen, you haven't slept well, and you have spent the day being frustrated that your husband has a hangover and feels, I quote, "bleak", even patch-working while listening to Sean Bean reading an audiobook doesn't hit the spot. On those days it is good to keep busy, stay productive, try not to be smug that you are on the wagon, and let your Bear With a Sore Head (husband) "stay in his cave" (yes, I have read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus) whilst encouraging your children to keep themselves occupied. 

Feeling extra stubborn and self-sufficient, I decided to make some dishwasher powder myself, for no other reason than to put a recipe I found on to the test, and to prove that I was a master chemist. "See, look what I can achieve," I was essentially saying to my long-suffering spouse, "while you are merely sipping pints of tepid orange squash."

To make Stubborn Home-made Dishwasher Powder, you will need: 

1/2 cup borax. My supermarket does not stock this so I have to buy it on Ebay. Be aware that Boric acid is an acute eye and respiratory tract irritant, which is toxic if ingested.

1/2 cup soda crystals (a.k.a washing soda in the US, or lectric soda powder in Australia). The reader who submitted this tip to SimpleSavings says 
DO NOT USE BAKING SODA, which is sodium bicarbonate, or your dishes will come out with a white film over them.

1/4 cup table salt

1/4 cup citric acid (in powdered form). Another item I have only been able to find on Ebay. 

Whilst listening to something cheerful like my new favourite, All Over the World by ELO, mix all the above ingredients in a large bowl then transfer to a screw-top jar. Mark the container clearly (I use a waterproof permanent marker pen) and keep it out of reach of children, just as you would with other cleaning products. 
Use one tablespoon per dishwasher load. I have found this to have excellent cleaning results but it does tend to "cake" a bit in the jar - this could be due to the damp weather we are currently having - so you may need to break it up slightly with a spoon.

I also use white vinegar instead of rinse aid - I just add it to the rinse aid dispenser in exactly the same way when the "empty" indicator flashes. I haven't found an alternative for dishwasher salt yet. 

Lastly, I have found that I get best results with the "Eco" programme, which runs at 50 degrees C. The "quick" setting on our dishwasher does not cut the mustard, with either frugal or shop-bought powders. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

Trimming Towels with The Shirt Off His Back

You know that charity shops are really getting "with it" when they have signs in their windows announcing flash sales. Our local charity shop went all out on men's short-sleeved shirts last week, which coincided well with the arrival of The Shirt off his Back: 30 projects for transforming everyday shirts into a range of home accessories by Juliet Bawden.
The King is a t-shirt kinda guy, so when I snapped up a couple of bargains, they weren't actually with him in mind. No, I stood by the rail of men's shirts, holding up my card of fabric colours like a maniac, looking for ones which would match the shades of the patchwork quilt I'm making. With each shirt costing £1.75 (the amount I'd expect to pay for one fat quarter) I got a fair bit of material for my money. 

Juliet Bawden's book had encouraged me to think of shirts as potential patchwork material but it also contains plenty of other ideas for thrifty, creative projects. It's true that "charity shops are always brimming with men's shirts in a wonderful array of styles, patterns and colours. Whether it's stripes, checks, florals, retro prints or plain brights or pastels, you'll have little problem sourcing inexpensive, good quality material with which to create fabulously stylish items."

I had never thought of transforming the King's old shirts, or anyone else's, into items for the home, but Bawden shows how to create bunting, bags, doorsteps, duvet covers, cushions, and more, all out of shirts which are no longer being worn. in fact, I must have a word with my dad; I'm sure his wardrobe needs a clear-out since he retired 11 years ago!

Large amounts of the two shirts I bought were given over to my patchworking project, but I found an easy, yet stylish way to use the placket of the tartan-print shirt (this is the bit where the button-holes are). For some time I had been considering replacing the towels we got as a wedding present in 2000, even though there was nothing really wrong with them. I had gone off the colour, and they were looking a bit dreary, but they were good quality towels when they were purchased and had survived well. The placket-trimmed towel was the project I decided to try first - a very quick, simple way to embellish a towel without having to be an expert embroiderer.

To trim your own towel, Bawden recommends you pick a shirt placket that compliments or contrasts with the colour of your towel, and look for a towel with a woven stripe across it. You will also need dressmaking scissors, pins, matching thread and a sewing machine. 

First, cut the placket away from the shirt and trim it so it is as long as the width of the towel plus 1 inch seam allowance either end.

Turn under the seam allowance on the short ends and pin the placket to the towel, over the flat woven strip. Make sure you tuck under any excess material at the sides of the placket. 

Following the existing stitching lines on the placket, stitch it in place, remembering to turn the towel over and stitch the seam allowance down on each side. 

Cut the buttons off the shirt, or choose some from your button collection (they don't have to all be the same), and sew them over each button hole as an extra decorative feature. 

Sprucing up tired towels in this way will save you the expense of going out and buying prettier ones, or buy some hand-towels from a supermarket and add a co-ordinating placket stripe to each, to make a pleasant house-warming gift. 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Homesteady: a New Frontier

This is my latest creation, inspired by the Mary Jane Holiday Apron. Made out of gingham, a teapot print cotton, and an old duvet cover, I think it maybe takes my homesteady status to the next level? I have just applied for my Apron Merit Badge. It's the most girly, swishy item I have ever owned and I am really proud that I made it myself! 

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

The Benefits of Having a Support Network

 Guest post by Renée Peterson Trudeau

Over the years as a career and executive coach, I have observed that people who are comfortable asking for and receiving help — whether that’s from a coach, a therapist, a mentor, a friend, a professional organization, or a business partner or colleague — experience greater success and feel more connected and confident at home and at work. One day at an executive team lunch, I asked the company’s CEO if he had ever been scared to initiate risky big business deals — mergers, buy-outs, going public. He said, “Hell yes, I was scared — often terrified! But I had an army of support surrounding me or I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off.”
Having a support system can have a huge impact on how you experience day-to-day life. 

Research shows that individuals who have robust support systems
 •   are more effective in all aspects of their lives;
•    keep resolutions, particularly those involving their health and physical well-being;
•    weather personal and professional challenges more easily;
•    are less likely to feel overwhelmed and find it easier to maintain perspective;
•    stay healthier on all levels — mentally, physically, and emotionally;
•    are less likely to feel isolated (which can lead to feelings of despair and failure);
•    experience less stress and burnout; and
•    have children who are comfortable asking for and receiving help from others.

In my own life and work, I’ve seen the truth of this over and over: feeling supported while moving through a transition or facing a challenging issue can make all the difference in how you experience the journey — and how your family does as well.

Sarah, a mother of two, confided, “When Bryan goes out of town for work for a week or longer, I know solo parenting will be challenging. I have finally learned these are the times I need to heap on the extra support. I usually ask my younger sister to babysit one night during the week so I can enjoy a quiet dinner out with a girlfriend, and I have our high school neighbor come over three nights during the week to help with dinner, baths, and bedtime. I also make sure I have frozen dinners or easy-to-prepare food in the house. I used to dread these business trips. I would want to dump the kids on my husband the minute he returned from his trip and run out the door to get some time for myself. It took a while, but I finally learned that I just have to build in extra support when he’s away on a trip. Now, not only are the weeks he’s traveling more peaceful and enjoyable, but my husband returns to a family that’s happy to see him, rather than resentful that he’s been away.”

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

My Kids' Verdict on Homesteady Ketchup

Ketchup. Nine times out of ten, you'll find it on our dining table, in pride of place between our Imperial War Museum place-mats and mismatched crockery. Because I am miserly, I buy the cheapest one I can find at Asda. It compares favourably to Heinz and is popular with the children, but there's a whole lot of sugar in that 23p bottle. 

Mandi Ehman's recipe for tomato ketchup was the first thing I tried in Easy. Homemade. Homemade Pantry Staples for the Busy Modern Family ($3.99, available here) and it has encouraged me to look closer at my shopping basket and see if I can't create some of the sauces, seasonings and snacks myself, instead of buying them.

To make your own tomato ketchup (or "red paint" as my nan used to call it), you will need about an hour and the following ingredients: 

 2 tbsp olive oil

 4 small onions, chopped

 2 garlic cloves, peeled

 2 x 400g can tomatoes (I bought the posh Italian ones as they were on special offer). As you can see, I have had to label these - and the tomato puree - with PLEASE DO NOT USE stickers or they would have been sacrificed by the King before now.

 170g tomato puree

 2 tbsp sugar

 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

 1 teaspoon sea salt

 pinch paprika

Mandi Ehman's Method:

From The Farm Blog HopIn a large saucepan, sauté onion in oil until golden. 

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes, or leave on the top of the woodburner for an hour or two.

Puree in the pot with a stick blender. 

Transfer to a sterilized jar - I used an old tomato sauce bottle and an old jam jar - with a tight lid and store in the refrigerator or freezer, leaving about an inch of headspace in any jars that will go into the freezer.

Secundus' verdict: "It tastes like cold pasta sauce."

Prima's verdict: "Please may I have the normal tomato sauce?"

My verdict: I could get to like this Easy Homemade sauce, mainly because I know exactly what is in it, and I would swap it for the less healthy Smartprice ketchup, but it doesn't really taste the same. It looks good in the bottle and I am going to make my own "homesteady" label. 

The ketchup will last a month in the fridge and 6 months in the freezer. If we don't get through it in time, I can always transform it into pizza topping or pasta sauce. Worth doing and easy to make, but (as I expected) not a hit with my ketchup-loving kids. 

Find out more about the Easy Homemade e-book from the author herself: 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

What You can Learn from My Shopping Trolley

Let me talk you through the bargains, experimental items, and regretted purchases from my recent Asda online grocery shop. Looking into other people's trolleys when you're waiting in line is always eye-opening, and maybe you'll pick up a money-saving tip or two!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Seven Fuel Saving Tips from "Down Under" and "Back Then"

Not only did we make an error reading our electricity meter last Autumn, which has resulted in our monthly direct debit payments increasing by £70 (a situation we are still trying to unravel), but we have since come to the end of our 12-month deal with First Utility and have therefore been transferred to their standard (eye-watering) tariff for dual fuel. 

Since we are in the midst of untangling the "No We Don't Really Use That Much Electricity Per Month, We Misread the Meter" situation, it is not an ideal time to shop around. 

Reducing our electricity and gas consumption is an obvious thing to do, but for frugal homesteaders like us, it's hard to find tips that we aren't already doing. Magazine articles advise households to "turn the thermostat down" and "put on an extra jumper"; these are things we have been doing for the last decade. 

Could I learn anything from people on the other side of the world, or people generations ago, I wondered? Could I ever!

Tips from Down Under (that's what we Brits call Australia) (
1. Earth Hour
Kate Mclean says: "We have made Earth Hour a weekly event in our house, to help both the environment and our power bill. One night a week we turn off all the lights and use candles and an oil lamp. The children think it's great fun, and we like the way we have a candle lit dinner every week!"

2. Lights Out
And from Tamara Bellingham: "I made a simple rule in my house. As myself and my children get up between 6.30am and 7.00am, the sun is already in the sky, so we are not allowed to use lights. I make a game of it to see who can open the most blinds and race my little girl! There is sufficient light in the house so that we don't need the lights on. Again at night the lights cannot be turned on until 6pm at the very earliest, obviously depending on the night as some are quite dull. Another rule is that when the lights need turning on, all the blinds must be closed."

3. Solar Water
Another one from the Simple Savings Vault of Hint and Tips (The Vault is the paid members’ area and has always been the jewel in the crown of the Simple Savings site): "Our kitchen sink is a long way from the gas water heater so it always takes a long time, and a lot of water, before the water that runs out of the hot tap gets hot." says Elspeth Gonzalez. "To save water and gas, I now reserve the water that would otherwise go down the drain in plastic milk jugs that I have painted black. I simply leave the jugs in a sunny spot in the garden and by the end of the day the water is piping hot.

I use this water (around seven litres a day) to wash all the day's dishes, then use this grey water to water the garden."

4. Gadget Ban
Sharee Breed says: "I have saved on electricity and restored some balance in our house by banning the electrical gadgets! The habitual scene in our house when the kids came home from school was becoming a concern to us. As soon as they'd dropped their school bags the kids plugged themselves into the TV, computer, stereo or ipods, conversation died and activity was nil! 

So I took control back and put a ban on anything electrical being turned on within 15 minutes of returning from school. Wow! By the time 15 minutes was up, they were reading books, outside playing or helping me in the kitchen and had all but forgotten about the electrical items. I am not sure exactly how much we have saved, but the kids have definitely benefited from this. Being outside running around, sharing books or playing games together has made for a much, happier household and conversation is back! I look forward to seeing our next electricity bill because I know, even if it is just a little bit smaller, we are all richer."

Tips from "Back Then" (The Austerity Bookcompiled by Jaqueline Mitchell, published by Osprey) 

5. Fire Bricks
"Put fire bricks at the sides and back of all coal fires. This effects a great saving of fuel without seriously reducing the room temperature. Keep the fire small. Don't put on another lump after 8pm. Go easy with the poker!"

6. Washing Up
"Use a small bowl for washing up. Heat the water in the oven, while the oven is cooling." (You can also use the top of your woodburner for this). Do the whole day's dishes at one time and scrap all the plates and dishes before you start. 

7. While the iron's hot
Don't iron clothes unless really necessary. "To heat up an electric iron for one or two small articles is a most expensive habit. 'Iron a lot while the iron's hot' is the rule". 

Cash spent today: £43 (inc delivery) grocery shop at Asda online, £6 on pair of kitchen curtains and two short-sleeved shirts from the local charity shop, £4.50 (inc postage) on one kilo of Borax.  

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Gift of Mothers' Day

This was the first Mothers' Day...

...that the picture of "My Mumy" on Secundus' card really did look like me.

...that Prima's list of "Thank you"s written on the inside of her card made me cry.

...that my presents were wrapped in wallpaper and one of them was hand-made - frugal bugle!

... that Prima dressed up as a waitress, wearing a mob cap, presented me with a menu, and asked what she could make me for breakfast.

... that I had a lie-in but ended up coming downstairs because I wanted to be with my family.

... that Prima and Secundus made a chocolate cake.

...that I was able to accept the love that my children have for me is real and unconditional and that motherhood is a gift for life.

...that I knew I was a good mummy.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Start 'em Young : Ironing

1. Pick the right time, when you are feeling patient and have over an hour to spare, everyone is in a good mood and the answer to "Would you like me to teach you how to iron?" is likely to be "Yes."  Prima is eight years old and sensible, and I was feeling particularly "Little House on the Prairie"-ish. I, or, ideally, the King (who is a master ironer), will be passing on the skill to her brother at around this age, too. 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Five Ways to Nourish and Renew Your Spirit

Guest post by Renée Peterson Trudeau 

It's 1976, and my mom and dad are sitting quietly with their eyes closed, hands resting upward — thumb and index finger touching — while my younger siblings crawl on their backs and shoulders. My older two brothers and I sit nearby, holding our own meditation poses, bored, rolling our eyes and counting the minutes until this ritual will end.

At least once a week or whenever things got stressful, my parents would pull all five of their children — ranging in age from ten to one — into our library for a family meditation. As much as I complained, a part of me yearned for this spiritual practice.

Spiritual renewal is essential to our emotional well-being. It helps us nurture our essence, feel centered, build inner strength, live in integrity, and trust life. It allows us to experience a connection to a higher power, feel a sense of purpose, and experience meaning in our lives.

There are many different ways we explore and nurture our spiritual lives. For some this includes spending time in nature, yoga, prayer and meditation, or musical or artistic expression. Some of the daily practices that provide me spiritual nourishment include:

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Take Command of a Hot Spot

A command centre. A FAMILY command centre. You know what I mean. Command Centres are all OVER pinterest. We are talking works of art made of corkboard/ dry-erase board featuring key hooks, wall-mounted cups, clip racks, plastic folders for take-out menus, wooden letter holders, a calendar, a clock, all colour co-ordinated and themed, with subway art saying things like "Breathe". They look like the family is sponsored by Ikea/ Pottery Barn. 

This is mine:

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Dig for Victory: Spring into Action with Spades Not Ships

Secundus being invited to a party calls for Action Stations. Not only do I need to find an affordable gift (often located in our Out-of-Bounds-to-All-Children Present Drawer) and make the birthday child a card, whilst, nine times out of ten, never having met the child or knowing what he/she likes, I also need to find a way of making Prima feel less left out. 

Prima had asked if we could go to Bean and Bud for a cupcake but, given that it is 31 Days of Nothing, I decided to find ways to pass the two hours after school without any money changing hands. I didn't mention the monetary aspect to Prima, but announced that we would be planting some seeds after school so we could grow flowers in the garden. This appeared to be sufficiently appealing. 

I had already planned the floral aspect of our Dig for Victory project, referring to the Annual Cut Flowers and Cut Flowers for Scent modules in Holly Farrell's Planting Plans for Your Kitchen Garden I love the idea of being able to look out of the window and see flowers, rather than the only colour being the clothes drying on the washing line. Prima and I were also looking forward to being able to decorate our home with flowers from the garden. 

Using a windowsill seed propagator for the first time (I'm taking this Victory business seriously), and resting on an old tray, Prima filled each compartment with seed compost. I have always used multi-purpose compost before, but I thought I would try to start as I mean to go on. We carefully read the seed packets to make sure it was the right time of year to begin sowing, and followed Thompson and Morgan's instructions instead of generally chucking them in the raised bed and hoping for the best, as I have in previous years. Prima did all the tasks while I told her what depth of soil to place the seed in and so on. As we live in the North, I am always aware of our colder climes, so tend to err on the late side when sowing - perhaps you are ahead of us. We also drew a plan of our propagator and noted down what was sown in each section.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Holy Grail Cooking # 5: Use Your Loaf

The beginning of what feels like the first promises of Spring, the start of another 31 Days of Nothing, the fact that it is difficult to find a loaf of bread for less than £1.30; all are good reasons to turn over a new leaf and begin making bread.

Encouraged by my new worktop protector (shown left) from the Imperial War Museum range by Denby, which features poster designs from war-time, I decided to "use my loaf", and my triceps, rather than buy a bread-making machine. The bold and colourful collection - “Eat Your Words” - from which my worktop protector (left) comes, is inspired by the Ministry of Food’s campaign to educate the public in healthy eating during rationing. 

The only thing I was up against, after all, was inexperience, not a lack of butter, or sugar, or a lack of sleep due to air raids. I also felt inspired by a Live Better + Save Money feature in the March edition of Essentials magazine which included a how-to on bread-making by hand. If you would also like to give it a try, here are Essentials' instructions. 

What you need: 
225g strong white bread flour + extra, for dusting
7g sachet of fast-action yeast
1 tsp caster sugar (or you could probably crush granulated sugar if you didn't have any)
1 tsp sea-salt, crushed + extra to sprinkle on top
3 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin is best)
1 tbsp sunflower, poppy or sesame seeds (optional)
Somewhere warm (next to the kettle does not count)

1. Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and crushed salt in a large bowl. Make a hollow in the middle of the mixture and pour in 170g warm water and 2 tbsp oil. Mix with a spoon or your hands, until you have a soft dough. 

2. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes. Dust a baking tray with flour and place the dough, shaped into a round loaf, onto it. Cover with clingfilm and leave for an hour somewhere warm, like in front of the woodburner, until doubled in size.

3. Heat oven to 200 degrees C. Remove the clingfilm and score the dough with a knife. Drizzle with remaining oil and sprinkle salt and seeds on the top. Bake for just over half-an-hour until golden brown.

We love eating this delicious loaf straight from the oven with a bowl of soup on Friday nights.

Cash spent today: None, but £44 on weekly grocery shop (paid with credit card on Asda online). We now have food coming out of our ears and not enough space in the fridge for the 2kg of SmartPrice carrots I ordered. Hasty carrot-based recipe research required this evening. 

Random Awesome thing (from 1000 Awesome Things):#412 The air just before a thunderstorm

Today I am grateful for: no food rationing.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Treat your Mum without breaking the bank

Guest post from HotUKDeals

10th March - a week today - is the day to let your Mum know how much you love and value her and is a good chance to spoil her rotten! However, getting the best doesn’t necessarily have to cost the earth and over at HotUKDeals, the community has been scouting out the best ways to save this Mother’s Day – whatever your Mum’s personality.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Two books = Four meals

Cash spent today: It is the King's birthday today. Because I had won a £30 voucher for a meal at Damn Yankee, we had already decided to celebrate there. The food was okay, the service rather poor by even British standards, but we did like the diner decor. For four main courses, two puddings and four drinks, our bill came to £9. That was a good deal, but it went a bit downhill thereafter. 

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