Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Art of Home Front candle-making

There is no Art about the way I make candles. Essentially I recycle wax. If that doesn't sound glamorous, well, hey, it ain't. But it does work and costs pence, especially if you use your woodburner's heat and string you have saved from parcels like they did in the 40s.

To make Mumtopian candles, you can go down one of two routes. 

The Tealight method.
For this, you will need a collection of "oh-that-didn't-last-very-long, did-it?" tealights; the kind you are always compelled to buy whenever you visit an Ikea store. Remove the metal outer casing and recycle it (if possible), then break up the (cooled-down) tealights and remove the wicks and metal wick holders, retaining one. 

Thread a length of string through the wick holder and set aside. You will need enough string to act as a wick in the candle you are going to make, so bear in mind the size of the container you will use for your candle and the number of old tealights you are using. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Make Do and Mend or Crafting to Perfection

Answer the fun quiz questions below and find out your Sewist type. 

Are you all about Make Do and Mend or Crafting to Perfection?

1. You've got the evening to yourself, which you decide to spend on a sewing project. What are you most likely to choose?
a) A miniature tree of twigs painted white, decorated with fabric birds and flower garlands 
b) A patchwork blanket 
c) A red embroidered sampler, Scandinavian-style 
d) Sewing on buttons, darning holes, sewing on patches etc. 

2. What's your favourite design motif, out of the following? 
a) Bird-houses or bird-cages 
b) Union Jacks or Stars and Stripes
c) Butterflies and roses
d) Tea-cups and teapots 

3. What was the last thing you bought for your sewing box? 
b) DMC embroidery thread
c) self-cover buttons
d) Hemline Machine Oil

Extract from project 18, Stitch and Sew Home
4. You are planning to make a quilt for your daughter. What do you make it out of? 
a) The Meadow collection from Eline's House, in hues of pink, red, blue and grass-green
b) A variety of fat quarters from your local fabric shop, in her favourite three colours
c) Cath Kidston fabric off Ebay
d) Old shirts, tea towels, duvet covers etc.

5. What kind of thing do you make most often?
a) Decorative items for the home - bird mobiles, mini canvasses, floral bunting
b) Clothes and accessories
c) Anything with butterflies, birds and flowers on it
d) Practical items like pot-holders, or adjusting clothes to fit.

6. What's your attitude to "Make Do and Mend"?
a) I like buying brand new items in the vintage style
b) I'm frugal in every aspect of my life, it's second nature
c) I like changing second-hand items to make them look prettier
d) I like the creative challenge of upcycling and re-purposing objects

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Girly + Frugal = 5 Homesteady Hair Treatments

Secundus was once again at a party, the King was, unbeknownst to us, buying himself two pairs of jeans (he is somewhat sartorially challenged and buys clothes about once every 18 months), and Prima and I were reading Things to do with Mum when we came across a recipe for Lavender Hair Rinse. This was an easy and pleasant pastime, which put our dried lavender to good use, and was a nice combination of Girly and Frugal.

Pour half a cup of dried lavender into a pan and add two cups of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes, then allow to cool. Prima used the lavender water as a hair rinse after washing her hair on Sunday night. I warmed up the mixture on the woodburner a little, to make it more pleasant to use. Prima left it on for ten minutes before rinsing off with water, and had extra soft, silky hair which smelled beautiful, as a result.

Monday, 22 April 2013

My Favourite Equation : Something Out Of Nothing

The most wasted food in the UK is bread, and yet there are a number of delicious recipes that use up even stale slices, such as French Toast, Bread Pudding, Panzanella and Skordalia. Perhaps you, like me, have only heard of two of these dishes, but don’t be intimidated. Working as a chef on a Caribbean island for many years where food supplies were limited and unreliable, Suzy Bowler became an expert in using up food and making something out of nothing. Something out of nothing is my favourite equation. In The Leftovers Handbook (£12.99, Spring Hill), she shares her passion for ingredient-inspired cooking with hundreds of suggestions for using every conceivable leftover.

The Leftovers Handbook is a an alphabetical list of ingredients and a whole host of ways to use them so that food products are no longer allowed to moulder in the back of the fridge, vegetable rack or bread-bin. This book is not intended to be another book about being green and frugal but instead celebrates the wonderful opportunities that each ingredient offers, with cutting food waste and expense as a happy bonus.

Making Your Home Sing Monday!After reading through the handbook in bed last night, the first things I tried this morning were:
1. DIY muesli – using up porridge oats, nuts, seeds, sultanas, dried apricots and two dried cranberries :)
2. Freezing home-made garlic butter because I made too much for garlic bread
Neither of these is particularly quirky, I realise, but they were successful. There are a whole host of suggestions which inspired me, which I have yet to put into practise – from Recycled Biscuit Cake to Dark Chocolate Truffles, Coffee Hair-rinse, home-made pesto, and the fact that you can slice and freeze mushrooms.

Since receiving this book I have felt far more confident that I can reduce food waste in my kitchen and try new recipes at the same time. One of the major bonuses is that the recipes don’t force you into the cycle of buying more ingredients just to use up leftovers. Another plus is that I can now take advantage of special offers at the supermarket, such as BOGOF, and know that the food I buy can be either used in a delicious recipe or stored correctly. The author includes a whole section of what store-cupboard, freezer and fridge basics you need, in order to be able to enjoy impromptu cooking like this and explains which flavours complement each ingredient.

Suzy Bowler is a lot more gourmet than I am, and probably doesn’t buy 2kg of smartprice carrots from Asda each week, just because they are cheaper per gram, but I welcome her expertise with open arms and love the way this book encourages us all to be more resourceful with our food. 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Jean Genius Patched Cushions

(hope you liked the sort-of David Bowie reference there in the title, readers) Denim is one of my favourite materials.  The King and I wear jeans just about every day, so I have a fairly plentiful supply of old denim making its way through my wardrobe and into my fabric stash, some of it cleaner and less oily than others. Not only is denim so hard-wearing and homesteady, it is great to sew with, and goes with just about anything, as the following project shows.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Holy Grail Cooking #4: No Mince Beef Burgers

Warning: this post contains photographs of raw meat! 

It might come as no surprise that I make my own beefburgers, particularly given the recent "equestrian cuisine events" in the UK, but I thought that buying minced beef and making your own was about as homesteady and budget-friendly as burgers could get. Obviously, as author Sue Simkins points out, "you know exactly what  is in a proper home-made hamburger and they are simple and economical to make," but burgers made from minced beef don't stick together very well and are difficult to turn over on the grill. 

Had I not read Simkins' super savoury recipes in Making the Most of Your Food Processor (Spring Hill, £9.99), I wouldn't have dreamed of buying steak and transforming it into burgers. As an ex-vegetarian, I am not keen on preparing raw meat, and I am, foolishly, a bit shy to ask our local butcher whether he has any chuck, blade or skirt steak, especially since I don't know what any of them are. However, I do possess a small food processor, which I was given by my parents for my 21st birthday, and it could stand a whole lot more usin'. Simkins states that it's "much better to process your meat at home in the food processor with the bread and onion and seasoning. This way everything melds together and the resulting burger is firmer - and much more delicious." She had me convinced. It wasn't like I was going to end up with horsemeat from the butcher by mistake...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Cheatin' Art of Patchwork Blankets

To make a patchwork quilt seems, on the surface, to be the Most Homesteady Thing a body could do. However, there are a number of drawbacks. The art of quilting is one I have yet to master and there ain't no Quilting Bee on the mean streets of Harrogate. The cost of quilting thread, wadding and all the beautiful fat quarters I hanker after is not to be underestimated. Time (I'm supposed to be a housewife) and space (I have no sewing room) are also things to consider. Surely there was some way to create a Mumtopian patchwork quilt with no space, time or money?

Monday, 15 April 2013

5 Ways to Live Right in the Wrong Era

1. Consider the sledge as an alternative form of transport. Last snowfall, it was far more dangerous to travel by car (only the main roads were gritted) than on foot. We were running low on wood and decided to make a trip to the King's workshop by sledge. On the way home, Secundus (wearing a knitted Viking hat) and Prima, perched on the sledge in front of a container of off-cuts. They put their arms round each other and sang songs. The King and I got exercise, the woodburner got fuel, and local motorists got entertained by us cranks who live in the wrong era.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Unplugging: People First, Things Second

An Excerpt from Nurturing the Soul of Your Family by RenĂ©e Peterson Trudeau

Parenting consciously and making decisions that mirror your heart and innermost values take guts, no matter what the issue is. They require an unwavering commitment to your family’s well-being, in both the short and long term, as well as weathering the disapproval of your children. As we know, it’s harder to say no than to say yes — particularly when that no goes against the norm of our culture. Your kids are not likely to celebrate the establishment of media guidelines, and you may find any rules difficult to follow as well. When we’re overworked and exhausted, the electronic babysitter is easy to turn to and always available. Yet as we’ve seen, this seemingly harmless choice can develop into a negative habit that can create an ocean of disconnection, frazzled nerves and minds, and an ongoing barrier to true intimacy.

So begin with baby steps. Invite in self-compassion. Cultivate a sense of curiosity: What would happen if I became less plugged in? How can I model this for my kids? What are some half measures and partial steps I could try? What fun things could I replace screen time with? When are the most important times when I want my family unplugged (for example, during dinner or on Sundays)?

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