Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Spiced Apple Chutney Recipe

This recipe makes a most delicious apple chutney recipe, ideal for accompanying pork pie, crackers and cheese mmm made from a friend's windfall apples!

8oz Onions, chopped (this was about 2 medium onions)
2lbs cooking apples (cored and chopped)
4oz raisins/sultanas
3 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ginger
11 oz sugar
1 1/4 pints of malt vinegar
Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan or preserving pan if you have one and stir to mix.
Bring to the boil slowly.
Simmer for around 2 hours, or until consistency is nice and thick and you can drag your spoon down the middle of the chutney and it leaves a channel for a while.

Divide in to sterilised jars, I got 4 jars but they are all quite large so obviously smaller jars would yield more.
Seal and cool, then store in a cupboard/dark pantry for 2 or 3 months before eating so the flavour can mature.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Another successful 100% homemade craft project

Well, I am pleased with it anyway!
It's a scented lavender pouch for my future SIL's birthday, even the lavender is homegrown, quite chuffed about that.

To make it I measured two rectangular pieces of fabric and cut around the shape, mine was 6inches by 5 inches with a centimetre extra each side for sewing. I had a patterned fabric for once side and then a cream minkee-type fabric for the back.

Pin the two pieces of cloth together right sides facing, and then sew three edges leaving the top open.

Then fold over 1-2 cms of the top edge, pin and sew using a back-stitch to make a neat edge for the opening of the pouch.

Turn inside out, poke out corners and then iron.

Sew on two coordinating buttons on the front for decoration.

Secure a length of ribbon to the back of the bag about 2 inches down from the top opening, with a few small stitches (to stop it from sliding off)

Then fill pouch with lavender (or any other kind of pot pourri/petals/herbs you want) and tie the ribbon tightly to secure it all in.

I have also made some drinks coasters in the same material for her.

My next project is to make some things for a work colleague who is leaving on maternity leave in 2 weeks to have twin boys, I am thinking maybe some homemade bibs and burp cloths, but am open to ideas if you can think of anything/know of a good tutorial for baby gifts?

Then it's on to Christmas gifts...

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Debt woes

There is so much in the news currently about debt, and how much debt as a country we are in, it's quite a shocking figure. Debt can be such a crippling thing to live with, and I fear for even harder times ahead depending on a change in government and future plans to cut spending/recoup losses which may result in job losses, higher bills etc etc, it's a bit of a vicious circle as the fear of debt and redundancy makes more of us want to be frugal and thrifty, yet the government then becomes concerned saying consumer spending is the only way for the country to recover, how inconceivable it is to many of us to spend MORE even though times are harder.

Personally, Mr G.T & I have done a lot since we married to sort out our finances, debts so easily accrued when we were far too young plus a struggle to set up home together in a rising market that has now crashed... we made big steps to come out of using our overdrafts, consolidated our debts to get them paid off manageably, built up savings and live within our means, it was so easy for things to happen that threw us off course though and the past 2 years have been tough. We are by no means in as bad a state as some I know, thankfully my redundancy didn't mean we lost our home, or defaulted on payments, but it means credit cards had to be used, the overdraft is back, savings are depleted and we spend a lot of our monthly income paying back these debts. The best laid plans can very often get blown off course so easily, it's been a tough lesson to learn and I hope soon to get back on track again and rebuild our savings so we again have a cushion to fall back on, it just happens so instantaneously yet takes months/years to recover from.

I dread things going wrong because I know we struggle to afford the bills to fix them. Currently something seems wrong with the car and I always dread that as it can be something easily sorted (thankfully Mr G.T is handy and can do quite a few minor repairs himself, plus my brother-in-law is a mechanic so is on hand for advice) but if it's something that needs a new part or proper garage work, it can be so pricey, it's only just had it's service too so I am hoping so strongly that it can be put right as quickly and painlessly as possible. But these sorts of things just highlight to be even more how much money problems weigh on my mind and conscience, and how I hope one day soon to make it a better situation.

I'm carefully planning Christmas already, I am hoping to handmake a lot of projects as gifts for friends and family, and reduce spending on food to good quality ingredients but nothing extravagant, i think sometimes it is so easy to overspend and overeat at Christmas which is not what the festivities should be about really. The past couple of years we have managed to enjoy a basic simple but delicious Christmas, so am hoping for the same or better this year, i am hoping early organisation and planning will help, as the last 3 Christmases have been last minute rushes for a variety of reasons which often means I spend more than I need to also. So I am planning a thriftier and more environmentally friendly Christmas all round, I hope I can achieve it.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Wales: The pictures

Easing back in gently

We have been away for a glorious week's holiday in Caernarfon, Wales, wow what a lovely place!
Needless really to say that it's hard work being back to Monday morning and it's a struggle fitting back in to the usual routine when I enjoyed so much just walking, taking photos and enjoying free time, i suppose ideally every day should be like that, reality doesn't always make that possible though eh?! I have found myself completely shying away from the internet, even blogging (i hear you gasp!), it's just so easy once you have been away from it all for a week to dread getting sucked back in to the virtual vortex of emails, facebook updates, gossip and, worst of all, bills! I'm easing myself back in gently though, having caught up on some beautiful and gorgeous blog updates this morning it's reassured me that the internet isn't all evil, but maybe it's taught me i need to cut back on the social network sites and the hustle and bustle, and just concentrate on the places that bring me joy, like my blogs.

I seem to have gone in to overdrive since returning, wanting to get all the house cleaned, washing done, bills paid, schedule arranged, odd ends tied up... which is a bit silly really because then i'll need another break by the end of the week! So i've written a list of all the things popping in to my head so I don't forget anything (i love lists!) but will tackle it at a steady and more manageable pace I think moving forward.

Back to the holiday then. We stayed in a beautiful cottage that used to be the bathkeeper's home by the shore of the Menai Strait, looking over to Anglesey and with views of Caernarfon castle, Snowdonia, fields of little calves and of course the picturesque waters, it was a relaxing place, quiet and serene but close enough so we could walk to the attractions in Caernarfon itself. I found inspiration for so many photos, i think I took nearly 950 so I am going to have to be very strict on which ones I can post up, so many beautiful things there though, I am hoping to create some sort of photo scrap book from them, and some prints for the walls/for friends eventually. Some of the activities we did apart from enjoying the scenery were; visiting Caernarfon castle and the regimental museum there, going on a boat trip around the Menai Strait, Anglesey Sea Zoo (really very good with lots of attractions for all ages, but also greatly educational on the eco issues of both local and global seas, and your tickets last for 7 days so you can visit as many times as you want in the week!), Pilli Palace butterfly and nature park (GS was not so sure about the butterflies landing on him, of all the things to be frightened of he chooses Mummy's favourite creatures!), Dinas Dinlle beach (my Welsh is poor so if anyone knows how to pronounce that please help me!) and the Iron Age fort which GS climbed up with us and made me very proud (GS was born with clubfoot so every step he takes fills me with joy). I would have loved to have visited Snowdonia, and some of the Welsh railways, but we couldn't do everything and shall definitely be returning so it keeps some gems for our return.

It was also quite strange while I was away how many things irked me about the environment, I have always been passionate about nature and ecology but the annoyance i felt at seeing such a beautiful beach with litter on it surprised me. McDonalds stuff just thrown out of cars on the side of the beach, horrible tales of animals being killed/mamed by plastic bags dumped out at sea/on beaches etc. Obviously I am not saying Wales is anyway worse than anywhere else, but the stark contrast between such beauty and then seeing these things really highlighted it to me that humans have a long way to go to clean things up and we all have a duty. Thankfully the local people, shops and councils are taking great initiative in trying to stop such things, for instance they have stopped using plastic bags in most of the local stores and gift shops (although the supermarkets haven't yet). I was also peeved when most of the tomatoes on sale in the supermarket were from Poland...what???! it's tomato season in the UK there must be millions to buy why on earth would i want Polish tomatoes that have probably been in shipping for a week or more and have no taste, ludicrous!

The problem about being relaxed is that you can slow down enough to listen to your little inner voice and what's really going on, and so I had some down moments, despite really enjoying the holiday and being with my loved ones, it brought home also that I am still grieving over my miscarriage, i think despite not really saying anything to each other both Mr G.T and I felt it, your mind automatically drifts to what might have been, and that space that's been left in your heart aches, it's only natural I know, it's still very much fresh and tender and I know I need to just let it be and accept that recovery can be a long and individual journey, I don't have to be strong all of the time.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Stuffed Marrow Recipe

I thought I'd share with you a recipe I've tried today and found delicious! Marrows are often a vegetable I see for sale but think "What on earth can i do with it?" so never bother, but this one was so cheap (50p) i couldn't resist and I am glad I didn't as Stuffed Marrow is wonderful!

I am pretty sure you could swap and change a lot of the ingredients to suit whatever is in season/in your fridge/in your garden, but here is what I did to feed 4;

Stuffed Marrow Recipe

1 marrow (peeled, de seeded and quartered)
3 carrots (peeled and thinly sliced)
1 onion (peeled & cubed)
1 clove of garlic
knob of butter
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp paprika
2 cups of rice
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (or ready chopped fresh tomatoes)
1/2 pint of stock (chicken or vegetable)
generous helping of grated parmegiano cheese
salt & pepper


  • Once the marrow has been prepared, rub salt in to the flesh and leave to stand while creating the stuffing, this helps remove the bitter taste from it.
  • Cook the rice by boiling a pan of hot water, then adding rice and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • In a skillet/frying pan melt the butter, add the garlic, then add the chopped vegetables to soften them over a gentle heat.
  • After they have gradually softened, add the stock, seasoning, rest of the herbs and the tomatoes and let it simmer to fuse the flavours and cook the vegetables.
  • After 15 or so minutes, add the cooked & drained rice & stir in thoroughly
  • Wash the salt from the marrow quarters then place on a baking tray on top of aluminium foil then spoon the stuffing in to the upturned marrow middles.
  • Sprinkle grated cheese on top
  • Cover loosely with another sheet of aluminium foil and place in a preheated oven at 180 degrees centigrade.
  • Bake for approximately half an hour, then remove the top layer of tin foil to allow the cheese to brown and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until cheese melted and tops turning golden.
  • Serve on own or with salad/veg/rice/pasta side dish (I actually used some of the stuffing that was leftover and stir-fried it with some soy sauce to make an accompaniment)
  • Enjoy!!

As you can see from the above photo, we even got to enjoy it al fresco tonight as the weather has taken a sudden shift in to reverse and it's been a glorious 21 degrees and sunshine all day today, it's forecast to last the week too, marvellous!

Thank you for the well wishes for Daisy too, she seems much improved today and even let me inspect her healing wound without hissing today, so seems we got there just in time with it, she seems more humbled in her usual safari antics across the fields and has only ventured out for a bit then returned home for cuddles & reassurance, but I am pleased she seems happier and in a lot less pain now.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

I made this!

After a slow and steady start I am really enjoying handmaking gifts now, and more importantly seeking out new projects i can sew/stitch/bake/create!
It was only when i uploaded my photos for the week today that I realised what a home-made week I have had;
tomato soup for dinner on Thursday

completed some hand-stitched drinks coasters for my friend's wedding present (plus a bottle of rose fizz- i didn't make that i may add)

A little hand bag for my 2 year old niece (am hoping to make some more items for her in the same fabric)

I also made thank you cards for my GS birthday presents, and a salad solely using items out of the garden.
The sewing projects have been the most rewarding for me seeing as it's the one i needed the most development on, having rarely been able to sew even a button on in the past. I have sewn the items totally by hand, and although not as neat & precise as a sewing machine, I find I am resisting the use of a sewing machine (despite my MIL offering me hers) as it feels more authentic, more hard work if I do it myself and I find comfort and pride in that. Sewing by hand is almost like the labour of giving birth to my final creation, whereas i am not sure i'd have the same satsifaction from using a sewing machine. Maybe once I have reeled off a few more project then common sense will prevail and i'll use a machine, but for now I am happy by hand.

It's rainy on the hill today, there is a real feel of Autumn in the air, although the weather forecasts to be finer for this week, the temperatures have certainly dropped and I felt frozen today when visiting the car boot sale in Tansley, in the harsh open Derbyshire countryside.

Poor Daisy has been in the wars also; our warrior princess seems to have been in a scuffle with some other creature (unsure what, maybe a dog, another cat or even a fox) and has a nice deep puncture wound on her right behind that she growled and hissed at us every time we got near, poor little thing was not happy at all, so off to the emergency vet we went, and thankfully we had caught it in time as it was forming an absess, so a hefty bill later she seems much better full of painkiller & antibiotic injections and sardines (GN spoils her!)
Look at her being brave!