Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Books For Under 5s

I often see prints for sale with inspiring and thought provoking sayings. In my mind the one that I hold to be most true is this; A House Without Books Is Like A Home With No Soul. Reading and an interest in books can be encouraged from the start. Sebastian has had picture books and stories read to him from his first few weeks. He now goes and chooses what books I should read and he is only eight months.

I have been looking to buying children's books for my little one for as long as I can remember. They can be used to illustrate so many things that a child may face, such as a visit to the hospital or getting a new sibling, as well as teaching them about the world around them. Having a good selection of picture books is vital for development but also books with a few words also such as the ones shown below.

Stories are great too. If a particular story is too long to read when your little one is in a fractious mood, (they all have them), précis it, or describe what is happening in the illustration for your baby.

There are new and wonderful books being written all the time. There is also a lot of rubbish, don't get me started on Everybody Poops or the Harry Potter series, badly written books that are banned from my home and child. 

I have compiled a non-exhaustive list of my recommendations for 0 - 5 year olds;
  • Each Peach Pear Plum
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Dear Zoo
  • We're Going On A Bear Hunt
  • Monkey Puzzle 
  • Owl Babies 
  • Mr Grumpy's Outing 
  • Hug
  • Handa's Surprise 
  • The Odd Egg 
  • Gorilla 
  • The Snowman 
  • The Jolly Postman 
  • Would You Rather?
  • I Will Never Eat A Tomato
  • Room On The Broom 
  • Little Mouse's Big Book Of Fears
  • Lost And Found 
  • The Tiger Who Came To Tea 
  • I Want My Hat Back 
  • Dogger 
  • The Elephant And The Bad Baby 
  • Where The Wild Things Are 
  • Not Now Bernard 
  • Goodnight Moon 
  • The Snail & The Whale 
  • Once There Were Giants 
  • How To Catch A Dragon 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Aduki Bean Chocolate Bites

I am a huge fan of finding new ways to eat chocolate. The aduki beans in this recipe are a chocolate delivery system and I see very little wrong with this. Using dark chocolate with a high cocoa content combined with the textural beans and honey makes this recipe have a rich flavour without being too sickly.

you will need;

80g aduki beans (dried weight)
200g dark chocolate
2tbsp honey 

  1. Soak the aduki beans in water overnight. Boil them until the are oft. Rinse off any scum.
  2. Place the aduki beans and honey into a food processor and pulse them so they are broken up but do not make them into a paste. You need the lumps.
  3. Melt the dark chocolate over a pan. I am very anti microwave melting it damages the chocolate. Mix the broken aduki bean and honey mixture in with the melted chocolate. 
  4. Spread this mixture onto a board lined with baking parchment and cool in the fridge. 
  5. When cooled cut into mouth sized bites and enjoy.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Leek, Mushroom & Spinach Pithiviers Pie

A pithivier pie is French pie where you bake the filling between two discs of puff pastry. In France they are often sweet, an almond paste filling or fruit. Although you do have savoury fillings. Here is my recipe with a savoury filling. 

you will need;

1 1/2lb puff pastry
4 leeks
50g butter
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
250g mushrooms
900g leaf spinach
4tbsp crème fraîche
1/2tsp grated nutmeg
1tsp dried thyme
1 beaten egg
salt and pepper 
  1.  Start by preparing the fillings. finely slice and wash the leeks. Melt 25g of the butter in a pan and fry the leeks on a low heat until soft. add the mustard, crème fraîche and season. Leave to cool.
  2. Melt the remaining 25g butter, add to this sliced mushrooms and sliced spinach leaves. Mix through the thyme and nutmeg and season. cook down until the moisture has evaporated.
  3. Roll out two circles of pastry and layer the two fillings as shown above. Place on the top disc of pastry and score with a knife without cutting through the actual pastry.
  4. Beat the egg with a little water and brush the pastry top. Bake in a pre heated oven 200C for 35 - 40 minutes.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Strawberry & Mint Shake

I wouldn't call myself a healthy eater, I love chocolate, cake, and beer too much. That being said I do eat a lot of foods that would come under the healthy diet banner. Everything in moderation I say. Four years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer I did start to do some research to see if there was anything else that I could do apart from getting treatment, to give myself back some control. 

Fermented milk has been linked to the prevention of cancer and helping to reduce cholesterol. It aids digestion through the probiotic qualities. Another benefit of using fermented milk is that it tastes awesome, it leaves you with a drink that is not as sweet and sickly as a milkshake.

you will need;

100g strawberries
8 leaves fresh mint
1 litre fermented milk
1tbsp honey/agave syrup

  1. Blend, chill and serve

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Blogging Fatigue

I touched on many of the aspects of lone working and working from home in previous posts but today's post is relevant for those who work in a team also, the subject is, blogger's fatigue. Blogging may be a new industry but blogger's fatigue is akin to writer's block. Everyone regardless of their job gets fatigued but the blogging schedule waits for no man (or woman as the case may be). Due to the kind of blog that I have; craft, recipes, fashion, photography etc I find my head becoming overwhelmed at times. On top of this there are what I call the 'back room' duties. Not as dirty as it sounds it is simply keeping the coding tidy, addressing any design issues and last but not least earning a living, this is anything from pitching for work, selling advertising space, following up outside projects and presenting work. My role is multifaceted and, even though I hate the phrase I wear a number of different hats during the day, add to that list being a mummy. With that much happening it is hard to keep clarity in your mind and instead of doing the jobs well you rush at them them and things become a little lack luster.

Before the birth of my baby I pushed myself incredibly hard to get a bank of posts ready to allow myself a little breathing room in those first few months. In hindsight, (what a wonderful thing hindsight is), those posts would have been more useful now. That being said I personally like to keep my blog as accurate to my life time frame as possible, I feel more authentic that way, that is my personal preference. A few weeks ago I felt like I was rushing posts, my heart was not in it. I had a number of outside projects and magazine article deadline looming and as a result my blog was suffering. 

Sometimes it is easy to think well an article is well paid work it is okay for the blog to suffer.. This is a really bad attitude. You have a responsibility to your sponsors to produce high quality posts and to post as often as you said you would in your advertising agreement. Even if you do not have sponsors you have a responsibility to your readers for their loyalty and to yourself to produce your best work. Your blog is your advert to the world, showing them what you can produce, if your advert is anything less than great why would anyone give you additional work?
I decided I needed a day to take stock and re-compartmentalise my brain and knock this blogging fatigue on the head. So Sebastian spent a day with daddy and I was free to spend a couple of hours taking stock. Here are some tips and tricks you can employ.
  1. Leave the house; when I say this I mean leave your regular place of work, if that is your house, then leave the house. If you are going to have a mental tidy it is often best to have a change of scenery. Go to a cafe that will leave you in peace, the kind of place where you can nurse a coffee. Free wifi is a bonus but not a necessity.
  2. Treat yourself to a new notebook; looking at the blank pages of a fresh notebook may appear to be the most daunting thing to do for a person with writers block but it will help you tidy your mind. Having things whizzing around inside your brain will not offer you any clarity but putting pen to paper will.
  3. Make lists; armed with your new notebook start to make lists. List the things you like about your blog, subjects that interest you, future projects, things that you dislike. Even if a project or idea sounds far fetched write it down, you never know until you work through it. This is also a great time to stop doing the things that are not making you happy. If a particular post is not working for you, you are having to force it your readers will be able to tell and that means it needs to go.
  4. Read your site; this may sound obvious but you really need to look at your site in a detached way. Chances are you read other blogs. Certain things attract you to their site, their personality, how easy it is for you to find your way around, the photography. Now read your own site as a stranger and ask yourself, is the photography good enough, is your personality shining through, are you posting your best work? Answer the questions honestly and work to correct them. Make a plan. I wanted to improve my food photography so I bought a book Plate to Pixel and made a plan of how I could improve.
  5. Do something different; if you are not feeling your best creatively and you don't work with another person to bounce off it is best not to force it. You will not do your best work. Do something else, read a magazine that is not related to your blog, read a book, listen to music, go for a walk, watch a great film. See it as shaking off the creative cobwebs.
  6. Plan; you will not be able to make all of the changes you want to  right away but make a plan. Write it down, use a wall planner, and make a big list and put it on the wall. Having goals is great but reward yourself. Every time you tick a thing off your to do list you get a treat, a bubble bath, a fancy hot chocolate whatever floats your boat but make it something you can achieve, I would quite like to reward myself with a shopping trip to New York but I cannot afford it. Don't make the reward a goal in itself.
  7. Look back as well as forward; take a look at old lists, plans and notebooks. Sometimes it is inspiring to see how far you have already come. Also sometimes you see things that you dismissed years ago that may work now.

I should also mention what not to do when you have blogger fatigue or writers block. Stop reading things that are like you. It is most likely that the blogs and magazines you choose to read are similar to you in someway. You write about the things that interest you so it stands to reason that you like to read about those things. Until you have the clarity of mind you may inadvertently plagiarise your heroes. A personal anecdote, when I was writing my dissertation I was also volunteering and working almost full time hours in the evenings, needless to say I was exhausted. Every spare minute I had I was reading text books, studies and papers. I was in such a daze that when I made notes and took them to meetings with my tutor it became apparent that I had blurred the lines between my own thoughts and the work of others, and this had happened quite by accident. I had to go back over all of my notes and sort everything. A new system, reduced hours at work and less coffee fulled all nighters I managed to write a fantastic dissertation and it was filled with original thought. Do something different to clear your mind. Recently I treated myself to a Pride and Prejudice dvd marathon with chocolate and ended up being inspired to create a number of home decorating projects for my new house. Rest and inspiration will come.

I hope that you have found this post useful and if you are currently suffering from bloggers fatigue, hang in there, take a deep breath and try something from my list, you never know it may work for you too.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Master Bedroom - Progress Report

I wanted to share with you the progress in the master bedroom. To get a look at what it looked like before here is a link to the post.

As this room needed the least building work to complete, well in fact zero building work this was the perfect place to start. It also means that we have a save haven to come back to when we visit from Paris. 

You will note that the window frames to the right have not been painted and they will remain that way. They need replacing as the weights are broken in most of the sash windows and as painting sash windows is painfully slow I do not intend to put myself through that torture for window frames that are not staying.
Covering the dark terracotta took five coats of one coat to cover it, that dark terracotta was ALL over the ceiling. In a bid to try and keep the paint from spattering on my hair I wore that silly hat.
 ....and no pants
I worked really hard to find the exact blue. I wanted a really deep blue. I saw a film years ago called B Monkey and toward the end she is painting a cottage wall a deep blue, since than I have been obsessed with having a deep blue wall.
I found the perfect carpet, looped wool, well a wool bend, have you seen the cost of wool carpets, way out of my budget. This one feels great underfoot and looks rather nice too.
I can't wait to fill the room with furniture, in fact the bed has been bought but I will leave that for the full reveal. Next on my list is to sew the roman blinds. There are so many stages to making a roman blind that is sounds more complicated than it is when I write down the instructions. I am hoping to make an instructional video for you but my video editing skills are not as great as my blind making skills.