Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Elderflower Cordial and Champagne

I have made elderflower cordial every year for about the past five years now but until last year I have never had the courage to try making the champagne. I think I've always felt a bit nervous in case the bottles exploded, but then realised that I could use plastic bottles so gave it a go.
I had only tasted elderflower champagne once before and that was when I was ten years old and I went to tea with one of my friends who lived on a farm. I still have vivid memories of that tea, it was a glorious sunny day and her parents opened a bottle of home made elderflower champagne - it was gorgeous and I never forgot the wonderful taste. So, it was with great anticipation that I tried the first bottle of my own, it was fantastic every bit as good as I remembered - success!!!
For the past week or so I've kept promising myself that I will get out and collect elderflowers to make cordial and champagne with, but either I end up running out of time or the weather turns against me. Do you ever get the feeling you're running to catch up?
Last night I determined to get out for a beautiful evening stroll in the sunshine and to collect the elderflowers. The evening was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed my little walk, but best of all I collected enough elderflowers to make both ...
elderflower cordial

elderflower champagne

The cordial only takes 24 hours so had my first glass tonight - yum! The champagne has another 24 hours before bottling then 5-7 days in the bottle -can't wait.


Elderflower Cordial
20 heads of elderflowers (don't wash them just shake them gently to remove any insects)
2 oz citric acid
1kg sugar
3 pints water
1 lemon sliced
Place sugar in a large bowl and pour over the boiling water, stir till the sugar dissolves. Add the other ingredients. Cover. Leave for 24 hours. Strain through sterilised muslin (just pour boiling water over it first) into sterilised bottles. You can make this without citric acid, but it won't keep too well, though it can be frozen.
Elderflower Champagne
6 heads of elderflowers
900g sugar
2tbsp white wine vinegar
4 1/2 litres of cold water
2 large lemons
Shake the flowers to remove any insects. Boil 1 litre of the water. Place the sugar in a large container and pour over the boiling water, stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cold water, the lemons, thinly sliced, the vinegar and the flowers. Mix well and cover. Leave for 48 hours. Strain carefully and pour into plastic screw top bottles. Should be ready after 1 week. check the bottles every day or so as you may need to release some of the fizz.

Friday, 25 June 2010

MSE Jewellery Challenge

I made this necklace for my daughter Rae in response to the challenge set by Yukkibear on the jewellery making thread of money saving expert. The challenge was:

"Think of someone who deserves a present and make them something they'll love. You don't have to actually give it to them, but it has to have a meaning" Tell us who it's for and why.

Rae has had a bit of a hard time lately, but continues to do a fantastic job of raising my granddaughter, so I thought she deserved something made especially for her. She loves pirates and is always admiring my steampunk jewellery, so I thought I'd do a pirate themed steampunk style necklace to cheer her up. The round brass ball is actually a locket and though I haven't done so yet I'm going to print off a couple of Johnny Dep pics from Pirates of the Caribbean, she also drools over Johnny Dep - and who doesn't ; ) and put them in the locket before I give it to her.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Spending Spree & Diet Disaster

Today's been just so incredibly hectic, well it has since I left work! It is my elderly aunts birthday tomorrow and we live 30 mile away, but I work only about 10 miles away so decided to visit her after work tonight to deliver cards and pressies.

Last night on t'interweb however I found a couple of bargains that I could pick up on the way. Firstly Argos basics slow cookers selling at £4.89, so reserved a couple for the two daughters who have their own homes. Then a Flip Face Motorbike Helmet with a drop down sunvisor for the bargainous price of £39.99 in Lidl. They just had to be bought, so slight shopping detour was arranged. While on route to Argos it would have been rude not to pop in the charity shops and also do a bit of window shopping.

Didn't find much in the charity shops but did get two vintage plates to add to my eclectic mixed tableware collection that I'm gradually replacing my boring cream tableware with.

On the way back to the car I spotted a gorgeous tie dye maxi skirt it a factory shop window, very retro hippie style. The price tag was partially obscured and looked like £4.99, so in I hopped thinking bargain!! Found the rail with the skirts on and discovered that the price was actually £14.99, but it was even more lovely close up and next to it was a similar skirt, but less coulourful, just blacks and whites. Decided to try them both on to see which looked best and ended up coming out of the shop having bought not one but both of the skirts.

Got back to the car and realised I still hadn't bought the flowers I wanted for my aunt, so off to the nearest Tesco for flowers, then on to Lidl for the helmet.

Eventually got to my aunt's house, had a cup of tea and gave in to the temptation of a freshly baked scone and sausage roll - well it was getting on and I was peckish. Once again back into the car and homeward bound at last when I realised that I needed to call and drop off the slow cookers' at Rae's house and pick up her driving license as I promised I photocopy it for her. I think it was at this point I gave up on the idea of getting home and cooking the lentil, egg and coconut curry with pilau rice that I had planned and decided to go for Chinese take-away. Just as well really as I finally arrived home just after 8pm.
Oh well tomorrow's another day and another chance to actually stick to the diet!
The photographs don't really do the skirts justice. The
top one is much more colourful and bright.
While the bottom one looks sort of frilly on the photo but is just tie dyed.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Our Daily Bread

Today’s menu:

Breakfast – Yogurt

Lunch – Chilli Prawn Noodle Salad (HM)

Eve Meal – Braised Lamb Shanks with tomato, New Potatoes, Carrots, Cauliflower and Cabbage.

I though I’d post a couple of recipes today, the recipe for my everyday bread and the lamb shank recipe I cooked in the slow cooker last night.

I choose to make my own bread because I so dislike bread made by the Chorleywood process which to me has no substance, is full of things you don’t need and really bears no resemblance to the bread I remember from my childhood. I have tried a bread maker but didn’t really get on with it, it just all seemed too much of a faf if you know what I mean. You seem to wait an age and eventually get a tiny loaf with a hole in the bottom! Yes I know modern bread makers are much better now, but to be honest since adopting a no knead method based on the Doris Grant loaf, it only takes about 2-3 minutes of my time to make a loaf of bread. Doris Grant by the way was a lady who “invented” an easy to make loaf for everyday in order to encourage healthier eating.

Easy Peasy Everyday Bread
1lb Wholemeal Flour
1tsp Easy Blend Yeast
1tsp Salt
8 floz cold water mixed with 7 fl oz boiling water.

Tip the flour into a bowl; add the yeast and salt, mix. Pour in all the water and stir in with a wooden spoon. The dough will be quite loose and sloppy. Put the dough into a greased 1lb loaf tin, smoothing the top. Leave somewhere warmish until the dough rises to the top of the tin. Bake at 200C for 20-30 minutes until browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. I usually remove the loaf from the tin for the last 5 minutes of cooking just to brown it all over.

Don’t expect this loaf to be anything like the light fluffy bought bread you may be used to, it does produce quite a dense loaf, but it is a delicious loaf well worth the eating.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Tomato

I got my Lamb Shanks from Broom House Farm near Durham. It is an organic farm with its own butchery and I have to say I am never disappointed with the meat from there. The shanks I used are shoulder shanks and therefore cheaper than leg shanks, I paid a total of £5.83 for three of them, so that’s just under £2 each, not at all bad for organic meat.

Lamb shoulder shanks (I used 1 per person ‘cos we’re a greedy bunch! but if you took the meat off the bone before adding it back to the sauce, you could easily get away with 1 between two or even 3 people)
2 cloves of garlic – chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
¼ lemon chopped into 2 pieces
Sprig of lemon thyme
5-6 sprigs of fresh oregano (you could use dried herbs just as well, but I have these growing in my tiny front garden)
Glug of red wine.

Strip the leaves of the oregano if using fresh and discard the stalks, then chuck everything into the slow cooker and cook on high for approx 4 hours. I did this last night as I know that lamb tends to give off quite a bit of fat – so – remove the shanks and once cool keep them covered in the refrigerator. Let the sauce go cold and then remove the layer of fat from the surface and discard. When you are ready to reheat, add the shanks back into the sauce and reheat in a covered casserole dish in the oven or microwave till piping hot.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Trying to lose weight

One of the reasons I have set up this blog is to encourage myself to do the things I want to do and need to do in order to lead a simpler more resourceful life. It’s not that I do terribly badly at it right now; it’s just that I sometimes wander off the path and forget the way. I can be quite scatty and I often forget what it is that I really want, so hopefully setting up and writing this blog will help me to focus on what I want to do and actually get me motivated to do it – well that’s the theory anyway.

I have been trying to lose weight for the past couple of months and have succeeded in losing two stones by (loosely) following the Slimming World diet. I started by going to the class, but after a couple of weeks I felt that I was just paying to be weighed and then hang around for an hour to find out how everyone else had done so I decided to go it alone. Since then my eldest daughter Ellie (who is the only one still living at home) decided to join me and a number of people at work also began slimming world, so we all try to support each other. Anyhoo, in the last few weeks I have sort of lost momentum so while I haven’t put any weight back on I’ve sort of stagnated and need to get back on track, so this week I’ve done a menu plan. I may not stick entirely with it, but it gives me a focus.

Today’s menu plan:

Breakfast – Yeo Valley Organic Yogurt (Yes I know only mullerlight are syn free, but they contain sweeteners and the rest, so I made a decision that for me any organic yogurt is syn free – told you I follow slimming world loosely – if you stick with me you will see I have introduced many other idiosyncrasies into the diet, but I reckon so long as I lose the weight and it works for me it's ok. Oh and also breakfast is actually at 10.00 break time as I don’t like to eat earlier.)

Lunch: (Wasn’t organised enough last night so had to grab something quick from ASDA on my way to work this morning) Tilda steamed brown

basmati rice with butternut squash, north Atlantic prawns ( I don’t like to buy farmed prawns after reading news reports about the chemicals used) and some mixed salad.

Eve Meal: Prawn ommlette, Slimming World Chips and Salad made from the ingredients in my organic vegetable bag, so excepting the prawns all ingredients will be organic.

I've also tried to get organised for tomorrow with lamb shanks in the slow cooker and HM bread for Dave's sandwiches, pics posted below.

About Me

Welcome to my blog. I am a mother of four now grown up (allegedly ; )) children. One boy, Jason, and three girls, Ellie (Eleanore), Rae (Rachael) and Tasha (Natasha). I am also nana to my wonderful granddaughter Flic (Felicity) aged 3. I am happily married to Dave and live in a village in Weardale, County Durham.

I have always liked vintage things and would rather hunt down an old preloved vintage piece of furniture or item for my home than buy new. My tastes are pretty eclectic, and I think my home tends to reflect this. Although I love the shabby chic look and style, I would describe my home as more boho chic (well in my dreams I would lol). I am careful here to say in my dreams as I think some of my efforts just turn out shabby rather than chic – but what the heck, this is me warts and all.

I always have so much I want to do, but find so little time to do it in. I think I spend too long gathering inspiration and leave no time to follow it through. I do work full time though so that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

I also love the idea of leading a simpler life, an old style life, more in tune with the seasons and connecting with nature. Once again I’m careful to say I love the idea, I try hard but don’t always manage it. I’m not too hard on myself though, after all this is about improving my lifestyle not about making myself miserable about the things I don’t manage – I’m only human after all. I do manage to live an “old style” life the majority of the time. I eat organically wherever possible and prefer to cook from scratch, not only do I know what I’m eating then but it tastes better. I bake my own bread (most of the time), and my family and friends tend to praise my cooking. I try to be as frugal as possible, because it’s only by being frugal that we can afford to buy the much higher priced organic ingredients.
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