Thursday, 4 September 2014

Friday, 25 July 2014

Low Fat- Low Sugar Iced Cappuccino - Look no Syns!!

Summer is well and truly upon us, and isn't it glorious this year?

Cool drinks are an essential in this beautiful hot weather not only to cool  us down but to keep us hydrated. I don't know about you, but I still need my little coffee fix now and again though hot coffee isn't so appealing when the sun is shining. 

Enter the iced coffee!  

When I saw the Mullerlight yogurt in Skinny Cappuccino flavour, with dark chocolate bits, my immediate thought was "Oooh iced coffee!"  So having purchased a couple I set about experimenting.

I didn't want to use up any syns or healthy extras (those familiar with Slimming World will understand what I mean here) so with the thought that the Indian yogurt drink lassi is made by diluting yogurt with water I decided to try that first. I tipped the yogurt into a jug and added an equal quantity of water and a small handful of ice cubes. I blended using my stick blender then tasted. 

I often find the Mullerlight yogurts too sweet for my taste and this was definitely the case here - it tasted overly sweet with only a hint of the coffee flavour that I wanted. I tried adding a teaspoon of instant coffee and re-blended. 

Mmmm, better, but still the balance between coffee and sweetness was not quite right. 

Another teaspoon of coffee added ...

Just right.

Syn Free Low Fat Low Sugar Iced Cappuccino.

I 165g tub of Mullerlight Skinny Cappucino Yogurt
Use the empty tub to measure an equal volume of water
A handful of Ice Cubes
2 teaspoons of Instant Coffee

Blend together with a stick blender - serve!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

South African Seed Bread - Bread for a Diabetic Diet.

As a type 2 diabetic I can't eat white bread without my blood glucose levels soaring. Wholemeal bread is a little better but not a lot, so, I was very excited to discover the recipe for South African Seed Bread in Anthony Worrall Thompson's GI Diet Book.

The bread is extremely low GI due to the quite large amount of seeds in it. I adapted the recipe slightly as I only had sunflower seeds and linseeds,  the original recipe calls for both these seeds but also for pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds, so I just doubled the quantities of the two types of seed I had available. I don't usually include sugar or fat in my bread recipes so I also left out these two ingredients. I also had no wheat bran in so I just upped the amount of flour. The bread is quite a dense bread as you might expect,  but in my opinion, that is how a wholemeal bread should be. It has a delicious almost nutty flavour to it and the seeds give it an interesting texture, but best of all,  it doesn't cause my blood glucose level to spike.

It is super easy to make and requires no kneading so no excuse for not giving it a go!

My Adaptation of South African Seed Bread

Makes 2 Loaves.

700g Wholemeal Flour
2tsp Fast action dried yeast
100g Sunflower seeds
100g Linseeds (So long as you use 200g of seeds in total I don't suppose it matters too much which seeds you use.)
1 tsp salt
600ml hand hot water. (I use 1/2 and 1/2 boiling water and cold water mixed together and find the temperature about right)

Grease 2 900g loaf tins. Mix the flour, seeds, yeast and salt together in a bowl. Add the water and mix to a soft dough. Divide the mixture between two tins and leave to rise until the mixture reaches the top of the tins. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200C / Gas Mark 6 and bake for approx 40 mins until nicely browned. To check they are cooked turn them out of the tins and tap the bottom of the loaf - it should sound hollow.

A note about rising - you do not have to have heat for bread to rise. It will rise faster in a warm place, but you can even rise your dough in the fridge if you give it long enough. I find a tip I was given years ago to place the dough in a clean plastic bin bag works well every time.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Summer souper day!

Soups are not just for winter. Indeed a light soup on a summers day can be the perfect lunch. It is also such an economical way to use up all that wonderful  seasonal produce which is so cheap right now. 

When I think of soup in winter I think of hearty broths, thick with starchy vegetables and pulses, but when I think soup in summer the first to spring to mind is tomato soup. Not that thick orange gloup that comes in tins but a home made fragrant melange which captures the warmth and sweetness of summer sun. 

A summer soup should also be quick and simple to prepare,  after all you don't want to spend hours in a hot kitchen when our all too fleeting British summer is here.

A soup such as this Roast Tomato and Pepper Soup fits the bill so well.

This recipe is so easy to make; it practically makes itself.

Into a roasting tray bung some tomatoes (I used half a dozen, but you use however many you have.) One or two red peppers, deseeded and chopped into largish chunks. A medium onion peeled and cut into quarters. Two peeled cloves of garlic and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme. Sprinkle with a little olive oil - a teaspoonful or so will do and then roast in a hot oven for about 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile pop the kettle on and make up about a pint of vegetable stock - I like the Marigold stock powder, but you can use good old stock cubes or better still any home made stock you might have.

When the veg are nicely roasted showing some lovely caremelised bits and one or two slightly charred edges, tip them into a saucepan. Add the stock and then blitz with a hand blender. Reheat gently and serve. I topped ours off with a little swirl of natural yogurt and a few fresh thyme leaves.

A perfect summer lunch!

P.S. Just edited to say that I have just signed up for Betty the Wood Fairy's- From My Home To Yours Swap. It's open till the 20th June for sign ups, so there's still time to pop on over and join in the fun.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Vintage Footstool a Makeover Production!

After staying at this gorgeous little cottage in February and cosying up on an evening with my feet propped on a footstool, I've been hankering after one all of my own. As you might realise, I'm not one for just popping out to the nearest overpriced, poor quality, new furniture emporium - oh no!
I prefer to wait and pop the desired item on the little list of desirables, which I keep in my head, to remind me to keep an eye out on forays to charity shops, car boot sales and their ilk.

Okay, you're not going to get instant gratification that way, but you will get something which is well made and generally different to the run of the mill offerings in the high street. Not only that but it will set you back a mere pittance in comparison. 

Besides I like the thrill of the chase. I love having a purpose when I trawl through the charity shops or wander round the car booty, it makes me happy. I think I get as much out of the search as I do from the purchase and any subsequent tinkering that is necessary - though maybe that's just me?

Back to the footstool.

I think my heart gave a little skip when I spied the item below tucked at the back of a charity shop on a day out to Whitby.

It looked as though it had been through a lot. It was scratched with lots of paint splashes on it's once pristine cover, but it was structurally sound and I have loved these little stools with their wooden turned legs since I was a child. (No idea why - I just do!) 
I knew I had found my footstool, but would it prove too costly? Well at £3.50 that would be a no!

So he was brought home, an unloved scraggy little thing, but with potential - oh yes - oodles of potential.

To realise that potential I took inspiration from an old Ebay purchase, the seemingly never ending Indian Wall Hanging, featured here and again here and then again here.

Yes! there is still some offcuts left.

The top just lifted off and after I'd removed it I sanded the wooden frame. I then refinished the frame with several coats of Danish Oil. While I like many of the painted finishes that I see around today, I still prefer a nice wood finish. Danish Oil is my finish of choice as it's fantastically easy to use, after sanding back the wood you simply rub it on using a soft cloth. Leave it to dry, when you will see that at first it appears to all sink into the wood. Repeat this several times until It no longer seems to sink in as it dries but leaves a lovely soft sheen on the surface. I used five coats on the footstool, but as I said because you just wipe it on with a cloth it's simple.
I then used an offcut of the aforementioned never ending Indian Wall Hanging, which I simply cut slightly larger than the top and wrapped it over pulling it tight to the rear of the pad and stapling it. Popped the top back on and...

...the finished article.

 The £3.50 footstool...

...I love it!

Monday, 2 June 2014

A Fakeaway! Low Fat, Slimming World Friendly, Chinese Curry.

Since my diagnosis with diabetes, I have had to make some permanent changes to my diet.

Many people think that a diabetic just needs to avoid sugar, but it's not that simple. All carbs are converted to glucose by the body, so I need to limit all carbs. Through trial and error I have confirmed that, for me at least, carbs in their whole food form affect my blood glucose levels less. So for example I have no longer use white pasta choosing wholemeal pasta instead, similarly I now choose brown rice. 

One of the best things you can do to help control diabetes is to maintain a healthy weight.

Admission Time!!!

My weight had steadily increased with my years to the point that when I was diagnosed with diabetes I was officially classed as obese. Since then I have been steadily changing the way I eat. I don't like to call it a diet, that implies that there will be a point when I go back to the way I ate before, I can't do that. The changes need to become a way of life if I want to slow down the progress of this disease. I turned back to Slimming World as I have lost weight using their food optimising method in the past and I knew it worked. I also knew that this is meant to be a lifetime eating plan, not some quick fix and as such no food is actually banned. (As soon as I know a food is banned I tend to crave it! Psychological I know, but a problem nonetheless.) 

I am getting there slowly, things are improving and I am learning all the time. I am managing to keep my blood glucose under control with only one or two blips, but each blip is a learning experience where I think: "Ooops better not eat that again!"

I am now merely "overweight", out of the obese category, but still a way to go.

I love Chinese takeaways, especially the House Special Curry - but it doesn't fit on a couple of counts. 
  • It contains monosodium glutamate - an additive that I have long tried to avoid.
  • It is high in fat, so not conducive to losing weight.
  • It is served with white rice, this makes my blood glucose level soar!
Well not to be beaten I have formulated my own recipe. It is free of MSG, low fat, and at only 3 syns for the whole recipe on Extra Easy will fit in with a Slimming World eating plan. 

Low Fat, Slimming World friendly, Chinese House Special Curry with Diabetic Friendly Fried Rice.

Excuse the quality of the picture, I've just got a new (to me) camera and I'm not sure of it yet!

For the curry sauce:
A non stick pan (important - this lets you "fry" off the curry paste without it burning.)
Fry Light Spray
1 heaped tablespoon curry powder
A clove of garlic finely chopped.
2 teaspoons grated ginger.
300 ml chicken stock (I just used an organic stock cube to make this).
3 teaspoons cornflour (3 syns).

In a small bowl combine the  curry powder, garlic and ginger and mix to a smooth paste with a tablespoon of cold water. Spray your pan with the fry light then add the paste. Keep stirring and moving the paste around the pan so that it toasts nicely, continue for about 2 minutes. Now add a splash of your stock and stir furiously until it is incorporated into the paste without lumps. Repeat with another splash of stock, then add the whole of the rest of the stock. Stir well to disperse and lumps and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, mix the cornflour with a little cold water until smooth. Making sure that you stir constantly add the cornflour mixture to the simmering curry and keep stirring till it thickens. Once it has thickened take it from the heat. At this point I generally pop it into a clean saucepan so I can use my non stick frying pan for the next stage.

The "House Special" bit.

Here's where you make it your own!

Fry light
1 Onion chopped into large pieces
Any other ingredients of your choice prepared how you like them, today I used:
1/2 an uncooked chicken breast finely sliced.
A handful of frozen prawns defrosted.
1/2 a bag of stir fry veg mix comprising carrot, pepper and cabbage.

Spray your frying pan with fry light and place on the heat. Add the onion and any uncooked meat or prawns. Stir fry quickly until the meat is cooked. Throw in any additional veg and continue to stir fry for 3-4  minutes. Add in any cooked meat or prawns and stir fry for another minute. Tip the whole lot into your curry sauce and heat up together. Wipe out the pan to make the fried rice.

"Fried" Rice

Cooked white or brown rice if you are cooking for a diabetic.
1 - 2 eggs depending how much rice you are using.
Fry light
Soy sauce

Spray the pan with fry light and put on the heat. Break the egg/s directly into the pan and immediately break the yolks and begin to stir fry them. You don't want to make scrambled egg here, the aim is just to give the eggs a bit of a stir so that they end up as small cooked pieces. Add the rice and stir fry with the eggs till warmed through. Sprinkle with a little soy sauce and mix thoroughly to distribute it throughout the rice.


As you can see my "House Special" contains a lot more veg than your average takeaway curry so it's also healthier for you in that respect and I really love the added crunchy texture that the veg adds to the curry.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Use it!

Can I ask you a question? 

Do you use your vintage wares?

I use this and it's matching coffee and tea counterparts on a daily basis.

I ask you this because earlier this week I narrowly prevented my dear hubby from buying me a very expensive present.

Now yes, I can hear you laughing and thinking, "Why on earth would you prevent your husband buying you an expensive gift?"

The answer to that lies in the nature of the gift itself. He had shown me a very beautiful set of silver Art Nouveau buttons on Ebay and asked if I liked them. I answered honestly saying that they were very beautiful. 

The next day, on my return from food shopping, he was sitting at the computer and said "You did like these buttons, didn't you" 
"Yes." was my simple reply.
"Oh good, because I've bid on them."
I think at this point my face rather dropped, "How much?" I asked.
"£105." He replied.

"How much!!!!"

Well after picking myself up off  the floor his face did begin to look a little crestfallen. 
"Don't you want them?"

Well no, I didn't and certainly not at that price. Beautiful though the buttons were, they were buttons! I would never dare to use them at that price, so as they weren't usable, I most definitely didn't want them at any price. I explained this as gently as I could, but I could see he felt more than a little hurt by my reaction, but it's not as if we are rolling in money and to be honest we urgently need far more practical things, like a new kitchen. (Ours is ancient and dropping to bits!). 

He did see my point of view and crossed his fingers that he would be outbid, which thankfully he was with 5 seconds to go!

This brings me back to my initial question.

I love vintage homewares, but I see no point in them if I can't use them. 

I love old Durham Quilts and vintage cotton sheets and pillowcases, but they get used.

 I love vintage china and tea trays, but they get used.

I love vintage objects for the home, but I like to display and use them.

So over to you. Do you like your vintage items to have a practical use? Do you use your vintage wares?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

String "Quilt" Patchwork Tutorial

As promised in my last post, here's how I used up some of my scraps to make this set of cushions for my granddaughter.

Sort out the scraps of fabric you are going to use and cut them into strips. They don't have to be uniform, the width doesn't matter, in fact using a variety of different widths is both interesting and enables you to use up a variety of sizes of scraps. You don't want the strips too wide however, I think a maximum of 2" is probably about right.

Begin with a piece of paper the size that you want your finished block to be. In true recycling fashion I used squares cut from an old Argos catalogue as the base of each of my blocks. 

Choose your first strip, one that will fit across your paper backing from corner to corner and lay it across the backing paper, right side up.

Choose a second strip (ensuring it is long enough to cover both sides of the backing paper) and place it right side down on top of the first strip. Machine stitch it to the first strip.

Fold back and iron it flat. Add another strip in the same way.

Agin fold it back and iron. In this case the whole of one side of the paper backing is covered. As the width of strips vary you may need to repeat this until the backing is covered.

Repeat on the opposite side of the first strip.

Repeat until the whole of the backing paper is covered. As you can see the strips really don't have to be uniform, I personally think that it looks better with a more random selection of widths.

Turn the whole thing over. (Ooops! As you can see my sewing is far from perfect, but it still seems to work ok, it's a very forgiving method.)

Line up a ruler with the side of the paper backing.

Use a rotary cutter to trim off the excess fabric.

Back view.

Front View

Turn to the back and tear off the paper backing.

Give it a final press with the iron.

Et Voila - Your first block!

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial, it is a brilliant way to reuse and recycle. If you have any questions please leave a comment and I will try and answer as best I can.

Linda xxx

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Use it up! String Quilt Cushions.

When my granddaughter Flic asked me to make a set of pink cushions for the window seats in her bedroom I immediately thought of a patchwork technique that I've wanted to try for some time - string quilting.

String quilting is a fabulous way of using up all those little scraps you just can't bear to part with. A quick google of "string quilts" on Google Images will throw up a whole raft of fantastic examples.

Now I'm a bit of an impatient sort of person and I am not sure I have the patience or the confidence to make a full quilt, so the idea of trying the technique to make cushions was very appealing. 

Using this technique also meant that I didn't have to go out and buy any fabric. Like most crafters I have numerous "scraps" of fabric that aren't really useable for any substantial project but just seem too good to throw away. As Flic wanted pink cushions I set about sorting through all the scraps till I had a large pile of fabrics with pink in them. 

The cushions were made by joining four blocks of string patches together and then bordering them with some fabric from an old dress and adding a pink gingham square to each corner. I just made simple envelope style backs using fabric salvaged from an old duvet cover.

Result - 
Four pretty cushion covers made entirely from recycled bits and pieces and one very happy granddaughter!

Later in the week I will do a tutorial to show how I constructed the blocks.

See you soon.

Linda x

Friday, 23 May 2014

The Phoenix Rises

The Phoenix. 
A symbol representing coming back and moving forward.

No excuses for being away.
I just was.

No justifications for taking so long.

The time is now right.

The embers in the Vintage Hearth have smouldered for long enough, it is time for the fire to reignight.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Spread a Little Love Swap

I know, I know, I'm very late with this post, I really do need to get my blogging self organised. Hopefully Joy at Daisy Row who was my most excellent swap partner will forgive my tardiness.

Back in December I signed up for The Spread a Little Love Swap  which was to be completed in February.

I received a wonderful parcel of love from Joy.

A gorgeous hand knitted red scarf to keep me cosy on frosty mornings. (I am in awe of those who can knit - I've yet to manage to master that skill). A really beautifully made blue heart broach, a pretty notepad, a bag of beautiful buttons, sequin trim and colourful paperclips. Last but not least a selection of beautiful cheese. The cheese was particularly thoughtful as one of the items specified was "something deliciously edible" and Joy had read on my blog that I have been recently diagnosed with diabetes. She was so considerate and realising that chocolate was now sadly off the menu for me, she emailed me to ask if I liked cheese, which of course I do. I was overwhelmed at such amazing kindness.

And what did I send Joy?

A handmade memory wire bracelet, a heart printed cup containing a sachet of cappuccino and a choccie biscuit, a cupcake biscuit pop, some bath bombs, a heart shaped tin containing chocolate hearts, a love hearts scented candle and a little embroidered notebook.

Another fabulous swap!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Rest & Relaxation

I posted about  booking our holiday  last year in this post.

Our holiday accommodation last year.

I never got to post about the actual holiday as it was booked to start the day following my mother's funeral. Not the best start to a holiday, but I knew my mam would not have wanted us to cancel. We holidayed with my middle daughter, Rachael, and granddaughter, Felicity and posted earlier in January, it was just what I needed. The cottage was a wonderful place to retreat to and relax, we were fortunate with the weather and every evening was spent on the beach building sandcastles.

Ta Da!!!

So where is this leading?

Well...  we do enjoy a weekend away! Weekends away are our little indulgence, indeed they are my main reason for trying to live as frugally as possible. We don't need to spend a fortune or do anything fancy, it's just that a change of scenery and tempo helps us keep our sanity. We usually indulge in a little weekend R&R to celebrate our respective birthdays and as next weekend will be Dave's birthday, what better reason excuse could there be?

We are heading back to the cottage we spent our summer holiday in.  As we are not expecting the glorious sunshine we got earlier in the year we will have the perfect excuse to  light this...


and cosy up with a good book.

Our good friends from Dunoon will be joining us there,  we are so looking forward to catching up with them, some good food, good company and of course a little of the old vino.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

Crochet Mood Blanket, Square One.

Inspired by this post on Moonstruck creations, I have decided to take up the challenge!

It is based on a post by Hazel's Crochet, the idea being to create either a granny square each week for the whole year (52 squares in all) or if you are the enthusiastic type one each day (365 squares in all).

Being realistic I know I have no chance of making a square each day, I have neither the time nor quite frankly the staying power for such a commitment, but one a week? Well I think I can mange that!

The original challenge is to use a colour that reflects your mood at the time. Well I am not about to rush out and buy any yarn especially for this project, reduce, reuse and recycle are my watchwords for the coming year. With that in mind I will be limited to choosing from what I've got, can recycle or can purchase cheaply. Initially I am going for using up what I've got.

So here's the first of the squares ...

...and the mood cautiously optomistic. 

I chose a greenish shade as I'm looking forward to spring and the new growth it brings both practically and metaphorically, whilst it is a pastel colour to represent the cautiousness I feel.

1st one complete - 51 to go!

Friday, 3 January 2014

A Tribute to Bloggers Everywhere

Often in blogland we paint a rosie picture (though not always). This is not an attempt to deceive, nor an attempt to appear perfect, merely that we don't wish to put a downer on things, and, myself included - we tend to post about our successes and gloss over failures. Yes we will often mention in passing when life overwhelms us with obstacles to be endured or overcome, but this often then signals a bloggy break, as indeed it did for myself.

I think we like to keep this little corner of our lives for positives and indeed it is a very positive space. I have returned to blogging after a 6 month absence and have been welcomed back with open arms and messages of support and hope. 

I appreciate them, each and every one. I also realise that for every one who posts a comment there will be at least another who will have read my post and will empathise with me even though they don't leave a comment.

During my absence I have lurked on the edges of blogdom, reading posts by others, taking comfort, inspiration, and support from them. I have rarely commented, but I have tagged along and even that small contact has helped keep me sane.

To bloggers everywhere xxx

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year. New Start.

A lot happened last year following the post about the death of my mother, and unfortunately little of it positive. My sister's dog who had been a constant companion to my mother in her final days collapsed and died less than a week after her funeral. On the day of my birthday my, until then seemingly fit, father in law was diagnosed with terminal cancer. From then he went rapidly downhill before passing away on the 21st December.

Jack - the best father in law anyone could ask for.

We also lost our little female cat Esme, she passed away peacefully, old age having caught up with her, only weeks before my father in law. To cap it all my arthritis has played up no end and on 23rd December I was diagnosed as diabetic. There also seemed to be loads of small, normally insignificant niggling problems, but given the overall theme of things this year they just seemed to be far worse than they would have otherwise been.

I'm not telling you this for sympathy, it's just been one of those years, but just to explain why I have neglected my little ol' blog.

But all this, I hope, has made me stronger. - I have coped and I am looking forward to drawing a line under 2013 and embracing the clean slate that is 2014.

Looking back there have been little pockets of positivity.

We arranged a Peter Pan themed birthday party for Flic's 6th birthday. This was held in the garden of my youngest daughter. The weather was glorious and the whole thing a runaway success. The parents of the young guests all commented on how good it was to attend a child's party with good old fashioned party games, rather than just at some expensive commercial play area.

We holidayed in a beautiful cottage on the south west coast of Scotland with my daughter Rachael and granddaughter Flic. It was such a relaxing time, and we were fortunate with the weather, we spent every evening at the beach with Flic playing on the sand until the sun began to go down.

The supply job, I took on way back in April as a four week temporary job, lasted full time to July. I was then asked to go back in September to cover a maternity leave, but as they knew I didn't really want to work full time they arranged for me to work only four days a week. I have had Wednesday of each week off, and it made such a difference, giving me the opportunity to have several lovely lunchtime outings with each of my daughters. The teacher who was on maternity leave returned the last week of term, however she also only wants to do four days a week, so, from the beginning of the new term I am continuing to teach there one day a week (Wednesday!). I am so pleased about this as it is a lovely school and I really enjoy working there.

Rachael and Flic have moved back into the village where I live, so my darling granddaughter is only a short walk away instead of a ten mile car journey.

We had a wonderful day out at the beginning of December, just before things with my father in law became really critical, to Beamish Museum with Flic and Rae. It was the start of the Christmas festivities there and we rode the horses on the steam powered merry go round to Christmas tunes played on the steam organ. Flic & her mam visited Santa, and we oldies tagged along too, we sat in front of a lovely warming open fire while Santa chatted away to our lovely bairn and gave her not one, but two little gifts.

At Beamish

I signed up for a Santa Swap way back at the end of June. Because of everything that was happening I almost forgot about it, but thankfully remembered at the beginning of November and was able to get things sorted to send my swap partner, Pauline. I was so pleased I did as this gave me something positive to focus on.  I received some beautiful presents and a gorgeous handmade Santa Sack to put them in.

The Santa Sack will be in use for many years to come. If you want to see what I sent to my swap partner you can find piccies on Pauline's blog because as usual I forgot to take any before I sent it off.

Sooo... overall I'm glad to see the back of 2013 and am looking forward to a new and hopefully more positive year with lots more blogging.

Happy New Year everyone - let's hope it's a good one!
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