Friday, 27 April 2012

Creativity Challenge

I have not drawn or painted a picture in a long time. But I have great plans. Like for example, I have a metre squared frame that periodically gets updated with a new painting inside. This year, I would like to paint meadow flowers to cheer up a spot on the stairs, or a dark, haunting foggy scene to add to the hallway but I have been putting it off because I'm worried it will turn out badly, like it's been so long that my hands won't remember what to do.

But recently, during a craft night, I made myself sit down and draw. Yeah. Not to be melodramatic or anything, but it was a little scary and the first few sketches turned out a little bit crap. But I kept going and soon I was really enjoying myself. The shapes became more identifiable and gave me a little more confidence. My hands slowly remembered how to blend. These nudes didn't exactly turn out to be Degas-esque, but by gum, it was fun creating them from memory. I'm working on the other half to get his kit off and let me do some life sketching next. Like any man needs an excuse.

So if you have been putting something off for a while, here's my advice. Just get on with it. It's much less scary once you start. And you might even get to see a naked man to brighten your day. Hooray!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

New Cake Stand

My new favourite thing (other than the cumbersome bunny break dancing) is this little gem - a glass cake stand from Ikea. I was looking for one in charity shops throughout all of Kent, but Ikea came up trumps and I was won over. How did I last this long without it? Most of our friends have them on the work top and I drawl each time we visit. Now we have our own!

What a treat to wheel her out when we have guests over whether it's for post dinner dessert or merely a bum fight for leftovers with a cup of tea, it feels truly decadent. Be warned though - once the glass dome reveals only crumbs it doesn't half give you an excuse to fill it up again. You need to hone your will power to enjoy such a provoking piece.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Recipe : Garlic Dough Balls

Homemade garlic dough balls. Where do I begin? Well for starters, I’d like to thank the delectable Pizza Express for their inspiration. Who can resist their dough balls as a starter when visiting? Then, great thanks go out to Lawrence Dallaglio (true, it is quite bizarre that I should be thanking a rugby player, but he the man) for his recipe I found online that formed the basis of this here recipe. These are simply scrumptious and a good fun starter for any meal. Good fun to make, good fun to eat, good for getting the kids involved, good fun, no word of a lie.

These are best served straight from the oven so that the butter mouth wateringly melts (although they are also pretty good the day after with a quick blast of heat, also good to freeze) and they need an hour for the dough to rise, so work back from when  your guests will be ready to settle down. You can make the garlic butter the day before so that the flavours are fully absorbed. These are pretty easy, they will quickly become a simple go-to recipe when you want to impress, but don’t have the time. And did I mention fun? Oh and remember to knead the dough for the magic number - 500 times. A little tip my talented bread guru cousin taught me and it works wonders!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Crafty DIY : Menu Wipe Board

We've been using this frame for years as it really helps you plan your week meals wise which is great when working full time. If one gets home earlier than the other, you can always check what's on the agenda and start prepping. What's that? It's only me that looks at it? Yeah, that might be true, but a girl can dream, right?

Grab a little, lost glass frame (this one is A4) and just print a page split into grids with the week day on the left and whatever you fancy along the top. This can easily be achieved in Word and takes minutes to put together. No more rummaging aimlessly around in the freezer - although that can be fun when you find unexpected surprises like strawberry lollies. Hmmm. Lollies.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Stay in & Host a Pizza Party

If you want to make the boys in your family very, very happy, the secret is to hold a pizza party. Except you must stay in the room with eagle eyes until all the guests have arrived as the boys, in all their excitement, tend to hover around the table and pick off the lone toppings like vultures on the sidelines.

It was brilliant fun and it turned out we had toppings leftover (which once mixed together make a delicious pasta sauce for the following day). We provided everyone with a homemade pizza base on a baking tray (250g plain flour, 100ml of extra virgin olive oil, 2 large eggs, whole bunch of chopped fresh or dried chives - makes two small rustic (rough around the edges!) bases) and a tonne of tomato sauce (half a jar of passata, one tin of chopped tomatoes, four tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and a dash of Worcester sauce) and then we had great fun chopping up a selection of toppings and arranging them in lots of small bowls for guests to help themselves.

We covered the bases in plastic wrap to ensure they didn't dry out. Once uncovered though, the real fun began. The main theme for the evening was quadrants - split your pizza into sections and mix up your toppings. Your topping list could be endless, so get as creative as you like. The only thing I would change is to add garlic and chillies to the mix as well as a few different cheeses like blue and goats, but this is just a preference. Our list consisted of:

  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Sliced mozzarella
  • Chopped Cumberland sausages
  • Chopped green olives
  • Slices of salami
  • Finely chopped anchovies
  • BBQ'd sliced chicken breast
  • Roasted cherry tomatoes and red peppers
  • Chopped up smoked gammon
  • Sweetcorn
  • Diced sweet red peppers from the jar
  • Chopped chorizo (lightly cooked beforehand)
  • Rocket leaves to dress
This is definitely going to be a regular occurence at our place, particularly good for big kids and little kids alike - fussy or otherwise. Just beware of fights breaking out over the chorizo.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Craft DIY : Stencilled Cutlery Box

This old box was just lying around, not doing very much at my folks place. So I decided to give him another chance. I white washed the outside, cheered up the inside with a coat of blue (from a tester pot) and made a stencil out of paper and printed it on the side with a sponge. And now, it has a new lease of life, there’s no holding this little box back. Whether it’s to hold napkins for parties, cutlery for BBQs or condiments for dining al fresco, it brings a little (more) cheer to mealtimes.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Garden Wine Bar Sneak Peek

Hullo all, here's a little peek at our efforts in the garden over the winter months - our shed has been converted into our very own wine bar in the back garden! I'll do a proper post shortly on 'Le Bar Jardin' and how to convert your shed into something a little more, well, shall we say - awesome? We just need to fix down the decking outside to take more pics. Until then, you'll find us most evenings at the bar, sampling the house wine and occasionally playing the harmonica.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Recipe : Slow Roasted Tomatoes

This easy recipe requires a little time to cook, so plan to make these in advance. They are so tasty and once cooked, can be stored in an airtight container for a week. I used an old chutney jar for exactly this as I made so many! They came about because we were lucky enough to be treated to dinner at Pizza Express courtesy of the other half's sister and whilst we were there we experienced the tastiest slow roasted tomatoes. Almost immediately I was trying to identify the flavours and scheming as to how we could recreate these mini delights at home.

The ingredients may be completely different to how Pizza Express make them, but these turned out brilliantly none the less. Perfect with homemade garlic dough balls for a starter (recipe soon!) or as nibbles with olives and cheese, these tasty toms have already become a staple dish in our home. And the house smells AMAZING all the time they're cooking - not very vampire friendly.