Saturday, 31 December 2011

food, friends and family...

We cooked a lovely ham yesterday and welcomed friends around to share it, unfortunately it was enjoyed so much there are no leftovers! I boiled the ham in preparation the day before and then marinated it in cider and wild flower honey, before cooking it for a few hours on a low heat. 

To go with it I made a homity pie (a favourite of mine) which is essentially potato mashed with sour cream, onions (I fry mine first), garlic and peas, topped with a little grated cheese, then baked in a wholemeal pastry case. I also made an onion tart loosely based on an Elizabeth David recipe, again a pastry case blind baked, then filled with fried onions, with a mixture of three egg yolks and 200ml double cream poured on top and baked at gas mark 5 for about half an hour. I also did a quick beetroot, pear and apple salad, just grated with a squeeze of lemon juice and olive oil and some pickled eggs! This menu proved to be easy and affordable and can be served hot or cold and is great laid out for people to pick at as they please. 

Now I just need to muster some energy to party the night away! 
Happy New Year all x 

Thursday, 29 December 2011

wild wintery walks...

I love the lull betwixt Christmas and New Year, for us an excuse to do nothing but slow down and eat! The boys however, don't take kindly to our lethargy and, in order for everyone to stay sane and to keep them from climbing the walls, need fresh air and exercise daily. 

Yesterday, our short woodland walk rewarded us with the discovery of some ladybirds hibernating in a thistle! The eight year old spotted the tiny spec of red in what was otherwise a very brown and dull landscape, I would have walked straight past! I must remember to slow down and be more observant - I wonder how many other things I miss? 

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


I made a delicious leftover turkey and leek pie loosely based on this Jamie Oliver recipe yesterday. I forgot to buy any creme fraiche, so made it with double cream and added the last of the cranberry sauce for more of a kick instead, which worked a treat! The day before we had bubble and squeak, made with leftover roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts with some cold turkey and cranberry sauce. We just have a little left for sandwiches, soup and/or a curry and that's our turkey all used up - how are you doing? 

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

junk modeling...

Have you seen these amazing cardboard cities, made by Australian artist Annalise Rees? Aren't they amazing? I have been saving shoe, cereal and delivery boxes so we can make something similar, a perfect post Christmas activity, especially as our local council doesn't accept cardboard in our recycling boxes! 

a Bradshaw Christmas...

I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas? Ours was small, simple and quiet, just the way we like it! The boy caught chicken pox and on Christmas eve was sporting a delightful display of red spots, which were quickly renamed 'turkey pox'. 

Luckily the friends we were due to spend Christmas eve with, weren't put off by the 'pox' and we got to spend a lovely evening eating a big beef stew and dumplings and drinking hot chocolate together. I had a bit of a disaster with the homemade marshmallows, the first batch set so quickly as I forgot about the mixture in the bowl and by the time I came back to pour it into the tin, it had set hard. The second batch, made to the same River Cottage recipe didn't set at all, so the stars you see above were practically runny and not at all as nice as they look! 

Grandma and granddad liked their homemade presents, the boys made grandma a garden with packets of seeds and granddad had a shed, with local beer and biscuits inside! We ran out of time to decorate the gingerbread house this year, the boys made it completely themselves with our next door neighbour, and it looks a little barn like without any icing on, but I like it and decorating is something to do over the next few days perhaps? 

Thursday, 15 December 2011

dear father christmas...

I have been a really good girl this year and I would like...

some Toast pyjama trousers £49 & hand thrown mugs £17.50 each (above) and some stubby candles from £9.50 (below)

A gift voucher to see the new Giffords Circus show along with afternoon tea! 

A panettone and some yummy products from Green & Spring (below)

sheepskin scuffs £45 from Hush & a new cookbook (above)
and finally a lomographic camera to replace the broken one that took some of these pictures

Monday, 12 December 2011

an apple for the teacher?

We always try and make Christmas gifts for the teachers and classroom assistants at school as they put so much hard work and long hours in. The boys are incredibly fond of their teachers and love school, so enjoy making jams or biscuits as small tokens to say thanks. 

This year we thought we would make some chocolate truffles using an old recipe from the Dairy Book of Home Cookery (1996). 

150ml fresh double cream
350g   plain chocolate, broken up
25g     unsalted butter
+ coating 

1. Heat cream in a small pan until boiling point
2. Add chocolate and stir until melted
3. Stir in butter until melted
4. Pour into a bowl
5. Place in freezer to harden up (in my recipe book it says for 20 mins, it took me about 40-50mins!)
6. Using a melon baller scoop out rounds or use two teaspoons
7. Roll in cocoa powder/ grated white or plain choc/ coconut or whatever you fancy to coat the truffles
8. Place on a plate in refrigerator and store until ready to serve

This was a fab recipe as it was really simple and easy for the boys to follow and make, plus had the added reward of having a bowl to scrape afterwards! 

We then wrapped them in a small square of tissue paper and popped them into some small kraft boxes, with small snowflakes and tied up with raffia, adding a luggage label hand written by the boys.  

They have turned out really well and are a really effective but not expensive gift!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

the elves at work...

Thanks to Steph's comment on my last blog post suggesting seeds as a good grandma present, we were inspired to make a 'grandma's garden' in a box, packed with her favourite flowers and veg seeds. 

We secured the seed packets to the base with blue tack, then the boys stuck in flowers on pipe cleaners, a grass carpet and a fence with lollypop sticks. We hope she likes our packaging! 

Monday, 5 December 2011

Christmas planning...

It's about time I started to do some Christmas planning. I haven't even bought any family presents yet! 

Things I/we need to do...

Present shop for the boys (most important!)
Get the Christmas tree
Make, write & send Christmas cards (have got some lovely brown cards like these - just need to buy white ink)
Chop lots of kindling for the fire
Order turkey and beef for boxing day from local farm
Make wrapping paper with a new reindeer stamp and brown parcel paper
Bake small cakes for the boys to decorate, put in kraft boxes and give to their teachers
Find where I have hidden the stockings (always somewhere different each year!)
Make sure I have all the dry ingredients for lots of biscuits/gingerbread/mince pie baking
Make small sachets of mulling spices to hang on bottles of apple juice
Make gingerbread biscuit garlands to decorate the house/tree
Check the sledge is in full working order and wax the runners (just in case we have snow)
Find the Christmas pudding knitted tea cosy, which I always forget about! 
Find nice presents for grandma and grandad - I have no ideas this year!
Plan for a super special magical Christmas eve with our friends
Tidy the house ~ I don't believe Father Christmas visits messy ones! 
Buy next years calendar & diary (I am usually much better organised than this)
Buy some large buttons from craft shop and find some old pipes and scarves in a charity shop to make some 'snowman kits' to give as gifts (obviously if I do this it won't snow!)

Is this everything? 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

games night...

At parents evening last week we were handed a 'card, domino and dice games' handout from the teacher for us to do at home. We laughed and said "we always play dominoes in the pub!" then as she looked at us, we wished it didn't sound as if we went to the pub all the time! Don't you always feel as if you are the child at parents evening? 

Anyway apparently the youngest is quite a whizz at maths, he has always been quite good at dominoes, I remembered this holiday a few years ago, when he was only three years old he would regularly beat us! So now we have got the cards out too and are trying to teach them and at the same time remember some basic card games! 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

the family food challenge...

Last weeks menu planning went really well, especially as we had such a busy week too, the preparation really paid off. This week, another busy week with nativity plays and events in the village to go to, and we are all feeling a bit tired and run down. This time of year, there are always lots of sniffles going round both school and at work and I find myself obsessed with vitamin C. 

Also this week the chickens are feeling the cold weather and dark days, and are in a bit of a tiz, they have stopped laying and are starting to molt! Last year they supplied us eggs all the way through the winter, even through those frozen temperatures, I guess as they were still very young. But today, for the first time in 18 months, I have had to buy eggs! 

Tonight we had a fie pie for supper, which is one of my favorite family meals. We call it pirate pie to make it more exciting for the boys, and their challenge is to find the hard boiled eggs aka 'the treasure' in it! Tomorrow it's chicken for sunday lunch, and on Monday i'll make a pie with the leftover chicken and add leeks, a simpler version of Jamie's leftover turkey pie. Then with the bones I'll make a simple chicken stock to make into soup, that I can take to work for lunch on Tuesday. We have bought lots of local apple juice and cider this week, so for a mid week supper, I'll do something like pork chops in cider, Nigel Slater has a good simple recipe, but I usually just make it up as I go along! I'll do a heap of creamy mash and greens to go with the pork, then the following day we can make bubble and squeak, with a fried egg on top! 

I am also starting to think about Christmas food and baking, and want to fit in this list of treats over the next few weeks;

mince pies (of course!)
marshmallow snowflakes for a special hot chocolate
Christmas cupcakes for the teachers 

Friday, 2 December 2011

viewmaster heaven...

I just have to share this fab website Image3D I have just discovered with you. Remember the old viewmasters that I found and gave to the boys for their birthdays earlier this year? Well this company actually makes the reels you put in them from your own images, I know, exciting huh? 

It's a bit too close to Christmas to do this now, but wouldn't they make great birthday or party invitations? My mind is whirring with the endless possibilities...

Thursday, 1 December 2011

getting ready...

letters written and taken to the post office for posting to a certain someone! We arrived at the post office just as the post lady did in her van, she showed the boys inside the post box and told them their letters would be delivered to Father Christmas straight away. We then stocked up on brown parcel paper and luggage tags ready to make our own festive wrapping paper with festive stamps and glitter! 

Saturday, 26 November 2011

feeding hungry boys...

Maybe it's this time of year, as the nights draw in and it starts to turn cold, my boys seem to be ravenous. Constantly under my feet in the kitchen asking "what's for tea?"or "can I have a biscuit?" and occasionally foraging right under my nose!

To combat this constant demand for food, I am trying to plan my meals for the week ahead so that I make the most of what we buy, and be able to prepare quick and easy meals. So this morning I hit the recipe books, searching for inspiration, so that I can provide tasty meals that we all enjoy (including fussy number 2 son!)

Tomorrow we will have a traditional Sunday lunch, we usually have roast chicken or beef as we can source affordably from local farms. I do LOADS of vegetables, so that on Monday, we can have leftovers, vegetable gratin, or bubble and squeak and the meat in our packed lunch sandwiches. Tuesday, if we have eaten the left overs, the boys can have a tomato chicken casserole after school (that I can prepare in the morning) and I will add some red wine to turn it into something a bit more special like a coq-au-vin for us for supper. By Wednesday, we are quite weary and crave something really quick, so a risotto is my fast food of choice at the moment, I am going to try the cauliflower risotto recipe from Jamie's Italian book this week, as it can be spiced up with some chilli crumbs on top for Pete who sometimes despairs of my bland palette, (which is even more bland when I'm pregnant!)

The boys like to have school dinners once a week, and enjoy reading the menu we have pinned to the fridge and choosing, at first it was because Friday was 'chip day' but now it seems that they are more likely to choose other days, which is fab as the menu is quite varied and it encourages them to try new things. I don't like the price of £2/meal but it is a good balanced menu and freshly cooked at the school, which I whole heartedly support. If they have school dinners then this week I am going to do my favourite and 'oh so simple' butternut squash soup for tea with crusty bread, as it is soup season and my favourite way of getting the fussy child to eat more veg! On Friday, inspired by Anna's "Little Chef Friday's" we have decided to do the same thing in our house too, the boys have chosen to make pizzas, so I have remembered to make sure we have the right flour in the house and plenty of toppings!

Saturday, after porridge for breakfast, we will be inspired by the farmer's market if there isn't a football match. The fussy child loves trout, he loves choosing and buying his own trout, and will happily eat all of it himself. I am constantly surprised that he does this, and will always indulge this request as it is usually only around £2/trout, and is a meal for him and his brother! I think it stems from our holiday to Cornish Tipi Holidays, when he must of only been two or three years old and was captivated by the fact that we caught and cooked our own trout from the lake. Just shows how good children are when introduced to things from an early age, just wish he felt the same about the vegetables from the garden!

I think that should be a balanced week, there will of course still be biscuits but at least I should be better prepared!

Friday, 25 November 2011

putting my feet up...

I went to a Christmas Fair at the very stylish Cowley Manor this week, they had a snow machine over the front door, it was magical! I discovered Green & Spring skincare there, isn't the packaging gorgeous? I am definitely asking Father Christmas for a few little somethings in my stocking! 

I've had such a busy few weeks at work and it continues, a new website to launch, a celebrity signed welly auction and I even snuck in a visit behind the scenes at BBC TV's Autumnwatch Unsprung last week and got to meet the legend that's Bill Oddie! Sometimes I love my job, despite being completely worn out. 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

little birds...

These little birds are cheerily gracing our dining table at the moment! It feels like the only tidy place in our house, there seems to be so much clutter everywhere else (which of course doesn't make for a picture I want to share!)

I wish I (or my husband for that matter) was a neat freak, I have piles of paperwork to sort and file, piles of washing to put away, so many little jobs around the house that it all gets a bit much. I really want a house that looks like this. Am hoping that in this pregnancy I get the nesting instinct soon, as so much needs doing! Failing that, does anyone with OCD fancy some therapy at mine? 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

boy or girl?

I'm nearly half way through my third pregnancy and soon due for another scan. But we're completely undecided about finding out whether we are having a boy or girl? We didn't want to find out with the first two at all but are more curious this time. I like the idea of preparing and choosing names (both our boys weren't named for AGES!) but I also like finding out at the birth, remembering my husband tell me both times "it's a boy!"

Monday, 14 November 2011

pyjama party...

I would live in pyjamas if I could, and usually ask for a pair most Christmas's, these pictured above are from Toast. I also love the range from Hush, especially the vintage rose ones pictured below...

perfect for toasting marshmallows in front of the fire or curling up with a good book! 

Monday, 7 November 2011

who needs computers?

The parent I am now is certainly not the parent I thought I would become. I can remember expecting my first child with such a firm idea of the family that we would be, and at first we were like that, eating organic food, trying real nappies, having adventures together and not watching too much TV! 

Now years later, with a tightening of the purse strings, two ever growing boys and another on the way, somehow things seem a little different. There are demands placed on us from different sources, things like school friends that influence the boys, or the lack of time we are able to spend together with things like sports clubs at the weekend or after school clubs. I find I back down more than I ever intend ' for an easy life!' This year the boys have started to mention wanting a Wii for Christmas, which the eldest did last year, as "everyone at school has one" and to be fair most do! But to my horror we are seriously considering it, and this is something that I was determined my children wouldn't have until their teenage years at least! I am consoling myself about my lapsing parenting standards, with a fab junk shop find, a 50p old bingo game that we have spent all weekend playing! Who needs computers when you have bingo? 

Friday, 4 November 2011

ladies that lunch...

I met the lovely Anna, of the blog She Shops Local, for lunch today, and it was great to chat face to face, instead of the few tweets or blog comments we usually converse with. I first met Anna after we followed each others blogs and I became a huge admirer of her 'shop local' ethos, although her challenge this year is to cook 'Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking' which is a truly colossal task indeed! 

Of course we lunched in the cafe at Hobbs House, Nailsworth, where I had the fab Scotch egg and tomato chutney, which was delicious and I highly recommend. Although I didn't take any pics, can you believe? So pictured above is my son eating a 'jammie', one of Hobbs House signature biscuits and is simply delicious, and a treat that we usually enjoy when we go to the Hobbs House stall at Stroud Farmers' Market. 

It was also fab to hear about Anna and her sister-in-law Jess's new venture, vintage crockery hire, which has given me an idea about having a baby shower/tea party, bunting, afternoon tea served in china & cakes! Any excuse for tea and cakes really don't you think?  

Sunday, 30 October 2011


The boys have been busy today drawing scary faces and deciding on how their pumpkins should be carved! They have done really well and we let them use knives to do some of the carving, supervised of course, now that they are a little older. There is plenty of pumpkin to make a nice soup with for lunch tomorrow too, I'm going to use a tried and tested pumpkin soup recipe that goes down well with all the family, replacing the butternut squash with pumpkin! 

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

seasons change...

maybe it's because I was born in autumn that I have such an affinity with this season, or it could just be the romance of kicking leaves and the smell of woodsmoke! The light is so romantic, dancing through the turning leaves and I greet the chilly mornings with thick tights and my fingerless mittens. 

Sunday, 23 October 2011

the best things in life are made by children...

the boys made their dad a birthday cake, chocolate of course! They wanted Chinese AND Indian food for supper as they couldn't choose what his favourite was, so we had a fusion of both, which was interesting! 

I'm loving these homemade dollhouses, so much nicer than anything you can buy, don't you think? 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

eating for two...

I'm so tired and so hungry in this pregnancy it's awful, and it's playing havoc with any social life I might otherwise have! I have to go to bed early and eat constantly, small meals, and really plain things, like cereals, potatoes, bread and cheese. I've been craving barbecue spare ribs from the Chinese takeaway and other really unhealthy things, my husband put his foot down and refused when I asked him to get me a burger, fries and a milkshake! I'm also craving all the things pregnant women aren't meant to eat like runny eggs, red wine, soft cheese and pâté. This is going to be a long hard slog!  

Monday, 10 October 2011

toffee apples...

I have finally made toffee apples without the toffee slipping off! I realised after borrowing a friends thermometer that I don't heat up the mixture enough. This is how I made them...

(makes 25-30 small - medium sized apples)

tip. I used locally picked apples that are unwaxed, if you buy very shiny ones from a supermarket, wash them in boiling water first. 

800g golden caster sugar
7 tablespoons of golden syrup
200 ml water 
2 teaspoons of vinegar

wash apples in boiling water.
push sticks into apples, I used real twigs rather than lolly style sticks for a rustic look. 
heat sugar and water in saucepan for a few minutes.
once sugar has melted add golden syrup and vinegar and boil to 140°C, my thermometer had 'hard crack' on it. 
Take off heat and dip each apple in the mixture, a dip and twizzled a bit to drip off excess toffee. 
Place on baking parchment to set. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

the getaway...

We had been looking forward to our weekend away for what seemed like ages, but it proved not to be straightforward with childcare not quite working out the way we had planned and friends stepping in to save the day. 

We had decided to treat ourselves to a weekend away and found the most amazing beach hut in Devon, unfortunately we couldn't book a weekend near our 10th wedding anniversary in August, so we opted for whatever date was available, which was the first weekend in October. 

I had imagined us sat in woolly jumpers on the beach, how wrong can you be - we had a heatwave! It was as if we were in the Med.

Our own private beach and wood fired hot tub too, which was even more exciting as our boiler at home has been broken for over a week. 

We watched the fishermen check their lobster pots, people kayaking by, and two blobs in the distance that we thought could be seals turned out to be two swimmers who wanted to investigate the beach hut a little more closely! Definitely too busy for skinny dipping!  

more pics on flickr...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

the birds and the bees...

so if you missed the clue in Monday's post, this is what's in my tummy right now! I'll be honest and say I am a little daunted by what lies ahead and how we will cope but I know lots of people with large families who are just amazing, so hopefully it will be OK!!!

I don't do pregnancy at all well and get extreme morning sickness which lasts all day, I lost three stone in weight in the first three months of my first pregnancy, it was horrendous. It has been a lot better this time, I have been having weekly acupuncture and it seems to have helped as I have certainly not been as sick as usual, the exhaustion however, is a whole other matter!

I've been examining the scan picture above to see whether I could see if it's a boy or a girl, bit concerned about the empty brain though, obviously takes after me!

Monday, 26 September 2011

37 things...

and so the tradition continues, a list of all the little things I fancy doing over the next 12 months before my 38th birthday, some realistic, some are just a dream! I have been doing this for four years now after seeing the inspiring Hula's lists and I quite like writing lists, especially of all the nice whimsical things I want to do or just things to look forward to. 
  1. celebrate apple day ✓
  2. bake more cakes ✓
  3. shop local more ✓
  4. learn to make knickers
  5. travel on a 'sleeper' train
  6. make caramel apples with twigs ✓
  7. rent a cherry tree
  8. go fruit picking in ruby
  9. make a croquembouche 
  10. go wassailing ✓
  11. knit a pair of socks
  12. make an army of gingerbread men ✓
  13. sew a table top house 
  14. hire a Morris Minor Traveller for the day
  15. plant edible flowers to add to summer salads ✓
  16. take part in the London friday night skate
  17. stay in a beach hut on our very own beach! ✓
  18. visit Rye {& see my prints on sale in the new Lion Street Store}
  19. find more car boot sales & flea markets ✓
  20. write a book
  21. have a bonfire on the beach ✓
  22. grow asparagus 
  23. own some real art! 
  24. swim at the lido ✓
  25. paint my nails dark red like this ✓
  26. host an vintage afternoon tea party inspired by the secret tea cup
  27. enjoy a weekend away with the blog girls ✓
  28. experiment printing my photographs on different paper
  29. visit the amazing Giffords circus ✓
  30. make this alternative Christmas cake
  31. create some moss graffiti
  32. make ice cream clouds
  33. own a vintage style swimming cap
  34. eat at The Ethicurean after hearing so many good things ✓
  35. take more photographs on film
  36. own a sewing machine
  37. have a baby! ✓

another year...

I'm another year older today with a few more 'laughter lines', I was given some lovely birthday butterfly cakes delivered by Jenny (above), a fab pair of hand knitted socks and a lovely book 'Handmade Home' from my husband (below).

Yesterday Gina took me to Bailey's Home and Garden for a birthday treat, where we treated ourselves to lunch in the tin Tabernacle Tea Shop. I just love the handwritten labels by Charlotte Farmer that are throughout the store. I love birthdays!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Apple scrumping day...

This mornings horrible early downpours cleared and we were blessed with sunshine on our apple scrumping day. The kind owners of the most beautiful orchard let us pick some of their trees to make apple juice as part of our community apple day project.

The children used sticks to reach and knock down some of the high up fruit!

As well as traditional orchard varieties of apple tree, there were pear, medlar and quince tree's too, as well as plenty of blackberry brambles. Orchards are a rare habitat, and the trees support a wealth of wildlife from mistletoe, lichen and lesser spotted woodpeckers.

We ate a lunch time picnic whilst enjoying far reaching views across the valley.

We picked three trailer loads of apples, to wash, cut out any bruises, mash and then press, bottle and pasturise. The children helped but mainly played, enjoying their freedom by exploring the orchard and stream.

Here are just some of the bottles filled today, that will be on sale at Apple Day soon.
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