The minutiae of life

Puppy Power!

This blog began a few years ago whilst I was awaiting the arrival of a new addition. Well, that addition is now four years old and starts school in September (sob). Since it started, it’s gone through peaks and troughs of activity, but the last few months have seen a total lack of new posts. Not sure why really. I just seem to have been super busy with everything else, you know, work, kids, household stuff, breaking a rib (don’t ask) and so on. I haven’t felt inspired to blog. However, I now have fresh motivation in the form of our latest addition to the family (at last, a link to the opening line). So here he is, Pip the chocolate Labradoodle puppy, eight weeks old today!

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Now, I think it’s fair to say that eight week old puppies are HARD work. Like a cross between a newborn baby (the getting up in the night bit) and a very mischievous toddler (the ‘into everything’ bit). We’ve had him five days now and he is running us ragged, but he is also (luckily for him) the most adorably cute ball of fluff you could wish to meet. Right now, we’re trying to find a routine and get Pip used to his new home. We’re all on a steep learning curve. The kids have to remember not to leave stuff lying around on the floor and they also have to remember not to walk around in bare feet just in case Pip has left anything lying around on the floor. Gareth and I are constantly checking where he is or standing outside with him encouraging him to have a wee al fresco instead of on the nice wooden floorboards.

 On a different note, it’s given me the impetus to get my sewing machine out. I’ve already made a very simple microwaveable rice comforter ‘thing’ using a rectangle of leftover Cath Kidston fabric (only the best…) and I’m planning to make  a cover for his crate (currently an ugly wire contraption which doesn’t bring anything to the ambience of the living room).

So there we have it. A new blog post about a new puppy. I don’t intend to leave it so long next time.

Do you have a pup? What are your top tips? I’m all ears…

 

 

Comfort Food for a Rainy Day

Ugh, it’s miserable here this morning. Barely light and raining heavily, I’m just glad that Maisie’s half term break started yesterday so we haven’t had the school run to deal with.

Anyway, on a positive note, it’s the sort of weather that makes you crave something warming and tasty, so today I have not one, but two comfort food recipes to help you get through the day.

The first is a delicious Sausage and Bean Casserole which can be cooked on the hob if time is a little short. Also, if you keep a pack of sausages in the freezer, the rest of this meal is pretty much made from store cupboard ingredients. It serves 2-3 adults I would say (but then we’re greedy in our house). You will need:

1 tbsp veg or olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

6 fat sausages

2 cans beans (I vary this, but you can try haricot, borlotti, black eyed, canellini etc…)

1 tsp mustard

Half bottle passata

1 tbsp black treacle

Half pint of chicken stock

Brown the sausages in the oil in a deep sided frying pan. Next add the sliced onion and fry gently til golden and soft.

Add all of the remaining ingredients and give it a good stir before bringing to the boil.

At this stage you can either pop it into a casserole dish with a lid on and cook in the oven for about an hour on a lowish heat (say 170-180 degrees) or you can leave it in your frying pan and pop a lid on (or cover with foil) and simmer on a low heat for about forty five minutes. This is best served with crusty bread and perhaps a dollop of creme fraiche!

Right, well that’s the savoury sorted, but I did say I have two recipes for you and the second is for mindblowingly good Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies. I can’t claim any of the credit for this recipe but wanted to share it with you nonetheless. To find it you’ll need to head over to the fantastic foodie blog Frugal Feeding. When the blog post popped into my Inbox I knew that we’d be giving this recipe a go and it didn’t disappoint.

I wouldn’t like to think about how many calories you might be consuming if you have both the casserole and the brownies, but I do know that both will leave you in a state of cosy well being.

Happy Weekend!

Knit One, Purl One

Did you know it’s National Knitting and Wool Week right now? Well, it is. From 14th to 20th October to be precise. I have limited experience of knitting and find it’s one of those hobbies that’s best suited to Autumn and Winter months as, let’s face it, that’s when we need woolly stuff, right?

Feeling creative, I decided to dig out my needles and the brilliant Stitch and Bitch book and have a go at making something. Bearing in mind that I’m a) short of time and b) a little impatient, I thought it best to begin with something straightforward and functional, so I picked up a ball of this lovely chunky yarn by Patons and got on with making, yep you guessed it, a scarf! What’s so great about this yarn is that one ball is enough for a scarf and there’s even a pattern for one on the label. It probably took me about three or four hours (done in short bursts over a period of about a week), but I’ve finished up with this gorgeous, teal coloured neck-warmer and it only cost a fiver.

My next project is going to be slightly more complicated – a hat! Watch this space…

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New Beginnings: September

I love September for lots of reasons, but mainly I like the sense of newness it brings. For me, the beginning of Autumn feels a lot more laden with promise than, say, the beginning of Spring. There’s something so invigorating about preparing for the start of a new school year (in Maisie’s case) and going back to work after the six weeks holiday (in my case), oh, and I have a birthday too which helps!

I turned 39 yesterday. It was an understated sort of a day but lovely nonetheless. There were cards and pressies, cake and flowers and a really relaxing early evening bath with a book. Kitty and I had a little scoot round the shops in the morning and we admired all of the gorgeous Autumny clothes. I just had to buy this and this for her and again found myself wondering why such clothes aren’t made  in grown up sizes. I’m sure it wouldn’t just be me making a beeline for them.

Anyway. the weather’s turned miserable today after a week of late summer glory. The sky is leaden and it’s bucketing down here in York, but hopefully it won’t be too long before we can get out and enjoy those wonderful Autumn days when the leaves are falling and everything takes on a cosy kind of feel. I’m looking forward to pulling on tights and boots and heading out with a coat on (is that weird?). Here are a few of the things I have my eye on.

Duckfeet - Vejle

Gorgeous leather boots by Danish brand, Duckfeet. So many colours too!

Ladies' DENIM WRAP SKIRT

Toast. Need I say more?

Women's KELBY JUMPER

Toast again!

Product Details

Been meaning to buy the second Kitchen Diaries. Loved the first one.

Buy Le Creuset Shallow Casserole, 30cm Online at johnlewis.com

New colour Le Creuset at John Lewis. I LOVE this green.

Starting soon…

Do you like Autumn? Tell me why…

RHS Harlow Carr

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5:2 & Me

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few months, you’ve probably already heard about the 5:2 diet. Maybe you’ve even researched it or contemplated giving it a go?

Gareth and I decided to do just that a couple of weeks ago. We’d got into  bit of a rut of having wine every evening and eating too many random snacks. Neither of us are overweight and we’re both pretty active, but my midriff was expanding and when I got on the scales (which I don’t do often) I was a good few pounds heavier than I like to be. We’d previously bandied around the idea of cutting down on the booze and the chocolate biscuits, but without a proper ‘plan’ neither of us are really any good.

So, what’s it all about. Well, basically it’s a regime (quite commonly referred to as a way of life) which involves eating normally for five days each week and then ‘fasting’ for the other two. The fast days mustn’t be consecutive. You may eat a quarter of your average daily calorie allowance (so around 500 cals for women and 600 for men). The benefits are manifold. Slow, sustainable weight loss is the most obvious advantage, but the underlying health benefits are impressive.

Being my usual sceptical and suspicious self, I wasn’t initially convinced by all of the positive reviews. The common thread seemed to be that this regime is manageable because it’s only for short bursts. I checked out the website and also managed to find the original Horizon documentary* ‘Eat, Fast, Live’ which in aired August 2012. It was after watching this that I could really see the point of giving it a try. Gareth felt the same.

Anyway, here we are, we’re just over two weeks in. We fast on Mondays and Thursdays (today is our fifth fast day). I’ve already lost around 3lbs which has taken my weight back to where I like it to be and my tummy has flattened quite considerably. So, how’s it going? Well, fine, almost easy. The first day was a challenge, I cannot lie, and there were a few times when I thought I was going to drop from lack of energy (it was hot and I have a pretty physical job), but I made sure I drank lots of water and managed to get to dinner time which is when we use most of our calorie allowance. Day two was easier though and since then I haven’t really found it hard at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad when I get up the day after the fast and I can eat normally, but that’s the whole point of this exercise. It’s not about denying yourself the pleasure of food for days and weeks on end.  In case you’re wondering, a typical fast day for me is like this:

Breakfast : one slice of wholemeal toast with a scraping of low fat spread and vegemite (around 100 cals)

Lunch: big, green leafy salad and a drizzle of Pizza Express Light dressing (no more than 50 cals and helps psychologically I’m finding)

Dinner: Veggie chilli and small portion of rice/Salmon with watercress salad and a small portion of cous cous/ Tuna and white bean salad with one ciabatta roll (around 350-400 clories)

I drink water or tea with a dash of milk throughout the day.

It’s truly amazing (as someone who’s never counted calories) to realise how just many are in a chocolate biscuit and it’s also amazing to discover how much food you can actually eat within the constraints of  a 500 calorie plan. It’s totally doable.

Do any of you do 5:2? What are your what are you hints and tips?

*This is quite hard to find and I’ve since lost the link, but worth looking for if you have time!

Image courtesy of Prosar.com

Deershed Festival

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Back in the day, I went to a couple of festivals. I volunteered as a steward at one of them and remember it being one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done – it was baking hot and I’d been stationed in the wristband tent with only minimal directions as to how the whole process should operate. Despite that, I still have fond memories of it.

Fast forward twenty years (gulp) and last weekend saw us packing up the people carrier with our camping gear (a six person tent replacing the two person pop up of yesteryear) and heading off up to the Deershed Festival near Thirsk. I’d come across it on a blog that I follow and thought it sounded right up our street. The fact that we’d never heard of most of the bands is more down to our lack of musical awareness I think, but we like live music so it didn’t matter. The real lure was the fact that Deershed is very much designed with families in mind. Children are welcomed and in the majority. It’s obvious that the organisers are parents themselves.

So, we arrived mid afternoon on Friday (having taken Maisie out of school at lunchtime, thus ruining her 100% attendance record on the last day of school). The place was already bustling but we easily found a decent spot for our tent which we erected without incident despite temperatures in the high twenties. It was a good start. We headed into the arena and were immediately impressed. There was so much to do, especially for the girls. Lots of craft workshops (which changed each day), sporty activities (space hoppers, swingball, rounders), places to buy trinkets, a great selection of food vendors, a well staffed bar, four different stages and perhaps most excitingly (certainly for Kitty at any rate) a retro Helter Skelter and Big Wheel.

The girls stayed up late waving their glowsticks as it got dark and Maisie showed a real interest in the cleverly executed PG rated comedy tent. It was quite liberating knowing that it was ok to have them up past their bedtimes and routines went out of the window. The very clement weather obviously made a huge difference too.

I really can’t recommend the whole experience enough. It suited us on every level from its close proximity to home to its well thought out facilities. Well done Deershed, see you in 2014!

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Maisie enjoying the beautiful weather

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Kitty on a space hopper almost the same size as her

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Main Stage

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Gareth and Kitty on the Helter Skelter…again

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Junk model robot heads!

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Kitty modelling the latest in ear protectors

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