Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer reading

With the summer holidays looming, I'm feeling the need to gather a little library of summer reading. Although I love my local library and can spend many a happy hour browsing through the shelves at Borders or Waterstones, I often find the huge number of books on offer more than a little daunting.

I've just spent the past thirty minutes browsing online and am still none the wiser.

Therefore, I thought I'd turn to you. What book or books would you recommend?

I will read almost anything - including the back of the cereal packet but do love a good page turner that keeps you hooked and leaves you with that strange mixture of euphoria, at having read such a great book, and sadness that it's finished.

So now it's over to you - what are your favourite summer reads?


Monday, June 29, 2009

A little cookery and hookery

First off, I need to fulfill an obligation. Having promised to write a review on my blog in return for a free box of Abel and Cole organic fruit and veg, I feel it's only fair that I do so.

As I said previously, I have wanted to try an organic box scheme for ages. I was really pleased with the selection in the A&C box and the contents lasted us for several lovely meals. I think our favourites were the sweet carrots and new potatoes. In my opinion, the broad beans were delicious - not an opinion shared by the children but then that doesn't surprise me, as I wouldn't go near a broad bean until I was at least 20!

The lettuce was very tasty and crunchy - and any less crunchy bits were enjoyed by the chickens.

The watermelon went down a treat, as did the apples. I wasn't so impressed with the bananas, which didn't seem to last very well, and soon went black. However, not one of them went to waste, as they were turned into banana cake and banana custard ice cream.

I think the thing that struck me most of all, is how determined I was not to waste any of the fruit and veg at all. Every little bit got used up and I also made much more imaginative meals than usual.

It's so easy to get stuck in a rut of buying the same veg every single week from the supermarket, or even the farm shop. Having the choices made for you, really does encourage you to be a bit more creative and lot less wasteful.

So, will I be placing an order? Most definately, but possibly not until autumn as we'll be living off the homegrown veg for the next few months. This week we have mostly been eating mange tout :)

Now then, now then....onto something pretty.

Baking for the cake stall at Saturday's school fair.

I really enjoyed the school fair this year. Could have something to do with the fact that I was right next to the Pimms stall?

In lieu of anything sewey, I have been very busy with the hook this week. I find crochet extremely therapeutic when I'm feeling slightly wound up....let's just say, my Dad is still in hospital, my brother's family have swine flu and Dad is not helping my brother by helping himself!

So, over four evenings last week, I made a little hooky cushion - edged in cream, because I started making this knowing I had only one ball of the turquoise and the yarn shop no longer stock that colour.

Once that was done, the hook was in full flow, so I made a few pretty squares for hooky cushion #2.

I've just got the back to finish on this one ....but seem to have become distracted by some gorgeous rainbow sock knitting....

There are plans afoot for a full day of sewing this week - and about time too!

I'm now going to water my poor parched veg patch - phew, it's been hot today - 26 degrees inside the house ....no laughing you southern hemisphere types!!!

I know some people who are too hot when it hits 20 degrees :)

Hope you have a lovely week, whatever the weather xxx

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Top tip from the kitchen of Moog - and a nice looooong walk

Just in case you were ever curious about what might happen, should you forget to ensure the 'paddle' is in your bread machine prior to baking your daily bread, here is photographic evidence:

On the left....with the paddle....on the right..without - same ingredients, same settings on bread machine. It would seem the paddle is very necessary, when it comes to making an edible loaf.

Hope that was useful :-)

On a less disastrous note, good use has been made of the freebie Abel & Cole veg box, with a most delicious coleslaw using veg box carrots, leftover veg box cabbage and spring onions - yum!

With no crafty doings to show you, I thought I'd share our Saturday walk.

When the babies were small we would be up and out, bright and early, every Saturday morning for a good long walk - each of us carrying a baby in a backpack. I was very much fitter and thinner then!

Somehow, we got out of this habit once the children started school.

Moogsdad decided to remedy this on Saturday, by selecting a gentle 6 1/2 mile walk in a part of Hampshire we had never explored - using our trusty walking guide.

The start was very promising. Even if it did take us 40 minutes to find it - thanks to the wrong road name being given in said 'trusty' walking guide!

It took us very little time to realise the guide was somewhat out of date - for this walk at least.

A great deal of lovely woodland management work had evidently taken place - resulting in every single footpath mentioned in the guidebook being moved to goodness knows where!

The maps and text in the guide bore no relation, whatsoever, to what was 'happening on the ground'.

We valiantly persevered - over stiles.

Through ear-deep swathes of flora.

With Moogsdad stopping frequently to frown and check his bearings.

Until, finally, we managed to find something that was in the guidebook!

The remains of Odiham Castle.....

....and the beautiful, incredibly clear-watered Basingstoke canal.....

...that someone was most happy to take full advantage of :-)

Despite the fact that we somehow managed to walk what felt like 10 miles, rather than 6, it was a great way to start the weekend.

Even the children enjoyed it - once they'd got over the shock of being made to walk for more than an hour :-)

Friday, June 19, 2009

An uncooperative clothes horse

No....stop it.....keep still.....stop jigging around......

.....don't stand like a robot.....relax and look natural....

.....nooooo...not that natural......stand up nice and straight.....

......oh, I give up!

You get the idea right? I made the girl a new dress.

Note to self: next time just use a coathanger!


p.s. and Angela, if you're reading this you may have noticed I used a leftover bit of your fabric for the yoke - thank you!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sewing is done and housework studiously ignored

There are times when housework is best ignored in favour of more pleasant pursuits. After two days with Moogsdad at home finishing up some DIY, the house was looking less than delightful.

Did I whizz round tidying up the mess that he created? Did I battle to maintain a modicum of organisation amid the increasingly overwhelming chaos.

No, I did not!

I spent an evening making myself a lovely new bag :-)

With a pattern from artsycraftybabe and spotty fabric, gifted to me by my lovely bloggy friend Kitty, that was a perfect match for some flowery stuff I bought ages ago....

....and a very contrasting lining of Kokeshi doll fabric, this bag has made me very very happy :-)

This is the first time I've followed a pattern to make a bag ( I usually make up my own) and I was really pleased with how easy it was. The bag is a good size too, with loads of room for all my doings, including my sock knitting and library book.

I bet even this lovely new book would fit in there...

I've seen this on other blogs for ages and tried to resist but it was no good - the promise of recipes for homemade butter and homemade curd cheese, not to mention fresh pasta and sourdough bread had me hooked! Of course, the fact that it's co-written by my hero Hugh F-W makes it essential reading as far as I'm concerned ;-)

Mind you, I may not follow his example on last night's River Cottage Summer. Somehow, slug soup or satay slug just doesn't do it for me!

Nope, I'll stick to something much safer...like bread made with flour from our local windmill....

...and planning the weekend's meals with a fantastic box of free organic fruit and veg from Abel & Cole.

I've been dithering over trying an organic veg box scheme for ages. So, when I was offered the chance to try one for free, in return for reviewing it's contents, I said a big 'Yes, please!'.

It arrived bright and early this morning and I was amazed how excited the children were about a box of veg!

So excited, in fact, that they took some of it to school in their packed lunches.

Cheese and salad wraps, using veg box lettuce, and a slice of yummy mini-watermelon.

We used more of the contents for tonight's dinner. Jersey new potatoes, broad beans and carrots were sampled and all were delicious.
Even Moogsdad was moved to comment on how tasty it was. Not bad for a man who only normally comments on how good a meal is if it involves oven chips and a fried egg ;-)


Monday, June 15, 2009

Little Miss Leftovers...that's me that is!

A bit of a theme seems to be developing with food in Moogshouse this week.

Inspired by the lovely Abel and Cole cookbook, that I just had to order after seeing Lucy's post,and by the latest dose of Hugh's wisdom, we have spent the past few days enjoying leftovers.

With a bit of heavy tweeking, I turned the Abel and Cole Cornish pasty recipe into a somewhat fishier - but extremely tasty - version, using leftover salmon, leftover Anya potatoes, onions, chopped up boiled egg, leftover creme fraiche and loads of homegrown fresh herbs.

The leftover pastry trimmings from the pasties were turned into cheese straws....but disappeared before I could photograph them!

Sunday pudding was made using the last of 2008's frozen fruit - wild New Forest blackberries that we picked for free, with stewed apples given to us by mother-in-law...free from her friend's garden, made into the most delicious blackberry and apple Brown Betty, using leftover stale bread made into breadcrumbs.

Served with leftover vanilla ice-cream, this was a big success and far less stodgy than crumble!

The juice from the blackberry and apples was too good to waste, so I poured it into lolly moulds and we had them today, after a hot walk home from school.

The verdict from Sausage Monster was 'the best ice lollies I have ever had!'.

The theme continued into Sunday tea.

First off there were flapjacks, made with leftover dried cranberries.....

.....and then there were strawberry jam tarts, made with pastry left from making cheese and onion flans for tea.

I've even managed to carry on the leftover vibe today by having leftover smoked salmon and prawns in my lunchtime sandwich.....and have just munched on a bit of toast made with leftover homemade tomato and garlic bread.

I think the thing that has struck me the most is how much fun it's been to make the very most of the leftovers. Coupled with a rather smug sense of achievement of course :-)

That, and the fact that it's all been very very tasty and very very cheap.

Spurred on by all this domesticity, I have even managed to turn my hand to the onerous task that is the annual clear-out of the conservatory! This little room is our dumping ground. Whenever Moogsdad is DIYing the conservatory ends up full of whatever bits of c**p need a temporary home.

Apart from the microwave (that I never use but the man himself won't get rid of!) and the box of accident damaged motorbike gear on top of it, the room is now looking more like a room and less like a squalid tip.

There's even a floor in there!

Who knew?!


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Haaaappy Birthday to Moog!

It seems that today is quite a momentous day.

Not only is it my Aunty Margaret's birthday....

......it also happens to be Her Majesty's official birthday - hence the Trooping of the Colour happening today.

What you may not have realised though, is that today is also THE MOOG's OFFICIAL BIRTHDAY!!!!

This old curly girl of ours was a rescue dog, and as such we had no idea when her 'actual' birth-day was.

Therefore, Moogsdad and I took it upon ourselves to approximate - using the information given by the rescue centre.

So this brings us to today - THE MOOG's 14th BIRTHDAY!!!

She's barky.

She's scared of:

She doesn't cope well around children but has tolerated our two beasties incredibly well.

Her Number 1 fan is the Minx.

She doesn't really 'do' cuddles but she will trot upstairs at 6am - even at weekends!! - for an early morning snuggle on the bed, with behind the ear tickles permitted - she only started doing this in the past year.

She victimises visitors by forcing them to play ball for at least half and hour - we are impervious to her wiley ways and she knows better than to try it on with us, apart from Minx who is always up for a game of ball.

We've discovered, in the past year, that her most very favourite food in the whole wide world ever ever, is chicken poo.

She has a particularly persistent woof.

She does the full on throwing the head back and howling thing when Monster plays his oboe.

She doesn't actually think she's a dog. She thinks she's a short human with a very hot coat on.

She's been accused of being a poodle - because of the incredible curliness of her coat - by a very tiny girl who walked past us just recently.

What she doesn't realise is that she's a totally and utterly typical Border Collie. She runs after the ball, brings it back and then runs round in a big circle before lying flat in the grass, waiting for the next throw. She's obedient, whether she wants to be or not - she just can't help herself. She doesn't rest until all her flock are present and correct :-)

She doesn't realise she's an old lady and prances around like a puppy - between sleeps, of course.

She's our old Moog and we love her.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Things that make me go mmmmm...

.....finishing the latest socks in my favourite yarn...

......topping up the sockyarn stash (from here)

....and discovering a new (to me) yarn shop on my way home from work....

.....fun baking with the littlies...complete with lurid lemon flavoured icing.....

....spending time brightening up the garden....

....noticing promising signs among my veg plants....

....a much improved view outside my kitchen door....

....and finally - and best of all - sewing has happened....

....fulfilling a longstanding promise to the lady who runs our Stampin' Up parties.....

....to make her a tool-pouch using one of her (or rather my - 'cos I couldn't resist buying it!) gorgeous stamps for a stitchery......

....it's almost like getting back to normal....



Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I'm shocked to see it's nearly a month since my last confession I last blogged. That month has disappeared in a fog.

Moogsdad is very nearly back to his version of normal.

My poor Dad has frightened us all witless several times. He's been in hospital since 23rd March and was all set to go home three weeks ago, when he developed a serious infection and went into heart failure.

He's amazed everyone by fighting off the infection and the heart failure. The man has the most amazing inner strength! Where he goes from here is still unclear as he's still not a well man, his mobility has decreased dramatically and we may need to broach the dreaded subject of nursing homes.

I've spent some of the past few weeks up and down the motorway visiting him and my lovely brother and family. I guess that's why there was no 'me' left for blogging.

We managed to combine a little family camping trip with a bit of hospital visiting last week. The first part of the week was spent in sunny Dorset, where we squeezed in a trip to Monkey World.

My favourite bit was walking through the woodland where beautiful lemurs were 'free range'.

My least favourite bit was the anxious gibbon who pee'd over the glass front of his cage and then proceeded to sit on a branch and eat his own poo!!

The latter part of the week was spent at a campsite on the outskirts of Birmingham, where we admired the sunset, and spent the loveliest evening having a barbeque with my brother and his family.

So, although it's been a very crappy few months, things have levelled out a little. We're feeling relaxed after our week away and ready to face the next load of lemons that life throws our way.

Image blatantly stolen from here

Crafty activity has all but ground to a halt.

However, as of today a load has lifted.

I've finally (hopefully...depending on my manager's verdict) completed the stinky 5000 word report for the work course I did way back in January. After being given an extended deadline twice due to all the crubbish going on in Moogshouse, I have finally...once and for all....at last...written the darned thing!!

I can give the left side of my brain a rest for a while.

It's (fingers oh so very crossed) time to get creative!!