Sunday, 25 January 2015

Getting Through

Despite my promises to blog more often, I have allowed a week to pass without a post. Sometimes life gets in the way, but I am going to make the effort to post today to catch up with what we have been up to. The last few days have involved the following...

More slow cooking. This sausage casserole was not quite as successful as the Thai curry - despite being on high for 6 hours, some of the veg was still pretty hard and despite my sister's belief that you don't have to brown the sausages, I definitely would next time - they looked quite pale and unappetising.

I currently have a chilli con carne cooking in there - let's hope this one turns out well.

J and I have had tea parties in the lounge...

And baked chocolate chip cookies. I love this recipe - it's one I've had for years and I can't remember where I first wrote it down from, but it always turns out the nicest biscuits.

The smoothie making has continued - J is now very interested in this and helps me to put all the ingredients in...

Frozen strawberries and blueberries, plum, pear and grapes.

 

Very refreshing and quite thin due to absence of banana.

Mango, blueberries, plum and fruit juice...

Lovely - very sweet from the mango, but a bit over thick.

J's choice - frozen mango, banana and fruit juice...

Very tropical tasting, but again a bit thick. Sometimes you have to be careful with the banana too as it can overpower the other flavours.

I have also been to my friend's surprise baby shower - she is due ten weeks before me, which is quite exciting. It was a lovely afternoon, organised beautifully by her sister.

Unfortunately I nearly didn't make it to the party. On Friday I woke with an excruciating pain just above my belly button that got worse with walking/moving and took my breath away it was so intense. I have been through a C-section, and various ops and don't consider myself to be a total wuss but this pain really bothered me. I think it's natural when it's so close to your growing baby. However, the midwife saw me and said the baby was fine and the doc thinks I may have just torn a muscle. Trying to rest it up as much as possible today.

Chilling out in the evenings has allowed me to finish this audiobook:

I read this as a teenager and don't think I ever appreciated it enough. It is perhaps less 'showy' than Austen's other novels but is so bittersweet and satisfying, I really enjoyed it as an adult listener. Perhaps I can relate to the characters more.

Finally, I've been working on the crochet blanket this week and it now looks like this:

 

Perhaps not as much as I would have hoped to do by this point, but I'm happy with the colour sequence and at least it is progressing steadily. A few rows here and there will have to suffice at the moment.

Here's hoping for a happy and stress-free week.

 

 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Peace at Last


Lazy Saturday nap time, so I've got a few minutes to sit down and update my blog in peace and quiet. I realise peace and quiet is something that is not going to exist in a few months time with a newborn around the place, so I'm trying to make the most of it now!

It's been a funny few days. Little J has been ill with an ear infection, bless him. Had a horrible Thursday evening when he couldn't go to sleep for more than half an hour without him waking up in pain - suffice to say I spent most of the night running up and downstairs trying to console him, not helped by the fact that Ed was out on a school trip till 11.30pm. So knitting time has been somewhat limited.

In the next half an hour, I plan on finally adding the buttons to and finishing this little jumper. It was knitted so quickly last year, it's shameful that it's taken so long to sew it up. I made a real hatchet job of sewing in the sleeves - there is a reason I am increasingly turning to seamless knitting patterns! I'm not the worst sewer (at least mattress stitch) but lining up sleeves, especially striped ones, I just don't have the patience for. The photo makes it look better than it is in real life.

 

The buttons I found for it are the right colour but a touch too small, so I'm going to have to reinforce the buttonholes I think - fun!

Smoothie fun has continued with a slightly more tropical theme. This one included frozen mango (I had to make a trip to Sainsburys as Morrisons selection of frozen fruit is somewhat limited), pear, grapes, banana and some orange and raspberry juice. It produced this:

Lovely and sweet, though the blender had a bit more trouble with the frozen mango than the berries I normally use so should have left it on a bit longer.
I have also been experimenting with the slow cooker. I found a recipe on Pinterest for Thai Chicken Soup which didn't require any frying beforehand - just what I was looking for. I don't know if it was because it was American, but the recipe was basically the same as the one I use for Thai curry, so I don't know why it was called a soup. It gave me an idea for timings though, so I threw everything I normally put in my Thai curry in the slow cooker, and because I was home added the chicken partway through and some of the veg at the end.
I was pleasantly surprised, having never had much luck with the slow cooker before - Thai curry is supposed to be runny so thickness wasn't an issue I suppose, but everything cooked beautifully. I have two more meal portions in the freezer ready for work nights too. It would be good to get a little arsenal of recipes together for when baby number two arrives, though most ones I have seen seem to involve some frying/boiling as prep which I would rather avoid if I can. Any hints/tips or recipes would be greatly appreciated!

 

 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Smoothie Experiments

My quest to get my five a day in smoothie form continues, and I have to say I do feel the benefit of them, at least my stomach does!

One of the latest attempts has been this:

 

Frozen Black Forest Mix, a pear, grapes and some blueberries, topped up with some water. It produced this:

Quite runny without a banana to thicken it but I actually appreciate that thinner consistency sometimes, and very refreshing with the pear and grapes.

Another attempt was this:

 

The last of the Frozen Black Forest Mix, a banana, grapes and a splash of orange and raspberry juice. This combination produced this:

Much thicker, more milkshakey in consistency, but still decidedly yummy.

I plan to get some frozen mango/pineapple mix to make some more exotic flavoured smoothies soon, just for a change from the berries. It is definitely a fun way to eat your fruit and veg, and better than juice because all the flesh/skin is still in there.

We have been enjoying the fun of Playdoh at our house at the moment - J is obsessed with it and keeps asking us to make 'cakes', 'fried eggs' and 'parrots' for some reason. Any ideas for inventive Playdoh play to expand our horizons?

 

Work wise I am feeling a lot happier at the moment. I have started a new marking regime that is less labour intensive but actually gives more instant feedback to the kids. I feel like I have got some of my life back, without detrimentally affecting the kids I teach, which is fantastic. Which also means more time to do a bit of knitting in the evening. Boxy is now up to 26cm. Just 14cm more to go before I split for front and back. But worried about that rolling hem though, praying it will be sorted with a bit of blocking come the finish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Fun and Games

Thought I'd post a little update of what we've been getting up to in the last few days...

We've been to the Herbert Museum in Coventry enjoying sensory play. It was rainbow themed and we spent time crawling through multicoloured ribbons and fabrics and foam shapes. The Herbert Museum is a lovely resource for the city, we really should make more use of it than we do.

After a Friday morning spent at the library, singing songs at rhyme time and changing books, in the afternoon I decided to reorganise my wardrobe. It was full to overflowing, there was stuff all over the floor, and I knew there was stuff in there I was never wearing because I couldn't see it! I trawled Pinterest for some advice on decluttering, and then got started. I tried to be quite ruthless - even though I'm pregnant and potentially could get down to a size twelve again, I haven't since having J (on the bottom anyway, my hips will never be the same again). I had all these work trousers and work dresses and suits filling the wardrobe that I haven't worn for 2.5 years. They will all be going to the charity shop - there is no point keeping things that might never be worn. I feel much better for having a tidy(ish) wardrobe that I can actually use again.

We have also been to Hatton Country World for a birthday party. Although it was January and freezing and blowing a gale, we, and particularly little J, had a fantastic time meeting the animals and using the soft play area. Of course being pregnant meant Ed had to do all the accompanying on the soft play while I drank tea - bonus!

 

Finally, in a bid to meet one of my New Year goals and get more fruit and veg into me, I found my old Smoothie 2 Go in the cupboard and have started concocting a fruit smoothie most days. This one was made of frozen Black Forest mix, some blueberries and a banana that were past their best, some oats, a raspberry yoghurt and some milk. It was perhaps a bit overpowered by the yoghurt and a little thick but still yummy. It's quite fun experimenting with flavours.

In craft related news, I have knitted around 22cm of Boxy - still quite a long way to go. I definitely need to plan a smaller project in between to get some more immediate results!

 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Raspberry and Banana Muffins

After we returned from visiting the family over the Christmas period, we didn't have a lot of food left in the house, but for some reason I had about five very overripe bananas. When we are at work, we rarely waste bananas as we take them for lunch, but my fruit and veg eating has been pretty abysmal this holiday (as opposed to my After Eight eating which has been first class!) hence the spotty, old bananas.

I hate throwing stuff away though I am probably as guilty of it as anyone, but I wanted to use at least some of these fruits. As it turned out, I found a recipe that also made use of some Coop frozen raspberries that had been hanging around the freezer for far too long. Although the original recipe called for blueberries, I'm happy to substitute where it means using up what's on hand.

Little J and mummy set to mashing bananas, mixing flour and oats and whisking eggs. J loves to help in the kitchen and fortunately this was a recipe that didn't call for perfectly smooth batter - it was pretty much throw everything in and give it a quick stir. I did find a teaspoon in the bowl when I poured the wet ingredients into the dry though - J had obviously lost it when I wasn't looking! They took a bit longer to cook than the recipe stated - I probably did them for another seven minutes in total.

And here is the result.

Tasty, moist, not too sweet, and with the lovely tang from the raspberries (I added a few more than the recipe specified to use up the box). I always find full size muffins a bit difficult to manage though so next time I would probably make them in the bun tin to get a few more smaller ones. They apparently freeze well too which I may have to try as I'm not sure we'll get through them all in a few days - I like cake, but in moderation. They should be handy for popping into my bag to take to work for mid-morning (I know, the dreaded 'w' word, can you believe the holidays are over?).

 

 

Sunday, 4 January 2015

New Beginnings

It's that time of the year when everything is new and full of possibilities. Resolutions are made with the best intentions, diets are started, goals are set. I'm not averse to this idea of aiming to improve aspects of my life. While I recognise that a lot of goals fall by the wayside once the reality of day to day life sets in after Christmas, the very act of assessing and reflecting can be a positive experience.

So what are my intentions for 2015?

  1. Have a healthy pregnancy. Get my 5-a-day, drink less caffeine, go to bed early, take my vitamins. Seriously, I'm growing a little life inside, and it deserves a bit better than the After Eight mints, cheese and mince pies I've been gorging on for the last few weeks. Plenty of fruit and vegetables on the next Morrisons order and less dairy and fat will be a good start.
  2. Enjoy my family. My little man is growing up so fast, he surprises me every day with the things he says and does. I love spending time with him and Ed, I definitely want to make the most of our leisure time this year. We have always been pretty good at getting out and about to be fair. Fortunately this goal should be easy this year as we were bought National Trust membership which will mean lots of days out on the cheap for us when maternity pay kicks in.
  3. Get work into perspective. It takes over my life during term-time, more through the stress of thinking about it rather than the doing it. I'm going to streamline my marking to make it more manageable but also hopefully effective. I'm going to stop worrying about lesson observations or the elusive outstanding grade. I'm going to be more efficient where I can. I bought an app, iDoceo, which will hopefully help me keep on track with this. I have an iPad, I should make better use of what it can offer in my work as well as free time.
  4. Make stuff. When I don't, it coincides with periods of increased stress for me. I don't know if a lack of creativity is the symptom or the cause of the stress, but there is no excuse not to do something I enjoy if it makes me happier in general.
  5. Be grateful. I have a wonderful family, an amazing husband, a beautiful little boy and another little one on the way. So we don't have a lot of space to move in our little house? So what. This is not important. Sometimes when I get frustrated or start to compare my life with others, I need to remember all the great stuff I have going for me and smile.

Now that's blogged, I'll update a little about what is happening in my life as the holiday draws to a close.

Today (this wouldn't post for several days and was actually on Friday) we went here:

 

Baddesley Clinton, a Tudor property owned by the National Trust. The day was beautiful and we all had a lovely time wandering around the house, grounds and of course the cafe!

My blanket currently looks like this:

I decided to drop the dark brown shade as after completing half a row I realised the tone was too dark for the rest of the blanket. I'm happy with the rest of the shades though and get a row crocheted in each spare moment.

I also had this yarn arrive. The Knitting Goddess had a sale and I decided to treat myself to a Christmas present of some DK in this gorgeous plum shade. I plan to use if for Veera Valimaki's Coal cardigan.

 

My other treat to myself this Christmas was a pair of these in the sale at Clarks.

I think it is an unfortunate sign of age that I now find myself shopping for most of my shoes at Clarks, which has a reputation for quality and comfort. But my feet have had enough of cheap shoes! And the sale price is really not so bad. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Now for the madly depressing run up to Monday, when it's back to work and early mornings and rushing around. Hopefully I'll follow points 3 and 5 above though and deal with it positively!

 

 

 

Friday, 26 December 2014

A New Blanket

What a strange few days it's been. After a lovely family party last Sunday night, half the people there got struck down with what looks like Norovirus a day later, including my poor other half Ed. He spent Tuesday in bed being sick bless him. Having spent three months of my life being sick through morning sickness, and having experienced Norovirus a year ago, I had every sympathy, but couldn't help him too much as I had to keep me and little J away from the germs as much as possible - definitely wanted to avoid coming down with it on Christmas Day! He does appear to be on the mend now fortunately.

Christmas was a wonderful experience with a two year old this year - I had been buying him presents since August and imagining how he would react on the day. Ed showed him the space station moving across the sky on Christmas Eve and told him it was Father Christmas on his sleigh, and they sprinkled oats and glitter in the garden to guide the reindeer in. Then we left a mince pie, Baileys and a stick of celery for the reindeer (we had run out of carrots!). J also insisted on leaving a full bottle of lemonade from the drinks cupboard for Father Christmas - he lugged it into the living room himself and then remembered it in the morning, so Ed had to fish around in the recycling bin for an empty bottle to replace it with before we could take J downstairs.

The moment he saw all his presents was priceless, and we had a lovely morning opening them all. We have already watched the video of the moment several times since. Dinner was eaten at the inlaws - a lovely spread, but slightly subdued due to so many people recovering from Norovirus. Ed only managed half of his, poor thing! Then there was even more present opening and some festive TV for the kids.

So what have I been getting up to craft wise?

Me and Jake spent a fair bit of time recently watching films and cartoons on the sofa, wrapped up in his Stripey Blanket which I made him some time ago. This blanket has been one of the most used items I've ever made, so I decided to embark on a new one - a bigger one this time, for even more snuggling.

For this blanket, I've decided to use the Neat Ripple pattern from Lucy at Attic24 - it's so easy to follow, practically foolproof. Although I'm not an expert crocheter, I ignored advice and didn't do a practice run - I launched straight into the blanket itself, a single bed size one. I chose a range of Stylecraft shades from the local yarn shop - Parchment, Pale Rose, Grape, Mocha, Walnut and Lime. I had them laid out on the floor in the shop until I was sure I was happy with them.

The first few rows of colour have gone well, I plan on doing more rows of Parchment than the other colours, and to follow a stripe sequence as I prefer a bit of order rather than too many random stripes.

I find crocheting blankets quite relaxing as it is quite repetitive and easy and builds up far quicker than knitting. I hope I might have finished this one before the new baby arrives - that gives me 4-5 months, which is doable I think!