Thursday, 31 March 2011

Crackers for Mother's Day

...And I can only assume I am going completely crackers. I was up half the night last night making these when I could have been catching up on some lovely, yummy, much-needed sleep whilst baby Earthly no. 2 was snoring lightly in her hammock. But no, I baked instead. And not for us but for my mum and Father Earthly's mum. Totally crackers I tell you.

However if you are in need of a nice wholesome heartwarming Mother's Day gift then you won't go far wrong with these: my Lemon & Black Pepper Oaties (recipe coming up!), and these Rye & Caraway Crispbreads from Gifts from the Kitchen. Yummy!

Lemon & Black Pepper Oaties

1 1/2 cups medium oatmeal
2 tbsp oat groats, roughly ground
1tsp sea salt flakes, crushed
1tsp black peppercorns, crushed
rind of 1 lemon and juice of about 1/2 lemon
pinch of bicarb of soda
2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 tbsp hot water

Mix all ingredients together to form a slightly sticky dough - the oats will soak up the moisture quickly so it's easier to work with if a bit too sticky rather than too dry. Knead until smooth on a board floured with oatmeal and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness then either cut out rounds with a cutter or make a couple of traditional large, quartered rounds.

Place on baking sheets in a moderate oven - about 190c / gas mark 4 for about 20 minutes, until golden.

Cool on wire racks and then package up or eat immediately with good cheese!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Boat's First Baking Day!

Today was our first baking day in about 3 years! Last week we took delivery of our new (2nd hand!) LPG range and yesterday Father Earthly found the time to plumb it all in properly (with the exception of the oven lights and ignition). We're SO chuffed... I never dreamt we'd find a range in our budget and certainly not so soon! It's got not one but two ovens (so Christmas dinner and the odd banquet should be no probs!), a grill (oooh proper toast again!), 5 burners, a griddle and an electric warming plate which we won't be using.
Harris obviously helped choose the most appropriate recipe and then Father Earthly had to work out how to make it with only half the ingredients in... so what should have been lebkuchen turned out to be honey spice cookies - but still nevertheless yummy! Here's the recipe (roughly!)

Honey Spice Cookies
6-7tsp organic honey
50g (or so) raw granulated sugar (or any course brown sugar)
Large splash of veg oil (about 20ml)
250g (ish) self-raising flour
50g or so ground almonds
4 tsp ground mixed spice
Good shake of cinnamon - 1/2 - 1tsp)
1/8 nutmeg, grated
1/2" of root ginger, grated
Rind of 1 unwaxed organic lemon, grated

Melt together the honey, sugar and oil over a low heat until well mixed and allow to cool. Mix melted mixture with rest of ingredients into a very stiff dough. Leave for a couple of hours (preferably covered in cling film and chilled). On floured board, press dough into 1/2" sheets and use egg cup (or appropriate cutters!) to cut discs and/or roll small pieces into 'sausages' and form into crescent moon shapes. Place on baking parchment on a baking tray at gas mark 4 for 15-20 minutes or until just browning at edges and becoming firm. Optional: dunk in good quality dark chocolate (e.g. Maya Gold) once cool. Sorry there's no pics of the finished product - they just vanished!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Red Head, Green Goddess

The sun is out and with summer just round the corner it was obviously THE day to finally re-henna my hair! It's been a good, ooh, 2 or 3 months now I think. It's all been a blur with little or no me-time to be seen. But today I am at Granny's with Miss Molly fast asleep after a restless night so I took the chance and hopped into the kitchen quick-smart to get that henna brewing up

I went ONLY for the rouge today... normally I put a bit of marron in too. And I forgot that the rouge stains rather badly so parts of my hands and my hairline currently look a bit jaundiced, but hell it will wear off soon. 

To top off this spurt of productivity (I know it doesn't seem much but truly it is!) I've started making myself a corset! WOOP WOO! On Sunday night I got out my Little Corset Book and manually scaled up the tiny patterns in there to roughly my size (incidentally whilst Father Earthly spent hours making room for our new stove which is arriving today!).

Being of the impetuous kind, I also had to make my own 1-inch graph paper as all we had lying around was the A4 sheets of 20mm paper. So I crammed all of the pattern pieces onto the same 2 A4 sheets and today I plan to trace them onto my newly dyed denim fabric ->

Well what else are Father Earthly's old Levi's for? I can't wait to see the pieces cut out and even vaguely assembled... By the way I'd love to say I'd dyed the denim using nettles or something but in fact it's just olive green Dylon used sparingly. Sorry! And I plan to use the reverse side of the jeans as the colour and texture appeal to me more than the faded-dyed-worn-denim look of the front. The colour is a lovely pale sage which you can't quite make out from the pic. More to come!

Comments and suggestions? Feel free!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Famous Five Friday

It's been a tough week at Earthly HQ. Father Earthly has been down with man flu, and Mother Earthly has been somewhat burnt out. Meanwhile Baby Earthly no. 1 has been his usual charming but slightly silly sensitive self, and baby Earthly no. 2 has been drinking all the milk.

It's times like this one wishes we had doctors like we used to. You know the sort - "oh a week in the Alps is what you need. Plenty of bed rest, good hearty food and envigorating mountain air. And someone to look after you." If only such a thing were available on the NHS!

Perhaps rather tellingly Father Earthly has been reduced to re-reading Five Get into a Fix (the one where they're all ill and must repair to a nice Welsh Farmhouse to recuperate) whilst I have just finished Chalet School instalment number 25 or so (The Chalet School and the Island) in which Jo tells of a marvellous little place for burnt-out mothers called Penny Rest. In fact, I was so enraptured by the idea I almost tried looking it up on Google. If only!

Nevermind. We can always use literature to escape. And special mention must also go this week to Camberwick Green which has been keeping baby no. 1 quiet whilst none of us have had the energy to play with him! Beautiful. They just don't make entertainment like they used to!

Now I'm off to curl up with a nice cup of tea and Peggy of the Chalet School...

Happy Friday everyone!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Famous Five Friday

...Because sometimes, you just need to unearth the fine, upstanding, adventurous and forever hungry little Blyton in you.

I won't deny it, I am a true fan of Kid's Lit, especially that kind of innocent, fun-loving, picnic-and-midnight-feast-filled stuff one gets from the post-WW2 period. Halcyon days concerned solely with adventures, wholesome food and good manners. In short, feel-good books to cuddle up to.

Admittedly I haven't had quite as much enthusiasm or energy for such adventurous tales since having babies. But I know I will do again soon, once they are of an age to join in the fantasy and I can pack them off on picnics and treasure hunts. They will know that the world is there to explore and how to interact respectfully with old and young people alike, and those from all walks of life. And they will have healthy appetites.

I recently discovered the wondrous Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer which relates a stunning array of recipes (and delicious background titbits) from all those splendid feasts we find in our favourite children's books. What more could you ask for? 

I have this dream of baking and creating lots of treats and wholesome goodies for my kids to fuel their explorations. And my own of course. So I'll be keeping a copy of Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer close at hand!

Roll on oven day...!

Hope you all have treats and a good adventure (or book substitute) to keep you entertained today.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Beware the Cling-Ons

I'm typing, as usual, one handed today. At least it's my right hand for a change, though typing with my left hand does give me the smallest bit of masochistic-style satisfaction that I am exercising the other side of my brain and stretching my capabilities somewhat...

All you mums will know what I'm talking about. Especially if you have a baby or toddler who is a real velcro-baby and will not let you do anything on your own. 

Over the last few weeks we've managed to get into a rough kind of routine with Molly, who's still only 3 1/2 months, and it has proved a rare sanity check in some instances. However, there are some sticking points, and naptime is one of them.

Not for love nor money can I get her to settle down for a daytime nap nicely. If I'm at home all day with her I want to be able to have an hour or two to myself - hands free! - to get on with some of my projects. But the babe has other ideas. The most I can manage with her is about ten minutes - after a long hard battle. 

I remember reading Elizabeth Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution with much fervour but increasing disappointment when we were going through this with Harris. However, as I've noted elsewhere, Harris was very much an exception to pretty much every rule ever made. It didn't matter what we did or how much we comforted him - he kept crying anyway, and didn't sleep... But Molly has proved herself capable of being comforted and of sleeping, so once I've got a free hand or two and some spare minutes, I think I'll be reaching for it again...

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Mothering Mothers

I have always known I'm a very lucky lady when it comes to my hubby. Well, maybe not always, but certainly quite often I find a moment or two to count my blessings. Like today. Horrendous though it was in many respects - and begun with a good old grump at dear hub too - I was brought back to earth and positivity somewhat by another mum having a bit of a moan about her other half. Mother of a toddler, she admitted it would be nice to have a little bit of time to herself occasionally, even an hour once a week to take the dogs out on her own like she used to, or ride her horse, or take a bath in peace... 

I was half way into agreeing with her wholeheartedly when my conscience gave me a big old boot and suddenly I found myself confessing that actually my husband was very good in that way, and often took the kids to let me go to a yoga class, or have a bath/shower (at Granny's) in peace. I felt almost guilty that I had the luxury of such a wonderful husband. And there was me cursing him this morning because he had managed to wake the kids on leaving early, which meant I couldn't just roll over and go back to sleep as per usual.

And it got me to thinking. I have heard this tale oh too many times, and it is not for me to comment at all on other couple's relationships or how they divvy up their tasks and childcare, or how they look after each other. And for those single mums out there, I do admire you greatly, but this is not your chance to moan either.

I read an article in Juno just the other day about the modern mum's dilemma - that "there is little doubt that women were never meant to be home alone with a new baby or babies." In times gone by, and elsewhere in the world currently (notably "developing" countries) we had a strong peer support group of women to help us through the whole pregnancy-childbirth-childrearing process. But in the "civilised" world we have lost that, and are now expected to perform circus acts and generally be in 3 or 4 different places at once - physically, emotionally and intellectually. It's damn hard work for anyone!

The answer of course, lies within ourselves as mothers. We need to look after each other. It's all too easy for us as new (or even experienced!) mums to wallow in our own difficulties and get stuck in a negative outlook where the only apparent relief can come from having a bit of a bitch at the local mother-baby group or at the school gates. 

But what if, instead, you were to reach out to another mum and say "Why don't I look after Jimmy whilst you go and do your own thing for a bit?" Or even better, get a group of you together where you can swap favours. How much better would you feel then? And who knows, if you relate this swapping of favours with your other half, s/he may feel as if they want a piece of the action too! 

Feel good about yourself, get a chance to do something for yourself, and get a bit of community spirit going on!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Cat's Pyjamas

I have two joint obsessions at the moment: yoga and fashion design. And I rather think the two go hand in hand very well indeed! It's all about the body, and the amazing things we can do with it- I find the possibilities incredibly empowering and sensual, and that's without even thinking about the S word.

My new favourite person has to be the inimitable Gill Cockwell (a.k.a. Gilly Woo). Not that I normally hold with being hung up on celebrities in the slightest, but she's so, well, normal, and she fits right in with my joint fads of the moment. You see, she's not just a stupendous designer, she has real brains behind that there talent. She acknowledges the fashion industry is both "a bitch" and "a fairytale" but ultimitately it's up to us as individuals to recognise that and make our own minds up about how we want to look, feel and act: 
"I want people to accept, and make the very best of, the life they have instead of mourning for one they don’t. I want people, individuals, (not the fashion industry) to stop placing so much emphasis on how they look or what brand of handbag they carry or what generation their iphone is."
How can you not agree with such solid common sense? So whilst I was already in awe of Ms Woo for her sexy, sensuous and glamorous designs which mould to and hold every curve and feminine wile you may possess, I now find she holds a special place in my heart for being such a solid, down-to-earth thinker as well. I wish in reality we could all be so self-aware and self-confident though. For me that's where yoga comes into the equation. Bonkers it may seem, but through yoga you get to know and explore the possibilities of your own body intimately, and you learn to push yourself (gently of course), because through pushing yourself you see rapid achievements, both in body strength and tone, and in bodily confidence and poise. 

I've recently started to teach myself (with the aid of some excellent books) how to draw for fashion design. It's like a concentrated, fast-track, life-drawing class. Through exploration of the body's structure and make-up you quickly learn about proportion and how to create a realistic representation of the body from the inside out. It reminds me of a life-drawing course I did years ago at Edinburgh College of Art. I couldn't believe that at the end of the week I could actually draw something that looked like a real person and not a bad caricature!

I'm not getting as much time to spend on it as I'd like (have you tried sketching whilst looking after a 3 month old?) but I am enjoying the bits of time I can snatch at it, and otherwise thinking about what I might try next. And of course, for my models I have been using some yoga videos which enable me to explore all those muscle groups from a variety of angles and poses, whilst allowing me the freedom to draw from both stills and moving pictures. What better way to indulge my joint fads and to thoroughly appreciate the human form and its wonders all the more?

I thoroughly recommend a good old back-to-basics look at the human body in this way. It really makes you appreciate your own assets anew, in a different light. So whether you're wearing a baggy old jumper or a fabulous ensemble designed exclusively for you and your personality, you should always feel like the cat's pyjamas...

Sleeping Through

When our newest addition was born, we hardly dared expect anything good on the sleep front, given that our firstborn had been something of a "waker" rather than a "sleeper" - on average waking every 2-3 hours after screaming himself to sleep (despite every effort to the contrary), and at his/our worst, waking every hour. He became a bit of a legend around our local baby groups, and other mothers would shake their heads pityingly after giving me some "helpful" advice. 

So when Molly appeared to be sleeping well - often several hours in a row - during the first few weeks, we were far from complacent. Hopeful! But not complacent.

But not only did she keep up her pattern of sleeping (with the odd bad night as is normal), she actually improved upon it - very quickly learning when it was night-time and managing to sleep an incredible 6-8 hours in a row. I was worried at first. Nothing like this had happened with Harris until he was about a year old!

A few weeks ago I noticed that she was often falling asleep around about our dinner time, so I started to put her into her bed. Miracle of marvels, 9 time out of 10 she stayed asleep until the small hours! So, taking my cue from her, I have recently started to put her to bed before dinner, whether she seems ready or not. And oh my goodness it works! NOW I can understand all that well-meaning advice I received when we had Harris. The only problem was, they didn't know my son! My daughter, on the other hand, seems to like sleeping almost as much as I do, and usually only needs a little encouragement.

There is one drawback to all this though. While Molly is sleeping her 6-8 hours peacefully and beautifully, and we are getting some quality adult time to ourselves - even eating dinner together and enjoying a game or some adult conversation - it does mean that by the time we go to bed she is almost ready for her first feed. And thereafter she will wake every 2-3 hours again until breakfast. So in a sense I'm not actually getting any more sleep than I was with Harris!

Also, for some reason she still hasn't quite cracked naptime. While she will quite voluntarily fall asleep in transit or on the boob, unfortunately she just won't be put down for a nap in any structured way. This means if I'm at home I'm permanently attached to her in one way or another, or I have to listen to her screaming her heart out until she falls asleep in her hammock. Utterly heart renching and not at all what I want, but if I'm to preserve my sanity what else can I do? Sometimes I manage to transfer her quietly from my arms into her bed but more often than not she will wake within a few minutes and demand to be held again.

And so whilst I can revel in the luxury of finally getting to enjoy that great holy grail of all new mums, I am also quite heartened to find that "sleeping through" is just another perfectly ordinary possibility - warts and all - in the unpredictable life of a newborn.
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