Thursday, 31 May 2012

Thanks for all the digging Dad

My lovely mum and dad came to help me out at the allotment today. We partoke in an allotment marathon to try to get as much done as we could, as I'm strugging to get very much done when Kit is around. Basically we need to do a lot of digging. Kit likes to help with digging. It then takes a long time.

Me and my dad (mainly my dad) dug while my mum looked after Kit. They joined us after lunch and helped with some planting, and with the watering, and my mum weeded my strawberries while Kit napped in the buggy. It is beggining to look like we are actually growing something other than weeds. And we definitely are because in the strawberry patch we found these...

The first of what looks like it will be many. I think we'll have a strawberry glut soon. If anyone knows any rhubarb and strawberry recipes we'd be set.

Thanks to my parents (and Kit's) hard work hopefully soon we'll have french beans, broad beans, tomatoes and rocket (which Kit is growing in hanging baskets).

A Thrifters Guide to the London Borough of Bromley

The lovely Lulastic has set up a 'Charity Shop Blog Hop' to help fellow thrifters to discover what wonders may wait for them a little bit further from home.

I'll start with Bromley Town Centre - most of the charity shops in the town centre are quite pricey. I find that with most Oxfam, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research shops. Not that they are crazy expensive, but they do price things up a lot higher than the less frequent shops, and you have to be careful of the Primark trap. Recently a Marie Curie shop has opened in the North end of the town centre, I managed to start my summer wardrobe with 2 dresses, 3 tops and a necklace for £10 in there the other day. Closer to where I live, but heading out of the town is...

Chatterton Road, Chatterton Village - the closest set of shops to three primary schools (and our closest shopping area) holds a few small charity shops laden with children's clothes, children's books and toys. At the end of the road there is a slightly grubby looking animal charity shop (which is incredibly un-child friendly - no buggies would fit in) but inside is a treasure trove of cheap crockery, sheets, napkins, cutlery, it takes a bit of a rummage but we've had some great finds (in fact it is my main supplier of hankies for bunting). They also often have boxes of wool, embroidery threads and needles etc. Probably not worth travelling to get to alone, but close by you can also get to...

Hayes (Kent) - the High Street along from the station is primarily charity furniture shop heaven. Three furniture stores strong there is something for every need and budget. Additionally there are a further four charity shops. All of the shops in this area are good value and the Air Ambulance shop always has some haberdashery items and baskets of cheap baby clothes. And it is a stones throw from...

West Wickham - there are a handful of charity shops on the high street in this area. We used to travel here when I was bored of Beckenham. Although, I'll be honest I think I was more enticed by a love of Starbucks than the charity shops.

Beckenham - my first home in the Bromley area, I lived there for 6 months after Kit was born. I spent a lot of time trekking up and down the street of charity shops. It's a well-trodden route by the mums in the area, and consquently it is generally quite pricey, but bargains and treasures can be found, especially at the St Christopher's Hospice shop near Beckenham Junction station, and the Barnados shop at the opposite end of the High Street (near the cinema) - I believe that it was also seen on Mary Portas 'Queen of Charity Shops' .. the star of which is not far away in...

Orpington - we've only recently started to trawl this area, but we spent the entire of Saturday there with a friend last weekend, there are just so many charity shops (plus a singer sewing shop and a lovely cafe 'Mystic Brew' which sells every tea known to mankind). It's a bit slim on decent clothes, but bric a brac is a-plenty and cheap. I managed to get some bargainous lace and scrabble pieces, which made me very happy. I don't think the Save the Children shop improved much from Mary's intervention, but I may be thinking of the wrong one.

Last but not least...

Petts Wood - there are two sides of the railway track here, the Morrisons side and the Sainsburys side. The Morrisons side has the better charity shops - in fact the ones opposite are our favourites - especially for wool and sewing bits, and children's clothes. On the Sainsburys side the charity shops have better adult clothes. I've picked up a lot of bits for me there.

Some of our recent finds.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Heating up

I think we are the only little family that don't relish the sunshine. Don't get me wrong, it is lovely to be able to leave the house without thermals. I do want my plants to grow. I'm happy that it isn't constantly raining. But we don't cope well with the heat.

A few days after we came out of the hospital when Kit was born, we ended up at A&E because he wouldn't wake up to feed. They tested for everything (he didn't even wake up for the pin-prick test) and the conclusion. Kit didn't like the heat. Nothing has changed much. Now he is crawling the walls because he doesn't know what to do with himself. Having mastered going to bed he is now struggling to get to sleep. He isn't eating as much, and he is generally sleepy. I feel pretty much the same.

Maybe we should move to live with penguins. We could knit a lot of jumpers to keep ourselves warm.

If you loose us we'll be hiding in the fridge.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

In the absence of a freezer I needed to find some way to preserve some of the mountains of rhubarb we're bringing home. I've never made jam before. And I've never eaten rhubarb jam. I thought I'd try.

I googled to find recipes, but realising I didn't have to hand all of the ingredients or equipment for any of the recipes I did a version somewhere between. It seems alright to me, but I have no rhubarb jam frame of reference to base my judgement on. I'm making more this week anyhow. We still have a lot of rhubarb.

So, the recipe.

Rhubarb - I had 350g, which worked out as about the right amount to make one standard Kilner jar of jam.

Sugar - equal amount to rhubarb (so 350g in this case), I used golden caster sugar because that was what was in my cupboard, some recipes suggested jam sugar as it contains pectin, but I was aiming for getting that from the rhubarb itself by a ...

Lemon - I read that adding the juice of a lemon (1 for each 500g of fruit) would draw out the pectin in the fruit.

Ginger - I only had fresh ginger. I figured this was the best anyway, although all the recipes I read used a mixture of fresh and dried or crystallised. I think I added about 10g.

I made it by cutting up the rhubarb and leaving it to stand in the sugar and lemon overnight. The next day I added the ginger, moved it to a saucepan. Stirring constantly I heated the mixture to boiling and boiled for 10 mins (until the rhubarb was all softened). Put in a jar and enjoy.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Allotment Time

With the switch in the weather we've been going to the allotment every day, if only to give the plants a drink. We're getting into a bit of a routine and Kit has figured out how to go and fill his little watering can by himself (and I can see him from my plot) so he can water the weeds easily while I work on other bits. He's even figured out what to do if he accidentally waters his feet instead of the ground.

My mum had grown me some lavender and rosemary so I have some more pots around my shed. My pots are fairing a lot better than anything I'm putting in the ground. We're clearing some ground to get the beans planted out this week so hopefully they will florish amongst the weeds that Kit is tending to so dearly.

Our success stories so far are the mass of rhubarb, and lots of gooseberries growing, and lots and lots of strawberries.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Small pleasures

The highlights of my day
Freshly baked bread.
Fresh coffee.

Charity shop finds (9 balls of cotton/linen mix wool for £4 - glass spaghetti jar £1)

Sowing beetroot, spinach and rocket seeds.
Picking rhubarb (currently resting in sugar to be made into rhubarb and ginger jam).

Lots of Kit cuddles.

Cheats home(ish)made pizza.

The highlights of Kit's day
Freshly baked bread.

The Disney Store and getting a Toy Story cuddly Jesse dolly (which he earnt from his first ever sticker chart)
Charity shop finds (two Noddy jigsaws for 75p, Miffy's Bicycle book 30p)

Jumping on the trampoline.
Lying on the trampoline.
Baking felt cakes in an oven on the trampoline.
Watering weeds.

Watching Fraggle Rock.

Eating pizza.

Bedtime stories.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Baking 101 with Kit - 'Ginger-men'

How to (not) make 'Ginger-men' (cheating using pre-made dough)

1. Cut out one 'ginger-man', eat the raisins (preferably while wiping your nose).

2. Share the raisins.

3. Decide you want the raisins back (to eat more - whilst abandoning the baking altogether).

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Giving in to sleep deprivation

In the morning 5am is the new 7am.
In the evening 9pm is the new 7pm.
The hours in-between are spattered with coughing fits.
So sometimes, despite your best efforts to stay awake, you have to give in.

Tesco's Naturally Powered Review (Mumsnet Review)

Having a small messy boy my laundry basket is constantly full of paint-splattered, muddy, food and drink spilled and generally grubby clothes. I try to use 'green' cleaning products where I can and I always wash at 30 (even reusable nappies - pre-soaked first). Kit also has eczema and so he has had reactions to washing powders before. Consequently I'm always looking to find a 'green' product that actually works at 30 and won't irritate Kit's skin. I was very happy to have the opportunity to review Tesco's new 'Naturally Powered' range.

Unfortunately I wasn't so happy after I'd used some. The Naturally Powered concentrated non-bio laundry powder claimed 'brilliant results at 15', well I wasn't that mean, and I gave it a chance at 30 as I'd normally wash. It smelt lovely (we're quite used to using mineral balls now and I miss that lovely smell that drying washing leaves). It was a shame that some of the clothes didn't really come out looking much cleaner than they had gone in. Most of the mud was washed off, but the washable paint hadn't come out, there were still a few food stains and the more ground in dirt (mainly sand-pit grubbiness) had not shifted. I wasn't hugely surprised about the ground-in dirt or some of the food stains, we always struggle with tomato stains, but washable paint. Any mum with a young (or older) child will know that a washing powder needs to be able to take on washable paint. On the positive note, the powder hasn't irritated Kit's skin. So if you are willing to up the heat I'm sure that it would perform better, smell nice and be kind to your skin.

I was also sent some Naturally Powered Anti-Bacterial Multi Surface Spray which is always useful for spills and general cleaning. Apart from being a bit watery it did the job nicely on fresh spills, it was less affective on dried in muck. As a general surface spray to keep the surfaces hygenic it works well, but for heavier cleaning in the bathroom or with dried on food it doesn't soften it up so easily.

I did like the packaging for both products, as they laundry powder was completely cardboard, including the measuring cup, so could be recycled. And the Multi Surface Spray was recycled plastic and could also be further recycled. It's a shame the products don't work as well as I had hoped.

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Mumsnet Blogging Network, a group of parent bloggers picked by Mumsnet to review products, services, events and brands. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Doum Bek Bek

We went to the Horniman Museum with the grandparents the other day. Kit loves the instrument room. He found his favourite instrument and in the hands on area, it shares my name!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Allotment Update

Despite the miserable weather (I tell Kit the clouds are crying, is that wrong?), we've popped into the allotment to do a few bit, and my Dad came up to help out, and take advantage of the soft soil for digging, yesterday.

(Left to right) Petit Pois; climbing beans; onions (that had sprouted in my kitchen so I thought rather than compost them); blackcurrent bush (or hopefully it will be one day).

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


After finishing the quilt I've been a bit more motivated to do some sewing. I've made Kit a gruffalo costume for his birthday (I'll share once he gets in at the end of June), but after I'd finished that I still wanted to make something else. Kit has a Superman raincoat and (having been wearing it a lot at the moment) is quite excited by being a superhero. He has also be requesting The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man almost as frequently as The Gruffalo for one of his bedtime stories for a few weeks. So I made him a superhero costume.

And for all of you who ever wonder what superheroes eat for breakfast...

Of course I asked him who he would save today. His response -

'Superheroes don't save people, I'm not a policeman'

- silly me, obviously superman and spiderman are members of the policeforce!

And after breakfast...

...well they turn into pirates obviously!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Oxfam Birth Rights Exhibition

Friday saw the launch of Oxfam's Birth Rights Exhibition at Kings Hospital in South London. Now I spent a large proportion of my time after having Kit exchanging stories with other new mums about our children's births. I've even blogged my birth story here, and I love to slip in snippets to conversations to traumatise my friends who have not yet experienced the joy of childbirth. But however traumatic people may find my experience, I at least had trained professionals, working for free, and I was fortunate enough to even have the option of where to give birth. And, well, dying, I didn't even consider the possibility that I might. Why would I, thankfully only 1 in 4700 people die giving birth. In Ghana your odds are just 1 in 66.

Oxfam want to raise awareness of the issue and get the governments in Ghana and the UK to work to save women's lives.

'Selina Fletcher, 30, recently gave birth to her third child.
Though she’s illiterate, Selina knows that maternal health care in Ghana is free. So, when her contractions started, she and her best friend Sarah made their way to Korle Bu Hospital in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. But she came unprepared. In Ghana there are things you need to bring with you when you give birth, or otherwise you must pay for them. These include a bottle of disinfectant, a hair net and a blanket to cover the bed. To pay for these, Sarah left Selina at hospital, and returned to their village to ask her family for money. With the money secured, and with a nurse and midwife by her side, Selina gave birth to a little girl. She’s called Savina, after her grandmother. After the birth, mum and daughter rested for 24 hours in a ‘lying-in’ ward, and the midwife gave Selina advice on caring for her baby. Then, with friends and family at their side, Selina and Savina returned home – healthy and happy, having received free, professional care from trained health workers.'

Photos by: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Oxfam 

The exhibition is running for a week in the Golden Jubilee Wing, so if you are in the area please pop in to see all of the photos. And check out Oxfam's website to find out how you can help save women's lives in Ghana and beyond.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Dandelion Cordial

Apart from rhubarb there isn't much ready to eat in my allotment at the moment. One thing that is growing quite nicely though is dandelions. Now, much as they are very pretty, I don't really want an allotment full of dandelions. It does seem a shame just to pull them up and chuck them in a heap though. For Christmas I was given Alys Fowlers 'The Thrify Forager' and she does say that you can eat dandelion leaves, I haven't tried one yet, in fact she said you could pretty much eat all of a dandelion. I'd seen a lot online about people making dandelion cordial and I thought I'd do that. I didn't anticipate it being quite so labour intensive.

I got Kit to help me pick 100+ dandelion flowerheads at the allotment, which was fun to begin with.
I spent 45 mins de-petalling the dandelion flowerheads. Then boiled them up in a litre of water and left to stew overnight. The following day I melted in sugar, nearly equal in quantity to the liquid and squeezed in some lemon juice. I simmered off a bit of the liquid to make it thicker. Then left it to cool.

It tastes ok, but nowhere near as special as I want it to considering the effort involved in de-petalling!
(It might be because I left it too late to pick my dandelions - I bet I'll end up trying again next year - I make Sloe Gin every year and never drink it!)


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