Keys to the Beach Hut!

Sadly, we don’t all have a fabulous little beach hut, but we do all need to keep keys somewhere! One of the best things about being a crafter is that our stash can be used for so many different things. Cardmaking, home decorations, scrapbooking, gift making and just plain old playtime for us!

This is a lovely example of two of those categories, you could make something like this as a gift or just to decorate your home. We all need somewhere to put those dratted keys (the ones I lose all the time), and hanging them on a pretty little set of hooks like this is very pleasing! I have a lovely big wooden key with hooks along it in my home, that was made for me by my baby brother when he was at school… um, quite upsetting to remember he has long since had his 50th birthday and runs a very successful pub in Crickhowell in Wales (The Kestrel Inn – I highly recommend the food!) but the key holder is still in place, hand made gifts mean a lot.

You can use MDF as a base or thin plywood or even a piece of thicker wood if you have easier access to that. Get drilling first and make some holes for the string – some chunky rough string looks good. Then start your choice of paint effect. This has been crackled with Weathered Wood – but you could do nice straight stripes or just paint it plain white, or blue or whatever you like.

Once the paint is dry, screw in the cup hooks at the bottom and die cut and colour your beach huts. If you want to make them more serviceable, you could add a layer of matt or glossy varnish or laminate them to make them stronger. Now add them to the plaque together with the seagulls using trusty Pinflair. Use a fair sized blob to make sure you have some height.

Thread the string through and knot – and away you go. This same idea could be utilised with so many different dies and designs.

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Crafting with Granny

One of the joys of our hobby is being able to share, whether it’s sharing the making of cards with family and friends or just giving them the finished product!

This weekend I was playing with my little granddaughter Grace. She absolutely loves ponies and regularly rides a little Shetland pony called Pippin. Her mother has a lovely grey called Bobby and Grace has grown up thinking everyone has to clean up after horses and wears wellies most of the time!

So knowing her passion for all things horse related, rather than playing yet again with her model stable, we decided to do some cardmaking. I have a little box and a drawer which I am slowly saving things in when I spot something that might be fun for her to use.

The Cuttlebug is ideal for children and even this little 3 year old can turn the handle if you hold the machine steady for her. We have a couple of suitable horsey dies in the Signature Dies range, so they have been waiting in the drawer for some time!

Poor old Bobby got kicked by another horse and is confined to his stable on box rest until his leg heals. So we made him a get well soon card!

Grace is definitely a chip off the old block, so to speak, she chose colours beautifully, and is very good already at accurately wielding the glue dispenser. I did the double sided taping, more for speed than anything, but soon I am sure she will manage with a tape dispenser. We die cut many more horses than we needed (ok so she wouldn’t stop and I didn’t like to halt the enthusiasm!) and included those inside the card “so Mummy can play with them” – think of it as alternative confetti to put inside a card!

The front you can see here in the picture, inside we used a Get Well Soon die and wrote a message for Bobby. The grass is made by using the Icicle border die. This design could be used with any of the animal families we have, so it could be a dog card, farm card or whatever you like!

 

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Healthy eating seems to work!

I wanted to share my happy evening with all of you – I was at my Slimming World group last night and annually each group chooses its ‘Woman of the Year’ that has done well on the plan and inspired other members and when they announced that I had won… well I own up I did cry a little bit!

I joined just over a year ago – not for the first time at a group down here in the South West – but the first time in this particular group at Cheddar in Somerset, just near my daughter. As it’s held on a Monday evening, and I am official Granny child minder if needed over the weekend and on Mondays, I rarely go into the office those days.

This is a before picture of me – on holiday about to go kayaking if I remember rightly … poor old kayak I say, no wonder it wasn’t very stable! Early 2016 was a tough time for me as all the Create and Craft viewers probably know as I lost my mother and father one after the other in the same week in January.

Having surfaced after the funeral and still being more than a little weighted down by the sadness I took a good look at the carrier bag full of medicines that I collected from the chemist every few weeks and decided I had to do something to make sure it wasn’t me joining them any time soon!

I had heavy medication for diabetes and still very high numbers, two different meds for high blood pressure and various other things I took and yes, it really was a carrier bag full every couple of weeks or so.

I joined Slimming World (again) but this time at a totally different group with possibly the best leader in the world (Cathy you’re so good) and began to relearn my eating habits. You know how annoying it is when people say this isn’t a diet it’s a lifestyle change well… nah I’m not going to say that… but it’s true.

I lost eight pounds in my first week and a stone in my first month, I focussed so hard and was very determined to make it work this time. And so it did for many months. Then I found it harder and harder to shift the pounds. It was a combination of my failings and also being older and having lost so much, maybe my body got mean!

However I concentrated on keeping my blood sugar readings good (for those in the know my levels went from 14.6 down to 5.1 where they have been for many months now) and am now no longer listed as diabetic by my doc, no more checks, no more meds, no more high blood pressure and all is good.

For now, I need to keep plodding on, I need to keep those blood levels steady forever and some more weight off would be fab – I am just under four stone lighter than at my heaviest and I would love to see another couple of stones disappear into the ether!

I hope my Mum and Dad would be really proud of me!

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Lettuce make soup!

We have had huge success with lettuce this year. So huge in fact that I am worried about how to use it all! So I started asking friends and reading up on the internet – hmm I wonder if you can make lettuce jam? Lettuce fritters?

Well, the sensible answers I got, bearing in mind this is a one person family for feeding lettuce related dishes to (Richard doesn’t like greens very much) were all headed by lettuce soup. My first reaction was yuk, how can that be nice and the answer is – try the recipe and see! I used mainly Cos and Romaine lettuce as that’s what was threatening to bolt in the garden.!

I am now definitely a fan of lettuce soup, I have multiple pots sitting neatly in the freezer and if I have another glut in a month or two, I will be making it again. I have to say if I was being given a blind taste test I would just say it’s a green soup but would not have guessed lettuce. The butter I think adds flavour but of course, if you really can’t have the fat content there are ways around it like using a spray oil instead for cooking.

The other thing I must mention if we are on the topic of lettuce, is how often I use the leaves as a wrap. So my smoked salmon/lettuce or hard boiled egg/lettuce sandwiches are just that – no bread just a wrap made from a large crispy lettuce leaf. I like it – give it a try and see what you think!

Lettuce Soup

The quantities in this are fairly arbitrary, I tweak them to match what I have coming out of the garden or in the fridge at that moment.

Ingredients

  • Large handful of chopped spring onions
  • 1 garlic clove chopped (or skip if you don’t like it)
  • 3 tablespoons or so butter
  • Salt (small teaspoon) and pepper maybe half a teaspoon
  • I medium to large potato chopped into slices or diced
  • Then about 12 ounces of lettuce – I often use even more
  • 3 cups of really nice chicken stock – or use a chicken stock cube

Method

  1. Sauté the spring onion and garlic in a large saucepan with about half the butter. Stir gently until they are soft and then add the salt and pepper and cook for another minute or so.
  2. Now add the potato chunks, the lettuce roughly ripped to pieces and the chicken stock. Bring to boil and simmer for 12 minutes or so, until the potatoes are cooked. I leave the lid on the saucepan to preserve the liquid.
  3. I have been known to add more lettuce at this point if I felt it was too thin, in which case I just simmer a little longer to soften the lettuce (it wilts pretty fast) and then continue.
  4. Let the mixture cool a bit and then purée with either a hand blender or a food processor.
  5. Finally, stir in the rest of the butter and then taste for seasoning. This freezes well, just defrost and then warm in a saucepan.

I realise this is a fairly loose recipe but each time I have made it, I have tweaked the amounts of the main ingredients. It is a very flexible concept that can work with whatever you have to hand!

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A glutton for punishment

While growing your own veg is a wonderful and rewarding thing you can find yourself becoming a glutton for punishment. If you get too good at it, there can be one big problem – a glut! After weeks and months of nurturing, everything seems to ripen at the same time, so you have tonnes of tomatoes, more lettuces than Sainsbury’s and, possibly the worst of all,­ a mountain of courgettes! I don’t know what it is about courgettes, but they creep up on you. One minute you have one, the next 10 and at least two of those will have turned into marrows overnight.

The only thing to do with any glut is to ensure you have freezer space and some great recipe ideas to ring the changes and stop you getting completely bored with whichever veg is in glut.

I am currently wrestling with the annual courgette glut. Not only is my neighbour kindly giving me their excess, but I have quite a few of my own to contend with too. It is clearly a very well catalogued problem – there is even a book called ‘What Will I Do With All Those Courgettes?’ obviously written by someone who has endured many a courgette excess.

If you haven’t got time to rustle up a delicious courgette soup or veggie bake, don’t despair – some genius has invented the spiralizer! If you haven’t tried courgetti yet, you’re in for a treat. Courgette spaghetti can be made and served in less time than it takes to make conventional pasta. All you need is a spiralizer or even just a vegetable peeler. You can turn the humble courgette into the perfect healthy meal in minutes with a couple of minutes (no more) in boiling water.

If you pick your courgettes before they get too big – about the length of your hand from palm base to finger tips – you don’t even need to cook them as they are delicious eaten raw if sliced, shaved or grated.

They are very versatile and can even put on a show on the BBQ – slice thickly and brush with oil and you can griddle them. Alternatively, braise slowly in butter with crushed garlic and thyme leaves and you get a delicious pasta sauce.

But if you really feel you are sinking beneath the weight of courgettes then why not knock up a batch of soup and freeze in portions, then you can remind yourself of summer when you tuck into a warming bowl in the depths of winter. Enjoy!

This Simple Courgette Soup really is very easy to make, it freezes well and is delicious with homemade bread. It is great eaten hot or cold!

Simple Courgette Soup:

Ingredients

  • 450g courgettes thickly sliced
  • 700ml chicken stock, or vegetable stock if you want to keep it completely vegetarian
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano (fresh is best!)
  • ¼ teaspoon rosemary (fresh is best!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Place all ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to boil
  2. Reduce heat and cover and simmer for 15-20 mins
  3. Blend in blender/processor till smooth, reheat when ready to serve, or chill and serve cold.
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