Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Staying Positve about the Dark Months (otherwise known as Holiday Planning)

hello to october by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk

Oh Hi October

Thanks for welcoming us with your grey skies and rain.
I never signed the blogger contract that said 'bloggers must be cheerful' so I'm going to come right out and say it. I DO NOT like October and it's my birthday month too… I don't really like birthdays either - well not mine anyway.

In all the autumn excitement, back to school resolutions, blue skies and garden harvests that September was so generous with I kind of forgot about my vague dread of October. But when I woke up this morning and opened the blinds to see the grey and the rain I thought 'oh yeah, thanks for reminding me how **** you are October'

For me October marks the beginning of the dark months, the squeezing kids into coats months, the months where the garden is viewed from indoors more than occupying us outdoors, where rain often calls off play (or like this morning means there to be 50% more cars on the road making cycling with a small person that bit more dangerous). Of course there are lots of things to look forward to and those precious bright days are often so needed. It's days like today that I look at my Mrs Elliot Books print and nod at the words 'and it will be sunny again tomorrow'.

Last night, obviously in some sort of subconscious move to prepare for the coming months, Hugh and I spent the evening looking at holidays; both fantasy ones (flights to Costa Rica for four are a little out of our price range) and ones we might actually organise... I'm thinking that having plans for holidays and fun will help get me through.

1. Top of the List: London - Venice overland by train in Spring.
This was a plan that was hatched earlier this year when we were looking into our summer holiday, but we decided that cities and summer didn't go so well together for a family holiday. We generally love the idea of traveling overland, and by train even better. Whenever we visit Hugh's Mum in Edinburgh on the train we really enjoy the journey, we chat, read, eat. I love looking out of a train window and day dreaming, plus I think it's great for the children to understand distance and see changing scenery.
We were/are seriously thinking about the Thello train which runs overnight from Paris - Milan but are being completely indecisive about it...
Pros: The children will love the idea of sleeping on the train and it might be our last chance to try this kind of thing as lots of sleeper service routes are being canned.
Cons: We won't actually get to see much (in the dark, while we are hopefully, sleeping) and after reading numerous awful reviews on Trip Advisor we weren't feeling like it would be the most luxurious experience (and it's not cheap) and more worryingly it seems trains are sometimes cancelled at short or no notice. Plus The Man in Seat 61 has some pretty amazing things to say about traveling the scenic route across the Swiss Alps...

Coco is very excited about the prospect of seeing Paris and Venice - Plus, pizza. Obviously.
I'm quite excited about putting some time into researching the best things to do so that we don't end up dragging the children around sights they are not interested in.

So it's back to a few more evenings of train research...

2. A Close 2nd Place: Morocco in February - Just like last year.
As soon as we got back from Since our Moroccan trip in February we thought that we'd definitely go back next year - we loved that holiday. However as summer emerged we forgot about how amazingly welcome that February warmth was had started to think that maybe returning to the same place when there are so many other places to see would be a shame. So we are torn between repeating something that worked or trying something new.... Any great tips for February half term?

3. 3rd Place: Christmas Breaks
We are, probably a bit late in the day, thinking about hiring a big house for Christmas to celebrate with extended family without having to invade one families house... so I was looking on airbnb for houses that sleep 17... it's brilliant how that website has taken off. We used them for the first time this year and had a great experience. I've sent off a couple of enquiries, so fingers crossed.

I was also fantasising about camping next summer and winter weekends away in Cornwall maybe, or on the Kent coast... OK I'm going to stop now. Maybe winter isn't so bad.


Coming Up:
Reasons to LOVE autumn... whilst writing this post and having a bit of a moan I've thought of lots of things that I'm looking forward to during THE DARK MONTHS!
Oh, and it's completely brightend up since I've been writing this. Phew.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Weekend Breakfast: Our Family Campaign



We are quite attached to cereal for breakfast in this house. In fact I'd say I've pretty much eaten cereal for breakfast for 90% of my life, the other 10% would consist of the odd fry up (the ones that weren't consumed after a bowl of cereal), when I was on holiday in somewhere suitably exotic where cereal wasn't an option and possibly the handful of times I was too hungover/rushed/late to have breakfast at all... you know, back in my twenties, pre children.

We try to buy a variety of cereals, we eat quite a lot of muesli, often have porridge in the winter and Hugh has been perfecting his granola recipe (I think we are on about version 11) but generally we do rely on cereals in the wider sense for our breakfasts... which is fundamentally fine.
Well, it's fine-ish.
In fact; we've decided that from now on it's fine for Monday - Friday but, as of the last few weeks we've launched a new campaign:
The Different Breakfast at Weekends Campaign. It needs a snappier title I admit)


We launched the campaign with a bang - we had the 'chocolate' breakfast... which meant hot chocolate, pain au chocolate and nutella pancakes (although the nutella was courtesy of our neighbour, the pancakes were in the making before we realised we only had about a teaspoon of chocolate spread left).
Obviously the campaign launch was a success and Coco & Henry are quite into the different breakfast challenge; although they were very convinced that nutella pancakes were the perfect 'different breakfast' so we kind of got stuck there for a few mornings.

So last Saturday we attempted to breakout of the accidental routine and we headed straight to Borough Market as soon as we woke up with the promise that the children could choose anything they wanted for breakfast.

Hot chocolate at Rabat 1745 in Borough Market by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk

No surprises that the first choice was to go to Rabat 1745 for hot chocolate. This is really proper hot chocolate - seriously rich and surprisingly filling; to the point where Coco couldn't even finish hers.

Hot chocolate at Rabat 1745 in Borough Market by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk

Henry looking at the shard by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk

We then made out way out to the market to see what else we fancied trying... although Henry was much more interested in shouting at us about how TALL and BIG the shard is... all the way up to the SKY!



I decided, a bit boringly, to go for one of my Borough favourites - known in this house as the dirty cheese sandwich... 



It's a toasted cheese sandwich, yes, but I would say it's pretty much THE BEST toasted cheese sandwich ever (made by Kappacasein Diary). The lunch queue for this stall is normally something to behold... the breakfast queue; um, didn't really exist. But it was good, and different for breakfast. We kind of shared it around (even though it was my choice, hmmmm)!

Coco then went a bit traditional french on us and decided what she really wanted was a croissant... meanwhile Henry got distracted in a veg stall and went for some watermelon. Finally - Hugh's choice, a classic bacon roll. In between we had the usual titbits from other stalls, mushroom pate (delicious - have had a pot of that for lunches this week), chutneys, the odd morsel of cheese or brownie. All together is was pretty fun although it did mean that having breakfast took up pretty much the whole morning.

Coco - 1000 years of Borough market by Alexis at somethingimade.co.uk

Oh yes; and this happened too... There were some 1000 years of the market celebrations going on which involved paint, it was meant to be for making footprints... but of course my children... well, as you can see!

Now I'm planning for this weekend... I'm wondering about the introduction of smoothies, and maybe some french toast (thanks Lucy for that idea) - any good breakfast favourites in your house?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Styling the Seasons: September's Nature in the Home

Styling the seasons - September by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk

It feels like summer and autumn are overlapping here. Cooler mornings, and darker evenings definitely yet still the sunshine in the afternoon warming my back. However I know summer is losing the battle, autumn has the stronger hold, the light is changing indoors, cutting in and shining horizontally much earlier in the day... plus we have bowls full of conkers and are cycling over fallen leaves in the mornings.

Today I decided to get my act together and join in with the Styling the Seasons challenge started by Katy and Charlotte. Our kitchen mantlepiece always reflects the goings on of the household, and unwittingly gives away the season too so was the obvious place to display the latest dahlia cuttings and the conkers together. But before I cleared away the general clutter and previous wilting flowers I had a little play with my new trays from Hay... I'm in love with these trays. They come in such great colours - I'm hoping that I can add to this mini collection, even though the last thing I need is more places to put clutter - but making clutter beautiful; surely there's something there...?

Dahlia's from the garden by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk

Dahlia's from the garden and conkers too - by  Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk



So there it is; September on the mantlepiece - the dahlia's march on but the conkers creep in too.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Last Week: 7 Things from 7 Days

A long time ago I kind of had a go at doing a series... a sort of weekly round up of things we'd done - and I've decided to try to resurrect it. I think I've been missing doing the 52 project and having a nice weekly record to look back on.
So... for, quite possibly one week only; here are seven things from the last seven days... (in no particular order...)!









1. Henry met Theo! And I met Abigail. I've been reading Abigail's blog for ages and I always knew hoped that Henry and Theo would really enjoy meeting; so last Tuesday we made it happen. Henry and I went to Bristol for the day on the train (big hit with the boy of course, a BIG, FAST, train) and we had a great time mooching around with Abigail and Theo, we managed to pack it in... coffee/cakes, walking by the river (and finding this old sofa to sit on), the docks, picnic, the M Shed museum and naked running in fountains. It was a really good day.



2. My friend Ali is very good at getting me to go to things, you know - out there London things - like this immersive theatre production by Shunt called 'The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face'.
It was great, it was a tenner.
If you can get yourself to North Greenwich in the next couple of weeks then go see it. I don't want to spoil it by writing a 'review' plus I'm not even sure how I'd go about writing a review... how can I tempt you? Um, it's in shipping containers and it makes you think about all sorts of things. Is that good enough?

3. At the weekend I went off for the day to hang out with a bunch of people I was at school with 20 years ago. I could write a lot about it - not sure how much sense it would make; there was a lot of laughter - but I kind of felt quite sad when I got home. Time & memories...



4. We went round for a play with my friend Nisia and her gang - a pretty much weekly occurrence, but it was our last chance to eat around this table - they are about to get the builders in... I think they'll be hanging around here a lot more for the next few months!
I took lots of photos of her house back here - it's lovely, take a look...



5. The last of the sweet peas for 2014... maybe?



6. ...And now my IG feed will be full of autumn; Henry and I came home to a huge conker haul on Tuesday. Coco and Grandpa were very busy while we were away.

7. Pulled Pork - we went to some friends for lunch on Sunday and they cooked pulled pork - served in buns with apple sauce and plenty of homemade slaw (I failed to take a photo). Now I'm looking forward to autumn and warming, delicious comfort food...

I 'may' try to keep this up for the next few weeks... I was planning on getting this up on Monday so already feeling like I'm not 100% committed, but we'll see. Good excuse to mess around with type and colour though... did you notice that?

Friday, 12 September 2014

Yeah! I'm a T-Shirt Designer

my homemade graphic t-shirt by Alexis at somethingimade.co.uk

OK, I'm not a t-shirt designer, but I did make this t-shirt.
Well, when I say 'make' what I mean is a drew some triangles on it.

I've been meaning to do this for ages, mainly because:
1) I can't be bothered / don't have the time to shop
2) When I do shop I end up feeling completely overwhelmed by the choice which results in waves of apathy, angst and worry. Apathy - I don't know what my style is anymore, did I even ever have a style? If things are cheap & cheerful I have angst about the ethics of buying cheap, if they are expensive I worry about whether I'll get a good CPW (that's cost per wear - obvs!) or I still worry about the ethics and all the other things I should/could be spending money on, or my (lack of) pension etc. It's a fraught business.*
3) Then, if by some miracle I do find something I like, lets say for arguments sake, a graphic t-shirt with a bat* some triangles on it I think, "but I could make this myself" so then I can't bring myself to even buy the rare thing I do like...

So after a few fruitless shopping trips filled with all the above I bought myself a plain white cheap (angst!) t-shirt which has been lying in my drawer all summer taunting me, until finally last Saturday I dug out the pens I bought for Coco's crafting party and drew some triangles on it.

Now, I'm sure you can tell exactly how I made it, but I'm going to show you anyway. I'm a blogger, it's what I do - and I have dreams of one day having a Pinterest-worthy tutorial; you've got to have goals people!
So here you go... this is what I did...

making your own graphic print t-shirt by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk


making your own graphic print t-shirt by Alexis at somethingimade.co.uk blog

There you have it!
The first of many... um, maybe? What do you think? The way forward or not?


 *Actually; don't fall too hard for my woe-is-me tale. I did manage to buy a few nice autumn things the other day. Autumn seems to be a much less angst-ridden shopping time for me.
** I really like Zoe Karssen's graphic t-shirts (not sure why, but I just do) however £60, for a t-shirt!? I know I might get my CPW but I can't quite bring myself to do it.




Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Walking Barefoot at Kew

One of the things we enjoyed a lot this summer was visiting the barefoot walk at Kew Gardens... We decided to go for a final visit last weekend; one last chance to get our feet dirty.





There is something incredibly therapeutic about discarding your shoes, rolling up your trousers and really feeling the ground beneath your feet - plus the landscaping of the walk is lovely (and is giving me quite a few ideas for our garden).



Summer is bare feet. Sand between your toes, wet grass sticking to your feet in the morning. Walking on tip toes when the ground is too hot. Summer is a chance to feel the earth under your feet. 

Look away now if you don't want to have to see lots more photos of my feet!

























I'm going to take every chance I can now to walk barefoot. I don't want Summer to end.
Although... I do love winter boots.

Monday, 8 September 2014

An Almost Free Lunch AKA Our Tomato Harvest

Tomato Harvest - Making Roast Tomato Soup by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk

This year was going to be our last shot at growing tomatoes. The last few summers haven't been too productive on the tomato front and they had started to feel like too much effort for not enough return.
But, guess what - the little red fellows finally came through for us.



We were so close to giving up that I started a tomato tally on the blackboard; we stopped logging tomatoes consumed around a month ago.
We just had too many. In fact we've had an amazing year... starting with 'gardeners delight' which we bought as plants, followed by waterfalls of cherries which we grew from seed and a great selection of weird and wonderful varieties that my sister gave us.

Our tomato plants, sept 2014 - Making Roast Tomato Soup by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk

The main bulk of the plants grow by the house up against a warm wall (and across our kitchen window by this time of year). Hugh sunk some much bigger planters into our decking area in the spring and I think these have been the key to our new success, (well those and the weather) but we also sort of shoved in plants in and around the other veg too and they have literally taken over, creeping across every bit of exposed soil - it's a bit like The day of the Triffids out there. 

Courgette plant and flower and corgette with the tomatos - Alexis @ somethingimade

I think the reason I'm so amazed by the harvest is that I really don't think of myself as a garden person. I'm not the green fingered one in my family, and up until five years ago I'd never had a garden at all, ever. I can't quite get my head around the fact that for the last two months we've pretty much eaten something from our garden everyday. I suppose for lots of people that's totally normal; so forgive me for sounding like I think some kind of miracle has occurred... but, um, I kind of do.

Making Roast Tomato Soup - by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk

On Saturday morning I wandered into the garden with a bow: I ended up with over 1kg of tomatoes - and I cooked up one of my favourite things, tomato soup. Had it been warmer I might have made gazpacho, which would have to up there in my top 3 meals (will have to have a think about what else would be there...)
I never would have imagined that I'd have enough tomatoes that I'd want to cook with them (ok; I'll stop with this amazement at my garden miracle now).

Cooking Roast Tomato Soup - by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk

I used a Gordon Ramsey recipe - adapting it slightly as I went along... it basically goes something like this:

Gordon Ramsey's Roasted Tomato Soup

Heat some olive oil in a hot oven - once it's almost smoking tip in 1kg of halved tomatoes (Gordon says plum are best - but as you can see I used a variety and it worked fine!), an onion cut into rings, a couple of cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of caster sugar and a few thyme sprigs.
Season and cook for 20-25 minutes - adding a few basil leaves just before the end of cooking.

Meanwhile heat up 1 litre of stock and then when the tomatoes are cooked tip them into a pan, discard the twiggy bits of thyme (and in my case the tomato stalks) and then add the stock in.
Gordon says add some smoked sun dried tomatoes at this point and 1tbsp of BBQ sauce. I just added 3 regular sun dried tomatoes.
Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes.

Strain the mixture and then whizz up the tomatoes in a food processor, once you have a paste gradually add the stock back in.
When finished you can strain the remaining mixture through a sieve to get rid of any rogue seeds. Because I used lots of cherry tomatoes we had loads of seeds so it was definitely worth the hassle of removing them.

The finished roast tomato soup  - by Alexis at www.somethingimade.co.uk

Serve warm and enjoy!
It was delicious - a perfect Saturday lunch.