Spain Sewing Project No 3 – Blue Top

8xz639l6qqemrzpuyfqvmwUsing another piece of Seasalt fabric, I made this top to wear over jeans and leggings. The colours go well with my Winter capsule and the red bits match my red jeans.

The fabric is a printed cotton viscose twill (Forest Collage Marine). The pattern is New Look 6871. I carefully read the back of the pattern and the instructions on the back with regards sizing. I didn’t quite understand but by looking at my actual measurements it made me a size 18. My initial  hunch was  to ignore this and perhaps go with size 16 to account for said boobs. But no, I pressed ahead with the next size up which was a mistake. It does fit my boobs but it’s a bit big on my neckline, so I have had to add a couple of darts. If I use this pattern again, I will use the size 16.

The fabric was a bit of a nightmare to sew, to be honest. The automatic tension didn’t work on the machine so I had to adjust it, to stop the fabric gathering when I sewed. I think it may also have been the thread too. I have found that cheap threads don’t work.

It didn’t take me long to put it together as there are only 5 pieces and no zips or awkward openings. I made it in a couple of mornings.

However, the upshot to all of this is that I don’t like it!  I have worn it but will probably just wear it around the house.

Spain Sewing Project No 2 – Making a dress – to fit my post menopausal shape!

Ha! I should be used to it by now but I’m not. I hate the huge boobs thing I have going on now and love the charming way that Mother Nature has dumped a load more fat round my middle section.  I get it though – being post menopausal makes us less shapely when we can’t reproduce, so that would make us less attractive to males. Thanks a lot MN. Actually I don’t care about the men bit. I am who I am, like it or lump it.

So back to the subject, the dress. I bought some lovely floral linen material from the Seasalt sale last year. Their fabric sales are great, almost a third off. the original prices.  I bought 3 metres, which I thought should be enough to make me a dress. I didn’t actually have a pattern in mind when I bought it but I already had a Simplicity pattern to try out, pattern number 2247.

I saved the making until we got to Spain. I wanted to make it without hurrying. Mmm not sure I managed that,  but I did try and go slowly, so I would make less mistakes.

The pattern instructions are very good. Basically you cut out all the pieces to the size you think you are and then machine tack it all together so that you can adjust it and have a perfect fit. I haven’t ever actually done this before. I have gone by which size I thought I was only to find that when I have finished the item, it’s a bit tight around my bust area. Fortunately, I have a lovely sister, who’s not so big on the bust as me and so I can pass them on to her.

Mark helped me with the fitting, it’s impossible to do it on your own. I forgot to buy the zip I the UK and couldn’t find a long enough one here in Spain, so I have used a shorter one and will replace it when I get home.

I am fairly pleased with the finished article. I haven’t yet tried it on with nicely done  hair and make up yet, which I think, makes a difference. Also, the shoes I have bought with me aren’t quite right either as they are too flat. I’m pretty sure I have some others at home.

So on to the next sewing project.

 

 

 

 

 

Superfood Gluten Free Bread

 

As I don’t eat gluten, I am always on the look out for new bread recipes to try. Many of the GF recipes are made with white rice flour and tend to taste very bland and have no fibre content. I don’t eat sandwiches much any more but eat bread as toast, to get a bit of a crunch. Using seeds and nuts helps with the crunch as they crisp up when toasted. 

This recipe by Ella Woodward from “Deliciously Ella’ is full of wholesome ingredients. It requires no kneading, no tin and just a bit of effort for a great loaf.

I usually make it and have a few slices warm, keep a couple of slices out for the next day to toast and freeze the rest in slice portions, ready for a toasty breakfast. 

When I fancy a change from granola, I know there is some good and wholesome bread. It takes a while to toast but when its ready, I slather in butter and peanut butter (I  know…) or marmite or jam if I feel like it. 

Please have a go, you will be surprised at just how nice it is. 

When we arrived in Spain, I knocked this loaf up. I hadn’t got any almonds so used pecans and macadamias instead and it worked just as well. 

The ingredients you might not have in your cupboards are psyllium husk powder and chia seeds.These are the ingredients that bind it together. Both of these ingredients, can be bought on Ebay and health food shops. Chia seeds are now available in most supermarkets. 

Please let me know how you get on. 

Ingredients for 1 loaf

200g almonds

260g pumpkin seeds

200g brown rice flour

85g sunflower seeds

3 tablespoons psyllium husk powder 

3 tablespoons mixed herbs

2 tablespoons chia seeds

600ml cold water 

Salt and Pepper 

Method

Blend the almonds and half the pumpkin seeds in a processor until a flour forms 

Add the ‘flour’ to all the other dry ingredients in a large bowl

Add the cold water and mix together

Leave for 1 hour

Pre heat oven to 200 c

Turn the dough onto a greased baking tray

Shape into a loaf shape with your hands – don’t make it higher than 5-7 cm tall

Bake for 45- 50 mins until it turns golden brown and you can pull a clean knife out of the middle. 

Let it cool on a wire rack. 

Our Spanish Adventure

1f011c47-611e-434c-b4b3-161722a9d40aOh it’s great to escape the British greys skies in winter for the blue skies of Spain. Even when it’s cold here the sun shines and the air is dry. Eating salads instead of soup, sitting outside the cafes for coffee instead of moaning about the weather at home.  You just can’t beat it!

We love space, so when we come to Spain we hire a large villa. The one we are in this year, in Estepona, is HUGE. It can sleep 14! It’s got loads of space inside and out and has the most brilliant kitchen with everything I need to cook. However, I did bring my Magimix though because I could!

The supermarkets here are so good. The variety of fresh fruit, veg, meat, cheese, fresh fish and seafood is immense. A lot of the fish is caught locally. I am going to make it my mission to try some of the fish I have never heard of before.

Today we stocked up and also bought fresh prawns and merluza (hake) which is filleted for you. They even give you the fish heads to make stock. Avocados and tomatoes are plentiful, ripe and full of flavour. There are large bunches of fresh herbs such as parsley and mint at a fraction of the cost at home.

The garden here has oranges, lemons which we can pick and use and there is even an avocado tree with fruits on.

Although we are planning to do lots of walking, we will also be doing lots of cooking with all the local produce. I am planning Tapas Thursdays to replace Curry Friday’s for a while.

What you need to take on a long road trip.

Well, it’s been planned for a long while and now it’s nearly here. We’ve had more than a few hiccups with regard to the car, but I will save that for another day! Be prepared for a long complicated and frustrating story…

As a lover of LISTS, this trip has given me the opportunity to go a bit crazy 😜

I have all these lovely lists on the go …..

Dog Stuff – for Queen Mollie – harness, lead, blanket, crate, cushion 🙄 toys, treats, food, coat and poo bags! 

Clothes/ Shoes and Accessories – we will be taking winter and spring clothes.The journey through France and Northern Spain will most probably be cold and wet. However, when we get to Estepona, we are expecting Spring like weather and therefore hope we will be able to wear lighter clothes and maybe even t shirts and shorts!

Toiletries and Medicines – The usual stuff. At the top of my list is wet wipes. Multi- purpose and multi- functional. We don’t have to take any prescribed medicines but I think it’s good to take a stock of painkillers, ibuprofen gel and some Buscopan for my delicate tummy 🙂

Food for the journey – this is when you are allowed to buy sweets! Obviously we need food too … We will be staying in 4 apartments between home and our destination. They all have cooking facilities so we need to take some basic foodstuffs like granola, tea bags, milk, pasta, tinned tomatoes, rice, fruit, marmite, corn crackers, snacks etc

Food to take for the destination as we are self catering – our experience tells us that we can’t always buy some of the ingredients/food we use, so I will be taking things like tamari (gluten free soy sauce), tea bags (can’t beat Yorkshire Tea), maple syrup, black treacle plus moong dhal for when we fancy a curry. I am looking forward to wandering round the European supermarkets and trying out new ingredients and recipes. 

Paperwork – you know the stuff – Eurostar tickets, passports, EHIC cards, hotel info, insurance docs – (travel, car, pet, breakdown) I know a lot of these docs are in my email boxes but we like to print off copies too. I’ve told you before of my OCD tendencies 😂

Car Stuff – if you are driving in Europe you need some odd bits and pieces such as warning triangle, high vis jackets, first aid kit, breathalyser kit, GB sticker and light adapters for the headlamps. We have maps and sat navs, sunglasses, specs, water bottles, flasks, windscreen wash and a new number plate for the trailer as I am taking ‘the kitchen sink’

Things for the house minder – Mark’s detailed instructions as to what to with the boiler – I’m keeping away from that one! Keys, keys, keys… 

Sewing Stuff – I’m taking sewing machine, patterns and fabric as I plan to do lots of making whilst we are there. 

Books – Spanish Language Books and CD’s – We’ve been learning Spanish since September but we need to keep practising. 

Tech Stuff – iPads, phones, laptop, kindles, sat nav, binoculars, camera, portable bluetooth speaker. 

Money/Cards – Credit cards, Debit cards, Revolut cards, Euros, Sterling. 

This list list is not exhaustive, I’ll probably think of another In the next few days 😀

 

 

 

 

Making Christmas Goodies for Gifts

If there is one time of the year that you are allowed to have sugar its Christmas. I like to make things that you should only eat in moderation, at this time of the year. This week I have been making homemade sweets and preserves to give away as gifts. I have been using the Handmade Gifts from the Kitchen by Alison Walker this year. The book has all the things I like to make in the same place. I have had mostly successes but one failure which is bugging the hell out of me….

My Successes 

Hokey Pokey – this is chocolate dipped honeycomb. It’s lovely and crunchy finished with some dark chocolate so it’s not too sweet. 

Peanut Brittle – in my opinion there aren’t enough peanuts in the recipe so I added a few more. It has the desired salty and sweet flavour, but you can’t eat too much before you have to make a trip to the dentist! 

Peanut Butter Fudge – Mark’s new fave! If I want to give this away I have to be quick! Lovely creamy peanut taste. Very moreish. Will definitely have to make some more of this before Christmas.

Coffee and Cardamon Fudge – lovely combination, uses a tin of condensed milk. Has a different texture to the peanut butter fudge and more of a grown up taste. 

Fruits of the Forest Conserve – I used frozen redcurrant and blackberries  from the freezer which needed using up. Lovely colour in a the jar. Taste good too. I would add a dollop to gravy. 

Tiffin – a nutty, biscuit chocolate ‘cake’. Crikey it’s rich. You won’t be able to eat much. It’s easy to make and looks lovely wrapped individually in cellophane. 

Smoky Nuts – we needed something savoury to try! I used a mixture of what I had in the cupboard -brazils and peanuts and cashews. I won’t use the peanuts again but have bought some macadamias to try next week. 

Redcurrant Gin – this is still ‘cooking’. It’s going to be a lovely colour and a present for the person who is cooking my Christmas dinner! I am planning to decant it into a lovely bottle next week. 

The Failure 

Honey and Almond Nougat 

I am doing something wrong but have followed the recipe to the latter. I had to buy a new sugar thermometer so I know that I am cooking it at the right temperature. However, the consistency, colour and taste are wrong. I have had to throw away two lots now and that’s what bugs me. What a waste! I won’t be doing it again.

So next week I have a few more things to try and will let you know how I do. 

How to be beautiful but naturally!

Natural beauty products
A few examples of my homemade toiletries. 

I have always been careful what I put on my skin. I don’t think you need to spend a fortune to enhance your natural beauty. For many, many years the only thing I ever used on my face was baby lotion (as it was cheap mostly!) and I have never used soap on my face. 

Even when I had a bit more cash I still refused to spend loads of money on expensive lotions and creams. I prefer to use simple and natural products with a bit of UVA protection in the stuff I use for my face. 

Over the last couple of years,  I have started to experiment with home made toiletries, with some success and some failures. 

I bought a couple of books to get me started Natural Beauty and Neal’s Yard Beauty Book . I then bought some bits of equipment and some ingredients, so I could get started.  Of course, I then I needed another  cupboard to keep it in! I moved some stuff around ( I’m good at that!) and found a place to store the lab! 

It’s a bit like doing chemistry at school, hence Marks nickname for this activity. ‘Hey Mollie, (our dog) the lab’s open’ he says each time I have the urge to make a potion.  

Equipment 

You don’t need anything too expensive, just some house;d items mainly but best to keep them just for this. 

  • Jugs – I prefer to use glass ones – it will only be a matter of time before I break one though – got a couple from Ikea
  • Spoons – pinched a couple of odd teaspoons from the kitchen – you could use some plastic measuring spoons 
  • Milk frother – for mixing oil and water ingredients – I got a second hand one from eBay 
  • Double boiler for melting oils and waxes – eBay
  • Thermometer – I already had a food one 
  • Jars, bottles and atomisers- I bought some from EBay and used some I already had 
  • Small funnels – to pour the lotions into the bottles or jars 


Ingredients – I have bought these a few at time to build up a small collection

  • Solid Oils – Coconut, Cocoa butter, Shea butter, Kokum oil, Mango butter – again I bought a few to get me started from The Soapery
  • Liquid Oils – Almond, Borage, Milk Thistle, Jojoba, Avocado – I collected these over time. 
  • Essential oils – Too many to list but I started with the obvious ones like lavender and rosemary and found lovely new ones like geranium – (one of my favourites) lemongrass, orange, ylang ylang – there are loads to choose from. You might find it helpful to get a book on Aromatherappy to help you decide what essential oils to use
  • Beeswax – this is used in lots of recipes including lip balms and body lotions 

Recipes 

I started by making bath oils and liquid perfume, which is simply adding essential oils to almond oil. 

The next easiest thing I found to do is making lip balm – I would never buy this again as its ridiculously easy to do. 

Next came foot balm and other moisturising products – some a bit more tricky as you have to make an emulsion which is a bit more tricky. 

They don’t last as long as shop bought products and some need to be kept in the fridge. However, you only need to make small amounts. 

My friend and family have been ‘willing’ volunteers to try out some of the products. The quality has improved and my skills have developed. I am not an expert by any means but I enjoy having a go and using them myself too. 

So why not have a go? 

Why a massage is good for you

In my previous life as a frazzled Project Manager, I used to drive between 20,000  and 30,000 miles per year.  As a consequence of all that driving and long hours at the computer, my shoulders were tense most of the time. The job had its own stress and managing a big team isn’t for the faint-hearted! In order to manage the stresses and strains and alleviate this tension, I began to have a monthly full body massage which eased the shoulders and made me relax- a little!

I was  so lucky to have found a lovely masseuse called Linda, when I moved to Northampton, who provided the service from her home. Linda has now become a great friend and not just a therapist. Once a month, late on a Friday afternoon, I would have my stress wiped away and my muscles massaged. Sheer bliss.

Unfortunately when I retired, I had to cut out some luxuries and this was one of them. If I wasn’t driving all this miles and sitting at my computer all day then I wouldn’t need it. Sadly I had to forgo my monthly mssage therapy for a year.

During the year I did not have massages, I began to realised how much I really missed it. Actually,  my emotional me and my physical me missed it to be honest. I realised then that it was not a luxury. I truly didn’t feel as good.

After a year, I knew I would have a bit more cash and decided that I would start the sessions again, if my budget allowed it. So I am back to monthly massages. Today, was a day I look forward to each month. A quick chat and catch up until Linda gets to my stomach, and then she cuts the lights and I zone out and enjoy the massage. Sometimes my shoulders are still a bit tense but she soon sorts that out. From my head to my toes, she ensures all is ….. There are so many benefits of a massage. From improving circulation, relaxin muscles, improving flexibility and joint movements as well as releasing those feel good hormones.

I enjoy the whole session and try to focus on the feeling of my skin and muscles being manipulated and soothed. I come away feeling relaxed, calm and grateful that I am able to afford a little bit of heaven once a month. Together with my weekly yoga session, I am possibly as relaxed as I will ever be.

 

Cranks Nut Roast versus Ella’s Nut Roast

I am not a vegetarian as I eat chicken and fish, but I eat vegetarian meals every week. Part of my vegetarian repertoire is the ‘Cranks” nut roast, which I have been making since about 1983. I was given the Cranks Vegetarian book as a gift and have replaced it since then as it fell apart from over use. I first started making the nut roast as a substitute for Sunday meat roasts. Whenever we have family gatherings, I usually make this in addition to a meat roast. Invariably the meat eaters want both!

I do occasionally use other recipes like the Cashew and Parsnip Nut Roast in Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen for festive occasions. That’s a layered version which always looks nice when sliced, but uses cashews which are a bit expensive for everyday. Recently I have tried Ella’s nut roast from Deliciously Ella with Friends and I quite like it.

Whats the difference?

The Cranks recipe has fewer ingredients and uses  wholemeal breadcrumbs and lots of mixed nuts. It uses dried herbs, onions and yeast extract for flavouring. I tend to use a mixture of whatever nuts I have most of in the cupboard. It’s very quick to put together. I also use gluten free breadcrumbs these days and it works just as well. The consistency is crispy and crunchy on top with a softer centre. It has a very savoury taste.

The Ella recipe uses mushrooms, celery and carrots and herbs for flavouring and doesn’t have any bread in it – which is great for me. The consistency of the loaf is creamy which is due to the butternut squash and cashews and pine nuts. I like the  texture and flavour but the Cranks recipe is favoured by the other half.

I will probably continue to make both but I can make the Cranks one with my eyes closed so thats what we’ll have when I’m in a hurry. I usually have some GF breadcrumbs in the freezer.

Here’s the recipes so you can try both :

Cranks Nut Roast 

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Cranks Nut Roast

Ingredients 

  • I med onion
  • 25g butter
  • 225g mixed nuts
  • 100g bread or breadcrumbs
  • 300ml hot water or stock with 2 tsp yeast extract stirred in
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Chop the onion and sauté in butter till transparent
  2. Grind the nuts and bread together until quite fine
  3. Combine all the ingredients together
  4. Turn into a greased shallow baking dish and bake at 180 for 30 mins .
  5. Serve with proper home-made gravy – see below

Gravy

  • I onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 50 g butter
  • I shake Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbls mushroom ketchup
  • 1 heaped tsp redcurrant jelly
  • Glass red wine
  • 1 pint stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cornflour

Sauté the onion and celery in butter very slowly until the onion turns brown but not burnt – this may take 20 mins or so

Add wine and reduce by half

Add stock and mushroom ketchup, Worcester sauce and redcurrant jelly and season to taste. Simmer for 30 mins.

Mix the cornflour with some water to make a paste. Add to the gravy when you are ready to serve.

Ella’s Herbed Nut Roast

IMG_0077
Ella Nut Roast

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts
  • generous ½ cup of cashews
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 7 ounces butternut squash, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  • A few good gratings of nutmeg
  • 5 tablespoons rolled oats
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon brown rice flour
  • ½ tablespoon ground chia seeds

Method

  1. Pre Heat the oven to 190 degrees Grease or line a 9″ x 5″ loaf tin
  2. Toast the pine nuts for 10 mins
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil and sauté celery, squash and carrot – when the celery is translucent add the garlic and salt and pepper
  4. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 mins
  5. Add nutmeg and herbs
  6. Place half the nuts in a food processor with the oats and whiz up as fine as they will go.
  7. Coarsely chop the remaining nuts, so they aren’t too chunky, then add these and the ground nut mixture to the pan. Add the flour and chia seeds and mix well.
  8. Press into the prepared loaf pan, cover with foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Take the foil off and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a cool rack for 15 minutes
  9. Cut into slices. Serve with gravy

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