August favourites

August was nearly over – the month of apples and falling stars, the last care-free month for the school children. The days were not hot, but sunny and limpidly clear – the first sign of advancing autumn.” Victor Nekrasov

August started very hot and we struggled to stay cool and to sleep at night. We created this very refreshing aromatherapy blend for the aroma diffuser and it soon became a cooling summer favourite. I think I might pop it in the diffuser again when I want to be transported back to those lazy, hot summer days.

We visited Caistor beach this month. It was beautiful, sandy with bands off pebbles and breathtaking views of an offshore wind farm.

There is a little life boat museum at the entrance to the beach and on the outskirts of Caistor town the footings of an old Roman sea fort which we enjoyed exploring and having all to ourselves. We always tend to go to the same tried and tested beaches over and over again. It was nice to explore somewhere new and the children certainly did A LOT of exploring.

This month we also enjoyed outings to Felbrigg Hall which we want to return to and explore further and our favourite Houghton Mill where we have swam and punted and picniced to our hearts content.

I harvested elderberries and made a batch of elderberry syrup using this recipe by lavender and leeks. Elderberry syrup is an amazing tonic for preventing and treating coughs and colds. It’s packed full of vitamin C and antioxidants. I can’t wait to try it.

Those are just some of our highlights from August. It hardly seems possible august is over and yet I can feel the bustle and chaos of September beginning already. It’s going to be a big month for us with my youngest starting at school and my eldest entering her final year of primary school.

Advertisements

Menu planning

I thought i’d share with you a system I use that really has been such a time saver when it comes to doing our weekly shopping and meal planning. I won’t lie it takes some setting up BUT once done it will save you so much time.

I have 12 weekly menus. 6 for winter months and 6 for the summer. Each menu has on it 7 evening meal’s, 1 soup (for lunches) and 1 tray bake (for after school snacks). On the back of each menu is a shopping list for that week. I have a seperate list for items we buy weekly milk, bread, cereal, lunch box items etc.

Sitting down in one go and planning 84 different meals is quite a task. You may prefer to do one a week for 6 weeks and file them away MUCH less laborious!

Here are some hints and tips that might help your planning.

  • Consider regular weekly activities that mean you don’t have much time to cook (e.g after school clubs or days you work late). Plan to use a slow cooker on these days or put jacket potatoes in the oven on a timer.
  • Theme your days. I find this helps me come up with ideas better. For example meat free Mondays, jacket potatoes on Wednesday’s, world food Saturdays, freezer Friday’s.
  • Cook in big batches and save either for later in the week or in the freezer for another week. I like to do this with bolognaise and chilli using the slow cooker.
  • Have a frugal week up your sleeve. There’s always times when you have an unexpected cost (the car breaks down or a household appliances breaks) and you need to tighten your belt for a while. To have a menu you can wip out with a super cheap shopping list ready prepared can ease the stress just a bit.
  • It’s old fashioned but cooking a roast dinner on sunday and planning to use left overs throughout the week really is an efficient and frugal way to feed a family.
  • Some meals are quite time consuming to prepare. Lasagne for example but here is how I do it. I make a double batch of bolognaise in the slow cooker on Saturday. We have spag bol for tea and I put half the bolognaise in the fridge. On Monday I make cauliflower cheese and make double the amount of cheese sauce I need. With my left over bolognaise and extra cheese sauce I assemble my lasagne. Pop it in the fridge (it’s better made a day in advance some how) and on Tuesday I have a ready made lasagne that just needs baking.

If you need some inspiration for your menus here are some if my favourite sources of inspiration.

  • BBC good food – such a treasure trove of great recipes. I have a note on my phone with links to some of our favourite recipe’s for quick access.
  • I picked up some great modern recipe books at my local library.
  • If your a fan of slow cooking i can’t recommend this book enough. Slow cooker favourites by BBC good food.
  • Nigella express was one of the books I picked up at the local.library and have since bought a copy.
  • If you really get stuck suggest an recipe swop with a friend. You give her one of your family favourites and they give you one of theirs – everyone is a winner.

Now all I have to do it sit back and enjoy the fruits of my hard work. I am enjoying cooking our new menu’s and feeling excited to try some new recipes each week instead of the same things over and over and the hard work of planning our meals and writting a shopping list is done.

Natural insect repellent

It’s certainly been a hot summer. I’m not complaining I love the sun but with sunshine comes insects. My eldest daughter and I seem to be particularly tasty to mosquitoes and so I wanted to create a natural insect repellent and bite soother. Both have been incredibly effective and smell delicious! It feels so good to not be covering our skin in nasty incectisides.

I feel it’s important to say I am not a qualified aromatherapist but a keen amateur who uses essential oils daily on my whole family but I do my own research first and it’s important you do the same.

Cooling insect repellant

  • Coloured glass spray bottle
  • Witch hazel
  • Essential oils

Firstly think about what insects are a particular problem to you and about the ages of those you want to use the spray on. I found the following chart extremely helpful.

We chose citronella for mosquitoes and lavender for house flies and a little peppermint . I used 80ml bottles and filled them with witch hazel. Essential oils are extremely concentrated and therefore powerful and must always be diluted before putting them on your skin. In this instance I used a 2% dilution – a drops dilution chart is extremely useful.

From the chart above you’ll see 2% dilution means adding 6 drops of essential oil per 10ml. So for 80ml you would add 48 drops.

We used 20 drops of lavender essential oil, 20 of citronella and 8 drops of peppermint in our spray. Add the oils and replace the spray top. Either shake or gently roll your bottle to blend.

Now remember I said you need to do your own research here is a good example of this. Peppermint is a powerful oil (and it tends to dominate the smell profile of a blend) but it should not be used in dilutions over 1% and you’ll see here u have used less than 1% in our blend. I recommend the following book if you’d like to start using essential oils at home.

This spray has not only kept the bugs at bay it’s very cooling too and lovely to use. Store out of direct sunlight.

For those times when you do get bites or nettle sting this soother is brilliant. I got the recipe from this great website called using essential oils safely

I used whitch hazel as my carrier again as I didn’t have anything else but sunflower oil or grapesead oil would be great too. I bought 10ml aromatherapy roller bottles on e-bay – they are so handy to have. I keep this in the fridge so it’s always handy and extra soothing.

I had my doubts about weather this recipe would be enough to calm bug bites and nettle stings but it’s worked better than anything else I’ve tried.

Those who know me or have been following my blog for a while will know what a fan of natural remedies I am. In January I joined Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic as a consultant and rekindled my love of essential oils – which I have dabbled in since my teenage years. In June I was fortunate enough to attend an introduction to aromatherapy course at Neals Yard Covent garden. Neal’s Yard are the first UK supplier of organic essential oils and i’ve loved learning more about this super ethical company. Do beware of cheap essential oils they are likely to be synthetic and not the real deal. If you would like to order oils through me or discuss the opprtunity Neal’s Yard offers please do get in touch this further. I’m also up for general chat about essential oils and what you love too so do please leave a comment.

New years resolution 

It’s taken me a VERY long time to find my 2018 feet. Christmas and new year were consumed by poorly children and we welcomed in the new year to the dawning realisation that we can no longer deny my son’s asthma is severe and that I need to make adjustments to the pace of our family life to accommodate this. It’s meant a slow start to the year and for me laying aside some of my hopes and plans. Which at times has made me sad.

However, I did start a pilates class (having a husband who commutes vast distances every day is not very conducive to getting out in the evenings). I was nervous my first class but kitted myself out by sewing myself a new yoga mat bag. I love the results. I was delighted to discover my class is a real mixed ability afair and everyone is very down to earth and friendly. Also that my constantly interrupted and somewhat sporadic home work outs (the kind where trucks are driven over my mat and tea parties held underneath me as I plank) had been more effective in maintaining my fitness than I had thought. I’ve done 4 weeks now, I am loving it and really starting to feel the benefits. My bag is greatly admired too.

Joy

Week 4 of advent is Joy, can. You see it on the faces of the children? It’s an exciting time of year. I love the anticipation in the week before christmas, final preparations and carols in church. The beautiful sparkly decorations all around and smiling to yourself in anticipation of the joy those carefully chosen gifts will bring.

Luke 2:10-11New International Version (NIV)

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 

Listen to Joy to the world. I will let you choose your own prefered recording this week. You tube offers everything from Dolly Parton singing this track to a group of heavily tattooed men beat boxing to it – have fun, keep it joyful.

Pray: we thank you Lord for the joy you give. As we prepare for Christmas time light of the world, shine in us. In the midst of sorrow bring joy to our hearts. Help us to find joy in serving you. Amen.

(Prayers adapted from an advent liturgy available at engage worship)

Do: bake some gingerbread or build a gingerbread house, dance to all your favourite christmas songs (the sillier the better) or go carol singing and spread some joy to your friends and neighbours.

Gluten free shortcrust pastry recipe 

If you follow my blog you’ll probably have noticed that my recipes are all gluten free. I cut gluten from my diet over 10 years ago and it makes such a difference to my health. Whilst i have managed to make most things gluten free pastry, has always alluded me. If you’ve ever tried to make gluten free pastry you probably ended up with a pie top that you could have thrown across the kitchen like a Frisbee and shattered into 1000 inedible pieces when you bit into it.

This phenomenon has always perplexed me. When you make ordinary pastry light handling is key so as not to activate the gluten molecules so flours without gluten should be perfect for pastry – right? Apparently not. Today I thought i’d give it another try in an attempt to be spared the misery of shop bought gluten free mince pies. So I put my thinking cap on. I use an excellent gluten free gingerbread recipe every year. It’s chewy, cuts really well and holds its shape. We build our gingerbread house with it. It’s made with rice flour and gram flour (chickpea flour). Both of which are readily available in supermarkets. The dough tastes awful but the bitterness of the gram flour disapears after baking. So I though maybe this combination of flours would work well for pastry. It did! My pastry didn’t crumble, cut well, went into the moulds without cracking and tastes buttery and short. HOORAY!

  • 200g (7oz) gram flour
  • 175g (60z) rice flour
  • 1tsp xanthum gum
  • 150g butter

Put the flours into a bowl or food mixer, blend the flours by mixing gently. Cut the butter into cubes and rub in or blend until your mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add cold water 1tbsp at a time until you have a dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20-30 mins before using. If you wish brush the pastry with an egg wash before baking – this gave a beautiful golden bake.

Love

Week 3 of advent already, this week is often very busy for us. The last rush before school finishes and all those last minute activities to cram in. I’m going to try really hard to show God’s love to my children this week – even when i’ve asked them to put thier shoes on 5 times already.

 1 John 4:8-9New International Version (NIV)

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Listen to Lo,  how a rose E’er blooming

Pray We thank you God for the love you give. As we prepare for Christmas time light of the world, shine on us. As we seek to worship you shed love in our hearts and help us to share your love. Amen.

(Prayers adapted from an advent liturgy available at engage worship)

Do show some love this week pick up some litter, feed the birds or give a neighbour an early Christmas present.