Negotiations [Suspicious Asparagus]

20150911_152703605_iOSMiniMunkie is growing up so quickly. She knows her own mind. We all know her own mind. I caught her asking (well … ordering, really) MisterMunkie to go to the shops to buy grapes this morning. The fruit bowl was full with other stuff: apples, clementines, bananas, kiwi fruit, but no grapes. They’d all been eaten. I’m not naming the culprit, but she’s shorter than 3ft tall and thinks that we can’t see her if her eyes are closed.

She’s worked out that we go to the shops when things run out. So now it’s “Grapes? Shop? Yes?” and “Chocolate? Shop? Yes?” The child doesn’t eat enough to keep a fly alive, but grapes and chocolate she has no problem at all with. I’ve decided not to have fights with her about food*. She’s still breastfeeding on demand** and so I’m pretty confident she’s getting everything she needs. Then there are her energy levels which tend to run on one of two settings: maximum or overload. And there are no flies on her. She could out negotiate John Adams, as the little “incident” below shows.

MamaMunkie: Please don’t bite MoonMunkie. It’s not kind.
MiniMunkie: Hungry!
MamaMunkie: Not when you’re hungry.
MiniMunkie: Tiger?
MamaMunkie: No biting. Not even if you’re a tiger.

You see? Only 2 and already she knows that there are grey areas in life if you just search hard enough for them. I love that she’s developing empathy as well. She now signs and lisps “sorry” if she thinks she’s hurt you and comes over to give a kiss to “make better”. She says “please” and ” ‘ank oo” and if you sneeze she proudly exclaims “Bess oo!” It’s so much fun watching her grow up.

* insert sharp inhalation of disapproval

** insert frown and disappointed shaking of the head

 

 

Advertisements

Warm and Spicy Autumn Soup [Recipe]

treelightAutumn colours overwhelm me. The vibrancy and depth coupled with the clarity of the light at this time of year regularly makes me stop in my tracks to breathe in the scene and admire the show. It’s so fleeting here in the UK. It will only be a few weeks before it’s dark from 3.30pm to 8.00am and the skies bleak and grey in between times. So this last burst of spectacular life holds such significance, the colours blazing as the summer dies.

One of the best things about autumn is the return to soup. Over the summer months it’s too hot to make or eat the hearty soups that I love. But as September turns to October and the leaves start to turn, I find myself reaching for the soup pan once more.

This recipe is as simple or complex as you’d care to make it. Beyond carrots and stock, the ingredients can be collected from whatever you have lurking in your spice cupboard: any of those warming Asian spices that you have to hand. Or keep it simple with just a little salt, garlic and chilli.

soup spice

MiniMunkie was helping with this particular batch. She’s also learning to count to ten. It’s totally adorable. So we got out ten spice jars so that the cooking became cross-curricular. Actually, I only had  nine, so we also counted the salt, but it worked out fine.

We also played a little bit of English folk music – I always feel folky as Autumn comes round. There are 2 albums we’re loving at the moment here in the Munkie house hold.

Seth Lakeman’s Word Of Mouth is not as trad as I usually go for, but the kids love to dance to it. Grandpa Munkie is less than impressed too, saying that he thinks “Seth Lakeman” is a made up name to appeal to folk-music lovers. I have no idea. But I’m enjoying it, even though it’s more of an electric sound that I usually choose in folk music. Seth is coming to play locally at the end of October. I’m considering going, but you know how it is with going out. It sounds nice until you actually have to wash your face and put on clothes without snot stains or play doh marks. It all just becomes too much trouble when there is the whole of Pinterest to explore. I digress…

The other album is Fifty Verses from Melrose Quartet. I had never heard of them until this week, when this album appeared in my recommended music space on Amazon Prime Music. It’s much more traditional and Nancy Kerr is both a talented lyricist and amazing singer. She’ll have the hair standing up on your arms. If you’re popping in from Handmade Monday, I can recommend this as make-along music too!

soup veg and spice

So, we’re listening to music and chopping up the carrots and counting the jars to our hearts content. If you want to join in, the recipe is below.

Ingredients 

1kg carrots.

Chicken stock to cover (use vegetable for a veggie-friendly soup)

Your own selection of spices

Salt to taste

 

  1. Chop up the carrots, add oil, and gently fry in a large stock pan until they begin to soften. Don’t let them brown or the soup will be bitter
  2. Shake your spices over and continue to fry for a minute, to get the aromas going. For the record, we used: 2tsps each of ginger, coriander and garlic; 1tsp each of chilli flakes, cumin and garam masala; and then a really generous shake each of yellow mustard seeds, black onion seeds and turmeric. But experiment with what you have around – you’ll find something that works for sure.
  3. Cover with stock and simmer gently until the carrots are soft.
  4. Blend with a stick blender – or alternatively put it through a food processor.
  5. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste
  6. Serve with chunky bread and a swirl or yoghurt or cream
  7. Or alternatively pour it all over the car park, your car, legs and shoes outside your church.

soup legs Soup everywhere

 

 

 

Time for Tea [Sensory Play Idea]

At the beginning of the summer I tidied out all of the kitchen cupboards and disposed of all the extraneous items that I’d gathered over the 5 years we’ve been here. I’ve been trying to destash the entire house, but it’s taking years. Literally. I’m a hoarder and so it’s hard and emotional work. But I digress.

The kitchen is now as near to perfect as a working, home kitchen is ever going to be. Which is to say that I’m going to have to find another way to bump off MrMunkie, because things no longer fall out of cupboards as we open them.  However, my enthusiasm for the clear-out waned when it came to the tea and coffee  cupboard. I opened it, quailed in  fear and then closed it again. But tonight I found the courage and attacked it with vigour. The outcome was as I expected: 3 click-its of out of date sweetner; 2 half used jars of decaff coffee; 3 boxes of flavoured tea with 2 teabags left in each; a packet of loose tea that went past its BBE in 2013.

20150830_150957624_iOSAfter sorting and re-stacking the shelves, I was left with about a dozen tea bags that were unsuitable for human consumption, along with a packet of breakfast tea leaves and about 2 tablespoons of my favourite  Jasmine Pearl Tea that was stale and sad. The smell in the kitchen was heavenly though and it gave me an idea for a sensory activity for MiniMunkie.  She’s all about the “hot tea” at the moment. This is the way she distinguishes between teatime and a cuppa. “Hot tea” has been inspired by her Godmother and her children who sit together and drink tea a couple of times each day. MiniMunkie is very taken with the whole activity20150831_174236766_iOS. When she’s not drinking tea for real she’s making pretend cups – in the gorgeous Cath Kidston tea set, given to her by the same friends.
So waiting for her when she wakes up is an invitation for tea. The sensory bin contains the loose leaf tea and also the few left over jasmin pearls. There are some boxes with a couple of tea bags in each. Her tea set is ready and there’s a little “cafe” waiting too, so that MoonMunkie can join in if she likes. I don’t advocate going out to buy these things for play  – good tea is expensive and not to be wasted! But this lot was going in the bin anyway.20150831_174250416_iOS

I’m pretty sure she’s going to love it, because she’s so keen on tea right now. But watch this space and I’ll let you know.

More sensory activities coming soon!

 

Really Easy Felt Cupcakes [ Free Tutorial with PDF pattern]

I’m hoping to take part in Handmade Monday, over at lucyblossomcrafts next Monday. This is going to be the first time that I’ve joined in a link party, but I hope I’ve understood how it works!

 

We’ve been at the cupcakes again! Although this time they’re felt and completely calorie free. We had such a great time that I put together a PDF pattern with instructions to share at Handmade Monday. I hope it goes ok! Do drop me a line in the comments below and say hi!

I’m just putting the finishing touches to 2 more tutorials which will be uploaded before the end of August, so drop back in soon!

037Materials*

Wool blend felt offcuts

Anchor embroidery thread in matching or contrasting colour

Needle

Pattern (Free downloadable pattern and instructions PDF)

Silicon cupcake cases (optional)

6 cup baking pan (optional)

* contains Amazon affiliate to a product I recommend. See disclosure  for more info.

Instructions

  1. Use the pattern to cut out the various pieces of the cup cake – don’t feel constrained by the colours. Go wild!
  2. Using blanket stitch, attach the base to the smaller curve of the cupcake side. Ease the curved edge around the base. It’s a bit tricky, but felt is very forgiving, so don’t worry too much. (I like Anchor 100% cotton thread – much longer-lasting and less tangly than the cheaper multi-buy brands.)
  3. Stitch the 2 short edges of the cupcake side together.
  4. You could turn the inside out now, but I rather like the stitching effect on the edge.
  5. Attach the icing top, centrally, to the cake top. You could use a contrasting colour for a fancy icing effect. Use running stitch or any decorative stitch.
  6. Attach the cake top (with recently stitched icing) on to the cake base you completed in step 2.  Again, use blanket stitch and don’t forget to leave an inch empty to stuff!
  7. Stuff with wool roving for a nice weight or with polyester stuffing if you prefer.
  8. Continue with the blanket stitch to close up the hole.
  9. At this point, if your cupcakes are going to be a toy, it’s worth considering over-stitching the top and bottom seams for sturdiness. For a pincushion or decoration, this step probably isn’t necessary.
  10. To make the icing swirl, tie a knot in a long piece of matching embroidery thread. Along one long edge, make a fairly loose running stitch along the edge. Don’t tie it off when you get to the end. Slowly
  11. Pull the thread to gather up the fabric. As it begins to wrinkle, encourage it to twirl. Don’t go too quickly. It will eventually curl in on itself, in a spiral.
  12. When it is swirly enough, use the tail of the thread to firmly stitch the bottom of the spiral so that it won’t untwist.
  13. Using blindstitch, attach the swirl to the centre of the icing on top of the cake. Again, if it’s going to be a toy, take some time over this so that it won’t come off during play.
  14. For authenticity, you can place each cake you make into a silicon cake case. For play purposes, a cheap bun tin also adds an extra element of fun.

Et voila – cupcakes. Make some for your little chef today!

 

Breakfast Muffins

Breakfast is intrinsically difficult. I find it hard to eat early in the day and yet I know that a good healthy breakfast is essential to a good healthy day. The breakfast products available seem to fall into 3 categories. Type 1: So full of sugar, fat, salt and refined stuff that I’d hesitate to eat them as a meal. Only for high days and holidays. Type 2: Pretending to be healthy. May have whole grains but still containing a lot of sugar and salt. Tends to be the sort I buy. Type 3: The genuinely healthy, but almost inedible at that time of the day. Shredded Wheat is what I’m talking about here.  My other problem with cereal products is that to feel full I need to eat at least twice the recommended portion size.

Sugar free muesli is fine. Porridge is healthy and tasty but I do like to pour on the syrup. Also I’m not good at preparing it right and I really hate cleaning up the pan and bowls after. Between muesli and porridge, breakfast at home is manageable. But I’ve really been trying to come up with something a bit different that would fill me up and also feel like a treat. I love muffins for breakfast, but with the butter and sugar (and *gasp* chocolate chips!), they’re not good for me.  Plus I’m hungry and cranky an hour later after the sugar buzz wears off.

So I’ve been messing around with a muffin recipe to see if I could turn it into a breakfast muffin with a difference. I cooked up the first batch last night in readiness for this morning. And for a first go, they were good. Almost-fat free (I had to grease the pan), almost sugar-free (I forgot to  check the apple sauce til after), and wheat-free too. Tasty and filling. A good breakfast treat. Much denser than a sweet muffin, but not chewy like bread. And still moist the morning after I made them. I’m going to stick what’s left in the freezer and see how they hold up.

To come up with it, I looked at recipes I already used and some I had when I was on a diet a few years ago. I used American cups to measure because I wanted it to be a quick to make recipe.

Ingredients

1 cup of wholemeal spelt flour (you could try something else if you need it to be gluten free)

1 cup rice flour

2 tsp baking poweder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 cup of sultanas (but it could be anything you like here)

1/4 cup ground almonds (could be any ground or chopped nuts)

1/4 cup dessicated coconut (but could be any ground or chopped nuts)

1/2 cup apple sauce ( I forgot to check if it was sugar free – it wasn’t! Next time I can make it myself or buy sugar free)

1 cup of milk (but I’m thinking this could be apple juice if it needs to be dairy free)

1 egg

honey to taste (I used 3 dessert spoons)

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp mixed ground spice (next time I’m going to try lemon zest)

To make:

Heat oven to 180 degrees

Oil a deep muffin tray (the American type, not the fairy cake type)

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in the other bowl.

Add the try ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine.

Fill the muffin tin so each is pretty full up.

Bake for about 18 minutes.

Tip on to a rack and let them cool.