Friday, 19 June 2015

Kilner Jar Upcycling - Cookie Jar

I was recently sent an iconic 1 litre Kilner jar by thinkmoney and asked to create a foodie concoction for their Jam J-Art project. It was important to me that the jar was personalised, while still being practical and of course tie in with its contents!

Using Pinterest as inspiration I saw lots of ideas for cookie & brownie layer mixes. Knowing how many cookies we eat, that had to be the food element - and who better to theme my jar around than The Cookie Monster?!

First I printed off a simple picture of Cookie monster in various sizes - one as a guide for decorating the jar and one for the label.

I secured the larger of the pictures inside the Kilner jar and used ceramic paints to paint directly onto the outside of the jar, making sure to leave a gap between each colour. Once the main colour blocks had dried (about 2 hours) I added outlines and touched up where necessary.

To make the label I folded a piece of card in half, measured to be 8cm high & 7cm wide, reinforced with clear tape the top left corner and used a hole punch to allow ribbon to be strung through.

I traced around the back of the smaller picture of Cookie Monster with a pencil, then traced over the top to transfer the pencil onto my label. This was coloured in and detail added. The inside was used to give additional ingredients details and cooking instructions.

I decided to make a cranberry & chocolate cookie mix because this would give a range of colours for my jar. I used the following measurements & layers;

Layer 1 - 135g plain flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp baking powder, 3/4tsp bicarbonate of soda
Layer 2 - 165g soft brown sugar
Layer 3 - 120g rolled porridge oats
Layer 4 - 37g caster sugar
Layer 5 - 90g chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
Layer 6 - 115g dried cranberries

I also placed a whole vanilla pod onto the top layer to be used in the recipe.

Additional ingredients required were 150g melted unsalted butter (cooled) &1 large egg (or 2 medium).

Cooking instructions

Gently combine the butter & egg. take out the seeds of the vanilla pod & add to the egg mix. In a separate bowl empty the remaining dry contents, add the wet mix & combine well. Place walnut sized balls onto a non stick tray and flatten slightly.
Cook in a preheated oven at 170C for 10-12 minutes.

All that was left to do was to seal the jar and add the label.

Once the cookies have been cooled they can of course be store in your cookie jar. The paint may be damaged if you immerse it fully in water, but you could use a spray varnish to seal it - or just gently wipe out the inside when necessary.

These gift jars can be painted with any theme, for any event - Father's Day, teacher's thank you gift, house warming - endless possibilities! This cookie jar will be given to my niece & nephew for a summer holiday activity, I may (will) be making another one just for me!

Just as a final funny the picture below shows you the reality of trying to fit blogging around a full time job - anyone else using their garden as a photography studio at 8.30pm?!!

Who would you make a cookie jar for and what would the theme be?

I was kindly sent a 1l Kilner jar to use in this challenge, all painting and colouring skills are my own!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Holiday Packing Essentials

For lots of people now is (finally!) the time of year that thoughts start to turn to Summer holidays and the nightmare that is packing! I'll never be a capsule wardrobe, hand luggage only type traveller but I have learnt to pack smartly and keep room back for some little extras to make my holiday even more special. 

The Flight - 

I've been lucky enough to go to a number of countries requiring a long haul flight and these three items help make those hours pass a little more comfortably!

A thick, large scarf - I picked this up in Peru and I take it with me on every flight. I often find the blankets provided on planes either cover your legs or your shoulders & chest - not both! Bringing your own scarf means you can double your warmth factor or use it to make a fluffier pillow.

Facial Spray - Spending hours in airports, planes and transfer buses means dry skin to me. Using a facial spray instantly cools you and gives your skin enough of a lift until you can hit that shower in your room.

Compression Stockings - Certainly not a fashion statement ( the person who makes attractive stockings will make A LOT of money) these stockings will help reduce swelling and lower the chances of any blood clots forming. Head to the loo once the seatbelt light is off and pop them on and your legs & ankles will thank you. I saved mine after an operation (they are easily washable) but you can buy them from larger pharmacies.

I also pick up a large bottle of water once I've got through security. While you can get water from the cabin crew, I like to have my own so you can hydrate to your heart's content.

In your room - 

Slippers - I've kept these complimentary spa slippers and take them on holiday with me. They take up no room in your luggage but are a godsend on tiled floors and bathrooms.

Candle - A scented candle fills your room with a fresh scent and adds a little luxury to your holiday.

Facial Products & Toiletries - I have a few toiletries that I save for special occasions & holidays. I find you have more time to give yourself a facial and holidays are some of the few times that I do the full cleanse, tone, moisturise routine! A full day of sun, sea water & sand while being lovely, can also be drying and your day to day moisturiser might not be powerful enough to fully rehydrate you.

I also pack some teabags & mini cartons of UHT milk. I found in both Cuba & the Maldives that the milk in your room is powdered, this works fine for coffee...but NOT for tea! Don't forget one or two liquid laundry tablets to give swim wear & other essentials a quick wash through. It means you don't have to pack so many clothes and they will quickly dry on balconies in the sun.

Out & About - 

Sarong - Perhaps the most versatile item you can pack! Use it as a cover up on the beach, drape it onto your sun lounger, use it to cover shoulders on excursions or as a scarf on cooler evenings. 

Pack of Cards - I only ever play cards on holiday! They don't need batteries, take up a tiny amount of space and it doesn't matter if you get sand on them. It's great to catch up on reading but playing cards means you're also interacting and there are endless variations of games that you can play.

Disposable camera - Imagine the worst happens and your camera breaks, or you forget the charger? I always pack a disposable camera as an emergency back up after seeing too many people test out waterproof phone covers on the first day..only to find out they're not waterproof!

Age UK have also put together their own guide for people heading off on a cruise, which is full of tips that can help us all have a better holiday!

I'd love to know what your packing essential is - comment, tweet or let me know via carrier pigeon!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Weekend recap 15th June 2015

How was your weekend?

We had a perfect weekend, full of those things that I love the most - family, the outdoors and of course food!

On Saturday we visited Marwell Zoo near Winchester with two children and two wheelchair users. Sion's mum decided to use her mobility scooter, which the children loved hopping on board when their legs needed a rest! All the walking around kick started my daily step target and we smashed through recording 13,000 steps.

All the walking and pushing took it's toll though - neither of us could be bothered to cook so we took the lesser of evils and rather than a massively unhealthy curry we popped a ready made pizza into the oven and reminisced during a "This was the 90s" programme that was showing on Channel 4.

Sunday morning seemed a little grey so instead of a trip back to Sandbanks we headed into the New Forest and went on a deer hunt at Bolderwood. There's a purpose build deer viewing platform here and every afternoon during April to September the deer are fed, making it easier to spot them. It does get very busy though, so we decided to get there earlier and take our chances.

We did see a few from the platform, but they were too far away to photograph without a telephoto lens, so we headed into the forest on one of the marked walks. Less that five minutes later, we came across these two beautiful animals. They were more than happy to stay eating the grass and vegetation while we snapped away.

In the forest the foxgloves were out in force and we stopped every few minutes to practice our photography skills.

The sunshine had really come out by the time we made it back to the car so we headed on to find a pub that was absolutely packed when we drove past a few weeks ago - The Alice Lisle, named after the last woman to be beheaded in England in 1685. As well as having a large garden and children's play area, they also had an Adults only terrace, which was where we found ourselves ordering lunch. Despite being busy, there was only a short wait before my wild boar burger was delivered. 

All this food made another small walk necessary (12,000 steps for the day!) and a large dinner completely unnecessary so we had a light pasta salad and watched the first episode of Humans. I'm not too sure what to make of it yet, I'm sure it's going to turn quite sinister though.

This week I will be trying to beat my step target of 56,000 steps, putting together a packing essentials post, getting together everything we need for Center Parcs, heading to London for Taste of London in Regent's Park and popping in to the tail end of a Hen weekend...nothing much!!

What do you have planned for this week?

Joining in with - 


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Thursday, 11 June 2015

Looking Ahead...

After the stress and sheer rubbish-ness of the last few weeks I'm starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

My energy levels are finally getting back to normal, so much so that I am even feeling the urge to go and have a long walk. Last weekend a 20 minute stroll left me with stomach cramps all night, so this is a huge sign of things getting back on track.

It helps I think, when life is tough, to have a few plans to look forward to and we have got some pretty special days on the horizon.

On Saturday we're having a family trip to Marwell Zoo, complete with a special Waitrose picnic. Hopefully if the weather stays dry we'll finish off the day lighting the chiminea and sharing a bottle of Prosecco that's currently chilling in the fridge.

The following Saturday I'm heading to London to explore the foodie heaven that is Taste of London. Running from the 17th to 21st June, a corner of Regent's Park will be taken over by London restaurants and countless food & drink producers. Each session is for four hours and I'm already planning my visit to be able to sample as many different dishes as I possibly can!

And then on the 22nd June we're packing up the car to join our friends' and their 4 year old triplets for a stay at Center Parcs Longleat. Four nights of spas, woodland walks, swimming sessions and possibly a little wine consumption - I can't wait! After that recharge I should be fighting fit and ready for round three on our baby making journey.

July is already shaping up for a special month too, with a friend's wedding and a family party already pencilled in. Leading us nicely into August - my birthday month!

Of course all of these plans are lovely and I know I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to say yes to these different events and holidays, but I haven't lost sight of the simple pleasures in life. Last night we were sat in the garden, waiting for our friends to arrive for a little BBQ. The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze blowing through the leaves of our silver birch tree. In that moment of time I had a massive sense of peace come over me and feeling of achievement. My second pregnancy may have failed, but I will recover, my body will recover and it will happen in a peaceful, secure home, surrounded by those I love and those who love me.

Life is good.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Starting over...

I've got a post in my drafts folder that is destined to never be published.

It's the diary of my second pregnancy, from finding out we were expecting through to being seven weeks pregnant. Then, just like last time my pregnancy symptoms disappeared overnight. Despite no cramping or other signs of miscarriage I just knew.

We had to have three scans over two and a bit weeks before doctors confirmed that my pregnancy was no longer viable and late last week I was booked in for surgical management.

Despite the pregnancy developing much more than my first time I feel like it's been far easier to cope with the situation this time round. Maybe it was having time in between scans to prepare ourselves, maybe it was the fact that it was always a distinct possibility, perhaps it was knowing what was in store during my surgical treatment?

Of course we've had bad days, of course I'm hugely disappointed that we won't be celebrating this Christmas with a newborn and of course I'm bloody petrified that the same thing will happen again and I will officially have "fertility issues".

But, we will try again. We see children in our future. Maybe it will happen next time, maybe not. Maybe we'll need drugs or medical intervention, maybe not. Maybe we will have to explore other avenues, maybe not.

As I sit looking at hands bruised from needles and feet clad in compression stockings, I know that despite all these fears and worries, we are in a better position than so many other people. I've found the father of my children. We know we can make a baby, we just need to grow one successfully. We have love and support from family and friends to help us.

We will get there.

Count Your Lucky Stars