Using some of my free wool

I have had such an influx of wool recently, I really don’t know what to do with it all! However. when I got my free wool from Simply Crochet, I knew EXACTLY what I was going to do with it. I had had a jumper pattern for years that I had been itching to do, but could never afford the wool to make it. It was a fitted pattern but I like my jumpers over sized, so I made the next size up on slightly bigger needles, and the result is this

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A lovely, cuddly, oversized jumper that is very soft, and very warm. It used a few more balls than the recommended, but I don’t mind too much as this means I used more up, and it knitted up so quickly, it only took me a week. I absolutely love it, now on to the next project…..!

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Homemade Coffee syrup

I don’t like shopping at Sainsburys, some of their prices are ridiculous, but it happens to be the closest supermarket to my house, and if I need to pick up a couple of bits and don’t want to walk into town, I grit my teeth and go. I’ve been going more often recently, as they are the only shop that sells the Japanese ingredients I have been using.

On one of my recent trips, I noticed a few bits on the reduced section. They are usually very stingy with their reduced food, and they never reduce fresh food, which is suspicious. I did see that they had some baking goods, in particular cinnamon sugar, reduced from £2.99 to 39p.

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Ordinarily I’d whinge and moan about how I could make cinnamon sugar myself at home, but this time I bought it. I had something in mind. I had recently won a competition on Twitter and been sent a lot of coffee samples. Now, I like coffee, but I have a really sweet tooth, so when I saw this, I decided to make coffee syrup from it.

It was so quick and easy, I just added the sugar to the pan, and then used the pot to measure out the same amount of water, then I heated it on the hob until the sugar had dissolved. I then used this cut glass jug I got from a charity shop to store it in.

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Now I have delicious coffee shop grade drinks at an absolute fraction of the price. The syrup should last for quite a while, and it cost the same price as a shot of syrup at the coffee shop!

Further adventures in jumper upcycling

Well, what did I do with the rest of the jumper? It was really super simple, as the shape of the remaining bit meant there was something very obvious I could use it for.

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Using some upholstery fabric I had kicking around and some spare bamboo handles I made a

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A new knitting bag, which means I have more space to store my knitting projects. Huzzah!

DIY Toddler Leggings

My favourite cheap jumper shrunk in the wash one too many times. I love the colours and the mock fair isle pattern, so it seemed such a waste to throw it away. I had a search through all of my magazines and books and I couldn’t find a tutorial that would use it. We went out shopping and I saw some lovely little Fair Isle leggings for the toddler. Then it hit me, I would make some from my jumper. I had seen adults do it with extra large jumpers, so I would do a mini version.

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I took my jumper and cut off the sleeves. Then I used some leggings she already has as a template to see how far down to cut the gusset.

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I sewed the gusset together and almost had a pair of trousers, just needed a way of keeping them up.

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I sewed the original collar to the top of the trousers so I had a little more material to work with. I took a piece of elastic and measured it around the toddler’s waste. Then I folded over the top of the trousers, creating a channel that’s wide enough to fit the elastic through. I pinned and stitched it, leaving a 2 inch gap. I then fed the elastic through using a safety pin and stitched it together. Then I stitched the opening closed. Ta dah! Free trousers!!!

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She doesn’t sit still for long, so this was the best picture I could get, straight from the machine! But what happened to the rest of the jumper…..?

Extreme Food Planning

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Even though we are usually very careful with our money, we had a bit of a bad time with bills last month.We had an extra water bill, nearly £400 is gas and electric, car tax and I also started an online teaching assistant course. Nearly £800 all in all, is a pretty sizeable amount to pay in one month, whatever your income. As we only have one income it made things a little tight for us!

The only thing we really spend money on is our food, and it occurred to me I had been a little frivolous with our housekeeping money recently. I did the same shop every week whether we needed it or not. It’s not a massive shop, or an expensive shop, but we could do without it. I started worrying that we had no money to live on and we wouldn’t be able to buy food. I took my notebook and decided to do a full inventory of what we had, the fridge, both freezers, cupboards, pantry (read shelf) and dry food rack.

Well, we have a LOT of food. I mean A LOT!!! I seem to be a bit of food hoarder. We have soooo many packets of dried food, stock, sauce packets, loads of tins, freezers full of food. Suffice to say, once I realised I could have sushi once a week for the next 6 weeks without going to the shop, I started feeling a little less sorry for myself! We can comfortably eat for a while without doing a real shop or starving.

The whole thing made me think, we don’t waste any of this food as it can all be stored, but it’s so easy to bulk buy and shop out of habit, I can see how easy it is for people to buy so much food that they end up wasting it. I don’t want to become one of those families that throws away food because they just can’t eat it all! So, we decided to make a meal list of everything we can cook with the ingredients we have, and we have set ourselves a budget of £15 a week for bits like milk, bread, eggs, and fruit and veg. It helps that the toddler is now fully toilet trained as we are saving money on her nappies. We also gave up alcohol for lent, so this is saving us a bit too. Hopefully this will save us the money we need to get on track, and free up a bit of space in our kitchen!

Still trying to use up yarn, but…

So, I’m still slugging away trying to use up all my yarn. I finished my brightly coloured blanket, but still had some colours left, so I’m trying out Bavarian crochet, a pattern also known as the yarn eater, as it uses up so much. Don’t know what I’m making yet, I’ll  just keep going until I run out I suppose.

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I’m also making myself a pair of fair isle My neighbour Totoro mittens, which are using up a couple of balls. I finished one mitten, but as it’s my first attempt at this kind of colour work, the thought of following two intense charts at the same time with a toddler hanging off me makes me want to cry. I will make the other, I just want a rest!

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And, as always seem to happen when I use up some yarn, I was promptly given some more. This time, I won a competition in the magazine Simply Crochet, and I was sent a box with a whopping 26 balls of chunky wool in it! On closer inspection, I discovered there were only 22 balls of wool, and being the massively ungrateful person that I am (I still feel guilty) I informed the magazine that they had sent me four less balls than they were supposed to. As soon as I sent the message I felt bad, and they were well within their rights to ignore me, but this next day this turned up

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I feel even more guilty, as I’m using 7 balls of it to knit a big comfy jumper, not crochet the patterns that the yarn was meant for. I will crochet at least one of those patterns, mainly because I feel so bad about it!

How to make your own Bento Picks

I have been sucked in to the cutesy world of the Bento accessory. Though not at all necessary, I can’t help wistfully staring at Japanese imported Panda shaped rice ball makers, nori punches and tiny little sauce bottles. After putting a picture of one of Amelia’s bentos on Facebook, a friend of mine said she had a lot of accessories left over from when she used to make them for her daughter, and that I could have them. The set contained an impressive amount of stuff, egg molds, onigiri rice molds, sauce bottles, decorative grass, a nori punch and some animal picks. I also bought her some training chop sticks, so she doesn’t keep trying to steal mine!

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Even with this haul, I still found myself wanting more picks, they really make a cute bento, they’re the difference between it looking like food and it looking really fun! I was trying to find some for a relatively reasonable price when I came across a tip, make your own using a comb and some buttons. I found this tutorial on Oh! Bento, A wonderful blog that features bentos that I aspire to making, with lots of tutorial and wonderful example bentos, including this tutorial http://ohbentouk.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/diy-bento-pickscupcake-toppers/ All you need to do is cut each prong off a comb, then hot glue a button, brad or badge to the top. What a genius idea! I had a rifle through the button and bead boxes and put together all of these. It literally took minutes, and they were all free!

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Not only that, but the toddler helped me choose which buttons and beads we used, so she now says that she made them, it makes it all a little bit more special.

Galaxy Play doh and Space fun – how to

The toddler loves Play doh, she just can’t get enough of cutting and squishing and rolling it. It is, however, ridiculously expensive. The first kind she had was Crayola 1+ which was gluten free and couldn’t be nibbled on, though not encouraged. This stuff was so hard, and it cost a whopping £1.99 a pot! She couldn’t really play with it on her own because it was so tough, and it broke some of her cutters.

We put up with it until last Christmas when one set of grandparents got her some proper Play doh, and the other got her a Disney Princess Play doh castle thing. This stuff is much easier for her to play with, but I have a real issue with her mixing up the colours, because I don’t want to have to buy more! So, with this is mind, I took to Pinterest (as if I need an excuse!) in search of Play doh recipes. I saw an amazing pin of galaxy play doh, but, as so often happens on Pinterest, there was no link to the original poster and no recipe, so I tried to recreate it. I used a standard Play doh recipe

  1. 2 cups of plain flour
  2. 2 cups of water with food colouring
  3. 1 Tbsp. of cooking oil
  4. 1 Tbsp. cream of tartar
  5. 1 cup of salt
Mix liquid ingredients together in a large pan.  Begin to heat liquids. I added one bottle of blue food colouring, and one bottle of black.  I also added a pot of edible shimmer and glitter as the original picture I saw was really glittery. In a separate bowl mix together all the dry ingredients, and then add these to the heating liquids.   Stir until the play doh comes together and thickens.  Cook until it gets that sheen to it.  Let it cool slightly and then knead to bring proper consistency.  Store in plastic container. Ta dah, you got play doh! 
 
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Once it had cooled down I added some star sprinkle things that had been kicking around in the toddler’s craft box for a while, and we made a galaxy, complete with stars and planets. We used some of her sparkly beads as the planets.
 
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Then we used star cutters, and gave them they’re own planet, and added more glitter too.
 
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We had loads of fun, and I don’t have to worry about her mixing this up , and she only needs one colour. Also, as we had all the ingredients, I made two tuppaware tubs of Play Doh for free! 
 
 
 

Bento Roundup

I have definitely been stepping up my Bento game recently. It has been a huge success for the toddler, it has been the best method to get her to eat her dinner hands down! She has become familiar with the concept, so she gets excited about what it might look like today, and for now I can still surprise her with the theme. Also, from my point of view I can make the food quite varied and healthy, and also give her a consistent portion size, so she isn’t overwhelmed by it. Not only that, but the food just looks so much more interesting!

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They started pretty basic, some salad, quiche, Japanese potato salad. Nice, but not very exciting looking.

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This was my first attempt at a scene, without any molds or cutters, she really enjoyed it and thought it was hilarious!

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Then I got my hands on some egg and rice molds, picks, grass and cutters. Makes for a much nicer scene, she loved this one.

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Today’s was a little simpler with sandwiches and savoury biscuits, but still really nice to look at and really enjoyed it.

It’s amazing how well this has worked, and I’m glad I’ve given it a go. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, just using a cutter for sandwiches and little cases for extras makes it exciting to look at, and improves the look of the whole meal.  They’re not overly expensive, and I can completely control what goes in them, in all a great success!

Home made Lemon Cheese

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For Christmas I was given a little pot of Lemon Cheese. I love lemons and citrus flavours, but I had never tried this before. As happens so often with little jars of  lovely things, it made it’s way to the back of the cupboard, where I discovered it last week. I’ve been trying to use up the things in the cupboard, and I came across this little jar when I was looking for a some afters. I tried in on a crispbraed and it was DELICIOUS! So delicious that I consumed the jars worth in two days, and I was looking for more. Rather than going out to find some in the shops, I had a look online and found a simple recipe that tastes exactly the same, and I should think is much cheaper too!

You will need

  1. 2 lemons
  2. 1 cup of sugar
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 1 tablespoon of butter
  5. 1 tsp of vanilla extract.

First, juice the two lemons, and add 1 tablespoon of their rind. Combine this juice with the sugar in a saucepan, and bring it to the boil. Meanwhile, whisk the 3 eggs, and then add the hot lemon and sugar a tiny amount at a time, whisking as you go to avoid scrambling the egg. Put the whole mixture back on the heat, and whisk until it thickens. Turn the heat off and stir in the butter and vanilla. Put straight into a sterilized jar.

It’s delicious on toast or crispbread, or straight from the jar!