DIY Thread Spool Holder

Beautiful Spool HolderI really enjoy when I have wanted or needed something for my house for ages (but time, money or more important things get in the way of getting it) and then suddenly pops into my head, ‘OH I can make that’. It normally happens as all great things do when your not thinking about it and you come across an item or an idea and you go ‘Hey I’ve got it!’. Such a think happened this weekend when I needed a nail to hang a picture up and while rummaging through my nail/hardware junk tin I came across some very long nails which my dad had given me in his own tool box clear out. It suddenly clicked they would be the perfect size to fit thread spools on and I since I had wanted/needed a spool holder everything else came together in my head. The result my wonderful DIY thread holder which I made completely for free. yay!

You will need: A long piece of cardboard with a width that will fit the amount of spools you want, masking tape, fabric that will cover the cardboard, long nails (as many as you want spools), a hammer, sewing machine or needle and thread

spool holder cardboard1. Fold the the long piece of card board over several times so you get a rectangular piece with several layers of cardboard and then secure it with masking tape.

2. Take the fabric you want to cover it in and cut it to size. You want it to go around the cardboard shape covering back and front with enough space around the sides for a seam. Sew a seam around three sides  (or two if you have folded it over) with the right sides of the fabric facing. Turn the right way round and slip the cardboard into the pocket you’ve made, like a pillow into a pillowcase

spool holder cover3. You can finish the open edge by stitching a straight line across the the top with the excess fabric folded either in on it’s self or round to the back. As I had quite slippery material I used masking tape to secure it first (strong enough to hold in place but never damages fabric)

4. Measure out where you want to put your nails and mark them on the side of the cardboard you want to be at the front. You can mark with pen to make it clear as you will be driving the nails through the fabric so you won’t see the marks.

Spool holder with nails in 5. Place a nail one at a time on it’s mark and drive it through the fabric and cardboard until it reaches the other side but doesn’t go through the cardboard at the back. You want to drive each nail through at an angle, between 35-45 degrees to vertical so the spools don’t slip off. It’s also a good idea to do the hammering on top of a surface that won’t get damaged like a cutting board or another piece of cardboard.

6. The fabric will be pulled into the cardboard by the nail so to create a neat finish slowly pull it out  along the nail so it sits against the cardboard once more

spool holder up right7. You are then ready to use it. You can either lay it flat on a table or store on a shelf, or you can mount it on the wall. I will mount it eventually but I want to get the right positioning before I start nailing anything into my walls. To mount it I would probably use some smaller nails or pins that I could drive into the back of the holder, wrap string around them and make it like a picture frame. I would then use a standard picture hook to hang it.

spool holder with sewing machine

I love that I will now have easy access to my most used threads and they won’t sit in a box getting tangled up. I like the bright fabric I used, an of cut from a skirt I made a few years ago, which will brighten up my craft room walls when I hang it up. Have you ever had a project you just didn’t know how to do and it revealed itself in a flash of genius? or are you still looking for inspiration?

Lorna

x xxx

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Learning French

As part of my New Years resolutions I am attempting to learn French, mainly so that when I go visit my friend Jonas for his wedding this summer I won’t be standing around like a lemon the entire time not understanding what any one is on about. His beautiful fiancée Aline doesn’t speak English either so I really want to be able to talk to her properly and no doubt tell her how beautiful she looks on her wedding day. So far I have been very good and down loaded an App called Duolingo and stuck to it.

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It is a really good app for explaining the basics of grammar and building up vocab but I am under no illusion it will help me speak french. For that I will have to rely on speaking to Harry who is fluent and, my best mate Jade, also fluent. I think the app is really good though all the same. It builds up slowly so you can grasp each section before moving on, can revisit any lesson and it will even tell you the words you are weakest on so you can practice them. I have almost been using it for two weeks and I definitely feel like I am making progress.

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On the few days that I have missed my training I make sure that I do extra the next time I do it, which takes a lot longer but it is worth it to keep up to scratch. You have a mini owl trainer who helps you stay on track lol. He tells you how many more points you need to stay on track and emails when you miss a day (naughty) I have counted the lessons and believe the app will take me to the end of March which will give me plenty of time from then to brush up on speaking french conversationally. Hopefully by Summer I won’t embarrass myself too much and develop a accent not based on ‘Allo ‘allo!

Wish me luck
Lorna
X xxx

Chef Skills: Homemade Pasta

pumpkin ravioliAs part of my new years resolution I wanted to learn more technical kitchen skills and hone my knowledge of the essentials that make a great chef. My first attempt is to practice making pasta. H got me a beautiful pasta maker for Christmas so seemed like the perfect place to start plus I love pasta! I did my first attempt New Years Eve with a classic tagliatelle carbonara and it went really well. It could definitely be improved though as it took me a while to get the right consistency and I think it was a little bit to thick but the flavour was perfect.

pasta mix at the start

The ingredients are simple and I normally do measuring by eye but to serve 4 you need 2 cups of flour, 3 medium eggs or 2 large, tsp of olive oil. Mix ingredients in a bowl until combined but it will probably be crumbly at first. Turn out on to a floured surface and need for about 5 minutes. I think my initial problem was that I didn’t kneed it for long enough time. After kneeding, rest in the fridge while wrapped up for 30-45 minutes. I like to cut the dough in to pieces and work one piece at a time so as not to dry out and keep the rest wrapped up.

pasta doughRoll the pasta through the press starting with the largest setting normally marked as 1, keep rolling the pasta through the maker tightening the gap until you reach the desired thickness. Do not try and force the pasta through by notching up the number but do it one at a time as you may break the pasta maker. If you are making something other then flat sheets like ravioli or lasagne you will need to pass the pasta through another attachment, I am lucky to have both tagliatelle and fettuccini (although it says fettuccini it’s more like spaghetti)  I found oiling and occasionally flouring the machine made the pasta pass through much easier. You then need to dry the pasta out a little by hanging it on a flour dusted drying rack, which for most people will be an improvised piece of housewares. Mine consisted of balancing a floured rolling pin on some kitchen canisters.

pasta maker

As the pasta is fresh it will take not much time to cook, 6-8 minutes seems about right, just taste it after 6 minutes and see. It has a softer texture to al dente dried pasta but it still has bite. Pasta is such a versatile dish you can add any flavours to it. My second attempt I went for ravioli as I really wanted to try it out and I was pretty pleased with the taste, texture and shape. I had a few problems again but the dough was much easier to work with this time. For Ravioli you want to pass the dough through the machine to the desired thickness. You want to add a small spoonful of your filling in the centre of your sheets, depending on how long your sheet is spread them out. Place another sheet over the top and wetting the edges so they stick. You need to press the pasta down around the filling to make sure there are no pockets of air otherwise they will explode (some of mine did) You then want to cut out your pasta shapes either using a knife or a cutter. I used a round cookie cutter. Cook as the instructions above.

Nom nom nom pumpkin ravioliI created pumpkin and garlic ravioli with a beurre noisette and toasted pumpkin seeds and I loved the taste. Definitely will be having that meal again and experiment with some different flavours

Lorna

x xxx

DIY Notice board

notice board in placeAs part of my January Cure challenge I had to sort out our entry way and create a landing strip. We use the back door that leads into the kitchen as our entry way as the front door leads only to the living room door and the stairs so no place to store coats, shoes etc. We keep coats in a little cupboard in the kitchen which is under our stairs (also houses our meters and surplus dried foods). There isn’t much space elsewhere and we have our kitchen table immediately there as you enter our home but I found a brilliant simple shoe cabinet from IKEA that fits a perfect gap between the doorway and table. It means we can take our shoes off at the door and not drag dirt into the house. The cabinet top makes a great place to keep papers, pens and important info for the house on but it kept on getting very cluttered and turned into a dumping area. So to resolve this I made the notice board I had into a catch all board to take clutter off the surface but keep the info and stationary we need close at hand. It also looks a lot neater and prettier then a plain cork board too.

noticeboard placementYou will need: A notice board, Fabric to cover the board and extra for pockets, scissors, sewing machine or needle and thread and a staple gun

I collected all of the items that were lingering on and around the board and sorted into keep, chuck or move to another room. I then decided how I wanted to store the items I was keeping on the board. I wanted three pockets, one for stationary, one for important mail and one for coupons/vouchers plus I wanted to add a calendar to it. I measured the noticeboard against my chosen fabric (some off cuts from some old curtains) and measured out my pockets, then marked and pinned where I wanted them to go on the main fabric piece. I sewed the pockets down using a decorative zig zag stitch but you can use a needle and thread if you don’t have a machine. I was lucky in that my fabric for the pockets already has a neatly stitched hem, making the pocket opening very neat. You can do this too by first sewing a hem before you attach the pockets to the main fabric piece.notice board pockets

I then stretched the fabric around the notice board on one side, rolled the edge over to make a neat finish then stapled the fabric in place. I then stretched the fabric to the other side and repeated the process. Do this on all four sides to complete. Always stretch and staple the opposite corners to the staple before and you should get a nice smooth finish. I then just propped it back on the shoe cabinet and added the essentials I needed. I also drove a pin nail through the cork for somewhere to hang my calendar.

notice board complete

It definitely makes the place look neater and keeps things in order. I also added the word art our friend James gave us as a house warming present, great inspiration for when you leave and come home.

I can I will I did

Lorna

x xxx

Compost DIY

compost binI am always looking at more ways in which I can reduce the waste coming out of the home so that the fullest bin is the recycling ones and the black bin is never full. Depending on your local council,l recycling can be easy but a lot of councils including our own no longer do green recycling so we have to get rid of it in another way (or pay for the privilege). If you have a garden the best way to get rid of your organic waste is to compost it and reuse it on your own garden once its matured. The process is slow but it means you can give back to the earth Lion King style as the circle of life. Here is a little guard to how and what to compost.

I was wrongly informed once that a compost bin needs lots of air and holes in the side, this does not work in my opinion. You need a bin of some kind which is well insulated especially in the winter and has a lid on the top. You can buy one, make your own or sometimes you can get one free from your local council. I like the standard black ones with a lid on the top and a small door at the bottom to get the finished compost out. As they are black they absorb the suns rays and keep it warm which is key to producing compost quickly.  The compost bin should be in a sunny or partial shaded spot so it gets the most sun and kept warm. It should be placed on open soil or turf and away from water courses or standing water

whats in my bin, with an added dose of beer dregsNow for the fun part, what to put in. There are a two basic rules to follow if you want to create the best compost and get rid of your organic waste in a sensible way without adding to the landfills.

1. Add anything that was once living- but avoid cooked foods, meat and dairy as they can attract vermin

2. Make your pile a mix-  you should use roughly equal parts brown and green mix

Green mix are used as activators to give life to the compost and break the mix down quickly, these include: grass clippings, leaves, young weeds, vegetable peelings, tea bags, coffee grounds, animal manure

Brown mix creates the bulk of the compost but breaks down slower then green, its best shredded and broken into smaller pieces before being added, it includes: untreated woods, hardy weeds,  newspaper, brown paper and cardboard

A few added tips I found is to keep the compost moist but not sopping. My favourite way to add moisture is with the dregs of a beer barrels which I have lots of access to :) The nutrients in beer add to the compost and get it going again, it definitely improves the quality of your heap. Crushed egg shells are another good additive, rich in nutrients and hair & nail clippings are gross but great for it. No point in adding anything to your bin if you could add it to your compost instead. one last hint is that once your bin gets noticeable full (our compost bin was there when we moved in and was already pretty full of garden waste) don’t worry that you won’t be able to fit any more in. Our compost bin is full every time we put a bag of waste in (about once a week) but there is always room the next time we put it in so you can see that the waste is slowly degrading into the heap so keep topping it up.  Compost takes a long time to make but if your in it for the long haul it will result in a wonderful mulch for your garden and the perfect way to get rid of your organic waste.

Lorna

x xxx

p.s. One last tip, stir the mixture up with a stick every once in a while it aerates it which gets it going again

Thrifty & Nifty Food: Slow cooker Risotto

Slow cooker to the rescueMany a food purist might say you can’t do a risotto in a slow cooker but they would be wrong. If your strapped for time, have a bundle of things to do and still have to make dinner; the slow cooker can be a life saver. Most recipes I do require little more then putting everything in and letting it go. This risotto recipe does require a little more prep but a lot less then if you did risotto the traditional way. The prep took me just 10 minutes and though the cooking time is longer (1 hour and a half) it is a better option when your busy especially if you did the prep earlier on in the day. This recipe is for a mushroom risotto but all flavours are possible.  Ingredients serves 2: 1 cup of risotto rice, a medium onion diced, 1 or 2 garlic cloves diced, 6 medium mushrooms sliced , 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 500ml veg or chicken stock, olive oil

1. I used one frying pan to do the prep (cuts down on washing up) Sauté the onion and garlic till translucent. Meanwhile coat the inside of the slow cooker with olive oil and set on a high heat

2. Once the onions and garlic are done add to the slow cooker, turn the heat up on the pan and add the rice so it takes on the flavours of the pan, just like a regular risotto, add the vinegar and let it bubble till all is absorbed. Add the rice to the slow cooker

3. Add the stock to the slow cooker and add any dried herbs you might want. Stir once to make sure no rice has stuck to the bottom and then leave for between 1 and 2 hours till most of the liquid has been soaked up

Slow cooker risotto4. When there is still a little liquid left to be absorbed turn the slow cooker off as the rice will continue to cook and doesn’t need any more heat (or electricity wasted on it) Sauté the mushrooms in butter and olive oil till soft then mix through the risotto

5. Serve in bowls with fresh herbs and a light side salad, this is comfort food at its best

The risotto definitely doesn’t have the same bite as when done from scratch in a pan and has a softer sticker texture but it tastes just as good and really warms you up on those cold nights. I also wanted to highlight that I love using the slow cooker because it hardly uses any electricity so its good for the environment and your pocket :D I have a electricity monitor from British Gas and it uses only 2p an hour which is way better then using the oven for meals(a whopping 30p) but unfortunately can’t compare it to the stove top as we have a gas one. I still imagine the slow cooker is cheaper then using gas.

Please share your own slow cooker recipes that you love for winter

Lorna

x xxx

p.s. sorry there is no final picture of the end result, this happens a lot with food posts I plan to do, I end up forgetting to take the last picture because I wanna get the food in my belly asap and only remember after I’ve finished, DOH!

Bringing in a little Green

Christmas basket close upJanuary is always a time to re think and reorganise your life and for me this year its no exception. I have signed up for Apartment therapy’s January Cure which helps you with little prompts throughout January to complete projects you want to get done and organise your house after the craziness of December holidays. As part of the cure each weekend they say you should buy flowers to enjoy. I love flowers but I do find I feel bad for wasting money on what isn’t an essential item. Instead of buying flowers I’ve decided to buy living plants as an alternative. Each plant or collection of plants cost the same price as a simple bouquet (for smaller plants) but it will last as long as you take care of it for. I am also quite interested in the health benefits of having houseplants, as an asthma sufferer (though not totally convinced of the diagnosis nowadays) and general sniffler I want to see if having air purifying plants and therefore more oxygen will improve my respiratory health. herbs

Beautiful

I got both these for Christmas, I got the herb planters from my mum so hopefully they will start sprouting soon and I got this gorgeous basket from my sister in law Verity and her boyfriend Johnny! These definitely inspired my green start

Dracena Little Cacti

This palmy dracaena is suppose to be a brilliant air purifier, taking up all the nasty chemicals that can be present in our house and the set of three cacti are just the cutest little things ever! I had to get them. They will be moving home to the bedroom once I have made some planters for them. more to be revealed soon.

Lorna

x xxx

Thrifty & Nifty Food: Veggie Burgers

One of the main ways me and H save on our food shop is that we hardly buy any meat. Its expensive and not essential to healthy living so we don’t buy it unless its on offer or a special occasion. I know some people find it hard to give up meat especially if it is what you are use to cooking and eating so a great way  to make the switch is to recreate meaty meals with a veggie alternative and make meat free Mondays a possibility for more people. One of my fav alternatives is super tasty veggie burgers.  The recipe below I’ve used carrots but you can use any root vegetable to make veggie burgers. My other favourite is beetroot burgers which have an earthier flavour and I want to try celeriac as well.

veggie burger mix

Ingredients to make 4 burgers: 3 large carrots, 1 small onion, 1 garlic clove, 3 tbsp of flour, 1 medium egg, herbs and spices of your choice.  Grate the carrot and onion into a bowl, adding thinly diced garlic and your choice of herbs and spices. Mix the ingredients so they are well distributed. Add the egg to the mix and combined well. Let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. It’s important to let it rest or the mixture will not stick together later. Sprinkle the flour in and mix again. Form the mixture into patties by rolling equal sized balls and then flattening them with the palm of your hand about 2 cm is a good depth. Sprinkle a touch of flour on each side. Add oil to a frying pan over a medium heat, once hot fry the patties on each side for 3-5 minutes until golden.

carrot burgers

I like to serve mine in burger baps with salad and homemade chips, just like a classic burger meal. A pint of beer never goes a miss or if your being good a tall glass of lemonade with fresh lemons and mints. My creation this time came with roast potatoes, sweetcorn and cherry tomatoes plus some herby dressing on the side. Apologies for the naff photos, Its still dark at 4pm so terrible kitchen lighting overhead never makes for pleasant photography.

Lorna

x xxx

In the World: Ethical Superstore

When I talk to people about independent and ethical shopping I often find it can be bizarre ground for a lot of shoppers as we all get use to shopping in a certain way and by nature we don’t like change. For me one of the biggest problems I find is that independent shops don’t label prices consistently or visibly enough and items aren’t always laid out how you would normally find them in your bog standard supermarket or on their website. For more people to be encouraged to shop with the little guys or the eco conscious these retailers need to make it easy for others to transition. A perfect example of this is the ethicalsuperstore.com

ethical superstore shopping

The online retailer specialises in a whole range of products from clothes to food, gardening to beauty all items of which are either fairly traded, organic, eco friendly, promote health and wellness, educational,  locally produced or charitable. These are all worthy causes that I care about so it makes the perfect place for me to find exactly what I want without failing my principles. Each item page has a thorough description of the ethics behind its production or company, each of which you can find out more about on its own page and browse its other products. The clear layout of each page means you can find out the relevant info you might want and see customers reviews at the same time to inform you on its positives and negatives.

ethical superstore brands

I love that the ethical superstore is set up just like a supermarket website as it is really easy to navigate and more often then not they will have the products your looking for as they have such an extensive range of items. They display prices visibly and even offer bulk buying discounts on  most of their food products. They also have offers and sales just like any other store as well as their clearance sections for homewares and clothing making the shopping experience exactly the same as you would find it in any big box store except you can rely on the products being ethically sourced. My only criticism might be that I  wish the free delivery order didn’t have to be as much as £50 but that is because I like a bargain. I think this is definitely the way ethical retailers should go to encourage more people to look at their wonderful products and get them to make the switch.

Lorna

x xxx