Sunday, 30 October 2011

Pumpkin Costume

Are you in need of a last minute (and slightly ridiculous) Hallowe'en costume? Well you have come to the right place! This year, I decided I wanted to be a giant pumpkin and was going to inflict the same fate on my lovely friend Sarah, who had asked me to make her a costume. I headed to the Guildhall Market in Bath to pick up some bright orange dress lining fabric from the sewing stall there, which was a bargain at £3.98 for 2 metres. I then grabbed a ball of string and off I went.

1. Cut the fabric in half lengthways to make 2 'pumpkins' (if necessary).

2. Tuck a piece of string of equal length to the fabric into a pinned hem (about 3cm) at the top. Note- do not cut the string off of the ball yet, as you will not need a whole metre of string, but it makes it much easier to sew if it's of equal length to the fabric:

3. Holding the fabric taut with the string right at the top, stitch along to form a hem. Make sure you leave plenty of string poking out the end as below:

4. You can now decide how much string you need at the top by modelling your pumpkin. Place the pumpkin as desired (I had mine under my arms to leave them free, but you could just as well have it over the top of your arms and cut arm holes) and then gather up the pumpkin until it forms a full circle around you. Snip the string, leaving enough to tie the strings in a bow/knot to secure your pumpkin:

5. Knot the ends of the string and add a few stitches (Captain Sew didn't want to do this, so I quickly hand sewed mine) to stop the string getting lost inside the gathered fabric:

6. Repeat steps 2-5 for the bottom of the pumpkin.

7. You are now ready to join the sides of the pumpkin as you please- I tucked mine it to form a simple hem:

8. Try on your pumpkin, preferably with a green top and bottom half. Then stuff as necessary- you are now ready for any Hallowe'en party that may come your way!

This only took me 30 minutes per pumpkin, including some technical Captain Sew difficulties, as none of the sewing needs to be particularly neat. I was rather pleased with the result:

On another pumpkin-based note, we also made productive use of our extra hour today and carved a pumpkin just in time for Hallowe'en:

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Toffee Apple Cake

The blustery weather was making me feel very autumnal this weekend and what better way to enjoy this by getting out for a bike ride to a country pub and then coming home to bake a cake with a nod to Hallowe'en and toffee apples?

We cycled to the Five Mile House via some beautiful Cotswolds villages where we stopped for a drink in the October sunshine. The food smelled delicious though, so will have to visit when we don't have to cycle back afterwards and can enjoy a sunday roast!

Rustic sign en route:

Five Mile House:

We then made a toffee apple cake from the 'Baking' (Simple Cookery series) book- one of my favourites for quick and easy to follow recipes- with just a few tweaks (less cream and more apples!)

The cake is delicious and I am savouring every last bite as I am going to have to watch what I eat from now on- this desk job has resulted in noticeable weight gain since August, oops! Cue lots more healthy recipes (from Monday... honest).

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Pumpkin and Winter Veg Soup

This evening I made some seasonal pumpkin and winter vegetable soup for the long dark evenings which seem to be upon us now.

1/2 pumpkin with seeds, stringy bits and skin removed
1 onion
1 carrot
1 parsnip
5 medium sized potatoes
1.5l vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

I fried the onion, then added the rest of the vegetables, the stock, coriander and some seasoning and let it simmer away for half an hour, before blending it into a hearty, fairly thick soup.

This made lots of portions (probably about 8), which I have frozen, as you can see the casserole dish was very full, almost cauldron like! This is much more economical (and just about as delicious) as my favourite New Covent Garden Soup, my calculations make this soup about 35p per portion, compared to around £1 RRP per portion for NCG soup.

I have pureed the rest of the pumpkin for a rainy day's baking project, watch this space for some Hallowe'en themed cakes...

Monday, 17 October 2011

Hot Air Balloon Flight

This weekend I finally (after several failed attempts due to bad weather) got to go on a hot air balloon flight to celebrate my lovely Dad's Birthday. This has very little to do with craft or thrifty living, but I think deserves some photos. I have always wanted to go on a hot air balloon, but it exceeded all of my expectations, it was an amazing experience; really tranquil and beautiful. We went with Go Ballooning who made the whole experience really enjoyable, I would throughly recommend them.

Cold inflating the balloon using fans

Inflated balloon 

The Kentish countryside from above

Inside the balloon as it deflated

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Make, Do and Mend

Today I am taking the old adage 'make do and mend' very literally, by making, doing and mending some of the things I've been saving for a rainy day.


I made these very simple rocky road pieces to nibble on whilst enjoying a nail biting grand prix today.

150g milk chocolate
60g of marshmallows, chopped
70g digestive biscuits, broken into chunks
25g raisins

1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water
2. Once the chocolate has melted, stir in the marshmallows, biscuits and raisins
3. Pour mixture onto a lined baking tray
4. Put in the fridge to set for about an hour

Makes about 8 medium sized pieces

Most rocky road recipes use mini marshmallows, but these tend to be more expensive, so I just chop up the big ones, as above


Consider cheaper cuts of meat- I've just put a delicious 'speedy roast' in the oven of chicken thighs and drumsticks (far cheaper than breast meat) with potatoes, pepper, lemon, onion and garlic, drizzled in olive oil, honey, white wine and seasoned with salt, pepper and rosemary, yum! The smell is wafting in rather temptingly whilst I type...


Today I glued my boots back together, putting an end to the flappy 'puppet mouth' look I've been sporting.

I also got out my unpicker to remove a zip and buttons from an otherwise unsalvageable pair of linen trousers with several large holes in. I'll store these for another rainy day when I learn to use my zipper foot!

 I love all the old 'make do and mend' book covers and adverts and having a look at them is giving me some ideas for a project... Check out my Pinterest Board.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Man Flu Cure: Carrot and Coriander Soup

This week I thought I'd do something a bit different with the leftovers from our roast chicken and make carrot and coriander soup (this is cheating a little, as I also used non-cooked carrots... but I got a super cheap big pack of Chatenay carrots, so they were leftover in that sense!)

Once the chicken had been stripped (and the leftover meat saved for a tasty curry) I put the carcass in a saucepan, covered it with water and simmered it gently for about an hour to make some chicken stock. I then fried up some onions for a couple of minutes until softened and added in a few potatoes, a handful of coriander and a bit of seasoning.  I then added about half a kilogram of carrots and the stock from the chicken (approx 1 litre) and gave it a good stir. I let this simmer for twenty minutes or so, before I removed it from the pan, blitzed it with the blender and stowed it in the freezer for a rainy day (or probably tomorrow as I think my man-friend has a touch of the man flu!) This made about 3-4 tasty portions.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Pancake O Clock

I am feeling very financially stretched this month after paying for a journalism course I've just started, so I don't have the money to go out and have fun, or even for any fancy baking or tasty food to keep me entertained at home. Last night, however, I was really craving a little treat, so I made these super thrifty pancakes for two:

100ml milk
100ml water
1 egg
60g plain flour
1 tbsp oil (I use olive oil as this is what I usually have in the cupboard, but sunflower or corn oil would also be fine)

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, then cook in a very hot non-stick pan on one side until the pancake slides around, then flip and cook on the other side for a minute or so.

This recipe makes 4 large, thin pancakes, perfect to serve with lemon and sugar, honey or whatever your preferred topping, yum!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Cycling in the Cotswolds and Carrot Cupcakes

Today we went cycling around Cotswolds Water Park in the lovely October sunshine:

We parked in South Cerney to save paying and queuing for the official car park and took this route from the AA, which was great- really flat, easy and scenic cycling. I have that lovely feeling that comes from doing something free and good for you!

On a less 'good for you' note, I've also been busy in the kitchen, making these carrot and raisin cupcakes with cream cheese icing from the Primrose Bakery cookbook:

These are quite thrifty as they use oil, rather than butter, which I find tends to be cheaper and they were really quick to make. I froze the leftover icing for next time as the quantities were very generous. We are taking them round to meet the folk who live in the residential home (we live in the grounds of the house) now, let's hope they enjoy them!