Month: August 2014

Slow-cooker Beef in Guinness Casserole

Beef in Guinness Casserole is the ultimate in cold weather comfort food. And guess what – it works brilliantly in a slow cooker!


Blackberry Oaty Cookies

I love this time of year when it’s still summer, but the early mornings hint at the changing season to come, with a chill in the air and wisps of mist clinging to the fields and woods in the valley below our house. It seems early this year, but the trees and hedgerows near us are starting to reveal their autumn goodies, with cob nuts everywhere and ripe blackberries on show already.  So, we took ourselves off blackberry picking, joined by Bird Girl and Chief Stick Collector’s cousins and my sister. As luck would have it, blackberry picking is another thing on our list of 50 Things to do before 11 3/4. So we were hoping to be able to tick off another challenge, which sounded like it would be an easy and risk-free one to complete! We did have to be careful to avoid stinging nettles and blackberry thorns, so it wasn’t entirely without an element of danger (as far as that term is understood by preschoolers!).  But it didn’t take us long to pick enough to take home. …

Mantel Makeover – Part Two

In Mantel Makeover – Part One I shared the story of how I thought I had really messed up renovating our playroom mantelpiece; and promised to show you the final outcome in Part Two. Where did I get to? … Ah yes, the Duck Egg Blue was an improvement on the disastrous Florence, but there was still something Not Quite Right. The finish looked a bit too uniform, which jarred against the old and imperfect tiles. It needed to look a little more lived-in, so, after applying a coat of wax, I gave some of the edges a light sand, focusing on the areas that would have become bumped, battered and worn with use over time; and on the bits of carving that would benefit from being highlighted. After that, it was starting to look much better! In fact, I dared to think it was looking (whisper it) quite nice.  In the areas that I had sanded, the initial coat of Florence, and even some of the original wood, was peeking through, which added depth and interest to the finish. It …

Building a Den

The National Trust has a fabulous initiative called “50 Things to Do Before You’re 11 3/4“, to encourage children to get out and about and explore the great outdoors.  We’ve been wanting to have a go at completing the list and so, with a spare few hours on a sunny Monday, we headed off into the woods and parkland of our local National Trust property – Hughenden Manor – to make a start on ticking off some of the 50 activities. First up on the list for us was No. 28 – Climb a huge hill.  And since Hughenden is in the Chilterns, it didn’t take us too long to find a suitable candidate. Once we had made it to the top, and had a brief snack break, it wasn’t exactly difficult to decide what to attempt next. Yes, it was time for No. 22 – Roll down a really big hill!  After contemplating the descent for a while, Chief Stick Collector decided he was game, and hurtled down with shrieks of delight. Bird Girl, on the other hand, still recovering …