Author: emilyharwood

Celebration chocolate cupcakes

I decided to usher in the New Year by giving the blog a shiny new look. And for the first post of the New Year and the new look, it had to be cupcakes, and they had to be chocolate… and sort of starry.

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Chair upcycling

In previous posts I have mentioned having a plan to spruce up our playroom / dining room.  Well, it had stalled for a while.  The next thing on my list to tackle was getting an extending dining table and some chairs.  The table needed to start off small enough not to get in the way when the room was in play-room mode, but extend to seat all the extended family comfortably.  I had seen something I wanted about 18 months ago, but it was expensive, so I decided to try to get something similar on eBay, and use it as an up cycling project.  After nearly a year and a half of monitoring eBay for second hand chairs and tables close to home, I finally got lucky. Someone was selling fifty chairs reclaimed from a closed-down restaurant, that were identical in shape to the ones I wanted. I managed to snap up eight of them for £20 each.  The only difference was that they were dark-stained wood and had a plasticky fake-wicker seat pad that had seen …

Pumpkin spiced muffins with maple orange glaze

We have had a busy couple of months here, starting a new job, starting school, starting preschool and celebrating a 40th birthday.  Milestones all round.   Between all those things and the increased layers of organisation that they have entailed, the unfortunate blog has been rather neglected. But it feels like we’ve turned a bit of a corner after the half-term break.  We’re finally settling into the new routines, and finding time for more activities together.  Autumn is giving way to winter, but before all the christmassy stuff starts, we decided to have a go at an autumnal bake.  And with halloween just gone, I decided that meant pumpkin!  In truth, the pumpkin decision was mainly because I had added tinned pumpkin puree to my online grocery order on a whim a few weeks ago, and it was sitting in the cupboard begging to be put to good use. As usual, the recipe below is an amalgam and adaptation of various recipes, based mainly on what we had in the cupboard and what sounded simple enough for a two-year-old helper to assist with! Pumpkin spiced muffins with maple …

Autumn Leaf Wreath

Friday was one of those beautiful autumn days where it’s sunny and still warm enough to be outside in t-shirts.  Bird Girl and I made the most of the fabulous weather to spend some time in the park after pre-school before we had to go and collect Chief Stick Collector from school.  Our local playground is surrounded by huge mature oak, plane, sycamore and horse chestnut trees. The horse chestnuts, who seem to get their leaves first in spring are all looking a bit tired, brown and droopy already; whereas the oaks, who are late with their leaves, are still wearing their summer foliage proudly.  But the plane trees are offering some spectacular autumn foliage, and the grass in the playground was carpeted in a blanket of reds, oranges, and yellows from the fallen leaves. After some time on the play equipment, we decided to collect some leaves, but one quickly led to another, to another, and soon we had armfuls of foliage. But what to do with them all? During some after-school quiet time, …

Roasted Vegetable and Halloumi Pasta

Do you always manage to eat your ‘5 a day’?  Count them up.  Be honest now – I’m pretty sure a glass of wine doesn’t count as one portion of fruit! When I feel like I’m edging into vegetable deficit, I make Roasted Vegetable and Halloumi Pasta.  It’s a really easy way to slam-dunk your 5 a day in one go, but the addition of the halloumi cheese stops it feeling too sanctimonious! What’s more, once you’ve chopped everything up, you can really just leave it in the oven to cook itself while you have that glass of wine, just for good measure. Roasted Vegetable and Halloumi Pasta Ingredients (serves 4) 1 Aubergine 2 Courgettes 1 red pepper 1 yellow pepper 1 green pepper 500g cherry tomatoes 2 leeks 250g block halloumi 1 clove garlic 1 dsp balsamic vinegar 1 dsp olive oil 2 bay leaves 1 tsp dried basil 400g pasta shapes Directions Preheat the oven to 170c (fan) or 180c otherwise. Slice the leeks into 1cm rounds, chop the other veggies and the halloumi into …

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I have recently been thinking of cutting back on the amount of red and processed meat that we eat, not least after watching the recent BBC documentary investigating the relative health-and environmental impacts of eating various kinds of meat protein. But Chief Stick Collector and Bird Girl definitely fall into the carnivorous camp, and love their bolognese sauce and beef meatballs.  Vegetables are either just about tolerated (on a good day) or outright refused (unless hidden incognito in something else!).  So the question was whether I could replicate one of their favourite beefy meals with something else? Step forward Turkey Mince.  The challenge? Make some meatballs with turkey mince that were not only edible, but tasty. A bit of internet surfing revealed a large number of recipes for turkey meatballs, but none seemed exactly what I was looking for, so I mixed and matched and added and subtracted and threw in a variation of one of our favourite tomato pasta sauces, and ended up with the recipe below. The results? Well, the children loved the sauce …

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 …