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Friday, 30 December 2011

Christmas Wreath - Home Made

We also made Christmas Wreath’s together this year, Mel, her mum Monica, my mum and our friend Jo. Last year we went to the wonderful Harriet from Flora’s garden workshop but this year we couldn’t make it due to work commitments etc.

So we thought we would give it a bash ourselves. We had a lovely lunch courtesy of my mum;



So courtesy of ebay we got some wreath rings, and used a local florist for the flowers and also foraged some materials. Some holly, foliage, fir cones etc.



Mel also had a little helper, her son the adorable Kenzie came along for the afternoon.


Considering we all had access to the same materials the difference in all of the wreathes was incredible, and we had a wonderful afternoon giggling, reminicing, gossiping, and being creative, here are the results;


And I cannot emphasise enough how great Harriett at Flora's Garden is, and if she is doing a workshop in your area do book and go along, you will not be dissapointed!
Here are her details;

http://www.floras-garden.co.uk/

http://www.facebook.com/FlorasGarden

http://twitter.com/FlorasGarden

All the best!

Claire
xxx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Our Home Made Christmas Presents Given

In my previous blog I explained that my brother came up with the wonderful (kind of last minute) idea of making Christmas presents for each other this year because money was tight etc, if you didn’t read it here is a link to it.


http://honestlyitseasy.blogspot.com/2011/12/xmas-presents-2011.html


So Boxing Day came (we celebrate as a family on Boxing Day rather than Christmas Day, things get too complicated trying to arrange to see everyone on one day).
So for my mum I made a decorated mirror. I decorated it with fabric flowers that I cut out of material and clipped together with a brad and then attached to the mirror. Here is the final article;



My mum and dad camp a lot in their caravan, and dad likes to refer to the van on site in a pub fashion ‘George and the Dragon’. My dad had kept a drawing board that he had made for a project when he was at school many moons ago, so I recycled it and made it into the sign for him;



Nothing like a bit of recycling! For my brother and his girlfriend I created two sets of colourful plant pots with herbs in. One set was for inside the hose at this time of year and the other was suitable for outside. Katie (my brothers girlfriend) makes incredible soap – more about that in our next blog post. O some of the herbs will come in handy for her. Inside ones were Coriander, parsley and aloe vera, and outside were wild garlic, Bay, Chocolate Mint, Apple mint, and Silver Thyme. I put the names if the herbs on metal spoons rather than the plastic labels that never last very long.

I also made some hand warmers for everyone, simple to do, basically 2 squares of felt sewn together and filled with ceramic beans. Place in microwave for 2 minutes and you have hand warmers!

So that was what we made for everyone’s presents, stay tuned to our next post later on to see what we got in return.

All the best!

Claire
xxx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A Festive update!

This time of year is always quite hectic but I thought I would just drop a quick blog around to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I will update the blog again in the next couple of days letting you know how my family got in with the whole mke your christmas presents idea my brother came upo with as my last blog post detailed, but I can honestly say I am very surprised at the quality of the presents that came out of the whole experiment. But we will not be repeating the event! ;)

We've been enjoying great food, great drink (including some lemoncelo at the in laws - deffiantly making some of that at some point!) but more importantly we have spent some great time with family and friends, which lets face it, is what Christmas should be about!

So from both Melanie and I, we wish you a very merry christmas and hope that 2012 is a very successful year for you, and we hope you continue to follow us both and our journey's via out blog and facebook page etc.

All the best!

Claire
xxx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Xmas Presents 2011

I do echo Mel’s comments in the blog post above – things have gone particularly crazy over the last couple of months, I have managed to book an extra few days off work before the Christmas period to get myself back on track, so normal blogging procedure will resume and be much more regular in the future! I didn’t even manage to make the Good Food Show which Mel blogged about last time, which was annoying, but you have to pay the bills somehow!

So my wonderful, dearest brother came up with the idea that this year we should make our Christmas Presents for each other. Now, firstly I quite often make the Christmas presents I give out, because I think people appreciate the thought that goes into them and they are unique.

But this year I decided I was going to have a break, a bit of relaxation time in the lead up to Christmas as this year has been pretty hectic and next year is already looking chaotic! So over the last few months I've gradually been purchasing Christmas Presents.

Then my brother says 'for something different why don't we make each other Christmas Presents this year, it should work out a lot cheaper as well'.

This is the last time he gets a say in what we do/buy for Christmas. Because now that everyone else has to make presents it means that mine have got to be better than usual!

My brother and his girlfriend were very easy to sort out, my mum the same, but my dad is just a bit of a nightmare! He is exceptionally difficult to make for as I obviously cant's make him anything I have done before, so things like Whiskey Fudge, Jams, Chutney's, pickled onions and eggs etc are off the menu! We have finally figured out what we are going to do, but it will take more time than all the other present put together!

I do wish I could fill you in on everything we are doing but just incase any of the family end up reading this blog before the big day I can't post anything about it. You will however get fully updated as soon as the December 25th has been and gone.

Does anyone else make gifts for their families and friends for christmas, if so what do you make?

I'm also coming down with a cold, any natural remedies you can suggest would be very welcome, I really don't have time to be ill!!!

look forward to updating you all again soon - next week we are starting to gather things for our wreathes and table decorations for the festive period!

Deck the Halls - fa la la la la!!

All the best!

Claire
xxx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Good Food Show Winter @ NEC

Firstly I need to apologise for the sheer lack of activity on our Honestly its Easy blog. Claire is so busy being a pro photographer and my little family/work life has been a super busy month of birthdays and umm..well..I don't actually know, it's just flown past!

It was that time of year again, this weekend, when Birmingham NEC hosted The Good Food Show Winter.
Packed with stalls a plenty, many giving away cheeky tasters it again was a fab day out.
My hubbie to be always enjoys checking out each and every whisky stall and insists on trying every one in every flavour, slowly sipping and admiring and making the right "mmm" sounds. He honestly thinks he's is some kind of whisky conniseur! Hmmm.....

My mum loves checking out ...well...pretty much every stall, which is fine by me, wouldn't want to miss anything now would we?
We personally loved the craft stalls and of course the baking ones! And I have to say the turkey roll we purchased from Kellys Turkeys was LUSH!
http://www.kellyturkeys.co.uk

Mum was also chuffed when we met Janet Basu & Mary-Ann Boermans from The Great British Bake Off and managed to get a pic with them too. (Unfortunately the pic is on my mums phone, so will add later!)
They were trying to recruit for new contestants for the next series, I reckon my mum should have a go personally, she makes awesome cakes, but she isn't quite ready for Prime Time she told me!!! ha!
I did still pick up an application form and thought the other half of Honestly Its Easy might want a bash at it? Claire - What do ya reckon???

All in all a fab day, managed to fill our little black trolley with items from spices & hot sauces to bee boxes & bark pencils for the boys!
I even visited one of the poshest portacabins I think i have ever had the pleasure of entering, it was like walking into a hotel bathroom! Even had hand lotion! http://www.andyloos.co.uk I salute you! I was very impressed!

Did anyone else manage to attend? What did ya think? What was your favourite stall or show?

Mel
@Tikobear
@Honestlyitseasy
http://www.quidco.com/user/1443956
i love Quidco Green

Friday, 28 October 2011

Halloween Toffee Apples!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

My mum lent me her latest edition of Easy Food magazine and I found a great easy to follow receipe for Toffee Apples! Yum!
I made these tonight with great success, so thought I would share with you!


For the toffee coating:
225g demerara sugar
110ml water
1/2 tsp vinegar
2 tbsp golden syrup
25g butter

For the apples:
6 apples
6 ice pop (lolly) sticks

1. In a frying pan, add the sugar and water and dissolve over a moderate heat.
2. When it has dissolved, stir in the vinegar, syrup and butter.
3. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring until it reaches the stage that if you dropped it in cold water it hardens. This should take about 10 minutes boiling time.
Meanwhile while the syrup is cooking, pierce each apple with a wooden stick.
4. Once the toffee is ready, dip each apple into the hot toffee, turning it around in the syrup so that each one is fully coated.
5. Leave to harden on a lightly oiled tray or greaseproof paper.

Simples!

Enjoy!

Mel
@Tikobear
@Honestlyitseasy

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Make ahead Christmas Presents?

With the cost of living constantly rising and people trying to save money anyway possible we have been thinking about how we can save money on Christmas presents. Christmas is my favourite time of the year, it’s not the presents, its the fact that you see and spend time with people and family you may not have seen for a while.

Every year we go to my parents for Boxing Day to celebrate Christmas with them and my brother and his girlfriend join us for the day. This year in an effort to save money etc we have decided that all of our presents to each other will be hand made!! I have a few ideas already but if you have anymore that you would like to share please let me know – all ideas are welcome!!

We aren’t the only ones thing in a festive theme, in November’s issue of the Good Food Magazine there is a special section on ‘Make ahead Christmas Gifts’, my favourite recipe from this section is

Pistachio and Cranberry Cookies

Makes 22. Prep 15 mins plus cooking. Cook 15 mins

175g/6oz butter, softened
85g/3oz golden caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
225g/8ox plain flour
75g/2 ½ oz pistachios
75g/2 ½ oz dried cranberries

1. Mix the butter, sugar and vanilla extract with a wooden spoon. Stir in the flour, then tip in the pistachios and cranberries – you might need to get your hands in at this stage to bring the mix together as a dough. Halve the dough and shape each half into a log about 5cm across. Wrap in cling film, then chill for 1 hr or freeze for up to 3 months.

2. Heat oven to 180 c / 160 fan / gas 4. Slice the logs into 1cm thick rounds, place on baking tray lined with baking parchment and bake for 12-15 mins. Completely cool on tray.

Make ahead
Well wrapped, these dough logs will happily freeze for up to 3 months, meaning you can include freshly made biscuits in your Christmas hampers without any last minute effort. Simply defrost in the fridge overnight, then slice and cook as above.
So has anyone got any other make ahead recipes or home made gift ideas they want to share?

All the best

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Saturday, 15 October 2011

River Cottage Veg Everyday!

This Sunday sees the return of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to channel 4, we at Honestly Its Easy are really looking forward to it!

http://www.rivercottage.net/

“Hooray! The brand new TV series of River Cottage gets underway this Sunday (16 October).
In River Cottage Veg, renowned carnivore Hugh - this week named OFM Food Personality of the Year - spends a summer without either meat or fish.
Acknowledging that he needs to curb his appetite for flesh focuses entirely on vegetables, and attempts to reboot his whole attitude to food.
In this first episode, Hugh makes peace with the pigs, and says goodbye to bacon sandwiches before heading out to meet David Bailey, one of the best vegetarian chefs in the country.
David wows Hugh with his Asian inspired cooking, and more importantly reassures him that there are good times ahead. On his return to River Cottage HQ, Hugh’s first challenge is to put on a full summer BBQ without so much as a sausage – let alone his beloved hog roast.
But a forage in the wild larder proves fruitful, providing delicious samphire for tarts and seaweed for rosti.
Hugh even manages to put the spit to good use, creating possibly the world’s most unwieldy kebabs.
All the recipes from the new series are taken from Hugh's new book: River Cottage Veg Every Day!
You can grab all those recipes and cook along with the man himself during the Channel 4 show this Autumn.”

http://astore.amazon.co.uk/rivecott-21/detail/1408812126


So I know what I will be doing at 8pm Sunday evening – let us know what you think to the series too!

All the best

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Foraging Mushrooms

A couple of weekends ago I went to see my brother and his girlfriend who have just moved into a new house on a farm estate. Whilst out on a Woodland walk in the estate I saw lots of mushrooms! Now I love mushrooms, but in the wild I’m really not too sure which ones are edible and which ones aren’t so I tend to leave well alone! I watched an episode of River Cottage a while ago and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall got mistaken which were edible mushrooms and which weren’t so I’ve got no chance!

At any rate here are a few of the mushrooms we found, the theory is I learn a bit more about mushrooms before going to see my brother again so I can forage to my hearts content!




For those people who are interested in learning more about mushrooms etc I’ve just ordered the following books to help me on my quest for mushroom knowledge, I’ll let you know if they are any good (only in my opinion of course!)

Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook No.1
By John Wright

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mushrooms-River-Cottage-Handbook-No-1/dp/0747589321/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1318516108&sr=8-13

Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of Britain and Europe (Field Guides)
By Peter Jordan

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Edible-Mushrooms-Britain-Europe-Guides/dp/1847737463/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1318516065&sr=8-10

And whilst browsing for these books I also came across a new one from ‘the legend’ Alys Fowler which was published by Kyle Books (8 Sep 2011), not sure how I missed that one! But I’ve added it to my end of month buying!

The Thrifty Forager: Living Off Your Local Landscape


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thrifty-Forager-Living-Local-Landscape/dp/1856269124/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1318516108&sr=8-14

All the best

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Great British Bake Off Final!

So last night saw the final of this years Great British Bake Off. If you’ve not been watching this series, you’ve missed a treat! To summarise 12 amateur home bakers take part in a bake-off to test all of their baking skills as they challenge each other to be win the title of the Great British Bake Off’s best amateur baker, they cook anything from classic Victoria sponges to pastries, to bread. I’ve loved every minute of this programme it’s been even better than the first series!

Big Congratulations to Joanne Wheatley who won the title last night but congratulations also has to go to Mary-Anne Boermans and Holly Bell the runners up. Personally I thought Holly was the winner but it was a close call.

Recipes from the contestants on the series can be found on the website http://www.thegreatbritishbakeoff.com/recipes/

You can view Joanne Wheatley’s blog, Jo’s blue AGA, at http://josblueaga.blogspot.com/.
You can follow Joanne Wheatley on Twitter: @joannewheatley

You can view Holly Bell’s blog, Recipes from a Normal Mum, at http://recipesfromanormalmum.blogspot.com.
There you can view her latest postings, beautiful celebration cakes, recipes and reviews.
You can also follow Holly on twitter: @HollyBellMummy

You can view Mary-Anne Boerman’s blog, Time to Cook Online, at http://timetocookonline.com/.
Follow Mary-Anne on twitter: @wotchers

There is also an Official Book to accompany the series

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1849902682/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thegreatbri00-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=1849902682


It’s definitely on our shopping list!!

All the Best!

Happy Baking!!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Saving Money!

It is easy to save money, I'm not talking putting away £25 a month in a savings account with little return, I'm talking saving money on everyday items, earning "free" cash and receiving "free" products.

I love a good bargain (as you may have seen in one of my previous blogs re: freecycle!) and if I can help it, I won't pay full price on most things I buy. I always look for instore offers, money off coupons in papers/magazines and of course the internet.

The internet has many sites offering voucher codes or printable coupons, take today for example, I had a look on the internet site supersavvyme.co.uk and found a £2 off coupon for a stain remover (with both my boys at school now, stain remover is a must for their white school shirts!) This coupon was redeemable at either Tesco or Sainsburys (you choose which store you want it for). I chose Tesco. After visiting the store later this evening, Tesco had the prduct on sale anyway for £3, so with my £2 off coupon, I got the product for £1! Bargain!
I also had a coupon for cream cheese, Tesco was selling the product for £1.36, my coupon was £1 off - I paid just 36p for it! Double Bargain!!

My favourite sites for printable coupons are:
www.supersavvyme.co.uk
www.beforeishop.co.uk

Online voucher codes are brilliant too, you can save money on all sorts of things from restaurants to days out!
Just type in "voucher codes" in your internet search engine and it will come up with a whole list of online voucher code sites which list companies offering discount with a code!

One thing I also do when shopping online, I go through a cashback site called Quidco, this gives you a percentage of cashback for your purchases, which pays you into your Paypal account (terms apply)
This is now my little "pot" for my wedding fund, so hopefully during christmas I'll be getting cahsback on all my pressies!

I also joined a survey site and a product testing site. Basically I complete surveys on all sorts of topics, in return I accumalate points, once you get to a certain amount of points, I can exchange these for vouchers for places like amazon. This certainly helps during christmas as I save them up during the year!
The product testing site is exactly that, they send you products to test for a period of time and then you complete a survey to tell them what you thought about it! You get "free" products just for your opinion!

I learnt all the above from good ol' Martin Lewis, his website is jammed pack full of ways to save and making sure you get the best deal.
Check it out: http://www.moneysavingexpert.co.uk

Oh and before i forget, I bought a new book called Bubble wrap, banana peel, baby oil and beyond. It has over 700 ways of using everday household items for different jobs, from keeping your glasses mist free to de-icing your car! Interesting eh??!

Whats your fave way of saving money??

Mel
@Tikobear
@honestlyitseasy

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cake Stands!

According to an article on the front page of the Daily Telegraph today Cake Stands are making a come back! So in celebration I thought I’d post a few of my faves I’ve found!

It’s not surprising that we are seeing a big rise in the sale of cake stands, department store John Lewis has said that sales of three-tier cake stands are up 46 per cent!

With some great baking shows on the TV, to name but a few The Great British Bake Off, The Hairy Biker’s with Mum’s Know Best and Home Cooking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale, baking is on the schedule almost every night!

Whether your cakes are beautiful rich Victoria sponges, indulgent chocolate, or dainty cup cakes, we love them all! Long live the cake!

4 TIER CUPCAKE DESSERT STAND NEW **HOLD 23 CUPCAKES**







http://www.amazon.co.uk/TIER-CUPCAKE-DESSERT-STAND-CUPCAKES/dp/B0041K5DV6/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1317624545&sr=8-15

Lakeland do a great range too and even do matching cupcake papers!;

http://www.lakeland.co.uk/search/ks_cake-stand/q02.r16.1?src=ggkit&gclid=CK3bwpD2y6sCFbEntAodQhOO0w

They have a fabulous Halloween and Christmas themed stand as well! We may even try and make one ourselves! Look out for it in future blogs! ;)














All the Best!

Happy Baking!!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Home Made Bruschetta!

Not sure if anyone else is having this problem luck, but I have LOADS of tomatoes ripening all at the same time! Fab!
So what do you do with them? Before, I have made the usual chutneys and sauces, however i totally forgot about one of my favourite dishes.... Bruschetta!
I first tried Bruschetta at the Olive Garden restaurant in Calgary, Canada and was hooked. Loaded up onto warm Ciabatta bread with some garlic & parsley butter...Nom Nom!!!

It is one of the simplest dishes to make too, here's how:

5-6 Nice juicy ripe tomatoes - Diced
1 Large red Onion - Diced
2-3 Cloves of Garlic - Crushed
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4-5 Fresh basil leaves - Chopped

Basically all you have to do is mix all the above into a dish, stirring well to distribute the olive oil & Balsamic vinegar evenly.
Simples!

(Some people like to deseed the tomatoes....I don't, I chuck the whole lot in, no wastage here!)

Load it up onto some Ciabatta and tuck in!

I have now made this a few times in the past few weeks and have had the thumbs up from every one of my friends. Its a great dish to serve at a BBQ / Party etc - You could definately class it as finger food!

However this is a very "garlic" dish (especially if you have garlic butter too) so be warned if attempting any tongue action, as you may get the finger!
At least you won't get attacked by Vampires though!!

There are many variations to Bruschetta, all of them can be found on the internet, from more tomato receipes to pepper varieties!

Let me know what you think if you try any of them!

Mel
@Tikobear
@Honestlyitseasy

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Alex James’ Harvest Festival & Pulled Pork

www.alexjamespresentsharvest.com

We went to Alex James’ Harvest Festival last Sunday, it was a bit windy but fortunately the weather stayed dry, which helped us digest copious amounts of Aspell Cider, eat food fit for the gods and see Michelin star and celebrity chefs cook amazing food! What more could a girl ask for!! We were very fortunate to have seats at the Chef’s table as well. Where i devoured a dish of pulled pork which was to die for!

And in homage to the dish I have tried to re-create the dish here at home. I roughly followed the recipe from the BBC food website by Simon Rimmer from Something for the weekend;

oil, for greasing
2kg/4lb 6½oz pork shoulder
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp mustard seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper
200ml/7¼fl oz white wine vinegar
250ml/9fl oz cider
3 onions, finely sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
Preparation method
Preheat the oven to 170C/340F/Gas 3.
For the pulled pork, oil a baking tray and place the pork shoulder on top. Mix together the chilli, mustard seeds and salt and freshly ground black pepper, then rub the mixture into the pork shoulder.
Pour the vinegar and cider over, then scatter over the onion and garlic.
Cover with parchment paper, then wrap in foil and place into the oven to roast for three hours. Remove the parchment and foil, then roast for another hour.
'Pull' the pork by sticking a fork in the shoulder and shredding the meat into small pieces with another fork.


I also added some smoked paprika as well. I cooked mine in a slow cooker, It was cooking on low for nearly 24 hours. For a first effort it turned out really well, I only heard words of praise from Spen so that’s always a good sign. Next time I think I will add a bit more spice, although the meat was tasty and shredded perfectly some of the meat in the centre of the joint lacked a bit of flavour – definitely something to work on!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Friday, 2 September 2011

Red Mite!!


Unfortunately our chook house has been attacked, an infestation you may call it, I call it War!

The dreaded Red Mite, the vampire of the night that sucks the blood of chickens causing stress, reduction in egg laying, anaemia and in some cases even death!

This is a problem I was hoping we would never encounter, however we have and in a BIG way!

They are called the silent killers, for the fact that during the day they hide away in the nooks & crannies of your coop waiting until its dark to feed on your chickens. They appear white until they have fed, then they turn bright red! (hence the name, Red Mite!)

Red Mite leave a grey dust in the crevices they live in, we had this dust, but because I use a white mite powder on the coop, I assumed this dust was that! I have learnt my lesson!

Our chooks are cleaned out reguarly, disenfected and treated with a diatom powder, but we still managed to be completely infested by this horrible pest! As soon as we realised, the war was on!

We began by dismantling as much of the coop as possible, and giving it a damn good scrub, concentrating on every nook and cranny.
After we left this to dry, we applied an insecticide spray (keep it away from the chooks as they must not breath the vapours) to every inch of the coop, followed by a complete dusting of Diatom powder, which was also applied to every chicken.

We also had to take off the felted roof and burn it, Red Mite LOVE roof felt and can hide and breed in it quite easily. The only option to get rid of the major infestation was to send them to the depths of hell!
We have now replaced the roof with plastic corrugated sheeting. Much easier to keep clean and no hiding places for the mites!

The coop is now back together, and looking very clean, however this is not the end of the war, no, every few days we have to keep on top of it, by checking reguarly for any stragglers we didn't manage to kill in the first instance as they can breed so quickly. The average life cycle of a red mite is around 7 days and in this time you can go from a minor pest to a huge problem!

If you think you have Red Mite in your coop, get on top of it now!

Products I used:

Insecticde Spray: Ready to Use Smite Red Mite Spray (Sold widely on the internet and good pet shops)
Diatomaceous Earth (Diatom Powder): A 100% natural powder for use on animals, pets and birds against external parasites (lice, fleas etc) and internal (worms), and for general good health. I bought mine from wiggly Wigglers (www.wigglywigglers.co.uk)

I have also started adding garlic (either fresh or granules) to the chickens water. According to research, Red Mite HATE garlic, so the hope is, if the chickens drink "garlic" water, when the Red Mite feed, the chickens taste of garlic, resulting in the mites going elsewhere!
I'm not sure if it works or not, but I might as well try it!

There are LOADS of internet sites dedicated to information relating to Red Mite so if you need any further info, google it!

Have you had Red Mite? What did you use to eradicate them? We'd love to know!

Mel
@honestlyitseasy
@Tikobear


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

TV Cookery Shows ....

Hello!!!

This blog s all about whats on the tv at the moment because I don’t know about anyone else but I am pleased as punch that ‘The Great British Bake Off’ is back on BBC 2. For those who didn’t see the last series the new series can be summarised as follows; twelve of the country's best amateur bakers take part in the second series of The Great British Bake Off, hosted by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins.

In this weeks episode the contestants make cupcakes, tiered cakes and Battenberg cake (Mary Berry’s recipe). Ever since watching the first episode last night I have been craving coffee and walnut Battenberg cake! You can view the episode here;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b013pqxw/The_Great_British_Bake_Off_Series_2_Episode_1/

In Mel and Sue you also have the perfect presenters – I can’t imagine any other paring doing such a great job!

Via the official website www.bbc.co.uk/food/campaigns/get-baking they are also encouraging people to get baking “its a great way to raise money for BBC Children in Need, so put on your apron for Pudsey and find out how you can help make a difference. Mary Berry answers your baking questions and you can download posters and bunting for a bake sale.”

The other BBC programme I have loved (unfortunately it’s finished now) is Rick Stein’s Spain, fortunately for all those who missed this absolutely wonderful series all of the programmes can be seen via the BBC iplayer

www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b012m958/Rick_Steins_Spain_Episode_1/

I was lucky enough to be taken to Rick Steins restaurant in Padstow for my 30th Birthday this year and have to say I think he’s a bit of a legend!

I also caught Mexican Food Made Simple last night, again this is a new series Thomasina Miers presents on Channel 5, some great recipe ideas and the filming is very well executed.

So what shows are everyone else watching and loving?

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Red Berry Pavlova

So as promised (better late than never), here is the Recipe for Pavlova, although I didn’t have 6 large eggs because we had sold all of ours so I used 17 Bantam eggs instead! And I did load some extra berries on the top, including blueberries, redcurrents and what not, more the merrier if you ask me! Enjoy!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup



Red Berry Pavlova

Pavlova

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
350g Caster Sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar





Red Berry’s

800g red berries hulled
40g icing sugar
2 Tablespoons of raspberry eau-de-vie or Kirsch (optional)
Squeeze of lemon juice
300ml Whipping Cream

Makes 1 x 20cm cake

Preheat the oven to 200/gas mark 7. Cut a circle of baking paper to fit a 20cm cake tin 9cm deep with a removable base. Rinse the tine with water, put the paper circle on the base and rinse again.

Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until they rise to a froth. Sprinkle over the caster sugar a few tablespoons at a time, whisking well with each addition. Whisk in the cornflour, then the vinegar. You should have a very stiff, glossy meringue.

Spoon the meringue into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Place the pavlova o a baking sheet in the oven, reduce the temperature to its very lowest setting and bake for 1 ½ -2 hours keeping an eye on the surface to make sure it doesn’t colour. Remove the pavlova and run a knife around the edge of the tin.

Put a third of the berries, the icing sugar, the eau-de-vie if using and the lemon juice in a liquidiser and puree. Pass through a sieve into a bowl, taste and add more sugar or lemon juice as necessary. Halve or quarter any large strawberries and mix the remaining fruit in with the sauce.

Remove the collar and transfer the pavlova to a large serving plate. Whip the cream and spread thickly over the top of the pavlova. Spoon the berries and sauce into the centre with extra around the base if like. Serve straight away.

Recipe from the book Gorgeous Cakes by Annie Bell which is available from Amazon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gorgeous-Cakes-Published-Association-Magazine/dp/1856266141/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311838175&sr=8-1

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Weeds!

I'm no expert when it comes to "what is a weed" and "what isn't a weed".
For example, when I moved house in January, I moved all my garden plants with me, including (unknowingly) a couple of weeds!

I planted them in the garden thinking they were "proper plants" until they shot up last month and i realised they are actually the same ones you find covering the verges on the A roads! Oops!

Weeds get everywhere! You can spend a whole day digging the little s**ts blighters out, filling your wheelbarrow with them and feeling sooo proud of your nice clear garden. Then you turn your back for a second and they're back, just like childrens nits! You think you have them all then they return!!! (Bet your now scratching at the thought of them!!) ha!

No matter how much time you spend eradicating the pesky things, (which I spend LOADS of time on my knees digging them out individually) you have to admit, when you dig up a lovely batch of carrots & spuds from the veg patch, it does make it all worth it, right??!!



I would love to hear your tried & tested tips for getting rid of weeds, comment below!

Thanks

Mel
@Tikobear
@Honestlyitseasy

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Curry Night!

Lush - That is the only word I can use to describe the taste of one of our table birds! Lovingly prepared by my hubbie to be in a curry for dinner tonight!

Four down, two still clucking around in the coop. A little late I must admit, but we've been super busy with work, kids, village fetes etc that we just haven't had the time to do the deed to all of them.

We have three currently in the freezer, and I have to tell you one of them was a very fat and healthy 7.25lbs!! Thats small child size!!! (He's being saved for christmas!!!)




And just so you know:
Answers to the most asked questions I get regarding the table birds:
Did you kill them yourself? Yes
Did you pluck & gut? Yes
Did I feel a little guilty? Yes...a little!
Is it really worth it? Yes it can work out a little higher than a shop bought chicken, but it's all for the taste. The tatse of that fresh homegrown chicken, a bit like your own homegrown fruit and veg. You just can't beat it!

So there you have it, from a day old chick to an 18 week old bird to my dinner table!

Now where's my meat cleaver.................

Mel
@Tikobear
@honestlyitseasy

Monday, 18 July 2011

Elephant Garlic

I’ve never used Elephant Garlic before but we found some in our local farm shop (Wykham Park) last week and decided we would get some and give it a go – it came with a handy recipe card (recipe’s below) with it too.

I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from it but the cloves were enormous! Some may say ‘elephant’ size! The smell was a lot milder than normal garlic (I’m not sure if it’s that way for all of this type of garlic or whether this one was particularly mild) but I will make sure when we get more to analyse the smell!

So we used some in a fab lamb curry on Saturday, spen makes one of the best lamb curry’s ever, it’s slow cooked for hours to make the meat tender, I will ask him for a recipe and put it on a blog for you all because it really does taste quite wonderful! We also used some with our roast beef yesterday and have enough left for our beef stir fry tonight (made from the left over roast beef from yesterday).

I desperately need to attack the garden at some point this week – I’ve done what I do every year (and vow not to do this every year), I get all excited about sowing seeds and growing vege’s etc and then I get busy with work and the garden has to take a back seat and then things get a bit overgrown and take far longer to sort out than what they would if I spent just a little bit of time doing it even when I’m busy.

We are also a bit over-run with chicks at the moment – Keith (our lavender pekin) has been very busy with his ladies and although we are selling quite a few, they keep hatching out so we have little mouths to feed all at varying stages. Hatching chicks out whether it be naturally under a hen or in a incubator never losses it’s magic though, they are just so cute and fluffy and affectionate!

Ok best get back to the grind stone, chickens to feed, house to tidy, emails to answer and businesses to get on with!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Kill It, Cut It, Use It!

Last night I caught the 3rd episode in this series on BBC3;

Julia Bradbury and a group of young consumers discover how the humble pig can provide everything from shoes and hairbrushes to sweets and vital medical parts. You can watch it again on the BBC IPlayer, just follow the link below;


http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0126jm8/Kill_It_Cut_It_Use_It_Pig/


I have to say the two people Prince Cassius and Sade, who were part of this programme were the most annoying people I’ve seen on tv in a long time. I know that people who have always lived in the city may not necessarily know how some animals smell, how big they are etc, but please they really had no idea at all.

Maybe I may seem a bit harsh, not everyone wants to know, or has any interest in knowing where their products have come from and what they are made from. But personally I think it’s very important for people to understand whether what they are wearing or eating came from an animal or wherever.

If you haven’t seen any of this series it is well worth a watch, the previous two episodes are about Cows and Sheep, all available on the wonderful Iplayer (what did we do before things like the iplayer!?)

Cow
1.Julia Bradbury and young consumers discover how the inedible parts of a cow can be turned into everything from car seats and tennis rackets to fastenings and posh plates.

Sheep
2. Julia Bradbury and a group of young consumers discover how the inedible parts of a sheep can be turned into everything from comfy boots to cosmetics and even condoms.

Julia Bradbury we salute you, think your absolutely fabulous!

Keep up the amazing work!

All the Best!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Sunday, 26 June 2011

BBC Gardeners World Live & The Good Food Show!

Firstly I need to apologise for the delay in this post, Gardeners World Live was last weekend and I just haven't had the time to blog about it!

I have to admit I was really impressed with the show which also tied in The Good Food Show Summer. There was so many fab things to see, lots of freebies and best of all LOADS of inspiration and ideas!


The New meaning to "The Flower Bed"!!

Showing you that anything can be used in the garden to make a "Bug" hotel. They use an old shopping trolley and literally stuff it full of stuff (!!), like old bricks, bamboo, chimney stacks etc etc. It actually looked really good and I can imagine that this would by 5 stars to the bug world!

Loved this exhibit with the bonsai trees, they just don't look real! This one is over 100yrs old! We decided to purchase two baby trees and see if we could create our own little bonsai's! I've always thought they were hard to look after, but apparently not (according to the exhibitors) so we will see if they live or die in our care!

The Alliums, member of the garlic family! I absolutely love these flowers, they make such a statement in a garden, their huge ball heads and vibrant colours, they attract the bees and basically just look damn cool!!!
I will definately be adding many of these to my flower garden, which will be planned and planted next year.



The RSPCA exhibit! Just had to show you how neat this HUGE dog sofa was!

The Cacti exhibit - I love Cacti, they come in every size, shape and colour, are super easy to look after and pretty much hard to kill!
I have a few cacti at home, which I have had for yrs. One actually flowered this yr for the first time!!! I think if anyone wants a house plant that just looks after itself, can stand being forgotten about for a couple of months, and still survive then a cacti is for you!!!

Paul Rankin! Yep I met Paul Rankin this time round, very nice chap who even signed my Rankin selection bread - Irish Barmbrack! Lush!
http://rankinselection.com/ Check out his other receipes!!


Well that was the show in a snap shot! I have LOADS more photos but this blog would be way too long!
We came home very satisfied, lots of free goodies and even bought a few bits! My boys especially love the Venus Fly Traps we bought them. They love feeding them flies and watching them snap shut! Quality!

FYI - The Good Food Show is back in November for its Winter edition which I always find has alot more to offer as Summer edition is usually alot smaller due to sharing with Gardeners World!!
Also Gardeners World will be back next year in June so make sure you pop it in the diary!!
(Tip - I get my tickets through Tesco online with my vouchers!)

Hope you're enjoying this glorious sun!

Mel
@Tikobear
@honestlyitseasy

P.S. The garden is still coming along, the veg are going nuts, the sunflowers are growing rapidly and we're enjoying tons of fresh grown produce! Yum!

Oh and last but not least, I am running the Race For Life this yr on 30th July. If you would like to sponsor me, please do so on my sponsor page:
http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/melaniemcpherson
Thank you!!!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Time ................

Further to my previous blog post on Sour Dough Cake Recipe I can confirm I have reached Day 9! Hooray!!! So this morning at some ungodly hour I divided the mixture into 4 so that I could give 3 away, so my work colleague Sarah has been given one, my friend Julia and of course who can forget the other half of Honestly Its Easy Mel is also due to have hers delivered today. I’m going to attempt to cook it after working all day followed by a meeting after work tomorrow evening and will try and post some pictures, but it’s a manic weekend so bear with me if I can’t get pictures up straight away.

I’ve been so busy with work over the last couple of weeks that I really feel I have been neglecting my garden, when going out yesterday evening to feed the chickens before travelling for dinner at the in laws things are looking very untidy indeed so it is my mission one evening next week to spend at least a couple of hours giving things like the tomatoes and chilli’s a little bit of TLC!

We also have 7 table birds to dispatch (to be honest they should have been done last week but as usual time just ran out!) so they are a priority within the next 7-10 days for sure, especially because one of the cockerels has started crowing and it sounds like an old alarm clock with its batteries running out! I also need to go and help Mel with her table birds as well, oh it’s all going on! The moment I cross one thing off of my to do list another 10 get added! One Step forward 10 steps back scenario!

At this point I would also like to introduce you all to my new favourite friend
Funky Chicken Gifts



These lumps and lump key rings are a must for any chicken lover! And they donate money to Fresh Start For Hens as well! What a bonus!! We love them!! And think you should go and check them out.

Right onwards and upwards with the to do list!

Speak soon!
All the Best!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sour Dough Cake Recipe - called Herman!

My good friend Gemma came around last night with Herman! A sour dough recipe that her mother in law (Margaret) has started, so at the moment I am on Day 3 (Margaret started the first few stages for me!)

So as I said we are on Day 3 and when I get to Day 9, the other half of Honestly its easy will be getting a portion to start!! For all of those interested in this recipe here it is! I’ll update you with how we are getting on soon!

Sour Dough Cake Recipe
Hello! My name is Herman. I’m a sour dough recipe. I’m supposed to be on the worktop for 10 days, without the lid on.
You cannot put me in the fridge or I will die!
If I stop Bubbling I am dead!
I’m not meant to touch metal!
Day 1 – you get Herman and take the lid off. Put into a large mixing bowl or container capable of holding at least 2 litres and cover loosely with a towel or cling film.
Day 2 – stir well
Day 3 – stir well
Day 4 – Herman is hungry!, Add the following ingredients, stir well and cover again:

1 cp plain flour (115g/4oz)
1 cup of granulated sugar (225g/8oz)
1 cup of milk (235ml/8 fl oz)

Day 5 – stir well
Day 6 – stir well
Day 7 – stir well
Day 8 – stir well
Day 9 - Herman is hungry again! Add the same ingredients as Day 4. Divide into 4 equal portions and give 3 away to your friends, along with these instructions or keep one if you want to start a new cake. Herman No 4 stays with you and is now nearly ready to be baked.
Day 10 – Herman is now very hungry indeed. Stir well and add the following ingredients:

1 cup of caster sugar (225g/8oz)
2 cups of plain flour (225g/8oz)
2 eggs
2 tbsps vanilla essence (10ml)
2 heaped tbsps cinnamon
2 heaped tbsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup cooking oil, sunflower, olive (174 ml/6 fl oz)
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
½ cup walnuts/almonds (optional) (75g/2 ½ oz)
1 cup of raisins/sultanas (optional) (150g / 5oz)
Other options include pineapple, cherries, chopped chocolate, coconut, etc.
Mix everything together and place into a large greaseproof roasting tin. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of brown sugar (50g/2oz)
Bake it for 45 minutes at 170 – 180 c (gas mark 3-4). Check after 35 minutes, it may be done. When it is cold, cut into fingers. This cake freezes well, It is delicious warmed up as a dessert with c ream or ice cream.

All the Best!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Sunday, 5 June 2011

NGS Gardens Open For Charity

So today Mel and I (accompanied by her mum and two young sons) went and had a look at the NGS (National Gardens Scheme) Gardens in the village of Preston Capes and Little Preston. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was! I’m very much of the opinion that I want to be able to eat anything and everything I grow, but seeing these beautiful gardens in full spring bloom I have to admit is starting to change my mind!


Beautiful roses, honeysuckles, Alliums, Large Poppy styled flows and Lupins, the list cold go on and on, it was a real pleasure and privilege to be able to go and visit some of these gardens. What with these gardens and all the watching of the Chelsea Flower show I did flowers are around the corner for our garden for sure! I will be researching edible flowers thoroughly as well!! SO look out for future posts on the subject and in the meantime if you have any suggestions for beautiful edible flowers please let me know!

And if you want to know what NGS gardens are open in your area or want more information on the charity visit their website www.ngs.org.uk. They are committed to helping a whole range of charities, Macmillan Cancer Relief, Marie Curie Cancer Care, The Nurses Welfare Service as well as many more!

I didn’t manage to get everything in the garden done as hoped in my previous post – but I’m hoping to catch up during the week, will obviously depend on the weather a lot though!

Had a good look around Mel’s garden as well (its been a few weeks since I last went over) and what a transformation!!! She’s filled you in on her blog posts from last week – but actually seeing it was brilliant, there’s grass and vegetables growing and potatoes and the raspberry bushes are coming along nicely! It’s fantastic – such a different view from a few weeks back when everything looked pretty brown!! Whats even better is I came away with cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, cucumber and sprout seedlings! Brilliant!!

Toodle pip for now!

All the Best!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Thursday, 2 June 2011

This weekend is going to be a scorcher!

Apparently this weekend is going to be the hottest yet! Yippee!! After working very hard over the last couple of weeks I have decided Saturday is my day off! I’m going to be pottering around my garden all day long if I get my way!

There are lots of jobs that have been slipping due to the busyness of everyday life. The grass needs cutting, the hedges need trimming, the beans need tying up against the poles, some seedlings need planting out, you get the idea I wont bore you with all the details!!

We are also going to organise our chicken area a little better. So plenty to be getting on with – not sure if one day will be enough!! I'll be properly updating my side of the blog after the weekend and will make sure I get some pictures up as well!

We’ve also been catching a few episodes of spring watch, tonight’s was particularly good, there was a fab piece about making a bee hotel, here is the link!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/natureuk/2011/05/wildlife-gardening-ideas-helpi.shtml

Whatever you get up to this weekend, enjoy the weather, enjoy your garden and the wildlife in your garden, make the most of it – in this country you can never be too sure how long its going to last!!

All the Best!
Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Sunday, 29 May 2011

It's All Go On The Veg Front!

I personally think everyone should have a go at Grow Your Own, whether it be one tomato plant or a whole allotment plot, the satisfaction of harvesting something you have cared for since seed is satisfying and REALLY tasty!

We started out with one pot and one potato, when we harvested this and found a whole bag full of spuds at the bottom of that one pot, we were hooked!

We grow pretty much anything we like to eat now (as you may have seen in my previous blogs). So to update you all, our fruit & veg is growing nicely!

We currently have loads of lovely strawberries, and a couple of them are ripening super quick, so hopefully (if i get there before my two little monsters do) I'll have my first taste by the middle of next week!



The Maris Piper potatoes have gone nuts, I can't wait to dig these up and enjoy a tasty chip/mash or roastie from this favourite of mine!

We've also planted another row next to these, so we can have a second harvest, which means twice the amount!! Yum Yum!!


We have discovered that the old tenant was rather partial to a raspberry, we have had about 30 plants make an appearance from the ground (even after it was rotavated), so we have sectioned a batch off and are letting them grow.

From these plants I can guess we'll have way too many to eat fresh, so I'll enjoy freezing them and making jam out of them...and of course I'll share any receipes I try!

Our other raised bed is full of a variety of veg, we have onions, carrots, spring onions, lettuce, garlic, spinach, chard, beetroot and celebrese AND we still have room for more! We have already been harvesting the tender young lettuce leaves as well as the spinach, you just can't beat the taste of fresh produce!

My cherry trees are fruiting and my apple & pear tree seem to be budding, but i have a feeling that these won't fruit this year, but thats ok, i'll look forward to them next yr!



On the sunflower side, so far Callum seems to be in the lead, I have been hardening these off, ready for outside, like I said before we'll have to see who's will survive!!!



Well thats all for now, I'll be updating you about chilli & tomato plants soon!!!

Take Care And Get Growing!!!

Mel
@Tikobear
@Honestlyitseasy

The Transformation Continues.....

As you can see, my back garden certainly has come a long way in 4 months!
From This (24th Jan 2011)


To This (May 2011)


It hasn't been easy either, for instance the constant excavation of the millions of pieces of glass and broken clay pots from beneath the ground is still...well...unbelievable! I mean you have to actually see it to believe it!
This was dug up from literally less than a metre square of ground...it filled the wheelbarrow!!


Now I know you can use this for drainage etc, and I'm all for recycling, but considering we have practically a mound of the stuff that could fill a small skip, I doubt I can reuse it all!!

I have to admit, I'm pretty bloody proud of what we have achieved in the last few months and I know that the next few months will be super busy too with all our veg, so I'm looking forward to the time when we can actually sit back and admire our work!

Mel
@Tikobear
@honestlyitseasy

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Hayfever!!!!!

“Allergic rhinitis, pollenosis or hay fever is an allergic inflammation of the nasal airways. It occurs when an allergen such as pollen or dust is inhaled by an individual with a sensitized immune system, and triggers antibody production.”
Source Wikipedia.org


A huge percentage of the population is affected by Hayfever, there are many different types of treatment out there whether they be tablets, syrups, nasal sprays, eye drops, maybe it’s a homeopathic treatment, natural remedy, or an old remedy passed down through the generations, what works for you?

I myself suffer terribly with hayfever and nothing really seems to help I’ve tried many things, off the shelf drugs from the chemist, nasal sprays, eye drops, , the list could go on, but nothing seems to be that effective – it may ease the suffering a little but not cure it. I want a cure!

I’ve come across this website

www.medibee.co.uk/pollen-capsules.php

I have ordered some tablets and will let you know how I get on!

On the website it does say

“Alert ! alert! alert! – help yourself by drying your sheets and clothes indoors – never hang clothes outside to dry in summer!!!”

But to be honest I love the smell and feeling of freshly dried clothes from outside!

In the meantime people, you can keep a close eye on the pollen count in your area via the piri allergy website, simply enter your postcode and you get the results straight away, including a forecast option as well which is quite useful!

www.piriallergy.com

All the Best!
Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Monday, 16 May 2011

Vegetable Plants, Table Birds & Birthdays!!!!!!

Wow, it certainly has been a busy couple of weeks, hence the absence of posts from moi!!!

I have had a couple of birthdays, my hubbie to be last week and my youngest who turned 4 today! So we've been galavanting about, doing silly things like paintballing & trampoline building!!!

So just to update you, the garden is coming along, slowly but brilliantly, the grass seed has gone nuts since our rain fall and the turf is looking lush and green, can really start to picture my gorgeous garden to be! Finally!

Our potatoes, onions, carrots, radish & lettuce are sprouting through and we had our first pickings of spinach tonight (added to a lush curry!!)
Runner beans will be going in within the next couple of weeks once I get my wigwam up. Also have some sweetcorn, peas, broad beans & tomatoe plants to sort. So I gather from that the next (few) weeks or so will be super busy too!

I will have to update my "plan" seeing as the lovely Claire has been uber organised and updated hers, so not to be outdone I will be reposting mine v. soon!!!

The table birds are HUGE!!! It seems we have two rather large cockerals, who are now trying to "cockadoodledo" but it sounds more like foghorn leghorn at the minute! Bless!
The hens are doing well, even after their "attack" from my layers (the meanies actually pecked holes into the chicks during a mass attack!) They have now been seperated!

Had to re-pot the boys sunflowers today, hoping to be able to harden them off soon and get them outside, then the challenge really begins! Who's will survive the weather conditions and/or those pesky slugs??

Wagers being taken, tweet me!!!

Mel
@Tikobear
@honestlyitseasy

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Jane Howorth Article Kitchen Garden and hen keeping and eggs!

Brilliant Article by Jane Howorth in the magazine Kitchen Garden issue June 2011 www.kitchengarden.co.uk about Hen Keeping and the possible importing into the UK of millions of illegally produced eggs 'hidden' as ingredients in many common processed foods, deffinately worth a read!



For more information on the British Hen Welfare Trust and how you adopt some ex-battery hens visit www.bhwt.org.uk.

All the Best!
Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Monday, 9 May 2011

More raised Beds!

Yay! We had some rain on the weekend, our grass seed loved it! It seemed to almost spring up over night! It’s still pretty patchy in places but I think that has more to do with birds coming and helping them selves than the quality or the care of the seed.

Weekend was yet again a busy one, Spen and I (well Spen really I was just the helper) made another raised bed for over by the chicken shed for some beans and what not. We are going to mow the grass this week so as soon as that has happened I’ll post some more pictures (always looks so much better when it has had a good mow!).

But in the meantime here’s a bit of an update on progress, as you can see we’ve added three more raised beds to the original plans. Spen’s also fixed a proper lock on the chicken coop gate to avoid any more dashes from the chooks to get to the vege plots! Yay!

The greenhouse is now finished – I’ll post some more pictures of that later this week, we also have the possibility of some more windows as well so there maybe another greenhouse to add to that little area as well which will be great for the tomatoes and chillies this year! Will have to see what sort of windows are available first though before I get too excited!


All the Best!
Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Multicoloured macaroons recipe

So last night Spen and I made some macaroons! The recipe is below but here’s a quick summary on our first go;

Never made these before but I’ve wanted to for a while ever since I saw them being made on Lorraine Pascale ‘ s BBC show a short while ago.
Supermodel turned patisserie chef Lorraine Pascale is the BBC's new home baking heroine. In this gorgeous new cookbook to accompany the series, Lorraine shares her expertise, passion and her all time favourite sweet and savoury recipes.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Baking-Made-Easy-Lorraine-Pascale/dp/0007275943/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1304838035&sr=8-1

So we made the mixtre and unfortunately we discovered that I don’t own a piping bag. SO we tried to ‘bodge’ it and try using a sandwich bag with the end cut off – as you can see from the pictures below – they didn’t really work!






Although after they were cooked and filled with chocolate butter icing they definitely tasted great!! Now that we’ve made them once I will definitely be making them again – after I’ve purchased a piping bag! lol!

http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/multicoloured-macaroons

Multicoloured macaroons recipe

By Lizzie Kamenetzky

• Makes 20 |
• Takes 45 minutes to make, 15 minutes to cook, plus cooling

Macaroons are coming back into fashion in a big way.Carefully follow the recipe for perfect macaroons that will wow your guests.

Ingredients
1. 175g icing sugar
2. 125g ground almonds
3. 3 large free-range egg whites
4. 75g caster sugar

For the filling
1. 150g butter, softened
2. 75g icing sugar

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan140°C/gas 3. Whizz the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor to a very fine mixture, then sift into a bowl.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt to soft peaks, then gradually whisk in the caster sugar until thick and glossy. (At this point you can stir in flavour extract, such as peppermint or lemon, and corresponding colouring such as blue or yellow, to your meringue mixture, depending on what kind of macaroons you want – see chef's tip. Or divide the meringue among different bowls if you want to make more than one colour.)

3. Fold half the almond and icing sugar mixture into the meringue and mix well. Add the remaining half, making sure you use a spatula to cut and fold the mixture until it is shiny and has a thick, ribbon-like consistency as it falls from the spatula. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle.

4. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Pipe small rounds of the macaroon mixture, about 3cm across, onto the baking sheets. Give the baking sheets a sharp tap on the work surface to ensure a good ‘foot’. Leave to stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to form a slight skin. This is important – you should be able to touch them lightly without any mixture sticking to your finger. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

5. Meanwhile, make the filling/s (unless making chocolate macaroons – see chef's tip). In a bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the icing sugar. (You can now add flavouring or nuts, and colour – see chef's tip.) Use to sandwich pairs of macaroons together.

Nutritional info

Per macaroon: 160kcals, 9.7g fat (4.2g saturated), 1.8g protein, 17.5g carbs, 16.4g sugar, 0.2g salt

Chef's tip

Macaroons taste wonderful plain, but why not add flavouring and colouring? Flavour extracts – such as raspberry, lemon and peppermint – and colourings are available in supermarkets and cake shops. Try squires-shop.com to buy online. To flavour and colour your macaroons, in step 2, add around ½ tsp flavour extract, then add the appropriate colouring, a drop at a time, until you reach the desired intensity. Flavour and colour the buttercream in the same way. For chocolate macaroons, replace a quarter of the icing sugar with cocoa powder and use Nutella as the filling. For pistachio macaroons, replace half the ground almonds with ground pistachios (whizz in a blender or finely chop by hand), and use green food colouring to achieve a pastel green. Fold chopped pistachios through the filling, if you like.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sunflowers, Seed & Turf!

I can safely say the Sunflower challenge is definately ON!

So far Callum is in the lead, much to the anger of Mackenzie. However it ain't over yet!! My boys are still enjoying nurturing their young plants and they check them every day to see if they have grown any more. And I have to say..I love a bit of healthy competition!!!

The grass seed has started to show through, it isn't quite the "lush green lawn in 10 days" as stated on the pack, but to be honest I don't blame the product, I blame the weather. It has been far to hot and dry for it so my evenings are spent soaking it!

I also have some more greenage in my very brown garden, a lovely friend from the world of facebook offered me about 24 rolls of turf...for free! So I enrolled my good ol' friend Claire and her bloke Spen's yellow passion wagon to help me collect it! It looks fab in my garden, it's finally all starting to come together, slowly but perfectly!

Mel
@Tikobear
@Honestlyitseasy

Sunday, 1 May 2011

new raised beds, broody chickens and washing line comparisons???

A busy day today! Caught up on nearly all the washing, how lovely is it when you can dry your washing outside! Makes things so much easier! Whilst on the subject of washing I have to mention that Mel (the other half of honestly its easy) cane over last weekend for a cider and a chat (as you do). During her visit our conversation skills hit an all time weird level, we talked about the benefits of a rotary washing line compared to a normal washing line, good lord!!! We obviously need to get out more!!

The bloody chickens got out this morning and I think luckily I may have caught them all in time – they only managed to destroy the Kale that was springing up and dislodge a few onions, we have now purchase another lock for the coop gate to make sure this doesn’t happen again!

We have a broody silkie chicken which is sat on a few of or fertile lavender pekin hatching eggs! Yay, will give you an update on whats going on with them in a couple of weeks when I go and try and candle them.


We’ve sown some more vegetables as well and I’ll update my little diagram next week with our new additions and there are also two new raised beds to add to it as well! We are also going to try growing some peas alongside the lavender pekins run, not entirely sre if this is going to work or not but only time will tell! In theory we are hoping (in or experience the girls don’t like peas, or not cooked ones anyhow!) that the peas can grow along side them and although we will lose some of the crop to little beaks most of the crop will be ok and the chickens will help with a bit of pest control, hmmmm, nice try we’ll see if it works!!

Here are the new beds we’ve put in, We are hoping that the bean pole’s will help to hide the oil tank a bit when they have things growing over and up them!


I do hope everyone is enjoying all this extra time off we’ve been having and have spent in wisely, in the garden as we have tried to!

All the Best!
Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

PS The grass is starting to come through a little bit as well – all my hard work watering it all the time seems to be paying off!!