The Perfect Hot Chocolate for my Less Is More Christmas.

hotchocolate

I am also simultaneously running and updating another blog dedicated to The Less Is More Challenge and all those other great Less Is More Lessons. At the moment I am writing a lot about the amazing time that is Christmas, and the different approaches one can take. These approaches include my own personal approach, but also the very marketed and standardised approach Christmas has become for many.

So, as part of My Less Is More Christmas, I am on the hunt to perfect the simple things that life can bring at Christmas time. These simple things involve some local ingredients, some time in the kitchen (involve the youngsters) and the best of the simple things that Christmas can bring. I am going to perfect and bring you my tried and tested best recipes for the following Christmas Yummies:

  1. Hot Chocolate
  2. Mince Pies
  3. Gingerbread Cookies
  4. Perfect Roast Potatoes
  5. Perfect Left Over Turkey recipes
  6. Finger Food for party season
  7. Mulled Wine, and last but not least..
  8. Sherry trifle

So the first tried and tested recipe is the ultimate favourite of my family anytime of year. Hot Chocolate is so enjoyable and fun to make and it was an Austrian friend who really got me into it many years ago – I have been addicted ever since and passed it onto my daughter Eabha. The recipe is from Irish chef Donal Skehan and really is AMAZING. It contains cream which has added luxury but I make my regular hot chocolate throughout the year using skimmed milk.

Dark Orange Hot Chocolate

Serves 2

450ml milk

200ml cream

1 orange, zest only

150g dark chocolate, chopped

1 tbsp caster sugar

Add the milk, cream and orange zest to a saucepan and place over a medium heat.

Bring to just before the boil and then take off the heat.

Add the chocolate and sugar and mix through.

Pour into the glasses and enjoy right away.

 

Meat Free Monday.

meatfreemonday

I always love cooking without the use of meat. It not only teaches you to be resourceful and inventive in the kitchen but it is also scientifically proven to be good for you to ditch meat. Too much meat is not only bad for your body but the food production involving animals is getting increasingly intensive which is not good for the poor animal or the planet. Meat production accounts for up to 18% of the greenhouse gas production in the world – cow wind is pretty bad, poor farmers standing behind all those cow bums!! It is a Meat free Monday and sometimes Tuesday’s, Wednesday and Thursday in our home! is a great initiative set up by Sir Paul McCartney, Stella and Mary.  

Check out Meat Free Mondays HERE.

Today I am cooking my all time favourite Red Lentil Dahl from Green Saffron, another farmers market success story, Cork native and one of my favourite Indian cooking essentials. 

I am always telling people who are so afraid and confused about their own powerful impact on the earth that they CAN make a difference. It is as simple as cooking a meat free meal on Mondays for you and your family and telling everyone about it. We all can make and become the difference for our planet.

Project Tree House – Stage 1

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For my entire childhood I have wanted a Tree House, somewhere to call home. My Dad, who is very capable of building one, didn’t commit as he is the type to obsess over safety – anyone who knows my Dad is probably laughing right now! The thoughts of young children climbing ladders and being up high with ropes would have given my Dad many years of sleepless nights. Instead, when I was young, I used my Dad’s shed as my place to get away. This actually worked out well for me, as the lessons learnt about carpentry and nail driving, screwing and salvaging were useful when I decided to build my daughter a Tree House.

The reason why I have called this post ‘Project Tree House’ and have put it into stages is to make it more achievable to you. It is, and always will be an ongoing project, and will evolve with the child and when I have spare time to work on it.

I first thought about buying a complete swing set and tree house combo. This thought didn’t last long, as the prices are extortionate and the lure of constructing a tree house out of left overs, making it with all the love in the world appealed more. So what I did was, go on the internet and learned about what was available and the different models out there. I had a vision in my head about what I wanted to do for Eabha, it was a deconstructed Pirate ship with a flag pole, the tree house being the ships bridge, and a sandpit underneath to bury the treasure!

It doesn’t always have to be the pirate ship as there are some clever idea’s I have up my sleeve to make this area any child’s dream. I love to tap into a child’s imagination so my sewing machine will be involved, creating an area that can be a pink girly castle or a stage to perform. I will give you all the info with pictures once I have the time and the finished product. But, above all, I want to get parents actively hand making things instead of shop buying you get a whole different level of satisfaction and your children will light up like Christmas!

So stage 1 for my tree house was:

  1. Mark out (use twine and sticks to see scale) the section of your garden you want to give over to a child’s play area. You will need to take off the top soil and depending on the size purchase bark mulch in bulk which will act as the cushion to break any falls.
  2. Track down a pallet or two for constructing the tree house. I used the pallet in which our sandstone patio paving came in. It could be a good thing to call into a landscaping yard to see what they can give you. It is amazing how friendly people are when you ask nicely!
  3. Buy 4 fencing posts and you will need some cement to make these secure.
  4. Visit your local chandlery (shop that sells sailing and boat stuff) for some rope and bolts and hooks to make the flag pole and the barrier for the entrance.
  5. Any flag will work on the flag pole you may have to sew some hooks. What my Dad did was, took the cotton handle of one of those really high quality bags, made two loops and sewed on a loop at each end of the flag. Then you can attach it to the rope of the mast. I will do a separate blog on this as it needs to be explained better.

Here is a picture of the initial stage of the tree house:

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Peter Rabbit Soup?!

peterrabbit

What is this I hear you ask! Well I have a little girl who likes a certain few veggies but wouldn’t be a fan of things like onion, mushrooms, tomatoes etc. but, loves the soup version?!!

For me I love nothing more than seeing her polish off a big bowl of vegetable soup and it is great for clearing out the vegetable drawer saving on waste. And I find for the winter having a stock pile of soup can keep the weight down on mum and be a quick healthy option for tea for the kids.

Recently Eabha started to watch Peter Rabbit on CBeebies and loves it to bits. This love affair with Peter Rabbit is great for me as she is much more willing to try new veggies, I tell her that Peter Rabbit loves this particular vegetable, and she believes me 🙂

So my Peter Rabbit soup is simply a combination of any vegetables left over combined with an Organic stock cube, garlic, thyme, ginger and salt and pepper.

I hope this works for your little bunnies!!

 

Orchid Lover.

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I Love Orchids and here are my top tips for keeping these oriental plants in pristine condition. This is my repotted version above. I had numerous plants that just didn’t look great when on their own as they bloomed at different times of the year, and then looked a bit stalky for the rest of the time. So what I did was bought a bag of orchid compost, found a really nice bowl shaped pot and replanted them. It worked a treat and my orchids have loved the company!! Now if you think that they look a bit stalky from the picture, I will tell you that these stalks have lots of buds just waiting to be born! And there was an accident that involved a really heavily blooming stalk and an elbow, lets just say the duct tape surgery didn’t work.

So my top tips are:

  1. Feed your orchids during their blooming time of year, I personally buy the Baby Bio brand but any brand will do.
  2. Find the perfect spot and they will thrive. These plants are from oriental climates and love heat and humidity but never direct sunlight. They would have lived under tree canopies and in around rocks and ferns.
  3. Moisture is a real no no for the Orchid. If you over water and leave them sitting in a pool then they will die. In their natural habitat they clung in and around rocks and soil. The water would have naturally drained away through the rocks so they just don’t cope well with a swamp!
  4. They do like company so if you have a few group them together or repot them like I did above.
  5. Give their leaves a bit of a dust every once and a while – its like orchid grooming, showing them you care!!
  6. Enjoy your beautiful, regal and amazing plant.

Lavender Bounty…turned into Lavender Bags!

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It is that time of year when you can really enjoy the fruits of your garden. All the hard work id paying off, well I hope!

One plant that I wouldn’t be without in my garden is Lavender! I love everything about it. It’s smell is relaxing and uplifting. It’s colour is beautiful and in a garden it is one of those bee loving plants – win win all round. I have a lavender and rosemary border and it is one of my favourite areas in my garden.

If you do have lavender it is time to cut it back and dry it out. I plan on making some cute lavender bags and giving them as gifts. One of my favourite books that contains so many fab sewing projects is ‘Sew’ by Cath Kidston.

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Sewing is a skill that comes in handy time and time again and I would urge those of you with young children to get them interested from a young age, you never know where it could lead them!

The Lavender Bag project can be found on page 64/65 of Cath Kidston’s ‘Sew’ – I would really recommend this book for all sewing abilities. I have put in a picture of the instructions for any of you who can make it out – give it a go 🙂

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Yay, I made the ‘Short List’…

the blog awards shortlist

I am delighted and thrilled to have my blog make it onto the Blog Awards Ireland 2013 – Short List.

It is a lot of work maintaining a blog, similar to a small child, without the mess, but with the constant love and attention a small child needs to grow and flourish! Not only has my blog made it through in the Eco/Green category but also I have been nominated in the Lifestyle and Outdoors category! Yay, I just feel a little validated that yes people do like to read what I write. There was a time (during school) when I would just black out with the pressure of a class room, it was all too much and things just really didn’t make sense. I would have rather spent my time in my Dad’s shed building things and caring for all my animals. But, I got there in my own time and from my own struggles I have learned so much about the way children learn and why they are SOOO important in changing the future of our planet. This is why I am gunning for my dream of becoming a really great children’s author, specialising in teaching about the subjects that I feel I have a really deep and personal understanding – The Earth, Environment, Nature and Animals. I know I can have an effect on the parents that read the books too, it’s two for the price of one!

Looking forward to seeing what the future holds and if I make it to the ‘Final List’ – Oh the excitement…