Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Experiments with my Slow Cooker

My Mum bought me my slow cooker several years ago now and I really enjoy it. At first it was mostly used for stews and casseroles. Then we advanced to pork for pulled pork and gammon joints. But still I'd like to get more use out of it. I love using it because it's so lazy yet smugly organised. You can just throw a load of ingredients in there and then be all prepared when tea time comes around.

I found a list of slow cooker recipes and decided to try a couple of them out. I picked things that I was suspicious wouldn't work that well.

First up is Slow Cooker fudge! ---> Slow Cooker Fudge


 


You put all the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook for two hours and then leave to cool. Put it in a dish to go in the fridge to set...and wait...and wait...and then eat it with a spoon instead. This happens quite often when I try to make fudge so I shouldn't have been surprised it happened this time. I'm never sure if the problem is the fudge or our patience in waiting for it to set, haha :D


Next I had a go at this bread recipe ---> Slow Cooker Bread

I love the idea of slow cooked bread because bread making has never been something I've managed that well. When I'm baking something I like to mix it up, pop it in the oven and voila it's done. With bread you have to leave it and keep coming back to it which puts me off.




You basically combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Line the slow cooker with baking paper and put the dough in. Cook on high for a couple of hours and it's done. And it works really well. The recipe says you can brown the bread under a grill when it's done because it's a bit on the pasty looking side. I liked it as it was. The crust was thick and chewy the only problem being that I'd forgotten to grease the paper and it was all stuck to the bread. Oops! Apart from that I was really pleased with how it turned out.

I'll have to keep my eye out for more slow cooker recipes to try :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Living Simply with Children

I finished reading this book a few days ago.



JD bought it and read it a month or so ago and then passed it on to me to read. Living simply is something we're already doing and interested in so it was good to read a book someone had written on this topic. The concept behind the book is downshifting your life to free up time to spend with your family. Working less, spending less and creating a life where you can spend your time doing the things that matter to you most.



I've always felt that spending time with your kids is the best thing you can do for them. I'm always trying to think of different simple, inexpensive activities we can do as a family. We enjoy baking together, going on walks, fishing in the river and lots of other things. Yet, still I worry how my children feel about having less 'stuff' bought for them than their friends. It's hard to live simply in such a material world. I want them to grow up remembering a fun childhood spent with their family and not feeling deprived or resentful that they didn't have the latest smart phone. Reading this book did reassure me that sticking to my own personal values about 'spoiling' my children is the right thing to do.



The book tackles lots of problems you face in trying to bring up children to have good values. It gives plenty of ideas to help you focus on the things that are important to you. I feel like we've already made some changes towards living in a more simple way in our family but I've got a few ideas from this book that I'd like to try out.

  • Having a weekly family time where all 'screen' activities (TV, videos internet etc) are banned for a few hours.
  • Making my kids more globally aware so they realise how children from other countries live compared to them.
  • Re-thinking our Christmas activities to make it less commercial.
  • Helping the kids focus on what they want to spend their time doing.
  • Teach them better money maintenance.



But most of all I want to continue to spend time with my family, getting out into nature, talking, laughing and having fun. The general belief that a successful life is one where you earn lots of money, own lots of stuff and have a big house or car couldn't be further from the truth for what I want from my life. I want to lead a simple, happy life and get to spend as much time with my family as possible...and hopefully they want to spend time with me because that would be awkward, haha :D

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Greenfingers, wah wah wahhhh

She's the (wo)man, the man with the Green touch etc etc. Yes, it's true. This summer I actually grew things from seeds and I'm quite impressed with myself about it. It's the first time I'd tried to grow my own vegetables and while they weren't exactly prize winners, they were edible. Which is all that counts :D

I've always wanted to try growing vegetables but I have a bad track record with house plants and no garden. I found a book at the library about growing vegetables in pots so decided that would suit us as we've got a small yard at the back of the house. I went to Homebase and bought a couple of planters, seeds and some soil.


I chose carrots and lettuce to start with.



I put some soil in the planters, added the seeds as instructed and watered them. I think I made a mistake in not putting enough soil in the carrot planter and worried they wouldn't grow.




I watered them every day and pretty soon they looked like this:



Hurrah, real live growing things! The lettuce was great and we ate it in salads or sandwiches. It'd grown quite quickly which pleased me as I'm quite impatient. I'm not sure if it would've grown bigger but it was tasty as it was. The carrots took longer and I ended up picking them before they were fully grown as it was starting to get really cold and I worried something terrible might happen if they got caught out in the frost. My gardening knowledge is limited so I'm not sure what the terrible thing would be, haha.



The carrots were tiny but they tasted really carroty. I was pleased just to have grown something successfully from seeds. I've got big plans for next year. I'm going to start planting earlier in the year and have bigger planters. Any tips are appreciated :)



CHALLENGE UPDATE:

I managed to go the whole of October without buying anything new. Spookily a week or so after my post about needing an umbrella I won one in a Facebook giveaway, which was very handy. The challenge to not buy anything new was easier than I thought. I bought a few second hand books from charity shops. My walking boots wore a hole in them but I acquired a pair off my Dad that he no longer uses. The hardest thing was that I needed a new winter coat and it was getting colder and colder as the month went on. I looked around loads of charity shops to try find one and scoured eBay for a used one but no luck. I bought a new one on November 1st instead and really enjoyed it's warmth. The truth of it is that I don't often buy new things already so it didn't take much adjustment.

I think I could generally go without buying anything new but buying things second hand takes a lot more effort with looking around to try find what you need. I was relieved when November came round to just go online and buy what I wanted quickly and easily. I'm going to continue to try buy most things I need second hand or from the market instead of buying things online though as I want to support local sellers rather than huge companies.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Simple Pleasures




I believe that the best things in life are all the small things. The things that make you feel happy or remind you that you have a good life. Or even something that makes you realise you don't have a terrible life or that you're lucky to be happy and healthy (or alive).

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago. I was in a bad mood, feeling frustrated and angry about a difficult meeting I'd just had. As I was walking down the street on my way back home I was frowning and feeling cross. Then I noticed some fallen autumn leaves swirling about in the wind. I continued walking thinking about how I love the noise they make as they scrape around in the wind, kind of rattling along as they go. Then I got to a low wall where the leaves had blown and accumulated so I kicked my feet through them and watched them scatter away swirling even more in the breeze. I was smiling and feeling happy, my bad mood had dissolved. It felt good.


I hope everyone has simple pleasures that remind them that life is good. I hope everyone can find the time to notice them and to really enjoy how a simple thing can make you feel happy.

This blog has a list of simple pleasures ---> http://zenhabits.net/75-simple-pleasures-to-brighten-your-day/ I enjoyed reading through them even though it includes drinking coffee - bleurgh!

Some of my simple pleasures are things like:

Drinking water that's been chilled in the fridge
Eating chocolate and slowly letting it melt in my mouth
Having my feet in cool water on a hot day
Making food for someone else
Kicking through autumn leaves
Being outside walking about in nature
Looking through old photos of my kids
Checking something off my to-do list

I could go on (because making lists is also a simple pleasure for me) but you get the idea. If you haven't already done so today, enjoy a simple pleasure and feel happy to be alive :D