Monthly Archives: February 2011

My microwave is clean!

Really, you’re reading this post???  With a title like that?

Either you’re desperately bored or, like me, you hate cleaning yours and you’re hoping I’m going to tell you I’ve discovered a self-cleaning microwave at a fraction of the cost of a regular one. Err, no, sorry. But that would be nice!

No, what I have discovered is a quick and easy way to clean the microwave. You see, due to lack of worktop space, our microwave is on top of the fridge. Kinda hard to reach, but I can press the important buttons and get things in and out without burning myself too badly. The great thing the problem is, I can’t see inside the microwave to know when to give it a wipe. Yes, I could just do it on a regular basis, like give it a clean every Sunday or something like that (whatever), but it’s a case of ignorance is bliss. Or denial. If I can’t see the muck, it’s not there.  (How does it get there anyway? We always cover plates and dishes before heating them.) Eventually, when I can deny no longer, I am faced with the mammoth task of a microwave spring clean. Bleh. Until now…

Maybe you’ve known about this way of doing it for years. Maybe I’m the only newbie to this magnificent and oh so simple cleaning method… but if you’re curious – read on!

Microwave Cleaning Method That Is Really Really Super Duper Quick And Easy

1. Put a mug of water in the microwave.

2. Heat for 5 minutes on high.

3. Take out the mug, the round glass tray and revolving thingamajiggy.

4. Shut the door really quickly again to keep the steam in!

5. Wash the glass tray and revolving thingamajiggy immediately in warm soapy water (ok, that’s nothing new).

6. Now you can use a wet soapy cloth to wash the interior and door.

Ta da!

The steam loosens up the grime and makes it really really easy to wipe away. Apparently you can put lemon juice into the mug of water to help remove any odours too.

I found this advice at Apartment Therapy. Check out their other tips for tough cleaning situations.

Do it and tell me what you think! Did it work as well as I said it would??

Please tell me you have some great tips to revolutionise my cleaning?? I could sure use it. Put ’em in the comment box below 🙂

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PASTA

When I was growing up, my mom would always ask us what we wanted her to make for our birthday meal. Oooh, I looked forward to my birthday so much – I got to choose what we all had to eat that night! [I was very easy to please, clearly!]

My poor family, it was always one of two meals: Lasagne or Tetrazzini. And I am still not particularly adventurous with food – I like what I like.

Chicken Tetrazzini is great. And, wonderfully, LOML likes it too, so I don’t have to wait for my birthday to force it on him.

You need:

Spaghetti and chopped up chicken fillets (enough for 4 people)

Whole button mushrooms (a whole punnet if you can)

50g butter  (+ more if you want to cook the chicken and/or mushrooms in butter)

5 Tablespoons flour

425ml chicken stock

75ml/5 tablespoons white wine

150ml cream

Grated cheese to go over the top

Here’s how:

1. Get the spaghetti cooking.

2. Cook the whole mushrooms until browned and tender. Drain and remove.

3. Cook the chicken pieces.

4. Melt butter in the pan with the chicken (you can remove chicken before starting the sauce if you prefer, but when I do it this way my sauce doesn’t get lumpy!)

5. Turn down the heat before sprinkling in the flour. Stir well.

6. Gradually add the chicken stock, stirring until smooth and thick.

7. Add the mushrooms.

8. Remove from heat, pour in white wine and cream and stir gently.

9. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg (if you like).

10. Drain the spaghetti, then combine with the sauce.

11. Pour into a large dish, sprinkle grated cheese over the top, and bake for around 30 minutes at 180 C/350 F.

Give it a try. And let me know if you do 🙂

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Books! Glorious books!

At last I feel like perhaps, just perhaps, I have time to read again! So, upon friends’ recommendations, this is my reading list:

  • Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
  • The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  • House Rules – Jodie Picoult
  • The Last Song – Nicholas Sparks
  • Minding Frankie – Maeve Binchy
  • The Island – Victoria Hislop
  • Room – Emma Donoghue
  • Cutting For Stone – Abraham Verghese
  • Perfume – Patrick Süskind
  • The Little House – Virginia Lee Burton
  • Tender Morsels – Margo Lanagan
  • Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn (I wanted to start with this one because I just love the title!)
  • Skippy Dies – Paul Murray
  • Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  • A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

I have been to the library (and actually registered and now have a library card. Plus a ‘My First Library Card’ for Little Man).

I am, at the moment, reading Jonathon Ross’s Why Do I Say These Things? (Not on the list, I know. I took it out of the library for LOML but have started reading it myself.)

Next will be Birdsong (also libary so it gets priority).

[I also took out a book on scrapbooking in an attempt to prepare myself for Little Man’s book. Too scared to start it!]

Then, I have borrowed Room and The Island from a friend (thanks, Helen!).

It’s been soooooo long since I read a good book… I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me about my progress through the list. And if you have a favourite or a recommendation to add to my list, please let me know. Comments below…

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A chandelier of a different sort…

One day when I have a big, proper, grown-up house, I would love to have one of these as a chandelier.

Kara Pasley Designs

And I want to make it myself. Like this.

Well, not all by myself. I would probably electrocute myself.  But I would very much like it to be homemade.

I do think it takes the right kind of house, though. And realistically, I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. I’m just not one of those people.

Have you noticed how some people can take a bunch of old or odd stuff and make it into something so beautiful that just works? Bleh. I wish!

Are you one of those people? What have you made or done that’s turned something strange into something wonderful? Share, share!

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Let’s Face It…

I’m on a mission.

Did you know that there is a lot of dodgy stuff in our expensive cosmetics??

Apparently – apparently – there are no laws governing what ingredients cosmetic companies may or may not put into skincare products. That’s kinda scary when you consider that creams and lotions are designed to be absorbed into the skin, the largest organ of the body and our first defence against the outside world.

I discovered this after searching for a more natural approach to treating Little Man’s baby eczema. I’ve never bothered to read ingredients on my own skin products, but when it came to treating my boy’s skin, suddenly I wanted to know what Isopropyl Palmitate, Hydroxyethylcellulose and Propylparaben actually were. And that last one looks suspiciously like the word ‘paraben’ that shows up all over the place in baby products that advertise that they are ‘paraben free‘. Uh-oh, I’m not liking the look of this…

I found some scary results after a little more digging. And I mean just a little. Why have I never noticed this before? Now I know that all research is funded by someone, and I don’t really believe that any research these days is truly objective, so, while I’m taking this pretty seriously, I am also trying to be balanced about this and not go off the deep end.

I’ve always assumed that creams and lotions that supposedly help my skin (moisturise, de-wrinkle, cleanse, etc.) would naturally be good for me… but it seems not. Here’s a few Dangerous Cosmetic and Skin Care Ingredients. And a safety guide to cosmetics and skin care products.

It turns out Isopropyl Palmitate is not so scary after all. It’s an alcohol derived from coconut, and it softens the skin.

Hydroxyethylcellulose – also, not too bad. It’s used as a thickening/gelling agent to give a cream a good consistency.

Propylparaben I was right to worry about: It seems that this preservative  has been found to be carcinogenic (cancer causing), to disrupt the endocrine (hormone) system, and to possibly affect immuno responses/allergic reactions. This was discovered in a large number of studies funded by various different bodies.

These are just three ingredients in a very ‘gentle’ and much-recommended dry skin cream. The more heavy duty treatments have even more scary-sounding ingredients.

So my mission is to make my own all-natural, preservative-free, weird-ingredient-free skin cream to use on my skin and Little Man’s.

Has anyone else tried this? I would love to hear about your experiences and get any advice!

These are a few websites I’ve used so far to guide me in my ingredients shopping:

Beauty From Nature

Hippyshopper – Make Your Own Natural Moisturising Creams

Bright Hub – Recipe for Natural Homemade Hand Cream

A few ingredients have arrived in the post already, and I shall update you on my progress. Eek! Wish me luck!

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I am not alone in my weirdness…

I have a secret.

Err, had a secret.

Something even LOML didn’t know.

It felt so so good to tell him, and now it is time to come clean and share with you too.  The reason I have the courage to do this, is because of a particular post on a particular blog. I thought this was a gorgeous blog already anyway, but now I’m well and truly smitten.

You see, I have a thing for ampersands.

There, I’ve confessed.

You know, the ‘and’ sign. &. Sigh.

& & & & & & & & & & & & & & & & & &

I knew it was strange to have a slight obsession with a character on a keyboard, but there’s just something about it that got me hooked.

And then, one day while perusing the posts of the aforementioned blog, I came across this. I was in obsession heaven! And it warmed my heart when I realised I was not the only one out there with a thing for ampersands.

I’m not such a the only weirdo after all!

Upon realising that there were so so many other ampersand freaks out there (just look at all the comments on that post), I started looking for others with a similar theme.

These are just two of the many, many ampersand-dedicated pages, sites and blogs out there:

Funkiest ampersands

A whole blog dedicated to ampersands – one a day for a year!

 

I was so relieved to see that I was not the only symbol sicko out there, that I finally had the guts to out myself to my husband. Thankfully, he accepts me for who I am, obsessions and all.

 

 

Via cuckoodesign.com

Via sarahsfabday.blogspot.com

 

Via blog.waim.co.uk

Via bigredheart.com

Via cartoonstock.com

&&&& And now that LOML knows, I can start collecting ampersands in all shapes, forms, sizes and materials! &&&&

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The Promised Tarte Tatin

One thing I love about food and cooking is that you have to go a long way to really destroy food. There are the obvious things like burning a cake to cinders in the oven or setting fire to the sausages, but generally, cooking disasters are salvageable. (Foodies will probably disagree to strongly disagree at this point)

And here’s a great example of just that:

Sisters Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin were cooking in their hotel one very busy day in 1898. Stéphanie was so stressed out in the kitchen that she totally screwed up the apple pie – she overcooked the apples (gasp!) as they softened in a pan, so she attempted a daring rescue by putting the pastry base on top of the apples (genius!!) and putting the whole pan in the oven. When the pastry was cooked, she simply turned the upside-down pie upside down (that’s not confusing) and voila! A classic was born.  (Paraphrased by me)

Tarte Tatin is now considered a difficult to dish to make properly (err, it was a mistake and now it’s a complex dish??)… which must be why I only discovered it when I moved to Plymouth, thanks to the cooking genius of our neighbour, Mr B. [Aside: Also French food is very regionalistic – made up that word – so if the Tatin sisters weren’t living in your region you wouldn’t consider making or eating their food. Your region has enough great food to celebrate without bothering with some upside down apple pie.]

Now, the lovely tart-making sisters would turn in their graves if they saw me making my version of their precious pastry. I consider TT to be a quick and easy dessert, and the only way mine is similar to theirs is that the pastry in on top. I successfully screw up their screw-up. And mine is just as triumphant as far as I am concerned.

So, if you want to proudly produce some French cuisine that is actually supposed to look like a flop, whip up my quick and easy version of this this little tart in no time:

1. Preheat oven to about 200C/350F

2. Ingredients: Ready rolled puff pastry, 4-5 firm apples (I used 3 large braeburns + a pear just to jazz it up. Ooh look at me!),butter and sugar – around 70g of each (if you use more, you’ll have more ‘sauce’ so adjust to your own tastes. I don’t usually measure it out, just put a block of butter in pan and pour in about the same amount of sugar.)

3. Put butter and sugar in a pan and heat. If you have an ovenproof pan, your job just got easier. Just stick this in the oven with the pastry on top (see #6).

4. Peel and slice apples, then put into the pan with sugar and butter. Stir around to coat.

5. While the sugar is caramelising gorgeously all over that fresh fruit, roll out the pastry on a floured surface to make sure it’s big enough to cover your pie dish. (This pie dish will probably not be the final dish you serve the pie in.)

6. Once the sugary mixture is all bubbly and golden and the fruit has started to soften and change colour, transfer the fruit and all the sauce into a pie dish.

7. Cover the fruit with pastry, tucking the pastry down the sides of the dish to ‘seal’. Overlap the pastry by folding it – it won’t look too pretty at this point! (See photo eight)

8. Prick all over with a fork and put into the oven until golden (20-30 minutes depending on how brown you like it).

9. To serve: Either tip the whole pie upside down into another serving dish, letting the juices soak into the pastry OR just leave it the way it is with pastry on top – and spoon the sauce over the pastry when you serve it in bowls.

It’s great served with custard, ice cream or clotted cream. Enjoy!

PS. Dirty dishes count: Rolling pin, peeler, chopping board & knife, pan, wooden spoon, pie dish. How great is that?!

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