5 New Year Goals for 2014

I know I am not the only one who at this time of year likes to think about what the next 12 months will hold. One thing many of us do is set some targets of things we hope to achieve over that time. I thought I would share with you my top 5 goals:

1. Make An Item Of Clothing Every Month
The one thing I really want to do more of is dressmaking. I have only really dipped my toe in the water here and I know there is so much more to learn. I love making things (obviously) and I like having a fun wardrobe. However since I only have a finite amount of money to spend on craft and clothes combined I am going to try and make my fun wardrobe.

2. Sort Out My House
We have a lot of stuff in our house. Clearly this is not something to complain about however it does often feel cluttered and squashy. I want to go through the house one room/drawer/cupboard at a time and remove what we don't use or need any more to be sold or given away. This has actually been a New Years goal of mine for three years running now. I have made big improvements in some places (e.g. our bedroom) but others just seem to fill themselves back up with stuff within days of emptying them so I expect this will be an ongoing goal for some time.

3. Continue Blogging 2-3 Times A Week
My first 6 months writing a blog have been so much more enjoyable than I planned. I expected it to be fun but I didn't anticipate how much. I really want this blog to be interesting to read though, not just fun for me to write, so I have made an effort to blog regularly and I fully intend to continue doing so.

4. Cycle Whenever I Can
In the summer I got a new bike as an early Christmas present and I have been trying to ride it whenever I can since. For most journeys I have 3 children in the car who can't ride bikes so I can't replace these trips with cycle rides but when I have been out without them I have tried to cycle. I have saved petrol and got slightly fitter in the process, win win. So I am going to keep this as my goal for the new year too and not let the Christmas turkey/ New Years drinks/ gingerbread house hold me back.

5. Learn More About Photography
When I start reading a new blog the thing that draws me to it is usually good photos. I have tried to have great photos here on Tadpegs too but I have still got SO much to learn. I want to experiment with new photo styles, locations and techniques. I have a DSLR but I don't know how to use most of the settings and functions on it. So my goal here is to learn one new thing at a time and when I am confident in that one to move on to the next.

I'll let you know how I am doing with these, particularly number 1 and 5 and you can keep me in check with number 2 any way. Happy New Year everyone. Have a goodun'. Zoe xx

Dished Up: Leek And Potato Soup

Being a mum of three young children one luxury I indulge in is grocery delivery. Mr Tesco's arrives at my door with my weekly shop and all I have to do is put it away. Mostly this is a wonder but occasionally things don't quite go to plan. A few weeks ago I ordered 3 leeks, or so I thought. Turns out I had actually ordered 3 packs of leeks, just a couple more than I needed! Whoops. So what better to do in the bleak mid winter than whip up some tasty soup. I made leek and potato and crumpled some crispy bacon on top but the recipe can be adapted for any vegetables you have hanging around which I usually do after Christmas. 

What you need......
  • Veg oil
  • Knob of butter
  • 500g leeks
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1.5 litre hot vegetable stock
  • 100ml double cream (optional)
  • 3 rashers streaky bacon
How to make it.....
  1. Half the leek lengthways and slice it thickly. Wash it thoroughly and shake off the water. Peel the potato and and cut it in to 1cm cubes.
  2. Put the butter and 1tbsp of oil in a medium pan with a lid and place it over a low heat until the butter has melted. For the record the oil is to stop burning and the butter is for flavour.
  3. Throw in the leeks and give them a stir then put the lid on. You want to soften the leeks like this, they will sweat in their own juices. It will take about 10 minutes and all you have to do is stir them every couple of minutes just to make sure they don't burn.
  4. Take off the lid and add the potato stirring for one minute then add 1 litre of the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile put the bacon in a dry frying pan over a high heat. Cook it until it's really crispy. Cool it on some kitchen towel and then crumble it.
  6. When the potato is really soft turn off the heat and use a stick blender to purée the soup. Season well with salt and lots of black pepper. If the soup is too thick then add in some more stock and if you're feeling indulgent stir through 100ml double cream to serve.
  7. Share it between the bowl and sprinkle the bacon on top. Serve it with some of you favourite bread.
You can make this recipe with any root veg. Chop and soften an onion and then add 500g of whatever you've got (except potatoes). Add the stock and simmer until the veg is soft. If you're brave you might want to throw in some spices when the onion is soft then add the veg when it becomes fragrant. 

Play around with it. Sometimes it will be delicious, other time it may not be such a success but it's better then throwing away your veg and if you make it without the butter and cream it's a great healthy lunch to start the new year with.
Cassie xx

3 Yummy Christmas Recipe Ideas

I know I already said Happy Christmas but I couldn't help but add this post after a delicious family lunch yesterday. My Mum made a BBC Good Food Christmas Pie which is sort of a Christmas staple for us now, it uses up lots of leftovers like turkey and stuffing but also has cranberries to make it sweet. This time the turkey was replaced by chicken as we haven't cooked our turkey yet. I made a wintery Jamies Cranberry Spinach Salad which was pretty delicious too. For pudding Cassie served some of the Hummingbird Bakeries Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie which was also very scrumptious. As you can see we also ate roasted new potatoes, roasted gammon, pigs in blankets and a tomato salad. We had some glitzy rocky road too so the overindulging in food began early this year.

If you are still hunting for recipes to use with some family or friends over Christmas then you can try these out. The Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie would be a good all year pudding too. Have a good one, Zoe xx

Homemade Hot Spiced Apple

The other night I had dinner with some friends and we were served some delicious hot spiced apple to drink. I loved it so much I decided to try and devise a homemade recipe for it. This a wonderful and alcohol free alternative to serving mulled wine so if you have any hosting to do over the next few weeks you should consider making some. It is spiced with similar flavours to mulled wine so its a nice drink to experiment with your own mix of spices. Here is what I used:

1.5l Apple juice (not shown)
Peel of one orange
Cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 vanilla pod
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
6-8 cloves
Squeeze of orange juice (not shown)

Slice open your vanilla pod so the flavour can come out a little more then simply put all these ingredients into a large pan. You may want to break up one of the star anise to give it some extra flavour too. Heat gently until you have a hot beverage ready to serve.  The delicious smell will make your house feel very Christmassy.

You can pour it into a jug to serve or just ladle it straight into your glasses, try not to let the solid ingredients go in the glasses though!

As this is my last post before Christmas I want to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and I hope you have lots of Joy over the season. Zoe xx

Stitched Up Gingerbread House

Tada! Here it is, my gingerbread house for this year. I actually look forward to making this all year and this year was no exception. To be totally honest this is not an original idea. In fact if you have ever searched for 'gingerbread house' on Pinterest you have probably come across the house that I have based this one on. If you haven't then have a look here. When I first spotted this one I just had to make one for myself. There are excellent instructions here but I have done mine slightly differently so I am also giving you full instructions.  For my gingerbread I used this recipe:

Ingredients For The Gingerbread
250g unsalted butter
200g dark brown demerara sugar
7 tbsp golden syrup
600g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp water

Ingredients For The Royal Icing
500g Icing Sugar
2 Egg Whites

For Decorating a Stitched Up House
Strawberry laces
Fondant icing (white and food colouring OR white, green and other colours your want your buttons to be.)
Tree cutter
Person cutter
Star cutter
Circle cutters in 3 small sizes
Edible pen in black

Make Your Gingerbread House
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. In a pan on the hob melt the butter, sugar and syrup. Mix the flour, bicarb and ginger in a bowl and add the melted ingredients and stir together to form a dough, if it doesn't quite come together add the water. Roll out the dough to about 3mm thick on some parchment paper. Then cut out your pieces. You can choose a template from here for your house. Just print one out, cut out the shapes and then use a knife to cut them out of your dough. Make sure you do 2 of each side, end and roof piece. Take any excess off your parchment paper and then transfer your shapes to the oven. Use any left over dough to cut out extra shapes for decorating, I cut out 1 lady and 2 trees and the rest into stars. Cook these pieces in the oven for 10-12 mins or until they just start to go brown around the edges.

Once you have taken them out the oven, before they cool use your templates to trim them down to the right size with straight edges, if you don't then they won't line up when you try and put it together so it will probably fall down. If you're going to 'stitch' your house together like I have you also need to add holes to both ends of both side and end pieces. Do the same number of holes on every edge.

Once it has cooled, mix together your icing sugar and egg whites to make your royal icing glue. Then pipe thick lines onto the edges of the walls and put them together one at a time. If you are 'stitching' together your walls then now is the time, so get some strawberry laces and you can literally sew them up. Then you can add the roof one side at a time by piping more icing onto the walls. You probably need to hold these in place for a few minutes to make sure they don't fall down. Then leave your house over night before decorating. Keep your royal icing ready to use by covering with cling film as you'll need the rest for decorating.

Decorate Your House
Now it's time for the fun part. First off you need to make all the things that you want to adorn your house with. I made button roof tiles and used 4 colours, red pink, blue and yellow.

To make your buttons, roll out your icing and cut several of your largest circle size out. Using the next smallest circle cutter make indents in the circles of icing and finally use a cocktail stick you make the button holes. For the smallest buttons for the path use your smallest cutter and just make holes. Repeat with each colour until you have enough tiles. I needed 50 to tiles my roof so did 13-14 of each colour plus the small ones for the path.

I also cut out a yellow star, 5 green trees, a red door, a blue window and a pink lady using my cutters and 2 tiny yellow stars with a knife. I made a wreath for the door out of green icing my making a long snake, curling it into a circle and squashing it a little. I then used a knife to add some lines to it to give it some texture. the bow is made by cutting a thin ribbon of pink icing, folding the end round to the back and wrapping it with a very thin snake of more pink icing.

To make the tree I carefully cut on of my gingerbread trees in half and stuck these two halves to the middle of the second gingerbread tree using my icing glue. Then I stuck the green icing tree shapes into each corner of the tree and pushed the result into some white fondant icing to stand it up. To finish this off I piped royal icing lines on and stuck one of the smallest yellow stars to the top.

I trimmed down the pink icing lady into a dress shape by chopping off the arms and head. Then I icing glued it onto the gingerbread person and finally piped the stripes and spots onto the dress. I stuck the wreath to the door and drew the window shapes onto a square of blue icing. The last thing to do before you assemble it all is to sprinkle some icing sugar on the 'ground' for the snow.

When all the pieces made and the snow has fallen you have to stick it all together. Tile the roof by covering the top of the house with royal icing and laying your buttons over it in lines. Use more royal icing to stick the window, door and star on and the last icing tree with star to the wall. Pipe some more details on if you wish like the roc-rac around the door.


Lay down your smallest buttons to make a path and you're done. This is SUCH a fun house to make and its now proudly on display to add to the christmas decor in our house. The gingerbread will go a little soggy after a few days but you can display it for a lot longer. I hope you enjoy making a gingerbread house too. Zoe xx

Make Mixed Media Christmas Cards

For most of you I expect this post is too late to inspire your Christmas cards for this year. I didn't want to blog about it too early as it would spoil the surprise for those receiving them. Pop in on your Pinterest or something and you'll be ready to go next Christmas.

I send about 50 cards to friends and family that don't live locally so always want to come up with a design that can be made and replicated relatively quickly. This year I saw an idea in a Prima magazine someone gave me using gingerbread men. They look really cute but cutting out 50 gingerbread men by hand would have been pretty time consuming so I came up with this idea instead where the Christmas tree is just a simple triangle which can be cut easily and quickly on a guillotine.

It's pretty easy to see what I did but here are some simple instructions in case you want an extra hand.

What you need....
  • Cards and envelopes
  • Green card
  • Yellow card 
  • Christmas patterned or paper
  • Thread (I used some red and some sparkly cotton)
  • Star cutter
  • Guillotine
  • Pritt stick
  • Double sided tape
  • Sewing machine
  • Merry Christmas rubber stamp (optional)

What to do....
  1. Cut a strip of green card to a width of 7 cm. along one edge make a small pencil mark every 4cm. Along the other edge make a mark 2cm in and then every 4cm thereafter. Use the guillotine to cut lines between the marks to make isosceles triangles. 
  2. Cut the Christmas paper into rectangles slightly smaller than your cards. Mine are 4in by3in because the card was 12x12in but you can adapt that depending on the shape of your card to ensure you don't have lots of waste. Use the Pruitt stick to glue these onto the cards
  3. Use the yellow card and the star cutter to cut out some small stars.
  4. Thread up your sewing machine and select an interesting stitch. My machine has some fancy ones but don't worry if your doesn't. A simple but wide zigzag stitch is pretty effective. Make a few lines of stitching across each green triangle. This in undoubtedly the most fiddly bit of these cards. Play about with different stitches and see what looks best. By the end I had it perfected and wasn't cutting the thread between each line but just pulling it through a few centeremetres and turning the tree to minimise waste of the thread.
  5. On the back of each tree put a strip of double sided tape up the two long sides of the triangle. Try and catch all the thread ends under the tape to secure the stitches and tidy them up from the front. 
  6. Peel off the other side of the tape a stick one tree on top of the decorative paper on each card. Use the Pritt stick to stick a star on the top of each tree. 
  7. Your cards are done now but if you have one use a Merry Christmas stamp on the inside of each. I think it finishes them off nicely and it saves you writing it 50 times!
If you've just got a few to make then get going and you'll be done easily in an evening. If not store it up for next year. 

Happy Christmas. Cassie. Xx

Throwback Thursday: Christmas Ginger Bread Houses

I love #throwbackthursday on instagram so today I thought I would play along and share with you two gingerbread houses. The first gingerbread house I ever made was one of those Ikea ones you can buy, I left off the front and made it into a gingerbread nativity instead. That's Cassie and I working on it together and our brother too. Pretty sure he was just eating the marshmallows.

The people were made out of three marshmallows each, we used rice paper for the details like the crowns and angels wings, and baby Jesus was asleep in a cannelloni manger. We even had a gold coin for the king and a twiglet staff for a shepherd but this must have been eaten before the photo was take or is out of view. I think I will make another one like this one day because it was a lot of fun.

Last year I made this gingerbread house for Christmas (not sure that's really old enough for die hard throwback thursday fans but I am using it any way). This house was the first make of mine that was repinned by someone and it was a very proud moment, I text Cassie to tell her because I was so pleased! The roof tiles are shreddies, I piped icing icicles and I decorated the tree and star shapes with more piping and stuck them on with more icing. Keep your eyes peeled for this years house. Ho ho ho! Zoe xxx

Dished up- Salmon and Broccoli Pie

We recently had a great day out at the Wisley garden's taste of autumn festival. My husband and his hollow legs needed a snack half way around so he bought himself a salmon and broccoli pie. Just a snack you know. I had a nibble and I have to say it was yummy and was inspired to make something similar at home. When I had a quick look online I couldn't see a recipe I fancied so thought I'd have a go at one myself.

What you need......

For the pastry
  • 110g Butter
  • 175g Plain Flour
  • Salt
For the filling
  • 3 skinless salmon fillets cut into 2.5cm cubes
  • A small head of broccoli cut into florets
  • 1 pint milk
  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Egg
What to do....
  1. Make a batch of Delia's quick flaky pastry and pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
  2. While it's chilling preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius, put your broccoli in some boiling water for 4 minutes. The broccoli should be barely cooked otherwise it will be soggy after going in the over. Drain really well.
  3. You can use the same pan to make the béchamel sauce. Put the milk, butter and flour in the pan over a low heat. Stir with a balloon whisk continuously until the sauce is thickened. Stir through the lemon zest and juice and season well to taste.
  4. While the sauce is still hot stir the salmon chunks into it. The residual heat in the sauce will begin to cook the salmon meaning you don't have to precook it and leaving the fish lovely and moist. 
  5. Roll out two thirds of the pastry at gently as you can to about the thickness of a pound coin and line a 25cm pie dish. Line with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the beans and paper and return to the oven for a further 3 minutes. 
  6. Stir the broccoli into the sauce with the salmon. Roll out the remaining pastry and cover the pie with it sealing with egg wash. Trim the edges and decorate as desired with the pastry scraps, piercing a hole in the top to let steam out. Paint with the egg wash and pop it back in the oven for 30mins. 
  7. Let the pie rest for 5 minutes before serving.

We had the pie between 2 adults and two small children but if you serve it with either new or mashed potato and some green beans I think you could easily stretch it to serve 6 adults. 

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Cassie xx

Upcycle: Green Painted Drawers

One of the things you might have spotted in our beroom were these drawers. You may have guessed this but they weren't green when we were given them (another gift from those generous in-laws.) This is what they looked like before:

These are bigger than the drawers I had in my room before and I definitely needed the extra space but I wanted something a little brighter. If you have seen any of my other painted furniture posts then you will know what I do to paint wood but here are my steps in case you missed them. It took 3 simple steps:

1. I washed it with sugar soap solution. and then lightly sanded down the surfaces, just enough to roughen it up so the paint would stick.
2. Painted it with 'leaf' coloured paint from the habitat range, it needed 2 coats.
3. Varnished with clear varnish.

I am now totally in love with painting furniture, I know this is a very simply upcycle but I wanted simplicity in our bedroom. What furniture have you painted? I'd love to see. Zoe xx

A Tiger Birthday Cake for a First Birthday

This is the first birthday cake I made for Boaz, I feel all squishy and sentimental looking at it. If you would like a few more details of how I made it head over to Baking With Mom today to check it out.

Today I asked Romilly what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, its not until April so I was just being prepared, she replied 'a stone cake'. It took me a while to figure out she actually meant rock cakes! Crazy kid. I'll share with you her birthday cake when the time comes and it will probably be a bit more interesting than a 'stone cake'. Zoe xx

10 Favourites from the Autumn

Over the last three months I have shared with you lots of new projects and ideas. I thought it would be a good time to do an Autumn round-up starting with this Easy Infinity Scarf. A great tutorial for even the most beginner sewer.

If you love sewing but were looking for a larger project to get stuck into then you could try making an Octagons Quilt like this one. This now lives on our bed in our newly decorated bedroom:

I have shared a few things that we made for our bedroom and there are still a few to come! A new feature was started by Cassie called 'Dished up'. She shared her recipe for Sticky Toffee Cake for Bonfire Night.

And her yummy Squidgy Apple Cake that she made from her apples given to her by a friend:

I also shared with you my Rocky Road Recipe and I am hoping to make a christmas version soon too, nom nom nom.

I finished my Crochet Angry Birds set in time for Boaz Birthday, and there are tutorials for a few of the different birds so if you crochet, and have a little boy still to buy a christmas present for, you could make him a set of these.

But more recently we have been working at at Christmas Craft Fairs. Cassie and I have been to a couple of fairs so far and we might even be squeezing in another one soon so we will tell all about that in time too.

For the fairs I made some fun Business Cards that look like luggage tags and these made out bags personal and cute.

Then I shared the Felt Advent Calendar which we have already had two lots of sweeties from and the children are loving it. It has been a lot of fun seeing other advent calendars that people have made and makes me want to make a new one for next year. Don't think I really need to though!

Over the next season we will have even more Christmas makes to share, Cassie will continue to dish up lots of srummy things and I will be starting lots of new things for the New Year. Exciting! Zoe xx

Dished Up: Jambalaya

Jambalaya is one of those words I've heard a few times but had never eaten and to be honest, I didn't even really know what it was. So when I stumbled across this recipe recently on the delicious magazine website I thought I'd give it a go.

Jambalaya come from New Orleans. The story goes that the spanish were trying to make paella but couldn't get hold of saffron and substituted it with tomatoes. The Caribbean influence in the area led to the edition of spices and jambalaya was the result. As for the name there is an old wives tales that tells of a travelling gentleman who stopped by a New Orleans inn which had little food remaining from the evening meal. The innkeeper instructed the cook, "Jean, balayez!" or "Jean, sweep something together!" in the local dialect. The guest pronounced the resulting hodge-podge dish as "Jean balayez." I don't know if it's true but I love the story so I like to think so.

When I was prepping the dish I just loved the beautiful array of ingredients. Just look at the colours! This recipe actually does use raw prawns but my recommendation would be to always by prawns raw. They take moments to cook and are so fresh and tasty, that for me it's a no brainer. 

The dish was yummy. It went down a storm with the family. Not too spicy for the children, who kept stealing prawns from my plate! Definitely one to make again.

I even remembered to serve the garnish with it. I can't tell you how many times I've gone in the kitchen to clear up after dinner and found a little bowl of something I was supposed to sprinkle on at the end.

So if you ever pop in to see me just call me 'Jean' and I'll balayez something for you. 
Cassie xx

And a Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers in the USA from both of us! xxx

Rocky Road (no bake) Cheescake

I am a little bit obsessed with rocky road, I'm still on the hunt for the best rocky road recipe but this takes rocky road to a whole new level of indulgence. It has all the main components of rocky road: biscuit, chocolate, marshmallows and nuts. But the extra ingredients make it a delicious pudding.

This is what I used:
280g chocolate chip cookies,
100g butter
300g dark chocolate
300mls double cream
100g caster sugar
200g full fat cream cheese
6 large marshmallows
50g crushed macadamia nuts (optional)

This is what I did:
First I crushed the biscuits in a bag with a rolling pin, if you have a food processor do it in there, its much faster. I removed about a cupful of this mixture to save for later. Then I melted the butter and mixed with the crushed biscuits. I pressed this mixture into a lined 22.5cm springform tin and put it in the fridge for a few hours.

To make the top I mixed together the cream, sugar and cream cheese until it it all came together and there were no cheese lumps. I melted the dark chocolate (over a pan of simmering water) and then poured about 1/4 of the cheese mixture into the chocolate and stirred. Once it was thoroughly mixed I poured in the remaining cheese mixture. I left this in the fridge over night. When this had set I melted the marshmallows in a pan with a little butter and drizzled it over the top.

Then I removed the cheesecake from the tin and put it on my serving plate. Finally I took the remaining crushed biscuits and combined them with the nuts and I gently pressed this mixture around the sides of the cheesecake.

I served this with mini marshmallows and it went down a treat. If you are having a dinner with friends you should make this, your guests will love it. Zoe xx
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