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Three children (17, 15, 12)*** Two parents *** one dog *** Country loving *** Cottage dwelling in the South-West of the UK. That’s us!

We’ve been blogging since January 2010, about everyday happenings that bring us joy.

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“A moment spent in wonder is worth a lifetime spent in awe.”

 

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How to make pumpkin spice

It’s pumpkin time again.

Runs around, hugging pumpkins.

I’ve been very self controlled up to now. I’ve mostly held off until mid October, but I’m just going to cut loose and enjoy everything pumpkin for a few weeks.  When else can I get away with it? Cooking, baking and making. I do love this time of year.

So. With no further ado, my first pumpkin themed activity to share is homemade pumpkin spice. A quick simple make. I use it in baking and drinks. It warms you up. Makes you smile. Although, I have to admit, that those last two are probably just me.

First up, because apparently this does confuse people, pumpkin spice does not contain pumpkin. Not a splodge. Think of it more as a spice you add to pumpkin, or something else, to bring pumpkins to mind.

Secondly, it is easily mistaken, on this side of the Pond, for Christmas spices. For a good reason. It uses pretty much the same spices. I use a similar mix for my Christmas pudding. The same spices. Maybe not in the same quantities. My top tip is not to mix it with citrus, otherwise it feels more like a Christmas spice than a pumpkin spice.

Thirdly, like Christmas spice, everyone has their favourite recipe. This is my go to recipe.

As you can probably tell, from the photo, I don’t have a preferred place to pick up spices. I do like to buy the unground versions, when I see them. I think they hold the taste and fragrance more.

Also I can cackle away and channel my inner potion maker, as I grind them with my mortar and pestle. For this recipe, the spices need to be ground.

How to make pumpkin spice

Ingredients

2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 – 1/4tsp ground cloves

Mix the spices in a jam jar, with the lid on, then decant into a smaller jam jar, to reduce the air in the jar. Store in a cool place, along with your other spices.

This little jar should last me to the end of the month, I hope. I don’t need much each time. I like to make smaller quantities, otherwise it’s left to sit on the shelf until next October. I’d prefer to make fresh. Same applies to buying. As lovely as pumpkin spice is, I can’t see myself using it all year round and the jars you buy are more than I need.

The pumpkin spice can be added to all sorts of different recipes and even crafts. I have a few in mind, but I’ll leave the first one until next time.

Organized

I’ll be honest. I go through stages of being organized and, without a doubt, September is the month of choice. Not surprising really, as the children go back to school, which gives me more time, and, just as crucial, it’s all about new. New teachers, new subjects, new interests. The word “new” litters every sentence they utter. I’m surrounded.

This September is no different, so I’m getting organized.

To start with I have been getting my weekday routine set up. I’ve started to follow a tidying and cleaning routine (again, she cries), so when I sit down to work, there are no nagging things to distract me.

Three weeks ago, I started following the Organised Mum Method (#teamTomm). Simple routine, with reminders on Instagram, and it’s working. I’m not someone that generally has a tidy house, but I am loving going into a room and finding it looking presentable. Really makes me smile. The family love it too. It only takes 15 minutes to do the usual daily tidy/cleaning and then 30 minutes a day to target one area, on rotation.

And no cleaning at the weekend. Let’s get real. You have got to love a system that gives you the weekend off.

More crafting time for me!

I also organized my eldest Teen’s desk. She can now sit there and study. Last couple of nights she’s done just that and seems happy with her progress. Success!

So will it stick, this new routine of mine? I know why I usually fail to keep my organization vibe going once September slips by. I set myself unrealistic targets. I feel the fail. Once that happens, it’s easy to let one day missed turn into a week, and then more, until it drizzles out completely. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

The penny has dropped that I must stop beating myself up about not crossing everything off my to-do list. Or lifting the same items from today’s list to tomorrow’s and then the next. It’s not about doing it all, but doing my best.

Lists are there to help me, not to rule me.

Now the wonderful thing about getting organized is that I have extra pockets of time to spend in different ways.  My week has not been all about cleaning or list making. No. It’s been about me having room and time to do the things I really love doing. More time to read, knit and spend time with my family.

Three wins from this week:

I tend to read while waiting in the car for one of my children, and also last thing at night. I’ve won myself some extra time this week and finished my book “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter“. It is slow, but captivating. Real struggles and emotional turmoil. Glad I read it. Now for the next. Any suggestions?

At the weekend, we went out as a family to the small, independent cinema in Wells to see  Jack Black in “The House with a Clock in Its Walls.” A fun film. Thank you, organized-me.

Also with my extra time and organization at its peak, I spent a happy time making chocolate cherry mice after school, with my middle teen. Partly helped by me working my lists and adding the ingredients to my shop last week. It is quick and everyone loves them. Unorganized-me hardly recognizes herself.

Dead easy to make.

Chocolate cherry mice

Ingredients:

small punnet of fresh cherries, preferably with stalks
100g dark chocolate
pack of Hershey Kisses (I found them in Waitrose)
handful of toasted almond flakes
cocktail sticks (if cherries are missing stalks)

How to make:

1. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave until it runny.
2. Unwrap enough Hershey Kisses, so you have one for every cherry.
3. Hold the cherry by the stalk (or cocktail stick) and dip it into the chocolate until the cherry is covered.
4. Push the flat end of the Kiss onto the cherry to make the head, and put the mouse on a plate.
5. Slip two almond flakes between the Kiss and the cherry, to make ears.
6. Leave to set.

Eat and enjoy. If these are to be kept a while, then store them in the fridge, but only for a few days. Not that I would know. These pesky mice were gone in two seconds flat.

I am so enjoying the extra time and space to do what I love to do. A little bit of organization and I can have that time. Joining in with #wotw with my word organized.

Welcome to my diner

Years ago, before children, my husband and I used to go to an American diner at the top of Park Street in Bristol. It was a Saturday treat. We’d reminisce about a fabulous holiday we’d had a year previously in New England, while perching on tall stools at the counter, eating burgers, slurping our drinks through straws and listening to the likes of Buddy Holly.

We also had a favourite burger joint in Bath, where they served their burgers with the best blue cheese dressing I’ve ever tasted. My absolute favourite.

Roll on a decade or so, and I think the Bristol diner has transformed into a different themed eatery. The Bath burger is now a gourmet burger joint with prices to match. Not a great choice for a family of five who just want a quick burger.

I guess we all have to move with the times.

Not to be thwarted, my answer is to replicate some of those favourite memories at home, in my own style. Themed evenings are always greeted with enthusiasm by the rest of the family. Don’t tell them, but it’s also a perfect time to introduce something new too. Shh.


With three children, after school meals are often squeezed in between picking up one child after a club, before heading off with another to a different venue. So meals need to be either prepared before hand or be thrown together at the speed of light. Enter the chicken Rustlers burger. Ninety seconds in the microwave. Everything else can be chopped up or prepared earlier.

Take a day recently where I needed a quick meal for a fast turn around. I prepared the blue cheese dressing during the day. I’m still perfecting the recipe. This one was good, but I need a bigger cheese kick from it.

Recipe (so far)

60 ml sour cream
120 ml mayonaise
60 ml milk
35g to 70g stilton or blue cheese of choice
dash of worcester sauce

Combine everything together in a bowl, until thoroughly mixed. Store in the fridge and use in the next few days.

I prepared the lettuce, and sliced tomatoes and peppers at the same time. Ready to be served straight from the fridge, later on that day.

Later – One child picked up.

Next step was to pop a tray of quick french fries in the oven. These ones take 5 minutes. While they were in, I toasted one side of the buns on top of the Aga, to give them a chequered effect, and microwaved the burgers.

I made a jug of vanilla milkshake (600ml milk and 6 scoops of vanilla ice cream blended using my hand blender, to serve four)

Then Bob’s your uncle, everything was ready.

The children loved putting their own versions of the burger together, while I poured out milkshakes into glasses with stripey, paper straws. A Bing Crosby/Jerry Lee Lewis CD playing.Plenty of time to eat, before heading out the door with another child.

Ever feel like you’re playing out your own version of Mission Impossible? Breathe.

My tween and teens loved their burgers and enjoyed the American theme. The sesame seeded buns were greeted with squeals. I was impressed by the Rustlers Southern Fried Chicken Burgers. They tasted good and didn’t feel like a compromise. At £2.50 for two, they are more affordable than a gourmet burger. The packaging is recyclable too. I can see us doing this again. Although I’ll be working on that blue cheese sauce, in the meantime.


This post is an entry for BritMums ‘Rustlers Burger Hacking Challenge’, sponsored by Rustlers

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